The Spark When people come together and talk about really interesting topics, great questions spark better understanding and opportunities for new ideas to form. On The Spark from WITF, hosts Scott LaMar and Aniya Faulcon start the conversations about what's happening in the world and at home.
The Spark

The Spark

From WITF

When people come together and talk about really interesting topics, great questions spark better understanding and opportunities for new ideas to form. On The Spark from WITF, hosts Scott LaMar and Aniya Faulcon start the conversations about what's happening in the world and at home.

Most Recent Episodes

The Spark Weekly Podcast 4.21.24: Authors Deesha Dyer and William Ecenbarger

Coming up on this week's program. A new book about how star baseball players like Babe Rith and Shoeless Jow Jackson avoided military service in World War I by playing baseball for Bethlehem Stell plants., including in Lebanon and Steelton, also on the program we talk with former Obama social secretary and Author Deesha Dyer about her new book. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

The Spark Weekly Podcast 4.21.24: Authors Deesha Dyer and William Ecenbarger

Education Law Center's Black Girls Justice Initiative Champions Equity in Education

Paige Joki, Staff Attorney at the Education Law Center in Philadelphia, is leading a groundbreaking initiative aimed at upholding the rights of young black girls within the education system. The initiative, aptly named the Black Girls Justice Initiative, comes in response to the pervasive inequities faced by black girls due to various forms of discrimination including anti-Black racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, and economic injustice. In Joki's view, public schools should serve as supportive and affirming environments where black girls are championed in their academic and personal growth, yet the current reality falls short of this ideal. Black girls continue to encounter systemic barriers that hinder their ability to learn and thrive in educational settings. The Black Girls Justice Initiative operates on the principle of centering the needs and voices of black girls themselves, recognizing them as experts on the challenges they face in schools. Through this approach, the initiative aims to identify and address the interlocking educational barriers that disproportionately affect black girls. ELC's Black Girls Education Justice Initiative, spearheaded by Paige Joki and former ELC legal intern Brandon Miller, Esq., is guided by several key principles. Firstly, it asserts the belief that black girls deserve full and holistic support in their educational journey. Secondly, it emphasizes the necessity of investing time and resources to dismantle the various forms of oppression that black girls encounter in schools. Lastly, the initiative focuses on developing and implementing unique legal strategies to tackle these barriers effectively. Through legal, policy, and communication strategies, the Education Law Center is committed to challenging the root causes of inequity in education. By advocating for the rights of black girls and addressing the systemic injustices they face, the Black Girls Justice Initiative seeks to create educational spaces where black girls can thrive without fear of discrimination or marginalization. Paige Joki's leadership in this initiative underscores the importance of centering marginalized voices in the fight for educational equity. As the initiative continues to grow and evolve, it serves as a beacon of hope for black girls striving for justice and equality in education. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Education Law Center's Black Girls Justice Initiative Champions Equity in Education

'Because Girls Are Players Too': Meet the Harrisburg Havoc

As the anticipation builds and the excitement mounts, the Harrisburg Havoc, Central Pennsylvania's sole all women-led tackle football team, is rallying the region's residents to come out and support their upcoming season. With players itching to return to the field after months of intense preparation, the team is poised to showcase their skills against formidable opponents. Since October, the Harrisburg Havoc has been diligently honing their abilities, dedicating countless hours to training and strategizing for the challenges ahead. Their collective determination is palpable as they set their sights on their ultimate goal for the season: securing a spot in the National Championship, held in Canton, Ohio. For the women of Central Pennsylvania who harbor a passion for football, the Harrisburg Havoc provides a vital outlet to not only play the sport they love but also to compete at a high level, mirroring the opportunities historically afforded to men. And in a landscape where women's participation in tackle football is still relatively uncommon, the Havoc stands as a beacon of empowerment and equality, breaking down barriers and shattering stereotypes. Led by a dedicated coaching staff and fueled by the unwavering support of their fans, the Harrisburg Havoc embodies the spirit of resilience and perseverance. Their journey represents more than just athletic prowess; it symbolizes the triumph of determination over adversity, the triumph of teamwork over individualism. As the season unfolds, the Harrisburg Havoc invites the community to join them on their quest for greatness, to witness firsthand the grit and determination of these extraordinary athletes. With each tackle, each touchdown, they continue to inspire and uplift, leaving an indelible mark on the landscape of women's sports in Central Pennsylvania and beyond. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Meet Deesha Dyer: The Former Obama Administration Social Secretary

Deesha Dyer, renowned as the former Social Secretary of the Obama Administration, has made a significant mark as a speaker and creative event strategy consultant. Originally from Philadelphia, Dyer's journey into the political realm is characterized by her unconventional path. Despite starting as a hip-hop journalist, she joined the White House as an intern at the age of 30 while attending community college. During her tenure, Dyer spearheaded numerous high-profile events, notably coordinating the historic 2015 visit of Pope Francis. Her responsibilities extended to orchestrating State Dinners featuring distinguished guests such as leaders from China, Canada, and Italy. Dyer's knack for curating memorable experiences was evident in her bookings, which included performances by iconic figures like Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, and the cast of the Broadway sensation "Hamilton." Now, Dyer took center stage on "The Spark" to discuss her latest endeavor, a captivating memoir titled "Undiplomatic." In this revealing book, she chronicles her personal journey, shedding light on her transition from feeling like an imposter to making a tangible impact. With insights gleaned from her experiences, Dyer offers readers a roadmap for navigating their own paths to success. Her narrative is not just one of professional triumph but also a testament to resilience and determination. Despite facing obstacles, including her unconventional background and self-doubt, Dyer emerged as a trailblazer in her field, and through "Undiplomatic," she aims to inspire others to embrace their uniqueness and harness it as a force for positive change. Furthermore, as a graduate of Milton Hershey School, Dyer's story resonates deeply with individuals from all walks of life. Her journey serves as a reminder that with perseverance and a willingness to challenge conventions, anyone can defy expectations and leave an indelible mark on the world. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

How CSAs can benefit local farmers and consumers

Fresh produce travels an average of about 1,500 miles from farm to your dinner table. It's one of the reasons that many consumers prefer to buy local, believing the food they're buying and eating is truly fresh with the added benefit of supporting a local farmer or community member. Those are two of the principles behind Community Supported Agriculture or CSA businesses, arrangements and plans that can be a win-win for both consumer and farmer. To explain more about CSAs on The Spark Thursday were Mike Nolan, owner Earth Spring Farm in Carlisle and Bethany Hinkle, CSA Manager at Spiral Path Farm CSA in Loysville, Perry County, who explained the concept of a CSA,"We see it as a relationship between the community and the farm that provides mutual support and commitment. Since the members (who join the CSA) met at the beginning of the season to be customers for the season, and then we as the farmers commit to the community to do all of the work of the seeding, the planting, the growing, harvesting and delivering those." Hinkle described how their CSA works,"We have different size options. So depending on how many vegetables you eat and we have different season lengths whether you want to get a box of veggies or our whole 35 weeks of growing, April to mid-December, or if you just want our peak summer season, or just want to try it out for a few weeks. And then we have delivery sites anywhere from Manheim to Shippensburg and everywhere in between, where we will do weekly box deliveries while we're in season that are farmer's choice of what veggies are ripe that week that we want to send out to our members." The customer benefits from the CSA by knowing they have fresh produce that was harvested recently and didn't have to be shipped a long distance. Nolan said there a few benefits for the farmer,"For us the benefit is we get to showcase what we're growing. We get to showcase what other farms are doing too, because we don't grow everything that we put in the CSA. So we will pull in from other farms that we know. They are almost all organic, with the exception of maybe a fruit farm. And then the benefit for us is that we just get a constant stream of revenue all year, because we do run all year with our CSA. You can also put your CSA on hold with ours. And then so we'll see the numbers sort of decrease over the winter time and then pick up during the summertime and fall. And that's just a trend that we deal with. But it's a nice little cash flow that kind of keeps things moving for us." Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Update: Latest on Joe Cecala and his Dream...Exchange!

In a bid to reshape the landscape of finance and address persistent racial wealth disparities, Joe Cecala and Dwain J. Kyles are on the brink of realizing a two-decade endeavor: the inauguration of the Dream Exchange, set to become the pioneering minority-operated stock exchange in the United States. The Dream Exchange, a brainchild of Cecala and Kyles, stands as a testament to their aspiration for a more equitable economic future. "It's actually truly born from the soul of two people that want to see the world become a better place," remarked Joe Cecala, co-founder and CEO of the Dream Exchange, underscoring the profound mission behind their initiative. With a launch imminent this year, the Dream Exchange aims to democratize access to the stock market, serving as a bridge between Main Street and Wall Street. Expected to be the eighth licensed stock exchange in the nation, the Dream Exchange distinguishes itself by placing minority leadership at its helm. Mirroring established exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange, the Dream Exchange will facilitate trading of stocks from smaller companies, fostering inclusivity in an arena historically dominated by larger entities. At the core of the Dream Exchange's vision lies a commitment to dismantling barriers to entry, particularly for communities of color grappling with limited access to capital. "The point is to make the stock market accessible to more people, specifically people of color who historically have less access to capital," Cecala asserted, emphasizing the transformative potential of this endeavor in empowering burgeoning enterprises. Recognizing capital as a pivotal determinant of success, the Dream Exchange seeks to catalyze growth for underserved businesses, nurturing prosperity within marginalized communities. "If we can build these companies up and expand them, we'll have prosperous communities," Cecala affirmed, highlighting the ripple effect envisaged by their initiative. For Kyles, the pursuit of economic equity resonates deeply, informed by the teachings of his father, a prominent preacher and confidant of civil rights luminary Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King's advocacy for economic parity serves as a guiding principle for Kyles, who believes that true equality hinges on empowering individuals to achieve financial stability and support their families. Central to the Dream Exchange's ethos is the conviction that economic empowerment can be realized through public listing. Citing research by the U.S. Treasury Department Task Force, which found that 92% of jobs within a company are generated post-public listing, Kyles and Cecala underscore the transformative impact of their endeavor on job creation and economic vitality. As the Dream Exchange prepares to embark on its historic journey, Cecala and Kyles stand as torchbearers for a vision of inclusivity and opportunity in the financial realm. With the promise of a more accessible and equitable stock market on the horizon, their pioneering venture embodies a beacon of hope for a future defined by economic justice and prosperity for all. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Does the 4-day work week lead to more worker satisfaction and productivity?

Burnout is such a problem for workers that some employers are considering reducing the length of the workweek. Nearly one-third (30%) of large US companies are exploring new work schedule shifts such as four-day or four-and-a-half-day workweeks, according to a KPMG survey of CEOs released last week. The idea to attract and retain talent in a hot job market where many employees feel over-worked and underpaid. American workers don't get enough free time and our work has become central to our identities. Journalist Simone Stolzoff explores why what we do and how much we do for a living has become such a priority in our lives in his book The Good Enough Job: Reclaiming Life From Work. On The Spark Wednesday, he talked about how our jobs became our identities in many cases and how the four-day work week may help us take back our lives,"We live in a country where the majority of people get their health care through their employment. If you're an immigrant, your ability to stay in this country is often determined based on your employment. There are political reasons or economic reasons. There are cultural reasons why we got here. One of the big ones that I harp on in the book is there has been a precipitous decline in the past three or four decades, and the number of institutions and community groups that once provided great sources of meaning and identity in our lives, things like organized religion or social or neighborhood groups. And with the decline of these institutions, the need for identity, for purpose, for belonging remained. And so the majority of Americans turned to where they spent the majority of their time, which is the workplace. Now we live in a country that loves to treat CEOs like celebrities, we plaster "always do what you love" on the walls of our co-working spaces. It's a country where productivity and self-worth are almost one in the same. And so the question is what is the cost? If you're rising and falling based on your professional accomplishments alone, what gets left out? I think the pandemic was a great emblem of what are some of these costs. For one, that your job might not always be there. If you are deriving identity solely based on your title as an employer at a certain company or your job title, and you lose your job due to a furlough or getting laid off offered to retirement, you might be left wondering what's left. The second is just a matter of expectations. If we're always expecting our jobs to be a dream, if we're always expecting our jobs to be perfect, that creates a lot of room for disappointment. A lot of the rhetoric that we use around do what you love and never work a day in your life or follow your passion, obscures the fact that every line of work has monotony, has tedium in it. And if we have these sky high expectations, we can leave a lot to be desired. And the third, which I think really points to some of the studies that are coming out recently about the four-day workweek is that when we are only investing and giving our best time and our best energy into our work selves, we can neglect other parts of who we are. Certainly we all are more than just workers. We are neighbors and partners and parents and siblings and friends and citizens. And yet so many Americans are giving so much of their time and energy to their jobs that they're leaving little room for anything else." What does Stolzoff disagrees that not as much can be accomplished in a four-day work week,"It's essentially about our capacity to produce at a higher level. Everyone knows this intuitively. Not all hours in the day are created equally. And when workers are well rested. When workers have been able to fully recharge and invest in their lives outside of work, they tend to be better workers. They tend to be more innovative and creative problem solvers. They tend to be more productive on the whole. This might sound counterintuitive. I think a lot of us have internalized this idea that the more hours you work, the more work that you produce, and the better you do. But, for example, there was one study at Stanford University, studying munition workers, and it found that above working a certain amount of hours, 55 hours in a week, there was no increase in productivity with additional hours worked. And so we might trick ourselves into thinking the more time we're spending working, the more work we're getting done, when in actuality we're robbing ourselves of the rest that we need to recharge and become productive workers. That's sort of the business case. And then there's also the moral case, which is because we are all more than just workers. We need time and energy to invest in things like our families, our relationships, our neighborhoods, our local communities. And I think this reduction in the work week provides a great opportunity for people to invest and derive meaning from things other than just what they do to make money. " . Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

Does the 4-day work week lead to more worker satisfaction and productivity?

How a Washington city is model for transitioning from coal plant

Dozens of coal plants have closed in Pennsylvania over the last few decades as the Marcellus Shale boom made natural gas cheaper and some coal energy companies decided new environmental regulations are too costly. Coal plants have shutdown in other places across the country because of the amount of pollution they emit that contributes to climate change. A coal plant in Centralia, Washington, that at one time produced 10% of all the energy in the state of Washington will close for good next year. The Centralia plant was the county's largest employer and largest taxpayer. However, plans for closing the facility and what comes next for Centralia is seen as a model for other transitions to other forms of energy production. StateImpact PA reporter Rachel McDevitt and WITF's Digital Producer Jeremy Long traveled to Centralia, Washington last month and came back with how what has worked so far. Read Rachel McDevitt's reporting on Centralia, Washington's transition away from coal and see Jeremy Long's photographs. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

How some star baseball players avoided WWI playing with PA teams

Patriotism and a rush to serve in the military characterized America when the U.S. entered World War I in 1917. Those who didn't enlist in hopes of fighting in Europe or tried to avoid the military draft were called slackers. At the time, baseball was by far the American Pastime. Dozens of Major League baseball players like Ty Cobb and Christy Mathewson did enlist. But some of the biggest names in the sport like Babe Ruth and Shoeless Jackson played in baseball leagues formed by Bethlehem Steel plants or shipyards. There were teams in Lebanon and Steelton and most of the best players joined teams in Pennsylvania and Delaware. A new book called Work. Fight. Or Play Ball – How Bethlehem Steel Helped Baseball's Stars Avoid World War I — chronicles the industrial and shipyard leagues. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author William Ecenbarger was on The Spark Monday and talked about the history when the U.S. entered World War I,"There was something called the work or fight order. It was issued by the War Department. That was what we called the Pentagon back then. And it said that either you have to work in a central industry or be drafted in the armed forces. It affected any young men between 18 and 32. And, so, the essential entities were, farming. That was one, munitions plants and, steel mills and shipyards. So, that was one way to to get out of the draft was to work in one of those industries." A man by the name of Charles M. Schwab (not the investment and financial Charles Schwab) was the president of Bethlehem Steel, who formed a six-team baseball league where Bethlehem mills and a shipyard were located — Bethlehem, Lebanon, Steelton, a plant near Boston, Sparrows Point near Baltimore and a shipyard in Wilmington, Delaware. Ecenberger indicated superstar Shoeless Joe Jackson of Chicago White Sox should have had a draft exemption but everything changed when Jackson's local draft board in Greenville, South Carolina classified him as 1A on the draft board,"In 1918, some of the major leaguers figured out that if they could get on one of those teams, they would be in a central industry and they would be exempt from the draft. And so there began a slight exodus. Shoeless Joe Jackson was deferred from the draft. He had a dependent wife. He had his mother who was dependent on him. He had two sisters who would depend on him. And three of his brothers were already in the military. But somehow his draft board rescinded his exemption, and he became 1A. And that's when he fled to the shipyard in Wilmington. And, so after that, the major leaguers said, well, if he can get drafted, anybody can get drafted. So, that really pushed the exodus to these teams." Reportedly, Jackson actually did some work while employed at the shipyard in addition to playing baseball. Ruth played one game for the Lebanon team while he was on the roster of the Boston Red Sox,"Babe Ruth's job title was Blueprints Messenger, and no one quite knew what that meant. But I've talked to people who who remember him at the steel mill, and, they said that he showed up in very expensive clothes, would hang around for a couple of hours, talked about baseball, and then walked out. And that was it. That was his work day." In its two years of existence, the Lebanon Bethlehem team won the championship the first year and Steelton the next. Dozens of major league and minor league players dotted the rosters of the Bethlehem Steel League. However many did get drafted or enlisted. Several were killed. The war and shortage of men actually changed baseball history. Ecenbarger said the Red Sox were short on outfielders and they knew Ruth, who was a very good pitcher at the time, could hit, so they moved him to the outfield. Ruth ended up hitting 714 home runs in his career — mostly with the new York Yankees — and was the nation's most popular athlete. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

What are Pennsylvanians thinking about their health, abortion, firearms?

Results of Muhlenberg College's Institute of Public Opinion's Spring 2024 Pennsylvania Public Health Survey were released last week. It's a unique poll in that many of the questions don't have to do with politics or candidates. For example, seven out of ten of those surveyed had positive responses to the quality of healthcare in the state. There was an increase in the number of respondents who said their mental health was better than a year ago. However, that doesn't mean politics is not mentioned – a majority of those surveyed said politics and current events were a major source of stress for them as Dr. Christopher Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute for Public Opinion said on The Spark Monday,"A majority saying that's either a major or at least somewhat of a stress, on their lives in Pennsylvania. And that's probably not all that shocking, in some ways that Pennsylvania is at the heart of American politics, right? We are a purple state. We are a swing state. We are seeing lots of contested races from the presidency, the Senate to congressional races, state House, state Senate races. We're loaded with with politics happening all the time, we get bombarded with more ads than almost any other place in the country. We are constantly in the midst of these political, moments, if you will. And Pennsylvanians report that that takes a bit of a toll on their mental health. And now we're not alone. Lots and lots of Americans are reporting that politics is a stress. We're in a difficult time in terms of our politics. But I think looking more, narrowly at the Commonwealth, that's very, very true. And that individuals across demographics, if you look at our cross tabs at the end of our study, it's not just Democrats, it's not just Republicans, it's not women, or just men or across age groups. It's widespread across various, cohorts within the Keystone State." On some other issues, the Muhlenberg poll found Pennsylvania don't support more restrictions on abortion by 59%-41%; they do favor more restrictions on firearms 59%-41%; 49% support would like to see marijuana legalized for adult use compared to 31% who don't and 20% said they neither favor or oppose legalization. The word crisis is used often in describing problems we face but the Muhlenberg poll found the majority of those responding said aggressive driving, fracking, climate change, obesity and domestic violence were all problems wouldn't go as far as saying they were at crisis stage yet. Support WITF: https://www.witf.org/support/give-now/ See omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.

What are Pennsylvanians thinking about their health, abortion, firearms?