Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast (Archive) | WYPR

Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast (Archive)


You can find the archive of Maryland Morning with Tom Hall as host here.

This program aired with Sheilah Kast as host until 10/2/15.  Find out more about us, check out shows that aired prior to February 2014, listen to our series, and listen to each day's show.

Events like the deaths of Freddie Gray and Eric Garner in police custody have sharpened the country discussion’s of violence and race. A month ago, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer whose blog at the is destination reading for many, released his memoir: Between The World And Me. Written as a letter to his son, it expresses Coates’ experience of being black in America.  Six years ago, I spoke with Ta-Nehisi about his first memoir, his understanding of race as he was growing up in Baltimore and how he was taught by his father, Paul Coates. 

Among his accomplishments Paul Coates can list service in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, work as a university librarian, activism as a Black Panther, founding and running an Afro-centric publishing house, Black Classic Press in Baltimore and raising seven kids against great odds. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates published The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons and an Unlikely Road to Manhood  in 2009, and he and his father joined me in the studio to talk about that unlikely road. I asked Ta-Nehisi what made his family unique. 

Margo Christie

No burlesque dancer on The Block, Baltimore’s legendary downtown strip of debauchery and Adult Entertainment, has risen to more fame and notoriety than Blaze Starr. She brought flair, playful humor, and an outsized personality to the stage, where she charmed patrons for decades. And, she also charmed a Louisiana governor in the 1950s, having an affair that inspired the 1989 film, “Blaze”. Blaze Starr died in June at the age of 83.

Writer Margo Christie began stripping on The Block in 1978 at the age of 16. She heard stories about the legendary Blaze Starr and recently wrote about the influence Starr had in The Baltimore Sun. In 2013, Christie published a novel set on The Block in the 1970s. It’s called These Days. It tells the story of a starry-eyed teenager, Becky Shelling, who dreams of being a movie star, and who loves the music and films of her parent’s generation. A relationship with a smooth-talking older man leads her to working as a stripper on “The Block”. Tom spoke with Margo Christie about the book in January. 

A Marylander's Uplifting Memoir

Aug 19, 2015

On average, major depressive disorder impacts the lives of about 14.8 million American adults every year. And on average about one in four Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder at any given time. As we learn more and more about mental illness, we find that some unlikely people have battled with it.

At 89, LeRoy Hoffberger can look back on a full life brokering investments and business deals, fostering Jewish education, supporting health research, collecting art.  When he was still a boy his father and uncles were involved in myriad businesses - from Pompeian Olive Oil to the Baltimore Orioles to ice, coal, fuel oil and beer. Roy Hoffberger expanded the family’s reach to other enterprises including real estate - especially the development of Germantown.

Yet, Hoffberger has battled depression all his life. He started writing his memoirs seven years ago. The book he produced is titled, Measure of a Life: Memoirs, Insights and Philosophies of Leroy E. Hoffberger.  Sheilah sat down with him last December to talk about his work and his struggle with depression.

What Did Millions Of Investment Do For West Baltimore's Sandtown

Aug 17, 2015
areseedy //Flickr Creative Commons

Five decades ago, before the riots of 1968, Baltimore’s Sandtown neighborhood was a vibrant community of about 40,000 laborers, professionals and artists. These days less than half that many people live there, and the numbers paint a picture of a community in poor health, with high unemployment, deep poverty, and children not attending school regularly.

Yet, even with these struggles, the fabric of community relationships holds strong. The combination highlights the depth and stubbornness of the social problems in Sandtown.  The week after the riot and protests in April, we were asking the same questions as many residents and outsiders: what can bring stability to this part of West Baltimore? More jobs? Improved housing? Better coordinating leadership among these different groups ?

To talk about the investment in Sandtown, past and present, Elder Clyde Harris of Newborn Community Faith Church joined me in the studio.  He is a native of Sandtown, pastor, a community activist and an urban farmer.  With us on the line from the Washington Post  was  Michael Fletcher has lived in Baltimore for 30 years, and is national economics correspondent for the Post.

Wendell Patrick

As we listen back this morning to some of our interviews after the death of Freddie Gray, we also want to revisit how WYPR’s The Signal covered the issues days after the riot on April 27.  We hear part of the “Out of the Blocks” series produced by WYPR’s Aaron Henkin with electronic musician Wendel Patrick and talk about how Aaron produces the series, collecting the stories of a single block and stitching them together to craft Out Of The Blocks.

After the Freddie Gray unrest in Baltimore on Monday April 25th,  Baltimore City Public Schools closed the following day. Dr. Thornton, CEO of City schools sent a press release to families thanking the many students who got home safely and encouraging parents to talk with their children about the events in Baltimore. He also said students engaging in rioting would be prosecuted.  Our producer Jonna McKone went to City Neighbors High School in Northeast Baltimore to get a sense of how students and schools were processing the events of the last few weeks. 

Margot Schulman

The musical, “Dear Evan Hansen,” is making its world premiere at Washington’s Arena Stage. Ben Platt (“Pitch Perfect”) stars as a lonely, ill-at-ease high school senior whose psychiatrist assigns him to write pep-talk letters to himself -- letters that start: “Dear Evan Hansen.” But when Evan’s first letter winds up in the wrong hands, there are enormous consequences, exacerbated by cyberspace and a web of lies. Theater critic J.


As summer vacation draws to a close, schools are gearing up to reopen. In the closing months of the spring semester, the atmosphere in city schools was punctuated by the clash between students and Baltimore police at Mondawmin Mall the day of Freddie Gray’s funeral. The conversations that followed was about policing, crime, poverty and violence. That, along with reports of vacancies in top posts and teaching positions at public schools, have us thinking about what students will experience as they had back to class in the next few weeks. 

Comedian Hari Kondabolu On Political Correctness In Comedy

Aug 14, 2015
92YTribeca // Flickr Creative Commons

Hari Kondabolu is a Brooklyn-based comedian, who takes on some of the biggest political and social issues today including racism, colonialism, and the true color of Jesus. The New York Times has called him “one of the most exciting political comics in stand-up today.” He has appeared on the Late Show with David Letterman , Conan , Jimmy Kimmel Live, Live at Gotham and John Oliver’s New York Standup Show. Tom sits down with Hari to discuss political correctness and how the comedy battlefield has changed over time.

He has a show with Creative Alliance at The Patterson coming up Sunday August 23rd. The show will also feature performances by Liz Miele and local comedian Umar Khan. Hari’s debut stand-up album “Waiting for 2042” is available now as well.

Curbing Baltimore's Feral Cat Population

Aug 14, 2015
Elizabeth and Jason Putsché via

Baltimore City Health Commissioner, Leana Wen, recently said Baltimore is a city that is “overwhelmed with the overpopulation of animals.” Perhaps no one in the city knows this better than our guest Jennifer Brause, executive director of the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, or BARCS. Brause, her 57 employees and 400-plus volunteers, take in around 12,000 animals each year. And if that number isn’t startling enough, BARCS has neutered and returned close to 1700 outdoor cats so far in 2015. In the first ten days of August BARCS has already taken in more than 100 cats that are available for adoption. 

The Business of Medical Marijuana

Aug 12, 2015
Chuck Coker via

Cancer or glaucoma patients in Maryland who hope to use marijuana to ease their symptoms are probably a year away from being able to fill a physicians’ prescription for it under the medical-marijuana system set up by the state legislature.  But as early as next month the state’s “Medical Cannabis Commission” could start taking applications for one of the 15 licenses to grow medical marijuana.   Governing boards in several counties all over the state already have been asked to approve zoning for medical-marijuana factories.  A medical-marijuana industry is starting to take root in the Old Line State, and Michael Dresser, reporter for the Baltimore Sun, and Delegate Dan Morhaim join Sheilah to discuss. 


Courtesy of the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

Last week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, which President Lyndon Johnson signed into law on August 6, 1965. As we ponder this major milestone in American history, we thought it would be nice to re-visit a conversation Tom had last January with Judge Robert Bell and the historian Jean Baker.

Voting is, of course, the fundamental right of citizens, and the essential ingredient of a democracy. Judge Bell and Dr. Baker talked about the role that citizenship plays in preserving freedom in America. They spoke in advance of a panel they were serving on in January at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum. Judge Robert M. Bell is the former Chief Judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals. He served in that position from 1996-2013, culminating a nearly 40 year career on the bench. Dr. Jean Baker is an historian and the author of many books on 19th century American History. She taught at Goucher College for many years on their Towson campus, and she continues to teach in Goucher’s Prison Education Program.

What To Do With Summer Zuchinni

Aug 12, 2015
US Department Of Agriculture// Flickr Creative Commons

Our resident foodie, Sascha Wolhandler, gives us some great ideas about recipes that can make good use of all those zucchinis popping off the tables at area farmers markets.

Sacsha and her husband Steve run Sacsha's 527 Restaurant and Catering on Charles Street in Baltimore. She's passed along a few amazing zucchini recipes to share with you.

Keith Allison // Flickr Creative Commons


We're starting the second week of a two-month partnership between Baltimore police and federal crime-fighting agencies.  Elected and law-enforcement officials announced with great fanfare last week that 10 federal agents would be embedded with Baltimore police homicide detectives in an effort to solve the scores of unsolved murder cases from recent months.

Agents from the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Secret Service will work with local police on cases where police have identified suspects but need more resources to file charges.  Joining Sheilah Kast to talk about the federal role in addressing the surge in violence in Baltimore is United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, the top federal prosecutor in Maryland.


Will Kirk

It certainly sounds strange: An all-female production of “Henry IV, Part One” – a Shakespeare history play in which almost all of the characters are men.

But there’s precedent – a lot of it. There are all-female Shakespeare companies from New York to Los Angeles to London. Sarah Bernhardt played Hamlet in 1899. So did Eva Le Gallienne in the 1930s. More recently, Helen Mirren starred as Prospero in the 2010 film of “The Tempest.” And Center Stage will produce an all-female “As You Like It” in January.

Casting all women is just the flip side of what went on in Shakespeare’s day, when all roles, by law, were played by men. In a program note for the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory’s current production of “Henry IV, Part One,” director Tom Delise offers another justification: Historically, female political leaders are nothing new. I’d add that this particularly resonates now, when a woman is the Democratic front-runner for the United States presidency.

auntjojo // Flickr Creative Commons

You may remember the headlines of four years ago:  the brilliant Johns Hopkins sophomore, a computer major who cared about health and sustainable agriculture, bicycling in a bike lane on West University Parkway when a car turned right in front him.  The bicyclist, Nathan Krasnopoler, was pinned under the car.  But the 83-year-old motorist, apparently disoriented, did not turn the car off, or call for help.  She sat on a nearby wall, until a passerby intervened.

Baltimore's Battle For Broadband

Aug 7, 2015
Fern Shen/Baltimore Brew



There’s fairly widespread agreement that access to reliable high-speed Internet is crucial to success. Businesses need it to deliver value to their customers. Students and teachers need it for effective education. Doctors and patients need it for quality health care. Researchers, police, elected officials, librarians, scientists  -- everyone needs it.

No wonder dissatisfaction is growing with how and where high-speed Internet is available in the Baltimore region -- fiber-optic networks surrounding the city, but almost none in it.  

Phoebe Gloeckner

An outspoken comedian, an explicit diary, and a snappy grandmother are just some of the subjects of this year's hottest Indie films. Tom Hall sits down with our movie know-it-alls, Jed Dietz of the Maryland Film Festival and Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post to get the latest Indie movie recommendations, for those tired of Summer blockbusters.

A Pop Up Shop For Baltimore Manufacturers

Aug 7, 2015
Andy Cook

Tomorrow, a group of craft manufacturers will open a new pop up store at 16 West North Avenue, just west of Charles showcasing locally made Baltimore goods. Two members of what’s called the Industrial Arts Collective, the alliance that helped start shop, are with me in the studio to talk about how the city can better support the growing number of small-scale manufacturers here.

Washington Area Spark // Flickr Creative Commons

Tomorrow marks the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.  Just a week after signing the bill that created Medicare, on August 6, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed a law that made it illegal for local jurisdictions to deny the right to vote to African Americans.  

This morning, a conversation about the history of the Voting Rights Act, and the future of voting rights, as we celebrate this historic milestone, and assess the consequences of the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down one of its central tenets. 

A Black Market Fish Poaching Scheme Gone Bad

Aug 5, 2015

The watermen of Tilghman Island had been harvesting perch, shad, oysters, herring and rockfish for centuries when ‘scientific fisheries management’  became a widely used tool for regulating fish harvest in the United States.  The idea is to manage annual harvests so aquatic species can be harvested in perpetuity.  In the late 1970's, the rockfish population was in crisis and Congress passed a law that imposed a moratorium on striped bass or rockfish.

Thomas Hawk // Flickr Creative Commons

The state of Maryland doesn’t have an official language, but three of its counties do. The first was Frederick County. In 2012 its commissioners adopted an ordinance requiring, “all official actions in the county must be in English.”

Now Frederick is again debating the issue, quite vigorously. During the intervening 3 years, the county has changed its form of government; instead of a five-member board of commissioners, who were all Republican, it now has a seven member County Council of four Republicans and two Democrats. Two Democrats have proposed repealing the English-only ordinance. One of them is Jessica Fitzwater, who joins host Sheilah Kast in the studio.   And on the phone is Sheriff Chuck Jenkins, a Republican who is advocating for keeping the ordinance in place.

In the 1990s Sociologist Patricia Fernandez-Kelly was a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies when her research into what effects de-industrialization was having on city residents took her into West Baltimore.  She immersed herself in the lives of several families, working to understand their experience and in particular, the relation between them and government.

The result is the book Fernandez-Kelly published this spring:  The Hero’s Fight—African-Americans in West Baltimore and the Shadow of the State.  Patricia Fernandez-Kelly joins us on the line from Princeton University, where she’s now a senior lecturer in sociology.   

Alexander Fox

“Single Women Actively Seeking Sex.” Those words appear on a sign on stage at the Strand Theater’s production of “Saving Myself for Steve Martin.”

“SWASS,” the awkward acronym on the sign, is a support group. Over the next 80 minutes or so, we hear from the group’s newest member. Eve is a 45-year-old, just-divorced mother of an adolescent daughter.

Ann V. Wixon, author of "Saving Myself for Steve Martin," structures this Baltimore Playwrights Festival selection as a series of monthly group meetings – from September through May. It’s a structure that’s rather formulaic and, at times, repetitive.

Madeleine Mysko

Local author Madeleine Mysko joins Tom in the studio this morning. She has recently published her second book. In this season for beach-reads, here’s a novel that takes place in a beach community called Stone Harbor on the New Jersey Shore. The book is called Stone Harbor Bound.

Blink Ofanaye // Flickr Creative Commons

The men’s detention center was built in East Baltimore before the Civil War.  Now it’s part of a cluster of more than a dozen public-safety buildings run by the state. Yesterday Governor Hogan called it dilapidated, dangerous, a place of corruption -- and said he’s closing it at once: "The individuals currently housed in the men’s detention center will immediately be moved to other facilities in Baltimore City or in nearby areas," Gov. Hogan said.  "There’s plenty of capacity elsewhere in the system to meet this need. Given the space that we have, it makes no sense whatsoever to keep this deplorable facility open.  Frankly, I cannot understand why this action didn’t happen years ago." 

Between 700 and 800 men awaiting trial will be moved; the governor said none of the 772 employees who work in the facility would lose their jobs. His announcement left unanswered many questions, including where the men would be moved to.

The Unique Legacy Of Baltimore's Bluegrass

Jul 31, 2015
David Kidd // Flickr Creative Commons

The roots of bluegrass can be traced to the Scottish and English settlers who brought it to Appalachia in the 18th century, but when Appalachian migrants fled the mountains for the cities following World War II, Baltimore became, for a time, the capital of Bluegrass, and some of its finest practitioners could be heard in bars and in home jam sessions all around town. One of the breakout groups of the 1950s was the Stoney Mountain Boys, a Baltimore group who became the first bluegrass band to appear in Carnegie Hall.

On Sunday night, Tim Newby, a Baltimore based author and historian, will host a launch party and concert for his new book which chronicles the history of Bluegrass in Baltimore. The book is called Bluegrass in Baltimore: The Hard Drivin’ Sound and Its Legacy. The launch party will take place at the Creative Alliance in East Baltimore at 7:00 p.m. with musicians Caleb Stine, Chris Jacobs, and many others.

Baltimore DJ Will Put You Under His Spell

Jul 31, 2015
Crystal Dunn

If you think of radio personalities as a voice without a face, that’s not Matt Davis. For this DJ at the Baltimore station 98 Rock, community engagement has been a huge part of his job for eleven years. Not only has he hosted the program Noise in the Basement, showcasing Maryland-based bands since 1996, but he’s also emceed the live performances generated by the  show. On Monday, Matt Davis will host the final ‘Noise in the Basement Live’ show – because he’s leaving 98 Rock. He joins Sheilah to reflect on what he’s done, and talk about what's next.  

Flickr Creative Commons // Tom Woodward

Two days before the end of July, Baltimore has recorded 39 homicides so far this month, almost as many as the 42 murders in May, which was the highest monthly count in 25 years. There have been a dozen killings in just the last week

Three weeks ago today Kevin Davis was promoted from deputy to interim commissioner, when Mayor Rawlings Blake fired Commissioner Anthony Batts. Interim Commissioner Davis has set up what he calls a “war room” to coordinate the fight against crime. He has asked rank and file to email him their ideas about how to reorganize the police department. And he’s said he’d like to see the “interim” erased from his title. Interim Commissioner Davis is with Sheilah to address such questions in a special extended segment. 

Guns, Freedom, and the Second Ammendment

Jul 29, 2015
Steven Ballegeer via Flickr Creative Commons

Maryland has some of the toughest gun restrictions in the country, but those who oppose tighter restrictions on registering and owning firearms point to the fact that tough gun laws have not decreased the tremendous spike in gun crimes that Baltimore has experienced in the last three months. The recent shootings in Lafayette, LA and Charlestown, SC, like the murders in Newtown, CT a few years ago, prompt a conversation about guns that eventually peters out, and leads to no substantive change in the status quo.