On The Record | WYPR

On The Record

Weekdays, 9:30 to 10:00 am

Catch On the Record, hosted by Sheilah Kast, weekdays from 9:30 to 10:00 am, following NPR’s Morning Edition. We’ll discuss the issues that affect your life and bring you thoughtful and lively conversations with the people who shape those issues -- business people, public officials, scholars, artists, authors, and journalists who can take us inside the story. If you want to share a comment, question, or an idea for an interview you’d like to hear, email us at ontherecord@wypr.org.

Theme music created by Jon Ehrens.  Logo designed by Louis Umerlik.

Ways to Connect

Here’s a Stoop Story from Elliot Wagenheim about finding the motivation to get up off the recliner. You can hear his story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

The shuttering of saloons, the death of distilleries. For 13 years, Prohibition was the law of the land--banning the manufacture, sale, and distribution of “intoxicating liquors.” But Maryland’s approach to enforcement was “hands off.”

Historian Michael T. Walsh details local resistance in his book, “Baltimore Prohibition: Wet and Dry in the Free State.”

He will be speaking tomorrow at B.C. Brewery from 1-3 PM, at 10950 Gilroy Road in Hunt Valley.


Later this month, authors, poets, and readers will gather at the Inner Harbor for the 23rd annual Baltimore Book Festival. Director of the City Lit Project Carla DuPree tells us about the talented writers from near and far who will attend. And Marion Winik, host of WYPR’s Weekly Reader podcast, previews her new book, “The Baltimore Book of the Dead” Plus, author and screenwriter Evan Balkan takes us inside his new young adult novel, “Spitfire,” set in 1950s Highlandtown.

The link to Gil Sandler's story, referred to in Balkan's interview can be found here.

For millions of Americans, higher education just doesn’t work. Of all those who start college each fall, barely more than half graduate with a degree or certificate in six years. And many leave campus saddled with huge debts.

African-Americans living free in Baltimore before the Civil War were constantly testing whether the law and courts saw them as citizens, with rights to be respected.

In a new book, "Birthright Citizens: A History of Race and Rights in Antebellum America," Johns Hopkins Professor Martha Jones argues the free blacks of Baltimore shaped the idea of birthright citizenship that made it into the U.S. constitution, and that their struggle still carries meaning for today’s immigrants. This interview originally aired on July 26, 2018.

Martha Jones will be speaking about her book at a panel discussion, next Wednesday, September 26th at the Maryland Historical Society. 

Health Care for the Homeless

For many families, September means back-to-school activities: shopping for notebooks and pens, new clothes, and reuniting with friends after summer break. But for thousands of students--and their parents--experiencing homelessness ... ‘back to school’ means stress and the frustration of navigating enrollment and attendance without the security of a place to call home. We talk with Baltimore City Public Schools homeless-student liaison Allen Blackwell and with Danielle DeShields, a formerly homeless mother of three, and with Healthcare for the Homeless social worker Debbie Wilcox. Visit this link for more information on Health Care for the Homeless.

Here’s a Stoop Story from John Couzee about a snowboarding trip that turned into a medical emergency. You can hear his story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

Ticket information for this season of Stoop shows is here.

More than a century after Fort McHenry repulsed the British bombardment of 1814, it took on a new life as the largest army receiving hospital of the first World War. Thousands of wounded American soldiers and sailors were treated and medical advances were made, especially in facial surgery.

National Park Service Curator Gregory Weidman says the fort hospital aimed to heal the whole person. It offered physical therapy and training in job skills and set up a baseball team and a weekly newspaper.

Gregory Weidman will speak about General Hospital 2 at noon and again at 3 pm tomorrow and Sunday. The park is also hosting many daytime family and children’s events to celebrate the 204th anniversary of the defense of Baltimore. Kids can ‘enlist’ as a soldier in the War of 1812, practice military drills, try on 1814-style uniforms and visit army barracks. 

Psychics, ouiji boards, nightmares - The Noir and Bizarre, a WYPR original podcast, isn’t afraid to get spooky. Producer Katie Marquette delves into questions about human existence and explores the strange stories we tell ourselves about death.

From Meryl the Mummy--on display at the Walters Art Museum--to Edgar Allan Poe’s grave, Marquette explores Baltimore history with the mysterious in mind.

Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

One hundred years ago, the Spanish flu marched across the globe, leaving between 50 and 100 million people dead in its wake. An exhibit The 1918 Flu Epidemic and Baltimore: 100 Years Later, at the Frieda O. Weise Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore campus, chronicles what was going on in the city. Professor Wilbur Chen, a vaccine development specialist, tells us how the flu spreads, and how to prevent it. And Tara Wink, UMB librarian and archivist, offers takeaways from what she learned in compiling the exhibit. The opening for the exhibit is Thursday, Sept. 13 at 10:30am, RSVP here. The exhibit is in conjunction with "Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World," at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

As politicians fret these days about how to win female voters, and record numbers of women put themselves forth as candidates, it’s worth remembering that a century ago the big dispute was whether women should even have the right to vote. Suffragists persuaded some states to open the ballot to women, but by 1918 had turned their effort into amending the FEDERAL constitution, to cover the whole country.

Elaine Weiss has written "The Woman’s Hour," a fast-moving chronicle of the struggle among women’s advocates, corporate lobbyists and white supremacists.

Ivy Bookshop

We often think of racism as operating solely on a visual level - judgments based on skin color or facial features. But what about sounds? What judgments of intelligence, education, and personality lie behind ideas about sounding ‘white’ or ‘black’? Jennifer Lynn Stoever is Associate Professor of English at Binghamton University in New York, and Editor-in-Chief of the blog, “Sounding Out!”. She's talks with us about her book, “The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening." Original air date 2/26/18.

Here is a Stoop Story from Jacquelyn Miller Byrne about her thirst for stories. You can hear her story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast. The Stoop is celebrating their 13th season. Event information here.

National Association of Black Storytellers

Stories are powerful. They transport you to another land or time. They raise questions about human nature. They can also be a tool to teach lessons that have been passed down for generations.

As the National Folk Festival kicks off in Salisbury, we speak to the co-founder of the National Association of Black Storytellers, Mama Linda Goss, and Dr. David Fakunle, her apprentice. They share favorite stories, and describe why the oral tradition is important.

They will be performing on Sunday at 2 pm at the Avery Hall Maryland Traditions Stage. Event details here. Learn more about Dr. David Fakunle's organization 'Discover Me, Recover Me' here.


For fourteen years the nonprofit Thread has identified Baltimore students facing academic and personal challenges and created a tapestry of support around each -- powered by hundreds of volunteers who stay by their side for years. Many Thread students have spent their lives being told they’re underperformers or not worthwhile. The commitment of consistent and unconditional acceptance can turn lives around. We meet longtime volunteer Toni Pollin and Thread co-founder and CEO, Sarah Hemminger.

For more information about Thread, visit this link.

Ferguson, Charleston, Baton Rouge--DeRay Mckesson has been on the ground: protesting police violence, marching against racism, organizing the next generation of activists. His just-published memoir is: “On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope.”

Mckesson weaves together reflections on growing up in Baltimore and Catonsville, with lessons learned as an activist at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement. He tells us about his complicated relationship with his mother, who left when he was three, and shares his data-driven thoughts on police reform.

DeRay Mckesson will be in Baltimore to speak about his book on October 4th, at the Baltimore Soundstage


About two dozen sixth-graders from West Baltimore will be diving into an intense agenda, joining 80 current UMB CURE Scholars who are in seventh through ninth grades. Two afternoons a week plus Saturday mornings they’ll focus on building the strong math and science skills they’ll need for careers in medicine or science. Each young scholar is backed by five mentors--students in UMB’s professional schools. Robin Saunders, who leads the CURE Scholars program, says Saturday afternoons are for field trips, lab visits and getting to know specialists in medicine.

Ann Froschauer / US Fish and Wildlife Service

Bats get a bad rap, but they play a pivotal role in nature---they devour insects and their furry bodies can spread pollen. Bats make up one fourth of all mammal species. Maryland Department of Natural Resources ecologist Daniel Feller tells us about the devastation caused by the fungal disease White Nose Syndrome, which has killed millions of bats in North America. How is this disease spread?

Read more about White Nose Syndrome here:

DNR Bats and Diseases page

Maryland's Bat Caves

And Dr. Kirsten Bohn, researcher at Johns Hopkins’ “Bat Communication Lab,” decodes the sounds bats make. Original air date: 4/3/18

Here’s a Stoop Story from Stephanie Murdock about building skateparks and building relationships with young people. You can hear her story and many others at stoopstorytelling.com, as well as the Stoop podcast.

US Department of Education / Flickr via Creative Commons

While students may be planning what to wear the first day of school, teachers are busy arranging desks and prepping lesson plans. We speak to two third-grade teachers from Lakeland Elementary Middle School in south Baltimore. Mentor teacher Melissa Simmons shares her goals for the new year, and first year teacher Reina Quintanilla, an immigrant from El Salvador, describes feeling called to serve.

"She's Such a Bright Girl, An American Story," is the recounting of how Petula Caesar's African-American father praised her good grades and her light skin. He raised her to be deferential to white people and to see blacks as dangerous. 

Then, Sujata Massey’s novel “The Widows of Malabar Hill," is set almost a century ago in what is now Mumbai, India. Her heroine is a pioneering lawyer who comes upon murder, kidnapping and a secret passageway as she investigates a suspicious will. Original air date: 6/21/18

Each day in the U.S. more than 86,000 older adults fall. That’s about one per second, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for the elderly. We talk with Dr. Kelly Westlake and Dr. Mark Rogers, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who are working to help seniors react faster and stay safer if they take a tumble through innovative balance training. To participate in the study visit this link or call 410-605-7179. Original air date: 1/30/18

Ivy Bookshop

In this gourmet era, canned food doesn’t get much respect. But that humble tin of chicken soup in the pantry has a fascinating backstory. Canning was invented to feed soldiers during the French Revolutionary Wars. And the commercial canning industry that followed was, at first, a dicey business. Historian Anna Zeide talks about her new book, “Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry.” Original air date: 6/19/18

Deborah Roffman

The intense reckoning America is experiencing around sexual harassment didn’t come out of nowhere. We talk with Deborah Roffman, author and human sexuality educator at the Park School of Baltimore, about eye-opening events in the past five years that changed attitudes about taking what you want versus getting permission. Roffman teaches boys and girls as young as 9--fourth graders--and says forming personal boundaries starts with building self-respect. Original air date: 12/7/17

A quiet but mighty revolution is growing in Baltimore. For a group of African American teenage girls, it’s been fueled by the power of the page ... filling their minds with positive images of black women in literature. The co-founder of the non-profit, ‘A Revolutionary Summer,’ Andria Nacina Cole, tells why she chose ‘books’ as the medium of choice. We also meet Constance Ui Seng Francois , who wrote and directed a play based on a book the teens read, "I Dream A World, Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America." Performances happen Aug. 25-26. More information here.

A Stoop Story by Lilly Gibbons, about the power of finding one’s voice, and what good can happen if you don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. You can hear her story and others at Stoopstorytelling.com or on the Stoop podcast.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center

Founded more than five decade ago, St. Francis Neighborhood Center has deep roots in Baltimore’s Reservoir Hill community. Free summer and after-school programs for kids, job-seeking assistance for adults, help with groceries, counseling--executive director Christi Green says the center’s mission is to end generational poverty through education.

Longtime participant Emmanuel Leach says the center helped him gain self-confidence and get accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts.

Check out more information on St. Francis' capital campaign here. Learn how to volunteer here.

Wikimedia Commons

Medical cannabis has been available in Maryland about nine months. Who is using it, and where is this budding new industry headed? We check in with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, for an update on regulations for dispensaries and staff. Plus , Brian Sanderoff, general manager at Curio Wellness shares his experience and his client, Rebecca Kliman, talks about her switch from narcotics to medical marijuana to address severe pain.

CDSA preschool photos / Flickr via Creative Commons

The cost of childcare for an infant can exceed college tuition. To help low-income families cope, Maryland offers vouchers.

Steve Rohde, of the Maryland Family Network, describes recent changes to the state’s Child Care Subsidy program; with the changes, the vouchers are worth more, and more families are eligible for them. And Lindsay Midkiff, a single mom of three, describes how childcare vouchers have helped secure her family’s future and allowed her to work full-time.

For details about the Mayland Child Care Subsidy program, click here. For help locating child care, check out the Maryland Family Network's resources or call 877.261.0060. To check out the Heckman Equation, click here

Flickr Creative Commons

An estimated 20,000 surgeons in the U.S. are over 70--no more immune than the rest of us from weaker vision, slower hand-eye coordination or forgetfulness. Yet there’s not a clear system for telling a doctor it’s time to retire from surgery. Dr. Mark Katlic, chair of surgery at LifeBridge Health Sinai Hospital, has devised a two-day evaluation to test the physical and mental fitness of surgeons. He says a mandatory retirement age is not the answer. We also talk to Dr. Herbert Dardik, who resisted the testing but now thinks it’s needed.