with Nadja Cech and Omar Ali
Welcome to the “Yes, and Cafe,” a podcast where we explore, learn, and create with ordinary people who do extraordinary things.
“Yes, and” is the powerful, intentional, and creative practice of building with other people. The name comes from improvisational theater. So, what is it? One: paying attention. Two: affirming. And three: building on what others give you. That’s it! Yes, and.
Episode 13: Creating New Possibilities
We welcome 2021 with an episode that offers hope despite the state of our polarized political landscape. Omar Ali, who typically co-hosts our show, steps over to the other side of the microphone. A historian and scholar of independent politics, Professor Ali has been a long-time community organizer. He shares his insights on the heels of the release of the new edition of his book, “In the Balance of Power: Independent Black Politics and Third Party Movements in the United States.” “I’m optimistic because I’m seeing cultural changes afoot that are creating new possibilities,” he says. As a special treat, Matt Bryant, our producer, joins the show as co-host, and offers a story about collaboration between unlikely fellow travelers. We hope you listen. Happy New Year everyone!
“Just as race was created as a way of dividing and conquering poor people… across American History in order to control labor and power, ideology has been used in the same way to divide people against each other who actually have much in common. To me we’ve been bamboozled, hoodwinked, as Malcolm would say, into thinking that there are these great divides between us, when in fact they’re relatively superficial… The more important thing, that is, being a fellow human being, a fellow citizen, these things are much more important than ideological differences.” – Dr. Omar Ali
Episode 12: Episode 12: History Speaks: Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement Visual History Project
On this week’s episode we learn about a collaborative project to document untold stories of the Civil Rights Movement, the Unsung Heroes Project. We speak with Matthew Barr, a filmmaker and professor of media studies, who obtained funding for the project through the Carnegie Mellon Foundation. Also joining us are assistant professor Torren Gatson, who lends his expertise to the project as a historian and mentor, and Antigre Farmer, a recent UNCG graduate who conducted many of the interviews. About the project, Gatson says, “Those that held onto these stories for so long are given an opportunity to share … with a generation that may be completely unaware of them.” Farmer represents this generation, and participating in the project has sparked her interest in screen writing and given her a sense of being grounded in Greensboro’s history. Farmer was particularly moved by the story of Willena Cannon, who witnessed the Greensboro Massacre in 1979. “How strong she stayed throughout the entire process was inspiring to hear,” says Farmer. To access the interviews collected as part of the Unsung Heroes Project, go to http://libresearch.uncg.edu/unsung_heroes/.
Episode 11: Giving Voice to the Voiceless
Afrique Kilimanjaro comes from a family with a distinguished history of contributions to the Civil Rights movement. Inspired by interactions with Dr. Martin Luther King, her parents Vicky and John started the Carolina Peacemaker in 1967. Today Afrique continues this legacy as managing editor and publisher of the paper, which has won multiple awards under her stewardship. Afrique speaks on the Yes, and Cafe about the role of the black press in sharing stories that might be overlooked by the mainstream press. “We’ve been covering stories like this, black lives matter, throughout the decades,” she says. “The folks who are in the black press, we’ve always known that our lives and the lives of people of color who we know really do matter.” Also joining the conversation is Omar Obregon Cuebas, a Greensboro local and former campus leader at UNC Greensboro, who is currently pursuing a pre-med degree in philosophy at Emory University.
Episode 10: A Step in this Grand March Towards Freedom
We speak with Chancellor Franklin Gilliam as he begins his sixth academic year as Chancellor of UNC Greensboro. In the midst of a global pandemic and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement, he shares his personal experience of becoming the first Black chancellor of a non-HBCU in the UNC System. “The beauty of universities is that they can be a space of discovery, and they can also be a space for real dialog…,” he says, “At the same time, they can be institutions that reify existing structures of bias and discrimination.” In light of this, Chancellor Gilliam discusses the call to become “anti-racist”, and speaks about the tremendous potential of UNCG as an unusually diverse campus. “We’re diverse on a number of dimensions…,” he says, “The campus is not dominated by any one group… What’s interesting about this is that when students come out of their classes, they’re likely to see somebody that looks like them… That’s the power and beauty of this campus. We’re all in one place. It’s a good step in this grand march towards freedom.”
UNCG student Luis Mejia Cruz, a chemistry student who immigrated to Greensboro from Mexico City when he was nine years old, also joins the conversation. Luis shares about the importance of connecting with our history, and talks about how the pandemic has sparked connections within his community.
Episode 10: A Moment of Change
In the midst of the pandemic, how many of you are reevaluating your lives and considering making dramatic changes? Today’s Yes, and Café guest is someone who did just that. After Law School, Xan Marshall secured a series of what may sound like dream jobs, working for firms in New York City and Washington DC in medical malpractice and corporate law. It wasn’t a good fit, so she bravely embarked on a new path. “I quit kind of abruptly, took a year to travel the world. During that year I just decided to dive deep into myself and figure out what it is that I care about and what it is that I want to put out into the world… and that is social advocacy and civil rights.” Today Xan does transformational work with the Reform Alliance, an organization started by rappers Jay-Z and Meek Mill that focuses on reducing the number of people under control of the US criminal justice system–currently 6.6 million. We are joined in this episode by recent UNCG graduate Tsion Hailu.
Episode 8: In the Wake of Uncertainty – Creating New Possibilities
Dr. Dana Dunn is a Professor of Sociology whose research focuses on gender and the workplace. She has been Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor at UNC Greensboro since 2014, a term that she is just completing at the end of this academic year. It is a great honor to host Dr. Dunn on the Yes, and Cafe. In her interview, she acknowledges the uncertainty and hardships that have come from the pandemic while sharing excitement about teaching in the year ahead. “There’s nothing more fulfilling than learning,” she says, “We’ll get through this and come out on the other side probably with some valuable lessons learned about what’s most important to us.” We are joined in our conversation by Briana Franklin, who prevailed through the uncertainty of Spring 2020 to graduate from UNC Greensboro with honors as a biology major and chemistry minor.
Episode 7: Student Success During a Pandemic
What are the challenges in trying to support students and faculty as they’ve transitioned to working remotely during the coronavirus? Hosts Omar and Nadja talk with UNC Greensboro’s dean of undergraduate studies Andrew Hamilton as he leads this charge. They are joined by student James Stephens.
Episode 6: The Power of Local Networks in Food Security
Marianne LeGreco talks to hosts Nadja and Omar about her work and activism in local food resources and networks. They are joined by Chemistry & Biochemistry Ph.D. student Derick Jones.
Episode 5: Virology in the time of COVID-19
Imagine if you were working as a virologist when COVID-19 struck. Steve Polyak, virologist research professor in the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington about his work in relation to the pandemic. They are joined by Ph.D. student Gabby Dailey from UNCG’s Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry. Bonus: Hear Steve perform a song live on air that he wrote about COVID-19.
Episode 4: Creatively Creating On and Off the Stage
Justin and Lalenja Harrington are a dynamic duo, drawing from hip hop, jazz, and old time traditions to create soulful and immersive performance experiences. They also happen to be mother and son. Join as we converse with them about how intentionally practicing “Yes, and” plays into their experience as performers, artists, and family. Bonus: Experience their spontaneous performance of “Brown Baby.” (Download transcript)
Episode 3: Cooking Palestinian Food to Build Community in Greensboro
When Annah Awartani came to Greensboro in the 1990s, she longed for the food that reminded her of home. Unable to find such food in local restaurants, she began to cook it herself, first for her family, then for her community. Annah’s cooking, which draws on Greek, Palestinian, and Syrian influences, has become a staple of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market. Beyond that, though, Annah is a champion of the slow food movement and of community building by cooking and eating together. Join us in a conversation with Annah about cooking as philosophy, medicine, a way to share love, and a way to “Yes, and.” Also joining us is UNCG student Lilee Rose. (Download transcript)
Episode 2: Improvisation in Jazz and Everything Else
Steve Haines (School of Music) is an award winning double bassist, performer, teacher, and community organizer. He has been a Professor at UNC Greensboro for more than 20 years, and was instrumental in establishing the Miles Davis Jazz Studies Program. Join us as we talk with Steve about improvising as a performer, a Dad, and as champion of UNC Greensboro’s 2020 theme “She can, We can.” UNC Greensboro student Taylor Monk-Watkins also weighs in. (Download transcript)
Episode 1: Play is Learning and Life
How do we learn and how do we live? As it turns out, play is the key to our learning everything, from taking our first steps to walking on the moon. In this inaugural episode of the Yes, and Cafe, we speak with Dr. Lois Holzman, Director of the East Side Institute in New York City and Distinguished Fellow of Lloyd International Honors College at UNC Greensboro, about the power of play. Tucker Daniel, music education student and class of 2020, joins the conversation. (Download transcript)
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications
Logo design by Ashley Scott, UNCG School of Art
Music composed by Omar Ali, Lloyd International Honors College
Produced and edited by Matthew Bryant, University Communications
Podcast studio provided by University Teaching & Learning Commons