Midday | WYPR


Still from the film "Squeegee"

Today on Midday: a topic that has run hot and cold in the news for more than 30 years.  Squeegee Kids.  Tom's guest is Tisha Edwards, the executive director of Baltimore Mayor Jack Young’s new Office of Children and Family Success.  Tisha Edwards’ office released a “Squeegee Alternative Plan” intended to eradicate the practice of “squeegeeing.”  

Tisha Edwards served as Chief of Staff under Mayor Catherine Pugh at the beginning of the Pugh Administration, and in 2013, she served as the interim CEO of the Baltimore City Public School System.  

Our conversation was streamed live on the WYPR Facebook page.  

Courtesy of University of Maryland

The acclaimed poet Stanley Plumly passed away in April of this year, succumbing to cancer at the age of 79.  Mr. Plumly was a distinguished professor of English at the University of Maryland.  He was the author of 11 volumes of poetry; many of his poems were also published in the New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and in 40 anthologies. He was a finalist for the National Book Award, he was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, and he won the prestigious Pushcart Prize for Poetry eight times.    

Today on Midday, a tribute to Maryland’s former Poet Laureate (2009-2018) from three other poets who are also acclaimed in their own right and published widely. Grace Cavalieri is Mr. Plumly's successor as the current Poet Laureate of Maryland. She has also been host for four decades of the  "The Poet and the Poem" radio series, distributed nationally on the Pacifica Radio Network, and now available as podcasts from the Library of Congress. Michael Collier also served as Maryland Poet Laureate from 2001-2004. He leads the Creative Writing program at the University of Maryland, College Park, and served as director of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences from 1994 to 2017. Elizabeth Spires is the author of seven collections of poetry and six children’s books. She is a Professor of English at Goucher College where she holds the Chair for Distinguished Achievement.

The University of Maryland in College Park will host a memorial service for Stanley Plumly at Memorial Chapel, on Saturday, September 21, at 7:30pm.   Click here for details.

photo by Joan Marcus

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio today with another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland stage. Today, she spotlights playwright Heidi Schreck's What the Constitution Means to Me, a timely and provocative reflection on the personal impact of America's foundational document.  

Ms. Schreck, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, Tony Award nominee and three-time Obie Award winner, has brought the Broadway production to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. for a 15-performance run.  Oliver Butler directs the playwright in her starring role, along with original Broadway cast members Mike Iveson and New York City high school student Rosdely Ciprian.

What the Constitution Means to Me  continues at the Kennedy Center through Sunday, September 22.  

U.S. Government/Digital Globe via AP

Last Saturday's drone attack at one of the world's largest oil refineries in Saudi Arabia destroyed about 5% of the world’s oil supply.  The Trump Administration and a lot of independent reporting has indicated that Iran is behind the attack, although Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility.   

Senator Ben Cardin (D., MD) a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, joins Tom on the line from Capitol Hill to discuss the details of the attack, how it is fueling tensions in the Middle East, and how the U.S. ought to respond.

Courtesy of Baltimore Teachers Union

Today, a conversation with Diamonté Brown, the new president of the Baltimore Teachers Union.  She was first elected last spring in a close and contentious race to lead the 7,000-member union of teachers and school para-professionals.  Her victory, which was officially certified in July after an investigation by the American Federation of Teachers, ended the long tenure of Marietta English, who was seeking her seventh 3-year term as BTU president.

Ms. Brown ran at the top of a coalition called The Union We Deserve.  She has pledged to improve accountability, engagement among union members, and to promote social justice.

A former teacher at Booker T. Washington Middle School, Ms. Brown now leads a union of teachers and school para-professionals who are working with a shrinking population of students, in the context of a deep political divide among lawmakers over funding for schools throughout the state. She joins us in studio A to discuss the present state of the union, and the school system improvements its members are striving for.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page; you can watch the video here.

Towson University

Today, it's another episode of Midday on Higher Education, our occasional series of conversations with the presidents of colleges and universities in our region and across Maryland.

Tom’s guest for the hour is the president of Towson University, Dr. Kim Schatzel.

Towson University has seen a record increase in the number of minority students and first-generation college students in recent years. This month, for the first time, US News and World Report included Towson in its list of nationally ranked schools. We talk about this and more with Dr. Schatzel in Studio A. 

We livestreamed the conversation on WYPR's Facebook Page.  Due to technical difficulties, the video is available in two parts: Click the links to watch Part 1 & Part 2.

Photo Courtesy WYPR/ Emily Sullivan

On today's News Wrap: the president of the United States does a drive-by in Baltimore.  The president of the Baltimore City Council joins the race for mayor. And Democratic 2020 presidential wannabes vie for position at an HBCU in Houston. 

Tom and Charles Robinsonpolitics and business reporter with Maryland Public Television News, run down the latest political news. 

Their conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here, from 00:00 to 18:22 in the feed.

Phtoto Courtesy Bobby Marvin Holmes

Tom is joined i9n the studio by filmmakers  Bobby Marvin Holmes and Ras Tre Subira, the co-founders of Reflection of Kingsa new media program teaching young Baltimoreans how to harness the power of the media to tell their stories.  The endeavor is a joint partnership between Son of a Dream LLC, and Afrikan Youth Alchemy, an African-centered youth development organization.

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here, from 19:17 to 33:00 in the feed.

Photo Courtesy Judith Krummeck

Tom's guest is the South African born broadcaster and author Judith Krummeck.  In the 1990s, she came to America after leaving the system of Apartheid in South Africa.  Krummeck  has written a book about that experience that also tells the story of her great-great grandmother, who herself was in immigrant from England, who came to South Africa with her missionary husband in the early nineteenth century. The book is called Old New Worlds: A Tale of Two Immigrants.   

Rob Sivak/WYPR

Midday is thrilled to be broadcasting today from the beautifully renovated and restored Enoch Pratt Central Library in downtown Baltimore.  The library looks great following a three-year, $115 million dollar face-lift

From an impromptu stage in the Library's grand Central Hall, Midday host Tom Hall and his guests discuss what’s new about the 86-year-old building itself, and the range of programs that the Enoch Pratt Free Library offers. 

During the broadcast we meet Wesley Wilson, Chief of the Central Library, and Vivian Fisher, Deputy Director and head of the African American Department here at the Central Library. They describe the expanding array of programs and services offered by the Pratt.  

We begin by welcoming the president and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Heidi Daniel, and Jean Campbell, an architect and senior project manager with Beyer, Blinder, Belle, the architecture firm that that oversaw the renovation of this beautiful and historic building.

The Grand Reopening of the Central Library  -- a community block party -- is slated for Saturday, September 14, from 11 am - 4 pm.  A ribbon cutting ceremony is set for noon, with Pratt CEO Heidi Daniel, Baltimore Mayor Jack Young, Sen. Ben Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Sen. Barbara Mikulski and  other dignitaries in attendance.


If you are a person with a condition that requires millions of dollars worth of pharmaceuticals, even having health insurance may not be enough.  Almost no individual can afford that kind of treatment, and increasingly, employer or union-based insurance plans can’t afford it either.  Is the high cost of some of these medications due solely to the greed of big Pharma?  In a word, no.  There are many reasons for why drugs cost so much. 

Tom is joined in studio by Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.  In addition to being a regular guest on this program, he is one of the co-editors of a new book: The Oxford Handbook of Public Health Ethics, published just a couple of weeks ago by Oxford University Press.  

DJ Corey Photography

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us on this Wednesday afternoon (we're broadcasting live on Thursday from the Enoch Pratt Free Library) for another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland stage.  Today, she spotlights the new production of Proof  that opens the 2019-2020 season at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

In  playwright David Auburn's Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play, which opened on Broadway in October 2000, we meet Catherine, who has inherited her late father Robert’s house, hundreds of his notebooks, his mathematical genius, and, she fears, his debilitating psychoses.  She grants one of her father's best students, Hal, permission to comb through his voluminous writings, where he discovers a revolutionary mathematical proof -- a discovery that sparks a crisis of identity for Catherine. 

Everyman Resident Company member Megan Anderson, who played Catherine in Everyman's sell-out first production of Proof in 2004, returns to play Catherine’s older sister, Claire. Joining  Ms. Anderson in the cast are Jeremy Keith Hunter as Hal, and fellow resident company actors Katie Kleiger as Catherine, and Bruce Randolph Nelson as Robert. 

Proof, directed by Resident Company member Paige Hernandez, continues at Everyman Theatre through October 6.  Follow the link for showtimes and ticketing information.

AP Images / Ben Hider

On this month's edition of Midday Culture Connections, Tom is joined again by Dr. Sheri Parks, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at the Maryland Institute College of Art

As the NFL marks its 100th anniversary, controversy continues to surround the league.

Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, remains unemployed three years after he began his kneeling protest against police brutality and racism in America, and the NFL's new partnership with hip hop mogul Jay-Z has raised eyebrows, rather than hopes, about the league’s commitment to addressing a history of racial discrimination.

Milton Kent, host of WYPR's Sports at Large and a professor of journalism at Morgan State University, joins us for a conversation about how the dynamics of race and power are playing out, off the field. 

Then, Tom and Dr. Parks discuss the New York Times 1619 Project, a multimedia, multi-part reframing of the history of slavery in America. The Project has generated a backlash by some leading conservatives.  Four hundred years after the arrival of the first enslaved Africans, how does the legacy of slavery fit into our historical memory? 

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook Page, and you can watch the video here.


Today, it’s another edition of Midday in the Neighborhood, a series in which we’ve set out to spotlight the remarkable tapestry of communities that make up the city of Baltimore.  According to the group Live Baltimore, there are 278 unique neighborhoods in our city, full of folks working to make their communities, and our city, better.  

The intention of this series is, over time, to hear from people who actually live in all of the neighborhoods in our diverse and vibrant city, and get their perspectives on what’s right about Baltimore, what can be  improved, and what people may not know about our many different communities.  

Today, Tom is joined by people who are active in three adjacent neighborhoods on the city’s West side:  Upton, which includes one of Baltimore’s most historic thoroughfares, Pennsylvania Avenue; Bolton Hill, bordered on its western perimeter by Eutaw Place, and home to the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA); and Penn North, just south of Druid Hill Park, a magnificent greenspace designed in 1860 by Howard Daniel, John H. Latrobe and George Frederick. 

photo courtesy DL media

We begin today's Midday on the Arts program with the legendary jazz impresario, producer and NEA Jazz Master, Todd Barkan.   With Chef Robert Weidmaier, he is the proprietor of the Keystone Korner nightclub in Harbor East, at the corner of Eden and Lancaster.  Tonight, tomorrow and Sunday: the great Vibraphone virtuoso Warren Wolf appears with the Wolfpack.  And next weekend, Christian McBride, the host of NPR’s Jazz Night in America will be there with his band, the New Jawn. 

Keystone has music every night of the week, too, and Sundays, they offer a brunch.  This month, for at least the next three Sundays, members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will perform chamber music from 11-2.  BSO players are in the 12th week of a lockout stemming from a contract dispute with BSO management, so if you’ve missed them at the Meyerhoff this summer, you can catch small groups of them at Keystone Korner on Sundays. 

Check the Keystone link above for a complete listing of all the acts appearing at the new Harbor East venue.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook Page, and you can watch the video here, beginning at 0:00 and running through  20:30. 

photo courtesy Cyd Wolf.

Today's Midday on the Arts program continues with a conversation about a great festival in Baltimore that literally takes art to the streets.  The 5th Annual Little Italy Baltimore Madonnari Arts Festival is underway as we speak.  Artists from across the world are hard at work creating elaborate and amazing chalk art right on the streets of one of Baltimore’s most historic and vibrant neighborhoods.  They’ll be at it until Sunday, and in addition to all the street art, there will be performances, and of course, because it’s Little Italy, lots of great food. 

Cyd Wolf is the Executive Producer of the festival, as well as the executive producer  of the Cabaret at Germano's Piattini. Carlos Alberto GH is an acclaimed street artist from Guadalajara, Mexico.  They join Tom in the studio to offer a glimpse of the entertainments in store at the Festival, which runs from Sept 6-8.

This program was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page and you can watch the video here. This segment runs from 21:30 to 34:16 on the stream.

Photo by Jonathan Timmes

Midday on the Arts concludes today with an internationally acclaimed classical guitarist, the Russian American virtuoso Piotr Pakhomkin.  Since completing his studies with Manuel Barrueco at Peabody, he has toured the world, and won numerous international guitar competitions.  He made his concerto and solo debut at Carnegie Hall in the Chamber Orchestra of New York's "Masterwork Series" in June 2018. 

He and his family have settled in Frederick, Maryland, where he founded and directs The Segovia Academy of Music, which provides music education and training to all ages and skill levels, ranging from the complete beginner to aspiring professionals.

Piotr Pahkomkin joins us Live in Studio A and performs two pieces: Francisco Tarrega's Capricho Arabe and Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude from Cello Suite No. 1.

This segment was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page.  You can watch the video of Mr. Pakhomkin's performance here, beginning at 39:19 in the video stream.

courtesy Toronto International Film Festival

It’s another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly look at what's new in films, and filmmaking.   Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post, joins us on the line from the Toronto  International Film Festival as the industry's race to the Oscars and other awards begins its post-summer surge.  Toronto is one of the biggest festivals in the world, and its audiences have an uncanny ability to pick award winners.   One film getting a lot of buzz at  #TIFF19 is the Festival's official selection, a revisionist "anti-hate satire" called Jojo Rabbit, directed by New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi.

Jed Dietz, the founder of the Maryland Film Festival, joins us as well, with tips on what to see this weekend in local theaters.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us today for her annual Preview of the new theater season. 

From the off-Broadway hit Miss You Like Hell that will be coming soon to both Baltimore Center Stage and Olney Theatre Center, to the touring productions of the multiple Tony and Grammy Award-winning Broadway musicals Dear Evan Hansen and  The Band's Visit, which will be making stops at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre this coming spring, we'll get a glimpse of the great entertainment in store for the region's theater-goers. 

As the race for the White House lurches into high gear, Tom’s guest today is Tim Alberta.

He’s the Chief Political Correspondent for POLITICO, and he has written a terrific book about the recent history of the Republican Party, and the many internecine ideological and strategic battles that have raged within the GOP ever since the Presidency of George W. Bush.

The book is called American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump. It is a must-read for Washington insiders, political junkies and anyone who has ever pondered how Donald Trump has engineered such a dramatic transformation of the Republican Party as well as the conservative movement in America.

Photo Credit/ Jeff Watts

Today, Tom's guest is  Dr. Ibram X. Kendi , the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University, and author of the new book, How to Be an Antiracist.

In this follow up to Stamped From the Beginning, his award-winning 2016 book about the origin of racist ideas,  Dr. Kendi’s latest offering is a pragmatic and instructive guide to fighting the roots of racism.  

Dr.  Kendi will be discussing his book at Shriver Hall on the campus of Johns Hopkins University tomorrow night at 7pm with political scientist and Hopkins professor Dr. Lester Spence.   Visit eventbrite to reserve your seats.  


 This program originally aired June 20, 2019. 

You know the voice of Tom's guest today from his superb reporting for NPR from Great Britain. Before his assignment in London, Frank Langfitt was NPR’s China correspondent for five years. In the late 90s and early aughts, Frank also covered China for the Baltimore Sun

If you listened to Frank’s dispatches from China from 2011-2016, you may recall his occasional series called Streets of Shanghai, in which he introduced us to some of the people he met. The way he devised to meet them is ingenious.

In exchange for conversations with everyday Chinese folks, Frank offered them free cab rides, and he has compiled some of the results of these wide-ranging and revelatory conversations in a new book. It’s called The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China.

We livestreamed this conversation on WYPR's Facebook page.  Click here to watch. 

Provided by Loyola University Maryland

 (This program originally aired on June 12, 2019) 

Tom's guest is Adam Gopnik, who has been a staff writer for the New Yorker Magazine for the past 33 years.

His new book is called A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism. It is an homage to liberalism, in which he explores its roots in Montaigne and the Enlightenment, and traces its history through the present day.

Gopnik observes that liberalism was preceded by humanism and an affection for, and elevation of, a sense of community forged around shared choices. He calls it a fact-first philosophy with a feelings-first history.

While most people associate liberalism with a left-leaning world view, to Gopnik’s eye, it ends in the center, although it is not to be confused with centrism, and he distinguishes it not just from a conservative orientation on the right, but also from the more radical left. Liberalism favors reform over revolution. And it is premised in love and empathy. He writes that liberalism is “a belief that the sympathy that binds human society together can disconnect us from our clannish and suspicious past.”

Adam Gopnik joined us from NPR's New York bureau.

Cover art courtesy Harper Collins

Today, a conversation about one of the most fascinating figures, not only in baseball history, but in American history.  George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr. was born and raised in Baltimore,  graduated from the school of hard knocks, and evolved into the most famous man in America, whose every swing of the bat seemed to be a matter of national interest, and whose every exploit off the field was a source of endless fascination for Depression-era fans.  His influence and importance to the game is unquestioned, and because the timing of his rise to prominence coincided with an expansion of media from print to broadcast, his influence in the public sphere, well outside the diamond, was unprecedented. 

In her fascinating and granular look at the life of Babe Ruth, Jane Leavy -- the best-selling author of The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax -- observes, “At some point in the trajectory of fame, real life becomes apocryphal.  Home runs travel in perpetuity, drafting on perpetually willing suspension of disbelief.  The temporal facts of biography no longer matter because everyone knows a person who can hit 60 home runs will live forever.”  

Babe Ruth did hit 60 home runs in the 1927 season, and we’ve been talking about him ever since.  Jane Leavy asserts that our current notion of what it means to be a celebrity, what it means to be famous, were inexorably shaped by the life and media circus that was "the Great Bambino."  Her book is called The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created.

Jane Leavy joins Tom today in Studio A.

Their conversation was live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.

(This program was originally broadcast on January 29, 2019)

Cover art courtesy Penguin/Random House

This program originally aired on January 2, 2019.

Today, on this archive edition of Midday, Tom's guest is journalist and attorney Steven Brill.    He’s the founder of Court TV and American Lawyer magazine, and he teaches journalism at Yale University, where he founded the Yale Journalism Initiative.

His latest book is a stunning and disconcerting compendium of some of the central problems facing America: the financialization of what had been a manufacturing based economy; rampant obsession with short term profits in American business, crippling political polarity, and marginalization of the middle class.  He offers a trenchant analysis of why these problems exist, and he shines a light on those people and organizations who are working to address these difficult challenges. 

The book is the New York Times best-seller,  “Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty Year Fall -- and those Fighting to Reverse It.”  

Photo Courtesy Simon & Schuster

This program originally aired on Tuesday May 14, 2019. 

Frederick Douglass is one of the most gifted and admired figures in American history.  He was enslaved for the first 20 years of his life.  By the time of his death in 1895, he had become the world’s most photographed man, a counselor to President Abraham Lincoln, an unparalleled public intellectual, and a super-star speaker.

David Blight’s acclaimed biography of Frederick Douglass, the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for History, offers trenchant and sweeping insights into the particulars of Douglass’ many gifts, and how he changed the arc of the American story. 

David Blight joins Tom to talk about Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. 

Our conversation was recorded earlier, so we can’t take your calls and comments.   

This program originally aired on July 30, 2019.

In this archive edition of Midday: When it was ratified in 1787, the US Constitution stood alone as a beacon of freedom from tyranny and an unparalleled attempt to create a republic governed by the people, with each branch serving as a check on the power of the other. Has the power of the Executive Branch grown too much as the country has grown and the apparatus of government has expanded? Did the founders anticipate the political polarity of the current moment? What norms underlie the Constitution, and are they being abandoned?

Tom's guest is University of Baltimore Law Professor Kim Wehle. Her latest book is called How to Read the Constitution - and Why.

W.W. Norton and Company

This program originally aired on Feb. 13. 

Today on this archive edition of Midday: In 1896, in the infamous “Plessy v Ferguson” case, the U.S. Supreme Court allowed “equal but separate” accommodations for blacks and whites, legalizing segregation for more than 60 years.

In his latest book, Steve Luxenberg tells the back story of some of the people who were central to this historic case, tracing the pernicious roots of racism in American history that are far from being eliminated in American society.  The book is called Separate: The Story of Plessy v Ferguson and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregation. Our show was taped in February, so we can’t take your calls and comments.

On Aug. 31 at 6:45 pm, Steve Luxenberg will participate in a panel discussion -- “Race in America” -- with Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Judge Richard Gergel

The conversation, part of the National Book Festival, will be moderated by NPR’s Eric Deggans.  Click here for more information.

Photo Courtesy Hachette Books/ Macmillan Publishers

This program originally aired on July 2, 2019.

Today on this archive edition of Midday, a conversation with George Will and Thomas Frank about the state of the Conservatism in America. 

Thomas Frank is the author of What’s the Matter with Kansas: How Conservatives Won the Heart of AmericaHe wonders why Donald Trump’s brutish brand of populism appears to have displaced the moderate wing of the Republican party. 

In his latest book, The Conservative Sensibility, George Will asserts that conservatives must ask: “What do we seek to conserve?” and he argues for a return to the philosophy of limited government espoused by James Madison. 

Our show was taped last month, so we can’t take your calls and emails.   

Photo by Rene Clement

Today, on this archive edition of Midday, Tom's guest is The New York Times best-selling author Irshad Manji.  Her new book is called Don’t Label Me: An Incredible Conversation for Divided Times. 

Quoting sources from Bruce Lee to Ta Nehesi Coates and drawing on her own experiences as a gay Muslim woman, she examines the rhetoric around diversity, and she calls for a new formulation for cultural and political discourse, an honest reckoning that shuns labeling people as a substitute for understanding them. 

Irshad Manji on identity, culture, and the way we talk about the values we hold. 

Our program was pre-recorded so we can’t take your calls and emails.  

This program originally aired on Wednesday June 26th, 2019.