Life In The Balance | WYPR

Life In The Balance

Monthly, First Wednesday 1 pm and 9 pm

Life in the Balance is a monthly program that asks: What are the systemic issues in Baltimore that keep marginalized people from reaching their full potential – and what are the solutions to those problems?

Each episode is rooted in an individual’s story about overcoming a personal hurdle related to one of these systemic issues. It might be homelessness, drug abuse, or a post-incarceration employment struggle. This narrative engages the listener throughout the program as concerned stakeholders – local non-profits, academics, authors, and politicians – also hear the testimonial and offer their best solutions.

Life in the Balance offers listeners a thorough, nuanced analysis of the most prevalent issues in our city and beyond through the power of thoughtful analysis and engaging storytelling.

Learning is for Tomorrow

It's September – back to school time for a lot of kids, and for some adults, including Mrs. Anna Harris, a 73-year-old woman in pursuit of her GED. On this episode, we confront some of the sobering statistics surrounding education in Baltimore and learn more about Learning is for Tomorrow, or LIFT, an organization that believes in the limitless potential of adult learners. 

Shan Wallace/ @sisterswithstories Instagram

On today's Life in the Balance, we focus on Black women: their experiences, their concerns, and their contributions to our country and to Baltimore.

Black women have faced racial and gender discrimination, violence, and economic and political disenfranchisement for hundreds of years. 

But, like the generations of women that have come before them, Black women are continuing to rise above the challenges. Here in Baltimore, a majority-minority city – when we talk about issues facing the City and its residents, how often do we hear discussions that center around Black women?

Guest host Jamyla Krempel and four local activists and educators add to the conversation in this episode. 

 

On this episode, we’re going to be taking you inside a boxing gym in East Baltimore. This gym is very unique – it’s one of the only places in the neighborhood that offers any extracurricular activity for local kids. It was founded by a man named Alex Long. Alex had a difficult childhood, being separated from siblings and parents in foster care… and he’s faced even more challenges since then, including the recent murder of his sister. He credits his athletic coaches with helping him remain positive and stable, and he wants to make sure the boys in his neighborhood receive the same care and guidance. Alex is now a community activist and a member of Safe Streets, an anti-violence prevention in Baltimore. He sees the boxing gym as a safe space for kids to get strong both physically and emotionally. 

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Mike Gerlach wasn’t born legally blind – he’s experienced a slow  deterioration of his vision over decades – but that hasn’t stopped him from leading the life he wants to lead:

We’ll learn how Mike, along with Kate Anderson at Disability Rights Maryland, is putting power in the hands of disabled citizens here in Baltimore to address transportation issues.

We’ll also meet the folks at Open Society Institute Baltimore who are championing the idea that an individual has the power to make a big change here in our community.

Every day, more than 115 Americans die after overdosing on opioids. Opioids are a classification of drugs that include prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic drugs like fentanyl. The misuse of these drugs has become an epidemic across the country, and in the state of Maryland, in 2016, 2,089 overdose deaths occurred – with 1,119 of those deaths being related to the opioid drug fentanyl. As a declared public health crisis – what’s being done to combat and address the proliferation of and addiction to opioids?

Wiki Commons

On this episode, we turn our attention to the epidemic of gun violence in Baltimore. Baltimore suffered 342 homicides last year.  And that’s up 17 percent from the year before. If you do the math, this means that about 56 of every 100,000 people in the city are murdered.  While mass shootings often make the headlines, the slow burn murder rate in cities like Baltimore usually aren't fully addressed. On this episode, we meet a shock trauma surgeon, a journalist uncovering the illegal gun trade across state lines, and a young man who miraculously survived being shot twenty-three times. 

There are a surprisingly high number of grandparents raising grandchildren here in Baltimore City. What persistent societal problems have contributed to the rise of this family situation, and what unique challenges do grandparent guardians face? In Baltimore, 20% of older adults are living below or at poverty level, and in communities of color that number is doubled. Raising kids for a second time, often on a much tighter budget and with a whole new array of emotional burdens, can seem like a nearly impossible task. We talk with a grandparent guardian about the reality of this situation and what the city needs to do in order to help families like hers.

Wide Angle Youth Media

Joelle is a seventeen year old high schooler and a pretty typical teenager in most ways. She enjoys being with her friends, downloading apps on her phone, and is looking forward to pursuing a career as a film maker… But she’s experienced clinical depression – an illness that is now affecting 20% of teenagers in the United States. Adolescents are in the midst of a mental-health crisis: this is the most anxious and depressed generation on record, but despite the ubiquitous nature of depression it’s still largely misunderstood. This month on the show, Joelle's story and the power of art to transform dark experiences into transformative ones. 

Healthcare for the Homeless

Jeff Garrett had a nice life.  Married, two kids, he and his wife both worked, and his job gave him the flexibility to be at home with his children. Hardly the portrait of a man on the brink of homelessness.  And yet, in remarkably short order, Jeff found himself divorced, separated from his kids, penniless, evicted, mentally unstable, and contemplating suicide.  Jeff’s story opens the door on a conversation about mental health and homelessness.  What are the safety nets, and what happens when they fail?  What’s the emotional and physical toll of homelessness?  And what’s our collective responsibility as a society when it comes to helping the most vulnerable among us? This month on Life in the Balance, understanding, and coping with, homelessness. 

AP Photo/David Goldman

This month on "Life in the Balance," gangs and street violence in Baltimore is an epidemic. But what happens to those people who want to get out of gangs, what struggles do they meet on the way? We’ll meet Gardnel Carter, a former gang member who’s now helping others to avoid his past mistakes.  We’ll also talk with Media Chief T.J. Smith of the Baltimore City Police about the department’s efforts to stem gang violence, and we’ll hear the remarkable story of a 17 year old boy who’s trying to walk away from his own past with gangs.  The problem is his old associates are not happy about his decision. This hour, the uphill climb out of gang violence, the organizations trying to combat it, and the people whose lives hang in the balance. 

Ludovic Bertron

This month, we’re going to hear the story of someone who made a big personal decision, but quite late in life.  Autumn is a 61 year old trans-woman who transitioned just recently, after quietly struggling with her identity for decades…  We’ll hear how Autumn’s transition has impacted her work-life, her family relations, and her marriage.  Autumn’s personal story will also be the springboard for our larger conversation this hour about the unique, and often overlooked, challenges facing LGBT elders.

On the pilot episode of Life in the Balance, we meet Danny Miller, a man sentenced to thirty years in prison at the age of seventeen after a fight with a friend turned deadly. When he gets out early on parol, he struggles to find a job in a society that seems more determined than ever to keep him on the sidelines. Host Aaron Henkin listens to Danny's life story - along with a panel of experts on post-incarceration - and asks, how and why does a man find himself in this situation, and what can we do to help?