Michel Martin

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I was thinking about the word "comfortable" today.

Comfortable — or just as likely, its good friend uncomfortable — has become the preferred way for many people to talk about something they don't like. Instead of saying, "I don't like something," "I don't want to do something" or even, heaven forbid, "I don't like you," they say, "I am not comfortable with that."

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We haven't talked much about Boko Haram lately. If you remember, that's the Nigerian extremist group that kidnapped 300 schoolgirls last year. Well, earlier this week, the group released a video. Here's a short clip.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

Mamie Parker, a former assistant director of fisheries and habitat conservation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the first African-American to head a regional office for that agency. But when she started out in the field, she says, she "did not see anyone that looked like me doing this type of work."

Their lives and deaths are now a part of the public record, their names part of a tragic roll call: Rodney King, Michael Brown, Ezell Ford, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Rekia Boyd and Tanisha Anderson. They are just some of the Americans who've been killed or harmed in encounters with police. But does it have to be that way? How do we get beyond violence and deep-seated animosities in a relationship where conflict is a part of the job?

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., returned to his home state the day after nine people were killed in Charleston's Emanuel AME Church. The crime was emotionally devastating for many of his constituents, and the senator himself lost a friend in the attack. He took time out for a wide ranging conversation about the shooting, what he believes may have caused it, and how he'd like his state — and the country — to move forward. A version of the interview aired on Here & Now.

For generations of Americans, Detroit was the place where people made things: powerful cars, amazing architecture, beautiful music. But now Detroit is entering a new chapter. After months of often tense and difficult negotiations, Detroit is now formally out of bankruptcy. Millions of dollars of contributions from private foundations and corporations helped the city preserve its acclaimed art collection. A new generation of artists and entrepreneurs, doers and makers is calling Detroit home. So we'd like to ask, what's next? What will drive Detroit's future now?

For decades, when most Americans thought about Detroit, they probably thought about the auto industry, or maybe the music of Aretha, Smokey or Diana Ross and the Supremes. More recently, they might have thought of Detroit as the poster child for municipal bankruptcy. But what about now, as the city faces a new chapter?

Scenes from Baltimore earlier this week have evoked the riots that broke out in many cities after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968. I spoke to two first responders who were on duty at the time, Ed Mattson, a retired sergeant from the Baltimore City Police who was in the tactical squad and riot squad in 1968, and Steve Souder, Director of Communications at Fairfax County Department of Public Safety. He was working in communications for the Washington D.C. Fire Department the day Dr. King died. It also made me think of my own father.

What if you had to start your school system over almost from scratch? What if most of the buildings were unusable, and most of the teachers had left or been fired? Is that a nightmare, or your dream come true?

In New Orleans, that was the reality after the flooding that followed Hurricane Katrina. That set off a chain reaction that transformed the city's schools forever, first by a state takeover and then by the most extensive charter school system in the country.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina, much has been rebuilt in New Orleans — including the public schools. But the current education system is radically different from the one that people who grew up in New Orleans remember. Virtually all students in the city now attend charter schools. Many of their teachers are both new to New Orleans and new to teaching.

It's an open secret among African-American men and boys that people are often afraid of them. This week, we've brought that conversation to the airways and social media.

We spoke with Paul Butler, a Georgetown University law professor, and Doyin Richard, a blogger at a parenting blog, Daddydoinwork.com, to talk about how these experiences have affected them.


Interview Highlights

On being racially profiled

NPR's Michel Martin speaks with professors Phillip Atiba Goff of UCLA and Harry Holzer of Georgetown University about how fears of African-American men are manifested in the criminal justice system and the labor market, and what that means for the broader African-American community.

Immigration is a subject of intense political debate but it is also the subject of great art. For centuries, American writers and performers of all backgrounds have grappled with what it means to cross land and water — sometimes by choice, sometimes not — to take up life in a new world.

On Feb. 24, I will be joined in Miami by some of the country's most exciting young writers and performers who have also made such journeys and who have taken up the vital task of telling us what it means.

On Capitol Hill, the immigration debate is a political story. But for millions of people across the country, it is something deeper. "This is not a political issue; it is a human issue," says Diane Guerrero. "Me and my parents were a family, and now we're not. We're separated."

As the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots prepare to face off at the Super Bowl on Sunday, a scandal about under-inflated footballs is still dominating headlines.

While that subject has been a trending topic on Twitter, it is just the latest in a series of controversies this season. So many recent stories about the nation's most popular sport have focused on domestic abuse and sexual assault allegations, as well as the dangerous effects of concussions and other long-term health consequences for players.

We've been privileged in these last few months to share the stories of many Americans, some of them famous, but most of them not. We came together through some avenues we know well — books, music and theater. Sometimes, we found each other through pathways that have only recently become a big part of our lives, such as the #BeyondFerguson hashtag that brought so many young people to an August community meeting in that city. Our New Year's Resolution is to keep these honest and vital conversations going. We are going there.

African-American clergy, academics and activists will hold a march on Washington this week, protesting the grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City and call on the federal government to intervene in the prosecutions of police officers accused of unjustified use of force.

The run up to midterm elections has sparked many heated legal and ideological arguments over voting procedures and requirements. To understand the debate, I went to Charlotte, North Carolina for a live community conversation around these voting laws. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed a North Carolina law to go into effect that eliminates same-day voter registration and reduces the number of early voting days.

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