Michel Martin

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Since 2016, comedian W. Kamau Bell has been traveling the country for his TV show United Shades of America. He asks serious questions, but always with a bit of humor thrown in.

"United Shades of America is just Sesame Street for grown-ups," he says.

The goal of the show is to explore the unique challenges of communities around the United States. The sixth season premieres Sunday on CNN.

If you've spent any time at all on the corner of the Internet where fantasy readers live, breathe and theorize, you'll know that the April 23 release of Netflix's new show, Shadow and Bone, is a big deal.

Updated April 12, 2021 at 11:48 AM ET

Voters in St. Louis last week delivered a historic victory for Tishaura Jones, the first Black woman elected mayor and the latest triumph for progressive candidates in the St. Louis region.

This week, a shooting attack at a grocery store in Boulder, Colo., left 10 people dead. Just days earlier, eight people were fatally shot in a rampage targeting spas in the Atlanta area.

As with almost every mass shooter in recorded U.S. history, both of the suspects in the recent attacks are men.

A staggering 98% of these crimes have been committed by men, according to The Violence Project, a nonpartisan research group that tracks U.S. mass shooting data dating back to 1966.

Tucked into President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief law are provisions meant to help Black farmers, who have faced generations of systemic discrimination.

As part of the American Rescue Plan, $4 billion is going toward debt relief for "socially disadvantaged" farmers to pay off debts that have prevented their farms from growing, the Department of Agriculture said. Another $1.01 billion is being used to create a racial equity commission.

During a career spanning more than six decades, Cicely Tyson has brought to life iconic roles in theater, film and television — from Sounder to The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman to Roots to How to Get Away with Murder. They've offered previously unseen images of the sweep and humanity of Black life.

And now, in a new memoir, Just as I Am, she finally sets forth her improbable journey, from the typing pool at the Red Cross to award-winning actor and icon of style.

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I was thinking about the inauguration this week. I've been a journalist a long time, which means I've been to more inaugurations than I can count. And I'm talking about the gamut — I'm talking county council to president. I'm talking boxed Pepperidge Farm cookie and coffee-urn affairs where you mix and mingle with the newly elected official's mom, to the not quite front-row tickets within arms length of famous people events, complete with fancy party invitations.

When now Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris was "accused" of being "too ambitious" on the campaign trail, it spurred her niece, activist and author Meena Harris, into action.

"It really just stopped me in my tracks. ... I had had enough," Harris says.

So she wrote a children's book called Ambitious Girl, in the hope that no young woman in the next generation would have her dreams characterized as a liability.

Whimsical, larger-than-life movie protagonists — Ebenezer Scrooge, Caractacus Potts, Mary Poppins, Willy Wonka — kindled filmmaker David E. Talbert's imagination as a kid.

Now, Talbert wants to add to what he calls the cinematic "Mount Rushmore" of eccentric characters. His new Netflix Christmas musical Jingle Jangle tells the story of Jeronicus Jangle, a brilliant inventor and toymaker played by Forest Whitaker.

The COVID-19 crisis in the U.S. is getting worse by nearly every metric. On Friday alone, there were more than 184,000 new confirmed cases and 1,400 deaths, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported. Hospitals are reaching capacity.

If you're feeling stressed out or overwhelmed by ... you know, everything ... this may be a good time to hear this very important message from chef and cookbook author Ina Garten:

"I often say that you can be miserable before eating a cookie and you can be miserable after eating a cookie, but you can never be miserable while you're eating a cookie."

That's Garten, reading the opening line from her new cookbook, Modern Comfort Food.

The new film The Trial of the Chicago 7 may be focused on the antiwar protests of the 1960s, but it draws distinct parallels to the protests in the streets, complaints about police violence and divisive politics that the U.S. faces today.

The film — which was written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and is out now on Netflix — follows eight different men who protested the Vietnam War at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Alicia Garza was an activist and organizer for more than a decade back in 2013 when her social media posts — along with the hashtag drafted and shared by her fellow activists Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometti — helped start what is now the global Black Lives Matter movement.

It is one of the most visible social justice movements in the world, and since its creation, Garza has continued to work and think about how both liberal and conservative movements start, thrive and evolve.

Ambassador John Bolton, who worked as national security adviser to President Trump from 2018 to 2019, told NPR's All Things Considered that he does not believe the United States is safer today than it was four years ago.

"I think unfortunately it's not safer, which is not to say that there haven't been some important positive decisions made and some important accomplishments," he said, including withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and from a Cold War-era nuclear arms control treaty with Russia.

When Nyle DiMarco got his start in reality television competing on America's Next Top Model in 2015, he quickly understood the identity producers were creating for him.

DiMarco is stunningly handsome, with piercing eyes and a penchant for acting. He's also deaf — a fact that, in the eyes of television producers, seemed to override everything else.

Months after dropping out of the Democratic presidential primaries, Pete Buttigieg is back with a warning: America, he says, is facing a crisis of trust. And he says building that trust, in both American institutions and fellow citizens, is the only way to address the other challenges facing the country.

Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., called trust one of his "rules of the road" during his presidential campaign.

An hour before the food distribution event began in Bethesda, Md., on a recent Friday, a long line of cars was already winding through the parking lot.

Volunteers from St. John's Episcopal Church worked to unpack boxes of bread, prepared meals and coffee — enough for the first 200 people to arrive. Nourish Now, a Maryland-based nonprofit food bank, provides food for the weekly events.

Waiting in his car, Peter Warner was sure to arrive early this time. Last week, the group ran out of meals within a half hour.

As U.S. poet laureate Joy Harjo was working on the Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, she and the other editors decided they needed to hear the whole collection.

"At one point in the editing, we decided to read the whole manuscript aloud," Harjo says. "That's how I revise, so that's what we did — is we took it into our mouths and took it to our bodies."

The result of that work is When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through -- an anthology of poetry from more than 160 poets, representing close to 100 indigenous nations.

Rina Sawayama's self-titled debut album is a complex work of pop music, often calling to mind early 2000s R&B, nu-metal, and shuffling between genres in the same song. In the same way she flips through sounds, Sawayama also sings about a lot of complicated topics: her parents' messy divorce, her identity as Japanese British person and her burgeoning understanding of systemic racism, which she says she experienced while studying psychology, sociology and politics at Cambridge University.

Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams says the state's Tuesday primary performance was "an unmitigated disaster," pinning the blame on Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Polling locations all around Georgia experienced delays and long lines Tuesday due to a mix of logistical problems, technical issues with the state's new voting machines and COVID-19-related restrictions resulting in fewer available voting sites.

The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 is one of the flashpoints of the Trump era.

The white-supremacist gathering devolved into violence with anti-racist demonstrators. One woman, Heather Heyer, was killed and others were injured. The event has taken on a deep symbolic meaning even beyond those terrible facts. Former Vice President Joe Biden began his run for the Democratic presidential nomination by invoking Charlottesville, and saying his campaign was a response, in part, to President Trump's divisive rhetoric.

Protests have erupted across the nation in response to the death of George Floyd, and some of the demonstrations have turned violent, leading political leaders and activists to debate over who is responsible.

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Designer Betsey Johnson has been pushing fashion boundaries for decades. She's known for her very personal, very whimsical style, for bright colors, animal prints – and doing cartwheels into a splits at the end of her fashion shows.

And, of course, there's pink. Lots of pink.

In her new self-titled memoir, Betsey, we learn more about the woman behind the brand. Yes, there's whimsy and fun, but she's also upfront about the less than fun times in her life, from difficult romantic relationships to health challenges to business failures.

Queen Sono is both a classic spy thriller and a ground-breaking entertainment endeavor. The drama is Netflix's first commissioned script-to-screen series from Africa, and the first such show to get major distribution in the U.S.

Filmed across the continent with a diverse cast featuring multiple languages, the show stars Pearl Thusi as a South African secret agent with a complicated past.

Stephen Bruner, better known as Thundercat, is one of the music industry's most eclectic and prolific collaborators. Over the past five years, the virtuosic bass player has worked with everyone from Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar to Michael McDonald. His latest album, It Is What It Is, was released on Friday and it features the same expansive range of genres and styles.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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