Notes from America with Kai Wright Notes from America with Kai Wright is a show about the unfinished business of our history, and its grip on our future.
Notes from America with Kai Wright

Notes from America with Kai Wright

From WNYC Radio

Notes from America with Kai Wright is a show about the unfinished business of our history, and its grip on our future.

Most Recent Episodes

What Does It Mean To Be Free?

Author Ayana Mathis' new novel, The Unsettled, is an intergenerational story centered around one Black family's struggle to find freedom in the 1980s. Like her previous work, migration and movement are major themes in the book. But this time, her characters are at a crossroads, unsure of their next step in search of self-determination. Mathis joins host Kai Wright to reveal the questions that torment the characters in her gripping novel, and discuss her own journey grappling with those themes. During this episode, Kai refers to a previous episode about our Future of Black History series featuring Saidiya Hartman, which can be found here. This episode was originally published September 25, 2023. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Class Of 2024 Grads Reflect On Being Expected to Change the World

We should all know by now how foolish it is to underestimate youth. Gen Z, the generation of people born between 1997 and 2012, has already changed the world in ways that no one could have anticipated, from mass protests against gun violence to international movements to reckon with climate change. For members of this generation who are part of the graduating class of 2024, a series of unfortunate and unprecedented events have shaped the way they engage in political, social and cultural issues. Many of them missed the opportunity to walk the stage of their high school graduation as Covid-19 swept over the world. That same year, they witnessed and participated in massive uprisings in support of Black lives, only to see a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol a few months later. Now, some of their college graduation ceremonies are being shaped by protests in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, or — much like high school — canceled altogether. Amidst all these challenges, these graduates and their peers have been burdened with the expectation that they are the generation that will change the world. Yet, they are often dismissed as lazy, selfish and overly sensitive. In this episode of Notes from America, host Kai Wright is joined by Gen Z educator and podcast host Taylor Coward. Kai and Taylor take calls from several class of 2024 graduates, including "Cee Kay" who participated in a walkout protest during their commencement; and Gabe Fleisher, author of the WakeUp2Politics newsletter, which he started in elementary school. They talk about how their experiences have influenced their outlook and optimism about the future, and about the societal pressures they face as they enter the workforce and a world in turmoil. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Why Divestment Is At the Core of Student Protests

While news coverage has been justifiably focused on the aggressive police response to anti-war college protests at campuses around the country, it's noteworthy that a handful of U.S. schools have agreed to come to the table with students and discuss their demands. At the top of the list for many campus activists: divestment. At Brown University, where protests against Israel's war have been occurring since the fall of 2023, students want the administration to cut ties with companies that do business with Israel's occupied territories. As student negotiator Isabella Garo explains, it's less about hurting the companies financially and more about being a moral model for academic institutions, large and small. In this episode, Garo joins host Kai Wright to talk about taking on her university over a contentious issue, and where she sees the role of Brown Divest in the larger Free Palestine movement. Click here to read a statement from a Brown University spokesperson about why the school agreed to negotiate with students and take a vote on the issue of divestment in October 2024. Then, Kai discusses how the current calls for divestment echo previous student-led protest movements on campuses with Chris Marsicano, assistant professor of educational studies at Davidson College. Marsicano breaks down the history of university divestment and why it can be a complicated ask, particularly at state schools and elite colleges. Companion listening for this episode: A Palestinian-American Victim Of American Gun Violence Becomes A Reluctant Poster Child (2/19/2024) Brown University student Hisham Awartani processes his injuries, and the trauma of his community back home in the West Bank. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

What 'The Wiz' Was And Is to Black Culture

The iconic musical "The Wiz" has returned to Broadway. The Black take on "The Wizard of Oz" debuted in 1974, featuring theater stars such as Stephanie Mills, André De Shields and Dee Dee Bridgewater. It was later adapted as a film starring Diana Ross, Lena Horne and Michael Jackson. After decades of countless local stage productions and bootleg VHS tapes passed around among friends and neighbors, "The Wiz" is a beloved cultural touchstone for many generations of Black people. Host Kai Wright is joined by Jason King, dean of the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music, to discuss behind the scenes details of the many iterations of "The Wiz," and break down how it went from "mid" reviews to a Black cultural artifact. Plus, they take calls from listeners across the country about their connections to the show — including a special one from Schele Williams, director of the revival of "The Wiz" now on Broadway. Companion listening for this episode: Amber Ruffin Talks 'The Wiz' Revival, Writing for 'Late Night,' and Representation in Comedy (4/15/2024) The comedian breaks down how her long career writing and performing as a Black woman prepared her for her new venture: bringing the Black cult-classic "The Wiz" back to Broadway. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Tonya Mosley Reckons with a Dark Family Story and Holds Tight to Hope in the Podcast She Has a Name

Tonya Mosley's voice is familiar to millions of public radio listeners across the country. She co-hosted NPR's midday news show Here and Now for several years before becoming co-host of Fresh Air in 2022. Now, the award-winning audio journalist is taking listeners on a personal journey. Around two decades ago, Mosley was just at the start of her career working in Louisville, Kentucky, when she got a call from a young man named Antonio Wiley, who said he was her nephew. Mosley hadn't grown up with her father, so the idea that she might have a nephew she had never met wasn't totally shocking. But then her nephew said something that would shock her and come to define so much of Mosley's adult life. Wiley's mom and Mosley's eldest sister, Anita Wiley, had been missing since 1987, and Wiley has been searching to find out what happened to her since the age of 14. After a major discovery led to Anita's body in 2020, Mosley and Wiley decided to retrace Anita's life, hoping to find out what happened to her, documenting their effort in a podcast. It's called She Has a Name, and it's part memoir, part investigative journalism — a deep dive into the city and the history that shaped Anita's life and the lives of the people who loved her. In this episode of Notes from America, Mosley walks us through how this investigation redefined her relationship with her hometown and her identity, how it impacted her nephew, and what it means for people to try and find closure when so many questions remain unanswered. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET., and listeners to the broadcast and podcast are invited to join the conversation at 844-745-TALK(8255). Podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Tonya Mosley Reckons with a Dark Family Story and Holds Tight to Hope in the Podcast She Has a Name

How This Passover Feels Different For Many Jewish Americans

Nearly seven months after October 7th and the start of the war in Gaza, emotions over the violence and devastation are still running hot here in the U.S, and inspiring an exercise in self-reflection for many Jewish Americans. It's a confusing and anxious moment to celebrate Passover, marked this year by personal and communal crises over Israel, rising anti-Semitism and political divisions playing out in the public eye. Passover is a holiday traditionally centered around the stories of Jewish liberation from oppression. How can these ancient stories be translated into a modern context? And how can a seder table be shared with people who might have different perspectives about what it means to be Jewish in America right now? Guest host Matt Katz shares his personal story of a shifting Jewish identity and sits down with Noah Feldman, Harvard Law professor and author of "To Be A Jew Today: A New Guide to God, Israel, and the Jewish People," to address some of these questions and take calls from Jewish listeners across the country. Tell us what you think. We're on Instagram and X (Twitter) @noteswithkai. Email us a message or voice memo at notes@wnyc.org. Or click here to record yourself. "Notes from America" airs live on Sunday evenings at 6pm ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts. Tune into the show on Sunday nights via the stream on notesfromamerica.org. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

An Investigative Journalist Is Rocked By the 'Inconceivable Truth' Of His Own Identity

In this episode, we share the first part of the new podcast series Inconceivable Truth. It's hosted by WNYC reporter Matt Katz, who has been searching for his biological father since he was a little kid. But it wasn't until Matt was in his 40s that he realized he was on the wrong journey altogether. The true story is wrapped in confusion and secrecy, and in the end, it upended the truth about who he is — raising questions about identity, fatherhood, medical ethics and what family really means. But will finding answers make Matt whole, or just make things even more complicated? Join Matt Katz on Notes From America for a live conversation about Jewish American identity now, and how that identity has been interrupted, complicated or clarified by the events of October 7th and the ongoing violence and devastation in the Middle East. To add your voice to that conversation, click here to record or call or text 844-745-TALK (8255) any time. You can also call in live starting at 6pm ET on Sunday, April 21. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

An Investigative Journalist Is Rocked By the 'Inconceivable Truth' Of His Own Identity

Amber Ruffin Talks 'The Wiz' Revival, Writing for 'Late Night,' and Representation in Comedy

Amber Ruffin is a comedy phenom. She's spent a decade writing and performing on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," and hosted her own show, "The Amber Ruffin Show." She's a co-author of bestselling books with her sister Lacey Lamar, with whom she co-hosts a podcast, The Amber & Lacey, Lacey & Amber Show. The Emmy and Tony nominee is now focused on a new project: writing the book for the revival of the beloved 1975 musical, "The Wiz." She joins host Kai Wright for an honest reflection on the art of "translating funny" for different audiences and different formats. She and Kai roast, joke and reflect on the cultural and personal significance of "The Wiz," her journey coming up as a Black female comedian, and the importance of seeing diverse representations of Black people in comedy (including Black people being silly). We also want to hear about your own relationship with "The Wiz" — whether it's the stage version or the movie, or if you've been fortunate enough to catch the revival. Do you have a memory associated with "The Wiz"? Do you have a favorite number or version of a song? Leave us a voicemail about it at 844-745-8255. You can also record a voice memo and email it to notes@wnyc.org. We look forward to hearing from you! Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Amber Ruffin Talks 'The Wiz' Revival, Writing for 'Late Night,' and Representation in Comedy

Voter Vibe Check: Why Trump Has More Support from Black Voters Than Ever

A February 2024 New York Times/Siena College poll reveals as many as 23 percent of Black respondents said they would vote for Trump if the election were held right then. The numbers are strikingly higher than they have been in the past — and they are notable for a community that has voted overwhelmingly for democrats and against Donald Trump specifically. So what, if anything, do such polls tell us about how politics may be shifting among Black voters right now? Host Kai Wright is joined this week by Noel King, co-host of the podcast Today, Explained to discuss what the rise of Black Trump supporters signals to them. They also sit down with Brandon Tensley, a national politics reporter at Capital B, who covers the impact of policy and political movements on Black people in America. In this episode, they dissect some of the polling, how reliable it is, and what the numbers mean about Black voters' feelings and opinions going into November. Plus, they take calls and hear why some of you are starting to feel "Trump curious." Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Voter Vibe Check: Why Trump Has More Support from Black Voters Than Ever

Comedian Bassem Youssef's Honest Reflection on Fame, the Pressure of Representation, and W...

Egyptian American satirist and comedian Bassem Youssef was once known as "The Jon Stewart of Egypt," after gaining notoriety for his criticism of the government during the 2011 Egyptian revolution. But it wasn't long before the doctor-turned-comedian was forced to leave his home country and start over in the United States. Ten years later, as he ends the U.S. leg of a world tour for his new stand up show, he's gained a whole new crowd of supporters and critics — not for his comedy, but for his biting critique of U.S. policy in Gaza. In this episode, Youssef sits down with host Kai Wright to tell the story of his turbulent ride as a political satirist in both the U.S. and Egypt — and the pressures he faced to be the voice of a movement. Plus, we open our listener mailbag and get your responses to some of our recent shows. Tell us what you think. We're @noteswithkai on Instagram and X (Twitter). Email us at notes@wnyc.org. Send us a voice message by recording yourself on your phone and emailing us, or record one here. Notes from America airs live on Sundays at 6 p.m. ET. The podcast episodes are lightly edited from our live broadcasts.

Comedian Bassem Youssef's Honest Reflection on Fame, the Pressure of Representation, and W...