We Can Be podcast - The Heinz Endowments
Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson: “Protest is speaking the truth out loud.” S02EP20

Civil rights activist DeRay Mckesson: “Protest is speaking the truth out loud.” S02EP20

November 13, 2019

DeRay Mckesson and his instantly recognizable blue down vest have become synonymous with advocacy for victims of police violence and an end to mass incarceration.

 

A civil rights activist, community organizer and former middle school teacher, DeRay came to national prominence as a leading voice in the Black Lives Matter Movement when he documented – and participated in – protests following the deaths of unarmed black men by police or in police custody in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland. 

 

With his one million twitter followers, a best-selling book (“On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope” on Penguin Random House), and his hit podcast “Pod Save the People,” DeRay, who also is co-founder of the police reform initiative Campaign Zero, is creating space for conversation and action.  He has harnessed the power of both traditional and digital media in enormously effective ways.

 

“Protest is speaking the truth out loud,” DeRay tells “We Can Be” host Grant Oliphant. “The inconvenience that you feel sitting in traffic while protesters march is just a slice of the pain that a mother feels because she’ll never see her loved one again.”

 

DeRay shares the funny moment when his younger self first realized white people could be wrong, his experience as an out gay man in the civil rights movement, what the X-Men’s Storm imprinted on him, and the easily confused – but consequential - differences between justice and accountability.

 

“We are fighting for a world that we have not yet seen, but that we believe is possible,” DeRay says. “And I will never be afraid to tell the truth.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme and incidental music by Josh Slifkin. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Andre Perry’s genius blend of information & inspiration is helping individuals realize their value & worth. S02EP19

Andre Perry’s genius blend of information & inspiration is helping individuals realize their value & worth. S02EP19

November 6, 2019

Dr. Andre Perry of The Brookings Institution has made exploration of race and structural inequality – especially as it affects education and economic inclusion – his life’s work.

 

A Pittsburgh native born into a challenging family environment, Andre learned early the importance of community, school and neighborly kindness in guiding youth like him toward realizing their full potential. A high school track and cross-country star, he says he used to run from the trouble that surrounded him growing up, but “now instead of running away from problems, I run toward them.”

 

Indeed, today Andre is an internationally acclaimed voice on race and equity. He is a columnist for The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit news organization that specializes in in-depth education reporting, and his writing also regularly appears in The Nation, The New York Times and The Washington Post. His upcoming book is titled “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities(Brookings Institution Press, May 19, 2020).

 

Andre is particularly gifted at giving both the information and inspiration that individuals need to realize their true value. Drawing on his love for the late playwright August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running,” he says: “Know your worth and what you stand for. Know your price.”

 

In this episode, Andre speaks with host Grant Oliphant about inequitable development (“growth without inclusion is suppression”), the hard truth he brought to a twitter war between President Donald Trump and hip-hop megastar Jay-Z, and why his time with children of migrants became the most significant, career-shaping experience of his life.

 

Get both information and inspiration from Dr. Andre Perry in this episode of The Heinz Endowments’ “We Can Be” podcast.

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme and incidental music by Josh Slifkin. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp: “Nature is a refuge from all the ‘-isms’” S02EP18

Outdoor Afro founder Rue Mapp: “Nature is a refuge from all the ‘-isms’” S02EP18

October 30, 2019

Rue Mapp founded Outdoor Afro, a “social media community that introduces African Americans to the Great Outdoors” because she remembers the exhilaration she felt as a child in the run from the car to the creek when her parents pulled into the driveway of the family’s ranch in the Northern California woodlands.

 

“I want everyone to have that opportunity to feel that rush of joy and sense of belonging in nature.”

 

Started as a blog in 2009, Outdoor Afro quickly gained national attention, spreading across the country and garnering national attention and garnering media profiles of Rue on CNN and NPR, and in The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, and – proving that she has definitely captured the zeitgeist – Oprah Magazine.

 

The success of Outdoor Afro gained Rue a seat in the organization of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative; a National Wildlife Federation’s Communication Award; and a 2019 Heinz Award in the environment category.

 

Host Grant Oliphant and Rue talk about the deeply rooted trauma that causes many African Americans to have an unconscious wariness of outdoor spaces; the time she says she “opened my mouth, and my life fell out;” and who she considers the “original outdoor afro.”

 

“Nature doesn’t judge anyone,” says Rue. “The outdoors is a refuge from all the ‘isms.’”

 

Experience the charismatic, thoughtful, joyful and – considering her infectious love of parks, trails and nature – appropriately named Rue Mapp on this episode of “We Can Be.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme and incidental music by Josh Slifkin. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

The joy & complexity of giving w/ Giving Done Right author Phil Buchanan S02EP17

The joy & complexity of giving w/ Giving Done Right author Phil Buchanan S02EP17

October 23, 2019

In 2018, Americans gave $427 billion to charities of their choice. Phil Buchanan, founding chief executive of The Center for Effective Philanthropy and author of “Giving Done Right: Effective Philanthropy and Making Every Dollar Count,” is working to make certain people have the best possible information to ensure those hard-earned dollars do the most possible good.

 

Phil has his father to thank for his sense of empathy, and his urge to give where it can be most impactful. An ardent social justice and worker’s rights activist, Phil’s father “sought to build relationships with people whose lives and experiences were vastly different from his, all in effort to understand them and create genuine connections.”

 

Those lessons became a cornerstone of Phil’s being, driving him to found The Center for Effective Philanthropy in 2001 and continue to serve as its president ever since. The center does research for many of the most-recognized names in the giving community, including Ford, Hewlett, MacArthur, Packard, and The Heinz Endowments.  His on-the-ground experience culminated in his 2019 book “Giving Done Right.”

 

Host Grant Oliphant’s conversation with Phil covers the “heart-versus-head conundrum” about giving that both individuals and philanthropies must wrestle with, the dangers of taking tainted money from donors with dubious – or worse – reputations, and why America’s nonprofit leaders are “our country’s unsung heroes.” 

 

 “We need to encourage givers to do their giving in a way that is not top down, that is not just about the pursuit of their own priorities,” Phil says. “Rather, give in ways that elevate the voices and opportunities of the most vulnerable.”

 

Phil has done his father proud. Hear why on this episode of “We Can Be.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme and incidental music by Josh Slifkin. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Poet, soldier, author & father Tim O’Brien on the extraordinary, beautiful power of maybe S02EP16

Poet, soldier, author & father Tim O’Brien on the extraordinary, beautiful power of maybe S02EP16

October 16, 2019

The Things They Carried” brought National Book Award-winning author Tim O’Brien fame, and the unparalleled poetic beauty and honesty of his novels, short stories and memoirs have cemented his status as one of our most revered contemporary writers.  

 

Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Tim was a high school student body president who opposed the Vietnam War, and was drafted several weeks after graduation. He served in the area known as “Pinkville,” the location of two sites where American massacres of Vietnamese villagers occurred. 

 

“When my life collided with Vietnam, I realized not only that I wanted to write, but that I had to write,” Tim says of his tour of duty in the early ‘70s. “It was my way of relieving the pressure on my spirit and my dreams, and it became a live-saving thing.”

 

Tim’s proposition that we all carry things with us — whether physical or in our memories — that affect how we move through the world informs his writing, from short story compilation “If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home,” to novels “Going After Cacciato,” “Northern Lights,” and “The Things We Carried.” 

 

Tim talks with “We Can Be” host Grant Oliphant about the joyous memory of his father that he still carries with him; the kinship he feels with Post-9/11 veterans; his work on the Pittsburgh-based hit television show “This is Us;” and the new collection of letters and prose he wrote for his young sons, “Dad’s Maybe Book.”

 

“We need to be open to the ‘maybe-ness’ of our lives,” Tim says. “Open to learning, to leaning toward decency, beauty and humility.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme and incidental music by Josh Slifkin. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Building an army of support for refugees: Hello Neighbor’s Sloane Davidson S02EP15

Building an army of support for refugees: Hello Neighbor’s Sloane Davidson S02EP15

October 9, 2019

As the national rhetoric about refugees skews toward outright xenophobia, Hello Neighbor Founder and CEO Sloane Davidson is “creating an army of support” that is changing their lives and strengthening the fabric of neighborhoods.

 

At a 2016 family Thanksgiving dinner with five Syrian refugees who had recently resettled in Pittsburgh, Sloane realized something powerful was happening. She knew if she could help replicate the good vibes of that fellowship with other refugees and neighbors, both would be stronger for it. 

 

Sloane felt the immense power of that human-to-human interaction, and with that spark, Hello Neighbor was born.

 

“Just like any other family in America, refugees are just trying to get by, do right by their kids, thrive, survive, and find joy,” Sloane tells “We Can Be” host Grant Oliphant. “One-on-one interaction helps make our similarities crystal-clear.”

 

She talks about her journey from popular blog writer and around-the-world volunteer to a Washington Post-profiled nonprofit founder. She also shares why the gift of growing up in the shadow of the iconic “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” television show still guides her life.

 

Sloane knows it won’t be easy, but she is steadfast in her hope and vision. “The other side isn’t resting,” she says. “So we can’t either.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes, and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme and incidental music by Josh Slifkin. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries: Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Blindsided by the Taliban: Journalist & Postindustrial media co-founder Carmen Gentile S02EP14

Blindsided by the Taliban: Journalist & Postindustrial media co-founder Carmen Gentile S02EP14

October 2, 2019

In 2010, journalist and Postindustrial media co-founder Carmen Gentile was embedded with the 32 Calvary regiment in eastern Afghanistan when he was struck in the right side of the face by a rocket-propelled grenade.

 

Carmen details the moment he was blinded in his right eye – and the ensuing years of heartbreak and healing, including his return to Afghanistan and his decision to make Pittsburgh his base – in his 2018 book “Blindsided by the Taliban: A Journalist’s Story of War, Trauma, Love and Loss.

 

In this conversation with “We Can Be” host Grant Oliphant, Carmen gives his frank, first-hand account of the true cost of our 18-year war in Afghanistan, why it’s considered un-American to question our military, and how he came to turn his efforts to reporting and producing stories that lift up innovators of the Rust Belt and Greater Appalachia through Postindustrial’s print and digital media outlets.

 

“I didn’t want this to be the defining moment for the rest of my life,” said Carmen about his injury in Afghanistan. “I knew I wanted to get back out there, and tell the stories that need to be told.”

 

Hear about his journey to tell the stories of our time in this episode of “We Can Be.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes, and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme music by Josh Slifkin; incidental by music Giuseppi Capolupa. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries can be made to Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

From homelessness to Emmy Award winning composer & director: the shining light of Emmai Alaquiva S02EP13

From homelessness to Emmy Award winning composer & director: the shining light of Emmai Alaquiva S02EP13

September 25, 2019

Emmy-winning composer, in-demand director and respected mentor Emmai Alaquiva is candid about what rescued him during his early hard times: “The arts saved my life.”

 

CEO of the media production entity Ya Momz House (a tribute to his own mother) and a centrifugal force of light and positivity, Emmai shares his story of homelessness; his early ‘90s hip-hop days with Pensoulzinakup; and how he’s built a career that has included working with The Roots, Dr. Maya Angelou, Solange Knowles and Common.

 

He’s giving back, too, empowering rising creatives through the youth-arts education and mentoring program Hip-Hop On L.O.C.K.; speaking out as an advocate for a living wage; and opening eyes to the Black Lives Matter movement, oppression, homophobia and xenophobia through his Optic Voices photography project.

 

“When I was down, I said ‘God, if you allow me to get on my feet, I’ll spend the rest of my life helping others get on their feet,’ ” Emmai recalls.

 

Experience Emmai’s energy, passion and light as he tells his story to host Grant Oliphant in this episode of “We Can Be.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, Itunes, and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Guest image by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries: Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Dr. Cornel West & Bikari Kitwana 2: the revolution in priorities our society needs S02EP12

Dr. Cornel West & Bikari Kitwana 2: the revolution in priorities our society needs S02EP12

September 18, 2019

In part two of host Grant Oliphant’s two-episode conversation with Dr. Cornel West and Bakari Kitwana, they examine the revolution in priorities our society needs if we are to thrive, the young activists that are driving their hope, and why empathy – on both sides of the aisle – is key.

 

Celebrated activist and academic Dr. Cornel West is professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University, the author of a number of bestsellers, a prominent pop culture figure, and a revered voice in the social justice realm.

 

Journalist, activist and political analyst Bakari Kitwana is a senior media fellow at the Harvard Law School-based think tank The Jamestown Project, and author of “The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture,” which is part of the curriculum at more than 100 universities nationwide.

 

“For young people who are activists, one of the most important things for them to remember is that they are fighting not only for themselves, but for generations to come,” says Mr. Kitwana. “We need to have a vision that allows us to dream of a world that is yet to come.”

 

“Every generation has to grapple with obsession with power, with a too-narrow definition of success,” says Dr. West. “We need a revolution in priorities.”

 

Listen today at heinz.org/podcast, or on leading podcast sites including Stitcher, Podbean, GooglePlay, iTunes, and Spotify.

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by The Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme music by Josh Slifkin; guest images by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries: Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

Dr. Cornel West & Bikari Kitwana on the joy & struggle of today’s freedom fighters S02EP11

Dr. Cornel West & Bikari Kitwana on the joy & struggle of today’s freedom fighters S02EP11

September 11, 2019

In part one of a two-episode conversation, Dr. Cornel West and Bakari Kitwana examine why joy is important in our lives (especially for those in the social justice realm), what reparations could mean to our nation, and why artists are the indispensable ingredient in society today.

 

Celebrated activist and academic Dr. Cornel West is professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard University, and the author of bestsellers such as “Race Matters” and “Black Prophetic Fire.” He has written a dozen more seminal works about modern civil rights issues and figures. He also is a prominent pop culture figure, with appearances in two “Matrix” movies, and is a favorite guest on a range of news programs.

 

Journalist, activist and political analyst Bakari Kitwana is a senior media fellow at the Harvard Law-based think tank The Jamestown Project, and author of “The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African-American Culture,” which is part of the curriculum at more than 100 universities nationwide. His political commentary has been heard on CNN, FOX News, C-Span, PBS and NPR, and he has been a consultant for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

“We are in a quagmire where wealth and inequality crush those who are struggling, and the structures we have in place to ensure that doesn’t happen are no longer working,” says Mr. Kitwana. “We can hope to luck our way out of it, but I think it is going to take more than that.”  

 

It is our young people that will give that “more,” says Dr. West. “On the ground, especially among the younger generation, we have more sensitivity and empathy than we’ve ever had in our country.”

 

“We Can Be” is hosted by  Heinz Endowments President Grant Oliphant, and produced by the Endowments and Treehouse Media. Theme music by Josh Slifkin; guest images by Josh Franzos. Guest inquiries: contact Scott Roller at sroller@heinz.org.

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