Midday | WYPR


Photo Credit Elena Seibert

Today on Midday, a conversation about immigration and what it means to be an American with a journalist and filmmaker who many call the most famous undocumented immigrant in the country. Jose Antonio Vargas won a Pulitzer Prize as part of a team at the Washington Post.  He has also written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times Magazine and Time. He is the founder of Define American, and the author of a new book called Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen

Jose Antonio Vargas is speaking about the book at 7:00 tonight at the Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore, as part of the Enoch Pratt Library’s Writers Live series.

Office of the Attorney General

Today a conversation with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.

During the 2017 General Assembly, Maryland state lawmakers voted to give Mr. Frosh the power to sue the Trump administration. They did so over Gov. Larry Hogan’s objection. Last year, Mr. Frosh filed or joined at least 14 different lawsuits against the President. He and the attorney general of the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit accusing Mr. Trump of profiting from the presidency, in violation of the Emoluments clause of the Constitution. Frosh sued the Administration over the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act; and he challenged the president’s choice of Matthew Whitaker to be the acting attorney general as unconstitutional. Early on in the Trump Administration, Maryland was also part of lawsuits challenging the legality of the so-called “Muslim ban.”

Photo courtesy Biography.com

On this special edition of Midday observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2019, three conversations around three areas that defined Dr. King’s work: economic justice; non-violent resistance and dreaming of a future where hard work and talent are rewarded, without regard to race.  Later in the broadcast (and posted sequentially on our Webpage and podcast stream), we’ll hear an interview I conducted with the peace activist Elizabeth McAlister, to whom Tom spoke earlier this month from her jail in Georgia, where she is awaiting trial after an anti-nuclear protest at a US naval base, where she and six others were arrested last April. 

We’ll also meet a gifted and compelling 10 year-old girl named Charlie Martin, who is this year’s winner in the Dream Big Essay Contest for Baltimore City public school children.  We’ll hear about her dreams of becoming a writer. 

We begin today with a conversation about the American Dream, and how access to that dream has evolved for African Americans since King’s movement in the 1960s.  President Donald Trump often asserts that Black unemployment is at an historic low.  We’ll examine that claim, and talk about a report released last year by the Associated Black Charities that analyzed employment rates in Baltimore City through the lens of race. 

Associated Press photo

On this Martin Luther King Day, Midday's special edition celebrates the man who brought the philosophy of non-violent protest to a broad public.  It seemed to us a good time to update you on the story of Elizabeth McAlister, who has devoted her life to the cause of non-violence. 

Elizabeth McAlister is a former nun who was married to Philip Berrigan, a former priest.  He was a member of the Catonsville Nine, activists who burned draft files in the parking lot of the Catonsville Draft Board in 1968.  They served time in prison, and they inspired a number of other anti-draft and anti-war protests in the 1960s and 70s.  Philip’s brother was the activist and poet Daniel Berrigan.  Philip Berrigan died in 2002.  Daniel Berrigan passed away at the age of 94 in 2016. 

In 1973, Philip Berrigan and Elizabeth McAlister founded Jonah House, a faith-based community of peace activists dedicated to non-violent resistance.  It is located in West Baltimore.  Currently, there are five people living there. 

The activism of the Catonsville Nine in the 1960s evolved, over time, to what have come to be known as “Plowshares Actions,” inspired by the Biblical passage from the prophet Isaiah which says, “they will beat their swords into plowshares.”   Beginning in the 1980s, activists in the United States and elsewhere have concentrated their efforts on protesting nuclear weapons.

Associated Press photo

As we conclude this MLK Day Edition of Midday, Tom introduces us to a young student from Commodore John Rogers Middle School in Baltimore.  Charlie Grace Martin is 11 years old.  She is in the fifth grade, and she is the winner of the 2nd annual Dream Big Essay Contest.  The contest is sponsored by the Modell Lyric.  Baltimore City School Students from grades 5-12 are challenged to write a 300 word essay, inspired by Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech that he delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.  Students were asked to write about what their dreams were for themselves, their families and their communities.  The awards ceremony is tonight at 6:00pm at the Modell Lyric in Baltimore.

Also today: The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of MD African American History and Culture had a number of events scheduled to mark Monday's Martin Luther King Day observance. Those events included a Living History Talk with Kevin Shird and Nelson Malden, the co-authors of The Colored Waiting RoomNelson Malden was Dr. King’s barber for years in Montgomery, Alabama.

At the close of this segment, we hear an excerpt from Dr. King's historic 1963 "Dream" speech. You can listen to the entire address at this NPR Website.

Photo Courtesy AP

On today's Newswrap, an update on the partial government shutdown and the Trump-Pelosi showdown.  Giuliani backpedals on comments about collusion and details from the Buzzfeed News report that President Trump directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress 

CBS News Correspondent Paula Reid, whose beats include the White House and the Justice Department, joins us this afternoon from the White House.

 And Lisa Dejardins of the PBS News Hour is on the line from Arlington, Virginia.

Photo by Catherine Cochran - Shriver Hall Concerts

Acclaimed classical violinist Jennifer Koh joins us live from the studios of NPR in New York City.  

Not only is she a virtuosic player, she is one of the great champions of contemporary music, having commissioned more than 70 works from a brilliant and diverse group of composers from all over the world. 

Ms. Koh will be playing a concert on Sunday, January 27 at 5:30pm at Baltimore's Hebrew Congregation, performing a program of Beethoven Sonatas and a modern piece by Vijay Iyer, with her frequent concert partner, pianist Shai Wosneras part of the Shriver Hall Concert Series

We're delighted to welcome Jennifer Koh to Midday today.  She talks about her art and her upcoming concert, and performs two short solo pieces: “Kinski Paganini,” by Missy Mazzoli, and the Sarabande from the Violin Partita in D Minor by Johann Sebastian Bach.  

Photo Courtesy Dr. Jannette Dates

Today, the history of humor in the African American community.  Tom's guest is Dr. Janette Dates, a former Dean of the Howard University School of Communications . With her colleague, Dr. Mia Moody Ramirez, Dr. Dates has written a book that traces the evolution of Black humor from African story tellers to modern day icons of popular culture.  The book is called From Blackface to Black Twitter: Reflections on Black Humor, Race, Politics and Gender. 

Our conversation was streamed live on Facebook. Click here to watch the video.  

Photo by Max Garner

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for another of her weekly reviews of the region's thespian fare. Today, she's talking about Thank You, Dad, the world premiere of Baltimore playwright Aladrian C. Wetzel’s three-act play based on the life of the Reverend Jim Jones, the notorious founder of the ill-fated religious cult, The Peoples Temple.  It's the 2019 season opener for Rapid Lemon Productions, and the work is now on stage at Baltimore's Theatre Project.

Featuring a solo performance by RLP Artistic Director Lance Bankerd, with direction by Donna Ibale, the play recalls the tragedy that unfolded in a South American jungle settlement in 1978, when the Reverend Jim Jones ordered the deaths of over 900 members of his Peoples Temple, a quasi-religious community that included hundreds of children.  It was the largest mass-murder/suicide in modern history.

Photo Courtesy AP

The British Parliament has spoken, loudly, rejecting the Brexit deal that British Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with leaders of the European Union.  NPR London correspondent Frank Langfitt joins Midday with the latest from London. 

Photo Courtesy AP

The Consumer Electronics Show took place in Las Vegas last week.  More than 4,500 vendors spread over 2.7 million square feet, most vying to be “the next big thing.” 

It’s Midday on Tech, and today, our annual look at what caught people’s attention at CES, and what wild new gadget may just become the thing that everybody has in a few years.  Will it be the bread vending machine?  A robot that folds laundry?  Or perhaps it will be the Tesla self-driving car that actually ran over a robot?   

Engadget’s Editor in Chief, Dana Wollman joins us once again from the studios of NPR in New York.  And on the line from San Francisco, Geoffrey Fowler, the technology columnist for the Washington Post.

Today on Midday, a snapshot of the climate for small business in Baltimore from three married couples who run established and successful businesses. 

Tom is joined in the first segment by Tim Hicks and Mariah Acap.  The couple runs a family automotive repair business that Tim’s father, Dan, launched in 1982.  It’s the Baltimore Body Shop, located at the corner of Sisson Street and 29th street in Remington.  Their YouTube channel and website about building custom cars is called Street Bandito

In the next segment, Tom's guests are Lane Harlan and Matthew Pierce, the owners of three restaurants here in Baltimore: a speakeasy called W.C Harlan, a mezcaleria called Clavel -- both in the Remington neighborhood -- and their newest venture, a wine & sake bar and bottle shop named Fadensonnen, located nearby in Baltimore’s Old Goucher neighborhood.

For the last segment, Tom is joined in the studio by Jamyla and Pierre Bennu. They're the creative team behind Oyin Handmade, a line of hair- and skin-care products that are made in Baltimore and sold online, at the Oyin Handmade salon, speciality shops and in major stores like Target, CVS and Rite Aid.  Jamyla began the company in 2001.  Her husband, Pierre Bennu, started working with her at the company two years later.  Pierre is also a filmmaker and illustrator.  In addition to Oyin Handmade, they also run an art and film production space called Exit the Apple at the corner of Guilford Avenue and 24th Street in Charles Village.

We live-streamed all three conversations on WYPR's Facebook page.  You can see that video here.

Courtesy of Goucher College.

Today, another in our occasional series, Midday on Higher Education.  From time to time, Tom Hall sits down with the leaders of Maryland colleges and universities to talk about the challenges that each of their institutions face, and how those institutions are connected to the communities in which they are located.

The series began last month, when Dr. Maria Thompson, the president of Coppin State University joined Tom in Studio A.  Since appearing on this show, Dr. Thompson has announced her retirement from Coppin at the end of the academic year.

Today, Tom's guest is Dr. José Antonio Bowen, the president of Goucher College.  He too has announced that he is retiring from that position at the end of June.  Founded in 1885, Goucher is a private, liberal arts college in Towson, just north of Baltimore. Goucher was initially an all-women’s college; It became co-educational in 1986. 

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Today, it’s another edition of the Midday News Wrap. 

Later in the program Tom will talk about the first three days of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis with Luke Broadwater, Statehouse and politics reporter for the Baltimore Sun

He’ll also talk with Phil Ewing, NPR's National Security Editor, about the latest developments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible connections between Russia and the Trump presidential campaign during the 2016 election. 

But we begin today with the impasse over President Trump’s campaign promise to build a wall on the southern border.  That promise has led to a partial government shutdown.  Today is payday in much of the federal government.  800,000 federal workers will not receive their checks today, and the effects of the shutdown, now in its third week, are beginning to be felt in a variety of ways that were not as evident in the first days of the shutdown, which coincided largely with the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Lisa Mascaro is the Chief Congressional Correspondent for the Associated Press.  She joins Tom on the line from Washington, DC.

Image courtesy Associated Press

Maryland deregulated its energy markets in 1999. The aim was to create a decentralized free market for private electricity and natural gas suppliers who would offer customers a choice:  stay with the Standard Offer Services provided by the utility companies -- Baltimore Gas & Electric and Pepco (which are now the same company) -- or switch to a third-party supplier who could offer a range of residential services and -- supposedly -- stable and competitive energy prices.  

More than a hundred companies have jumped into that market over the past 20 years, and roughly 20% of Maryland utility customers made the switch.   That’s about a half a million people. 

The Abell Foundation commissioned a study last year to find out whether or not those people who did switch energy suppliers have gotten a good deal.  The co-authors of the Abell Foundation report join Tom today.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

It's Thursday, and theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio with another of her weekly reviews of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she spotlights the new traveling production of Miss Saigon, on stage now at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C.

From the creative team behind Les Misérables, Miss Saigon tells the story of a young Vietnamese woman named Kim (played by Emily Bautista). In a brothel/bar run by a notorious character called The Engineer (Red Concepcion), Kim meets an American G.I. named Chris (Anthony Festa),  in an encounter that will change their lives forever.  This multiple Tony Award-winning musical -- which premiered in London in 1989 and ran for nearly 10 years on Broadway after its 1991 opening -- features music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil.  The new North American Tour production at the Kennedy Center -- reprising Miss Saigon's legendary spectacle, a cast of more than 40, and a score that includes Broadway hits like “Last Night of the World,” “The Movie in My Mind,” and “The Heat Is on in Saigon” -- is directed by Laurence Connor.

Recommended for age 12 and up. Please be advised that this production contains strong sexual content.

Miss Saigon continues at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC until Sunday, January 13. Ticket and performance info here.

Courtesy of the New Orleans Police Department

Michael Harrison is the soon-to-be-former Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, and if he and Mayor Catherine Pugh have their way, he will become the permanent Chief of Police of the Baltimore Police Department sometime in the next few months.

Several members of the City Council and other elected officials have expressed cautious optimism after the announcement yesterday of Mr. Harrison as Commissioner Designate. The surprise announcement of Harrison’s appointment follows the sometimes chaotic selection process of Mayor Pugh’s first nominee, Ft. Worth police chief Joel Fitzgerald, who withdrew his name from consideration on Monday.  By yesterday morning, the Mayor had announced her intention to nominate Harrison, amid calls for a confirmation process that will be thorough and transparent. Mayor Pugh joined Tom Hall on Midday yesterday. 

Today on Midday, members of the Baltimore City Council join Tom to talk about the confirmation process moving forward.  Robert Stokes, Sr. represents the 12th District.  He is the Chair of the City Council’s Executive Appointments Committee. Kristerfer Burnett represents the 8th District. He is the vice chair of the Executive Appointments Committee. Mary Pat Clarke represents District 14. She is also a member of the Council’s Executive Appointments Committee. 

AP/Gerald Herbert

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh has named Michael Harrison, the Superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, as her new nominee for BPD police commissioner.  The announcement comes less than 24 hours after her first nominee, Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, withdrew from the process. 

Tom speaks with Mayor Pugh about the reasons she selected Mr. Harrison, who by many accounts has had a successful tenure on the New Orleans police force.

And Tom gets analysis of the Harrison pick from Jayne Miller of WBAL Television, Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun, New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Kevin Litten, and law enforcement expert Matthew Horace.

Tom and his panel of of Annapolitan Experts preview the 439th session of the MD General Assembly, which begins on Wednesday. The agenda will, as always, be full.  Last year, lawmakers considered more than 3,000 bills.  They passed nearly  900 of them in a record session that the Governor and Legislative leadership both praised as a success.

Washington Post Maryland politics and government reporter Ovetta Wiggins is on the line from Prince Georges County.  And joining Tom in Studio A are Josh Kurtz, the editor and co-founder of Maryland Matters, and WYPR State House reporter Rachel Baye.

Johns Hopkins University

It’s Midday on Ethics with Dr. Jeffrey Kahn of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute for Bioethics.

Today we’ll explore some of the ethical issues raised by the explosive case of a Chinese researcher named He Jiankui. In late November, Dr. He announced at a scientific conference the birth of twin girls, Lulu and Nana, who, he claimed, are the world’s first gene-edited humans. Most countries, including China, ban human gene editing, and scientists around the world have strongly denounced Dr. He’s shocking claims, which raise ethical questions not only for the newborns, but for future generations.

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

Copyright Chris Hartlove

Tom welcomes the great pianist Leon Fleisher to Studio A. 

Fleisher, a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2007,  played his first public concert at the age of eight.  He’s playing his latest series of concerts this weekend with the Baltimore Symphony at the age of 90, and he continues to teach at Peabody Institute.

He will play a piano concerto by Mozart, No. 12 in A Major, with the BSO tonight at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and Saturday night at 8 p.m. at Strathmore Hall in Bethesda.  The program also includes the Second Symphony of Johannes Brahms.   For information about tickets, click here.

Photo by Carlos Somonte for Netflix

It's another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly look at new flicks and film industry trends. Tom's guest today is Jed Dietz, the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival and the SNF Parkway, the historic and newly renovated movie house on North Avenue. 

After a slump in 2017, North American movie-house ticket sales last year bounced back. Box office receipts jumped 6% to a record $11.9 billion, besting the record set in 2016.  Global ticket sales topped $40 billion last year, in a world where streaming services are multiplying as quickly as movies in the Fast and Furious franchise. 

Photo by Carol Rosegg

It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck kicks off the new year with her review of the world premiere of playwright David Ives' three-part comedy, "The Panties, The Partner and The Profit," now on stage at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Lansburgh Theater in Washington, D.C.

In his fifth and final collaboration with the Shakespeare Theatre Company's retiring Artistic Director, Michael Kahn, Ives presents what he calls his "translaptation" of the late German playwright Carl Sternheim's epic trilogy, "Scenes from the Heroic Life of the Middle Class."   In each of the three titular plays, Kahn and his cast, featuring Carson Elrod and Kimberly Gilbert, explore themes of sex, money and power, leaping from Boston in the 1950s to Wall Street in 1986 to modern-day Malibu.

"The Panties, The Partner and The Profit" continues at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington DC until Sunday, January 6.

Photo Courtesy Penguin/Random House

Today, Tom's guest is journalist and an attorney Steven Brill.    He’s the founder of Court TV and The American Lawyer magazine, and he teaches journalism at Yale, 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 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 a New York Times Best-seller called “Tailspin: The People and Forces Behind America’s Fifty Year Fall -- and those Fighting to Reverse It.”  

Courtesy of John Waters

(This program was originally broadcast on October 5, 2018) 

Tom's guest for the hour is John Waters. He’s a filmmaker, actor, and writer -- not necessarily in that order. Early in his career, Waters established himself as an enfant terrible who was affectionately dubbed the "King of Sleaze." His filmography spans 40 years and 16 films, some of which are cult classics, while others, like Hairspray, are revered as popular icons.

John Waters is also the author of eight books, including Role Models, a collection of essays of people who have shaped his life in important ways; Carsick, his journal of a hitchhiking trip from Baltimore to San Francisco; and Make Trouble, adopted from a speech he delivered at the Rhode Island School of Design.

What is perhaps less well known by the general public  is that John Waters is also a prolific and insightful visual artist. On Sunday, the Baltimore Museum of Art will open a major retrospective of John’s work, in a show that includes 160 examples of art that show Waters to be a trenchant observer and analyst of popular culture. The show is called Indecent Exposure.  John and BMA curator Kristen Hileman will have a public conversation about the exhibition on the first of November.  And on Friday night, Nov. 9, the BMA will screen 18 hours of John Waters movies. There will be prizes for folks who complete the entire Waters film marathon.

Baltimore is also one of the stops on the John Waters Christmas tour this season. You can catch “A John Waters Christmas” at the Baltimore Soundstage on Dec. 19.

We livestreamed this conversation.  To see the video, click here. 

Courtesy of Wes Moore and Joy Thomas Moore


This show originally aired on Nov. 28, 2018

Wes Moore, the bestselling author and social entrepreneur, and his mother, Joy Thomas Moore, are live with Tom Hall. 

Wes Moore is the CEO of the New York-based anti-poverty organization Robin Hood.  He is the author of several books, including two New York Times bestsellers: The Other Wes Moore and The Work: Searching for a Life that Matters. He also is the host of Future City, which airs here on WYPR on the third Wednesday of the month, right after Midday.   

Joy Thomas Moore is the President and CEO of JWS Media Consulting, and she worked for many years with the Annie E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore. Early in her career, she worked in radio and TV, where she won a Peabody Award. She joins Tom later in the show from Little Rock, Arkansas, where she is doing an event around her new book: The Power of Presence: Be A Voice in Your Child’s Ear Even When You’re Not With Them.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  To see the video, click here. 

Photo Courtesy Bloomsbury

This program originally aired on November 13th, 2018.

Word nerds: You’re in luck. With whom is Tom speaking today? Emmy Favilla, the senior commerce editor and former global copy chief at BuzzFeed. As such, she created the BuzzFeed Style Guide which she later developed into a book called A World Without "Whom": The Essential Guide to Language in the BuzzFeed Age.

It is hilarious. It is instructive. It pays homage to the serial comma as the “cilantro of punctuation marks.” It offers a love sonnet to the em-dash. And perhaps most of all, this book is a high-five to popular usage and an ever-so-kindly issued rebuke to every English teacher we’ve ever had.

Spires photo by Celia Bell; Collier photo courtesy Michael

(This program was originally broadcast on September 5, 2018)

Today, on this archive edition of  Midday on Poetry, Tom and his guests explore a variety of poetic styles that all resonate with universal themes. 

Tom is joined first by two local poets who enjoy international acclaim.


Photo Courtesy Kwame Alexander

This program originally aired on October 25th, 2018. 

Today, Tom’s guest is award-winning young-adult author, poet and educator Kwame Alexander.  He has written 28 books, including "Booked," which was nominated for a National Book Award, and "The Crossover," winner of the Newberry Medal for middle grades novel. "Swing," his latest novel co-written with Mary Rand Hess, is a follow-up to "The Crossover."

He is the winner of many awards, including the Coretta Scott King Author Honor and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Prize, and he’s received three NAACP Image Award nominations. He’s also the founder of Versify, a publishing arm of Houghton Mifflin, and he hosts a literary show called Bookish, which airs on Facebook Watch.

A Midday Christmas Eve Special

Dec 24, 2018
Flickr Internet Archive

Hello and Happy Holidays!  Welcome to the Midday Christmas Eve Special, with host Tom Hall. 

Today, we’ll spend the hour listening to some music and some poetry of the season, plus, a story by Baltimore writer Raphael Alvarez. 

Here's a playlist of the selections, in the order you'll hear them: