Maryland Morning Podcast | WYPR

Maryland Morning Podcast


One in four residents of Baltimore lives in a food desert, without easy access to healthy eating options.  Holly Freishtat, from the City Food Policy Office and Robert Thomas, who oversees Baltimore’s Public Markets, tell us what the city is doing to solve the problem of food insecurity.

Then, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders will be in Milwaukee on Thursday night to face-off in their 7th debate.  James Blue is producing this event for the PBS Newshour.  He’ll give us the inside scoop about all that goes on before the candidates take the stage.

Then, when Diana Nyad swam from Cuba to Florida in 2013, she inspired millions with her tenacity and determination.  She’s speaking at the Meyerhoff tomorrow night.  She speaks with us this morning.

And, Theater Critic J Wynn Rousuck has a review of Under the Skin at the Everyman Theater.  First, the news.

President Obama visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore on Wednesday in Catonsville.  In the crowd, Baltimore Imam Earl el-Amin and Muslim educator Danette Zaghari-Mask  listened to his plea for greater religious tolerance. They’ll share their thoughts on the President’s first visit to an American mosque.

Then, Jed Deitz and Ann Hornaday pick their Oscar favorites, and talk about the lack of racial diversity in this year’s list of Academy Award nominees.  

Finally, J. Wynn Rousuck reviews a new version of the “Phantom of the Opera,” along with Gil Sandler's  Baltimore Story. 


Today, we continue our series of weekly conversations with candidates for Mayor of Baltimore City. David Warnock joins me to make his case on what sets him apart in this year’s crowded race for Charm City’s top job. He’s 57 years old, a Democrat, and a successful businessman. He is the founder of a private equity firm and co-founder of the Green Street Academy, a charter school in West Baltimore. Warnock is also the chairman of a charitable foundation that has funded a variety of educational and community-focused organizations, including The Center for Urban Families.

Then, former Baltimore Sun pop music critic Rashod Ollison joins me to talk about his new book, Soul Serenade: Rhythm, Blues and Coming of Age Through Vinyl. It’s a memoir about growing up in rural Arkansas in the 1980s and 90s, and how he sought refuge in music and literature as he navigated the treacherous paths of a difficult childhood.


One in four Baltimore residents lives in a so-called food desert -- a place without easy access to healthy, nutritious food.  The Reverend Heber Brown, a pastor and social justice activist, is helping to solve that problem.  He joins Tom to talk about the Black Church Food Security Network, which gets good food from local farmers into the hands of city residents.

Plus, a conversation about how our relationships with our siblings evolve as we get older.  Geoffrey Greif and Michael Woolley have written a book about adult brothers and sisters, love and loyalty, complications and consequences. 

Then, Dr. Skipp Sanders, who has just stepped down as the director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, talks with Tom about the unique role the museum plays in Baltimore’s cultural life. 

And Theater Critic J. Wynn Rousuck has a review of the all-female production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, at Baltimore’s Center Stage.


Today, we start with presidential politics.  The Iowa caucuses are on Monday.  Once again, it’s in to be an "outsider" -- a candidate who's outside the political mainstream, at any rate.  That might be good news for Trump, Cruz and Sanders, but Clinton, Rubio and Bush may take comfort in knowing that as many as 60% of American voters have yet to make up their minds.  Jenna Johnson is covering the Trump campaign for the Washington Post.  She joins us on the phone from Des Moines, Iowa, along with Tom's studio guests: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist E.R. Shipp from Morgan State University, and political science professor Lester Spence from Johns Hopkins. 

Plus, actor and director Seamus Miller joins Tom to talk about Blood and Courage, a new troupe of up and coming actors at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.  Their new production opens tonight.  It’s a pastiche of some of the Bard’s clips from the cutting room floor.  


Today, we continue our series of conversations with candidates for Mayor of Baltimore City.  Nick Mosby joins us today.  In 2011, he was elected to represent the 7th District on the Baltimore City Council.  Last spring, he and his wife, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, garnered national attention during the unrest following the death of Freddie Gray.  Now, he has entered a crowded race for Mayor.  I’ll ask Nick Mosby about his vision for the City.

Then, the US Department of Agriculture has issued a new set of Dietary Guidelines.  Think about that:  is the Department of Agriculture, which regulates the meat and dairy industry, for example, the best agency to suggest guidelines about how much meat and dairy we should all eat?  Our Nutrition Diva, Monica Reinagel, is here to help us sort it all out.  

Jonna McKone/WYPR

As streets and sidewalks slowly, slowly find their way back to black, we’ll check with the Emergency Operations Center in Baltimore for an update on plans to clear the streets.  What city residents and businesses can expect on Day 2 of the big dig. 

Then, Justin Fenton of the Baltimore Sun and attorney Edward Smith walk us through last week’s important developments in the trials of the officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray.

And the Rev. Dr. Robert Franklin, the President Emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, joins me to talk about how Christians imagine justice.

Plus, Ayaan Hirsi Ali -- who has been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-Muslim extremist -- is scheduled to appear on the Baltimore Speakers Series tomorrow night.  WYPR’s Sheilah Kast  talks with the controversial activist and author. 

And Theater Critic J. Wynn Rousuck reviews the Vagabond Players' production of  Our Town.   

Wide Angle Youth Media

The Maryland General Assembly is 10 days deep into this year’s session.  WYPR’s Annapolis reporter Rachel Baye and Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith join me to recap some of the early action, including efforts to overturn a veto on voting rights for felons.

Then, Mark Hyman drops in to talk about the big money the Orioles have thrown at first baseman Chris Davis, the big splash in the Big Ten made by the University of MD men’s basketball team, the big game in its 50th year, and a big loss for the city of St. Louis. 

Plus- students from Wide Angle Youth Media explore “food deserts” in Baltimore, and: more and more shoppers are looking to update their wardrobe in consignment stores.  Fashionista Zoey Washington Sheff shares some tips for finding treasures in the resale racks.

Sheila Dixon Campaign Website


Today, we continue our conversations with candidates for Mayor of Baltimore City.  Sheila Dixon joins me in Studio A.  In the late 90s she became the first African American woman elected as the President of the City Council, and in 2007, she became the first African American woman to become Mayor.  Her story after that is well-known: she resigned in 2010 after a conviction and an Alford plea.  She has entered a crowded race asking for a second chance.  I’ll ask her about her vision for the City.

Then, the award-winning local writer Kathy Flann introduces us to some of the quirky characters who populate her new collection of short stories.  Get a Grip explores Baltimore from the perspective of people who often live on the margins, and who flavor the city with funky charm.

On this Martin Luther King Day, 48 years since his death, a look at the past and present of the civil rights movement.  First, a conversation with two women whose actions in Baltimore and the Eastern Shore changed the tide of equality in Maryland.  In the early years of the movement, women were often overshadowed by men, but today, we meet Helena Hicks, who’s 1955 action led to the integration of Read’s Drug Stores, and Gloria Richardson, a founder of what’s come to be known as the Cambridge Movement.  

Sagamore Development

Our monthly series, The Accountability Index, continues this morning with a closer look at the Port Covington project that Under Armour 's CEO Kevin Plank is proposing.  It’s one of the biggest waterfront developments in Baltimore since the Inner Harbor.  But are private developers driving the planning?  Tom talks about that with Baltimore Brew reporters Fern Shen and Ed Gunts.

Then, as temperatures plummet, a status report on efforts to care for the thousands of Baltimoreans who are homeless this winter.  Dr. Jaquelyn Duval-Harvey, the director of the Mayor’s Office on Human Services, and Kevin Lindamood, the CEO of Health Care for the Homeless in Baltimore, join Tom in the studio to discuss new strategies for helping people deal with housing insecurity.

And as the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra celebrates its centennial, Tom talks with BSO oboist and author Michael Lisicky, whose new book, A Century of Sound, chronicles the first hundred years of this cultural colossus.


Today, we begin a series of weekly profiles of candidates for Mayor of Baltimore City.  Every Wednesday for the next several weeks, we’ll talk to the people who want to lead the city at a time when we face tremendous challenges.  This morning, a discussion with Elizabeth Embry, who had this to say when she announced her candidacy in early November: 

"I love Baltimore, and I’ve devoted my entire career to Baltimore City, to government, and state government -- working on the problems that Baltimore City faces.  There is nothing more noble and more important than working for the city."

Elizabeth Embry joins Tom in the studio to talk about her experience, her vision, her hopes for Baltimore. 

Plus, the 436th session of the Maryland General Assembly gets underway today.  The budget is in the black; the Governor and the legislature have different ideas about what to do with the surplus.  We’ll parse the big issues facing lawmakers with Erin Cox, the State House bureau chief for the Baltimore Sun.  She joins Tom by phone from Annapolis.

WYPR-Tom Pelton

A new study by the Environmental Integrity Project finds that over the past five years, the city has intentionally dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of raw sewage into the Jones Falls and the Inner Harbor.  That spillage -- caused by structural inadequacies in the city's 100-year-old network  of stormwater and sewer pipes -- also found its way into more than 400 homes in the city of Baltimore. Tom Hall talks with the author of the report, Tom Pelton, and with Jeffrey Raymond of the  Baltimore Department of Public Works about the city’s overwhelmed sewer system, and why its federally-ordered repair is so seriously behind schedule.

Then, a roundup of some of the top local stories -- from the latest developments in the trial of Officer Caesar Goodson to Governor Hogan’s demolition plan for blighted sections of East and West Baltimore -- with Yvonne Wenger of the Baltimore Sun, Jayne Miller of WBAL-TV, and attorney Ed Smith.

Our theater critic, J Wynn Rousuck, reviews Moonlight and Magnolias at the Spotlighters Theater.

And rapper Abdu Ali sits downs with producer Jonna McKone to talk about his dance party series called Kahlon and what it's like being gay in the hip hop, Baltimore club and soul music scenes.

Flickr-CreativeCommons: photo by Jason Morrison

President Obama’s executive actions on gun regulation, announced on January 12th, seek, in part, to put more muscle behind enforcement of current federal statutes.  One gun policy expert applauds the White House move:

“What President Obama did with these new executive actions is to actually give the federal government better capabilities to enforce the laws on the books, and this is meaningful.”

Dr. Daniel Webster is the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, and the chair of Baltimore’s Homicide Commission.  We begin today with a conversation with Dr. Webster about what the federal and state governments can do legislatively to reverse the horrendous uptick in the number of homicides and shootings in Baltimore.

And we're joined once again by our Movie Mavens -- Jed Dietz, Director of the Maryland Film Festival,  and Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post.  They weigh in with their suggestions about what to see at the cinema this winter season, as the Golden Globe and Oscar competitions heat up, and discuss with Tom the powerful role violence plays in some of this season's movies -- an issue Ann Hornaday discusses in greater depth in her Critic's Notebook column in the Washington Post. 

Creative Alliance

Congressman Elijah Cummings joins me this morning to talk about President Obama’s executive actions to address the scourge of gun violence, and what Congress may do to support, or oppose, those efforts. Also, the barriers that former inmates face when they’re released from prison are substantial: what can be done to make re-entry after incarceration succeed? 

Plus, that gadget you got for Christmas is so last year.  Tech writer Marc Saltzman joins us from Las Vegas on this first day of the annual Consumer Electronics Show, with a preview of the next things we’ll soon be unable to live without.

And, Crankies are back.  It’s an old school form of storytelling that’s being adopted by some decidedly new school artists, including WYPR’s Aaron Henkin, who’s cranking up a new take on Out of the Blocks.  I’ll talk to Aaron, and to the women behind the 3rd Annual Baltimore Crankie Fest.    

With the holiday break behind us, Baltimore is bracing for another trial of an officer accused in the death of Freddie Gray. Jury selection in the trial of Officer Ceasar Goodson begins Wednesday. Of the six officers facing charges, he’s accused of the most serious crimes. Dr. Sheri Parks helps us take the pulse of the city.

Then, a conversation with the award winning actor and writer, Anna Deavere Smith, about her new one person play, which examines the so-called School to Prison Pipeline. Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education is a powerful piece of theater, developed after many conversations in Baltimore.

Plus, Steve Martin and his long-time musical collaborator, Edie Brickell, have written a new musical, which is in its pre-Broadway run at the Kennedy Center. Theater critic J Wynn Rousuck has a review.

And, from the city that brought you Natty Bo, Hon, after a decades long absence, Baltimore gets back in the business of rye whiskey. 


Fifty years ago last August, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This morning historian Taylor Branch and legal scholar F. Michael Higginbotham discuss that most fundamental dimension of democracy: voting. We’ll talk about how federal anti-discrimination laws at the time were insufficient in opening up registration and we’ll discuss the status of voting rights as the 2016 presidential race picks up steam.

And, a year after Dr. King’s death, his widow, Coretta Scott King, visited Baltimore to support health workers who were organizing for higher wages at Johns Hopkins Hospital. We hear from two union members and civil rights organizer who recall that day.


Before the Supreme Court’s historic decision in 2013 that said states could no longer ban same-sex marriage, there was Edie Windsor and a big real estate tax bill. Roberta Kaplan is the lawyer who took Edie Windsor’s case to the Supreme Court, and when she won, the Defense of Marriage Act was no more. A conversation with Roberta Kaplan, who takes us behind the scenes of that historic case.

Then, Author Beth Baker says that Baby Boomers are finding all sorts of new ways to retire. She’ll tell us about the many new colors of the golden years.

Plus: Martin Goldsmith's grandfather and uncle tried to sail to Cuba and America to escape the Nazis in World War II. They were turned away, and eventually killed at Auschwitz. Goldsmith re-traces their final journey in a poignant book, Alex’s Wake.


RAD is the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. Has it brought much-needed funds into the city's rundown public housing or does it represent a shift in how public housing, which has been around since the 1930s, is run? Producer Jonna McKone explores what’s at stake.

Then, a conversation with the designer Ellen Lupton. Her latest book Beautiful Users chronicles how the focus of design has shifted from the products themselves to the people who use them. She’ll explain how design affects everything from how we peel potatoes to how we talk on the phone.

Then, The Everyman Theatre’s resident dialects coach Gary Logan tells us about how he’s trained the Everyman actors to sound authentically Irish in their production of Outside Mullingar.

And, the Baltimore-based writer David Grimm on his book, Citizen Canine and how the status of animals in our homes, and in our society, has evolved over time.


On this Christmas morning, how about we take a break from reporting and analysis, and instead, let’s listen to a little music, and hear some poetry of the season. On December 2nd the Baltimore Choral Arts Society performed Christmas with Choral Arts at the beautiful Baltimore Basilica. This morning, we’ll listen to a few selections from that concert and we’ll hear a couple of poems

Then, Rafael Alvarez will share with us a Christmas story called Aunt Lola. Rafael has read Aunt Lola on the Signal for the last 10 years. With the Signal on hiatus this season, we’re happy to honor that WYPR holiday tradition here on Maryland Morning.

Plus: I’ll also speak to my good friend and neighbor Kafi Garrus from Reservoir Hill about how her family will celebrate Kwanzaa. 


Today, a conversation with the CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools about a range of issues affecting the 85,000 students in one of the country’s largest school districts. We’ll talk about school violence and school policing strategies, progress on the goals in the schools’ new strategic plan, the status of the $2 billion dollar school construction initiative, and the dismal results as students took, for the first time, a test called Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. We’ll assess his first 18 months on the job.

Plus, be honest: does this show make me look fat? The Nutrition Diva, Monica Reinagel on whether or not our idea of what overweight is, has evolved over the last 30 years.

brian donovan // Flickr Creative Commons

In his new book, the political scientist Lester Spence argues that over the last 40 years, Black politics have been co-opted by neoliberalism, as its pernicious influence has spread to Black churches, hip hop culture, and virtually every aspect of the African American experience. The book is called Knocking the Hustle: Against the Neoliberal Turn in Black Politics. Dr. Spence is here to talk about it.

Then, the next installment of our series, Living Questions, in which we explore the role of religion in the public sphere. Today, a conversation with Clergy about prayer and politics in the age of ISIS.

Plus, Theater Critic J Wynn Rousuck reviews Outside Mullingar at the Everyman Theater, and I’ll have a year-end reflection on some of the artists we’ve lost in 2015.

Rachel Baye-WYPR

We begin with a conversation with one of our city’s most passionate advocates for young people.  Munir Bahar co-founded the group 300 Men March two years ago to prevent violence on Baltimore’s streets and to help African-American men become more engaged in their communities. 

Then, what’s next for Officer William Porter, and how will lawyers for the State’s Attorney adjust their strategy as they prosecute the other officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray?  David Jaros and Michael Higgenbotham from the University of Baltimore School of Law untangle the legal and social issues facing the defendants and the city. 

Plus, the music of Helicon, the Celtic masters who have performed an annual Winter Solstice concert in Baltimore for the past 30 years. Ahead of their show Saturday (December 19) at Goucher College, we observe our own Maryland Morning tradition by welcoming the band back to the studio to play some tunes.

It appears that the jury is deadlocked in the trial of Officer William Porter, accused in the killing of Freddie Gray.  What does this mean for Porter and for the other five officers charged in Freddie Gray’s death?  We’ll get legal analysis from two experienced lawyers: trial attorney Edward Smith and University of Baltimore law professor David Jaros. 

The Chesapeake Bay Program

We focus on a new report from the Abell Foundation, which says efforts in Maryland to restore the pollution-damaged Chesapeake Bay are being threatened by misguided state clean-up priorities, and inadequate monitoring of the biggest source of the Bay's pollution – agriculture.  Our senior producer Rob Sivak takes a closer look.

And, the Single Carrot Theater has been an anchor on Baltimore’s thespian landscape for almost 10 years.  Tom talks with the company's managing director and artistic director about their current production, the thriving theater scene in Charm City, and what the company is doing to address inequality.

Plus, our theater critic  J. Wynn Rousuck reviews Gifts of the Magi, a musical that combines Americana and the holiday spirit; and Zoey Washington-Sheff shares some tips on winter coat-shopping, holiday party style, and fashion gift ideas for your favorite people.

Baltimore Police Dept.

Today, a conversation with Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis. In the 6 months since he was first appointed as interim commissioner, Davis has overseen a city -- and a police department – deep in turmoil over the death last April of Freddie Gray. Host Tom Hall talks with Commissioner Davis about the tensions between Baltimore police and the communities they're sworn to protect, and  about what he's doing to rebuild public confidence in the city's law enforcement establishment.

Then, the hills are alive with the Hippodrome Theater’s production of The Sound of Music.  The beloved story of the Von Trapp Family continues to thrill audiences with its Tony, Grammy and Academy Award-winning score.  Our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, has a review of the brand-new production of this timeless classic.

The Accountability Index, our monthly series of conversations with reporters at Baltimore Brew continues with a look at Baltimore's sometimes halting efforts to audit major city departments. The Brew's senior investigative reporter, Mark Reutter, joins Tom for a discussion of what the city knows -- and what it doesn’t know -- about how it’s spending our money. 

Then, a conversation with acclaimed actor and writer Anna Deavere Smith. She returned this past weekend to her original hometown of Baltimore to perform her latest one-person play, which takes a penetrating look at the school to prison pipeline.  Tom talks with Anna Deavere Smith about Notes from the Field: Doing Time in Education, the Baltimore Chapter.

And The Everyman Theatre’s dialect coach, Gary Logan, is helping the show's actors master the unique regional accents used in the theater’s latest show, an Irish comedy called Outside Mullingar.   Logan stopped by Studio A to give Tom and Nathan a few tips on how to speak  like an authentic Irishman.  

Public Justice Center

Baltimore is a city of renters. Of the 622,000 of us who live here, more than half of us rent, rather than own, our homes.  The majority of renters are low income. A new report from the Public Justice Center indicates that problems with renting, evictions and fees are systemic.  And many of those problems are with what’s known as Rent Court.  We’re going to take a close look at the Baltimore Rent Court with the author of the Public Justice Center report, a researcher, an organizer and a tenant.

It took thirteen months for video to surface of Laquan McDonald, a 17 year old black teenager, being gunned down by a policeman in Chicago.  Why did it take so long, and how will authorities in Chicago be held accountable?   McDonald's killing is putting into sharp focus issues of transparency in city police departments.  The fact that he was reportedly high on PCP when he was shot 16 times also raises new questions about how police handle suspects on drugs, and about the continuing human costs of the war on drugs. We talk with a Chicago journalist and a former Maryland cop.

And with film awards season upon us and a slew of holiday movies being released, we check in with our movie know-it-alls, Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post and Jed Dietz of the Maryland Film Festival.

Then, we share with you a sample of the music that will soon become the new Maryland Morning theme song.

Kevin Rector

The city of Baltimore has established a commission to decide what to do with four confederate monuments.  I’ll speak with the chair of that commission, Aaron Bryant, and Dr. Kaye Wise Whitehead, an African American Scholar and author.  

Peter Bruun is an artist whose focus is often on using art to tell the stories of marginalized communities.  His latest project tells a very personal story.  His daughter, Elisif, died of a heroin overdose.  We’ll learn about how that tragedy became the inspiration for The New Day Campaign. 

Plus, a visit to the Walters Art Museum to check out its exhibition of Islamic Art, Tom Pelton puts the Environment in Focus, and a conversation with the producers of a series that features adults reading from their middle school diaries.  Guess what?  Eighth grade was even worse than you remember.  Get ready to cringe.