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We Can Be podcast - The Heinz Endowments

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Leaders working for a more just world tell their stories of community and possibility to The Heinz Endowments' Grant Oliphant.

Leaders working for a more just world tell their stories of community and possibility to The Heinz Endowments' Grant Oliphant.
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Leaders working for a more just world tell their stories of community and possibility to The Heinz Endowments' Grant Oliphant.








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

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...


Different but united: the palpable positivity of 24-hours-a-day bridge-builder Wasi Mohamed S2EP10

When Wasi Mohamed led the Muslim community in an international fundraising effort that raised a quarter of a million dollars for the families of those killed in the attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the world got to know the man many have called “a 24-hours-a-day bridge-builder.” Born and raised in an Indian-Muslim family in central Pennsylvania, Wasi recalls his childhood home being pelted with mustard packets and paint bombs, and dynamite exploding their...


From Parkland to Pittsburgh, student activists are forever altering the social change landscape S2E9

More than 2,300 lives have been lost and 8,500 people wounded in over 2,000 mass shootings in the United States in the past seven years. Survivors of the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida., that left 17 dead know this trauma of violence all too well. But Parkland students are organizing, speaking out, and reaching across boundaries to offer support to others who have survived or been affected by gun violence, including members of the Pittsburgh community...


From Air Force plane nosedive to university president: Dr. Chris Howard & the power of mentoring S2EP8

As a United States Air Force pilot, newly engaged to his South African fiancée, Chris Howard ejected from his aircraft as it fell into a nosedive during a solo training mission in January 1995. Twenty years later, he was one of the youngest university presidents in the United States. Dr. Chris Howard, president of Robert Morris University since 2015, grew up in Plano, Texas, the great-great-grandson of an enslaved man, and the son of parents who instilled in him the values of humility and...


Art is making souls soar in this rapidly changing neighborhood S02EP07

“I got into art-making because I want show the different ways that people show up in the world, and to represent voices that are often not heard,” says janera solomon, executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. That aim has never been needed more than now, as her neighborhood grapples with rapid change and the risk of cultural erasure. In the past decade, Pittsburgh’s historic East Liberty community has seen big-name tech companies set up shop in former warehouses, heated...


As environmental stakes rise, Emily Collins helps the underserved get a fair shake S02EP06

Groundwater poisoned from fracking, toxic coal sludge, and industrial pollution can sicken those who live near the source, and ruin land for generations to come. Often those most acutely affected are also those with the least resources to fight for environmental justice. So, Emily Collins did something about it, founding Fair Shake, the nation’s first nonprofit law firm devoted to providing environmental legal services regardless of the client’s ability to pay. Hear about Emily's...


Trayvon Martin's activism legacy: mother Sybrina Fulton, Jasiri X & Black Lives Matter stand strong S2E5

Sybrina Fulton is the mother of slain teen Trayvon Martin, and Jasiri X is the co-founder of anti-violence artist collective 1Hood Media, but both are so much more than those descriptors suggest. “He was my youngest boy,” says Sybrina of her son Trayvon, the unarmed 17-year-old who was followed and shot to death in 2012 by a neighborhood watch coordinator for “looking suspicious” in a Sanford, Fla., gated community. “He loved aviation, Skittles, babies and his family. He was a regular...


Very Smart Brothas' Damon Young: the hyper-cognizance & beauty of being black in America S2E04

With over 2.5 million weekly “Very Smart Brothas” readers, a GQ column and new Harper Collins book “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker,” Damon Young is artfully illuminating life as a black man in 21 century America. “So many of the narratives about being black in America are ensconced in deep trauma,” says Damon. “And yes, we do deal with racism, oppression and structural inequality, but I hope my writing shares that there is also beauty, love, passion, and humanity in that...


Archeology, family & fantasy: the fantastic Afrofuturist art of Alisha Wormsley S2E03

“THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE," in cut-out white letters on the black background of a steel billboard, stood high above Pittsburgh’s rapidly changing East Liberty neighborhood last spring – and brought national acclaim to interdisciplinary artist and cultural producer Alisha Wormsley. But that science fiction-inspired contribution to The Last Billboard art project – and the controversy its removal sparked – is but one brush stroke in an artistic career that has spanned nearly two...


Tree of Life leaders: "We didn't think about courage; we thought about doing the right thing" S2E02

In this second episode of a two-part series, Jewish community leaders share their distinct and moving perspectives of what happened on Oct. 27, 2018, when a lone gunman opened fire on worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Eleven people were killed in what would become the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in our nation’s history. Host Grant Oliphant speaks with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh’s executive...


In aftermath of tragedy at Tree of Life synagogue, random acts of beauty & unity are the new normal (S02EP01)

The early morning of Oct. 27, 2018, began with promise, ethereally foggy with sunlight shining through the occasional crack in the haze to highlight the fall foliage. Then, at 9:50 a.m., a lone gunman opened fire on worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, killing 11 people in what would become the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in our nation’s history. In this two-part episode, we will hear three distinct and moving...


Lifting the arc: Hazelwood’s Tim Smith & grassroots energy bring a new future to this riverfront community S01EP20

The story of Hazelwood is a familiar one: A vibrant riverfront community with an industrial past flourished until the late 1980s when the steel industry bottomed out, leaving longtime residents with a decimated economy. But this archetypal American story is different, too, and the Rev. Tim Smith is a big reason why. As CEO of Center of Life and pastor of Keystone Church of Hazelwood, Tim has a daily insight into the struggles, hope and beauty of those who are determined to keep the soul...


San Juan, PR Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz: speaking truth to power, green energy & her grandmother’s enduring impact. (S01EP19)

San Juan, Puerto Rico Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is the star of a grainy 8mm home movie that shows her as a toddler in her mother’s arms. Off-screen, her father asks what she wants to be when she grows up. Her answer: “Alcalde de San Juan” – the mayor of San Juan. She did indeed grow up to be the mayor of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and the certainty she exuded as a small child flourished into a strong, confident voice. Yulin showed the world that voice – and came to international...


Truthful Art: Jasiri X on Trayvon Martin, Antwon Rose Jr. & the cross-section of unity that gives him hope. (S01EP18)

Jasiri Oronde Smith’s mom knew what she was doing when she chose the first name for her baby boy, the Swahili word for “brave.” That baby grew up to be lauded hip-hop artist and activist Jasiri X. As a co-founder of 1Hood Media, a collective of socially conscious activists who utilize art to raise awareness about social justice matters, Jasiri X is fostering a new generation of artists and media professionals who use their voices to challenge inequity and unify humanity. He has...


Love Canal’s accidental environmentalist Lois Gibbs on the movement she sparked & what today’s activists need to know to save our world (S01EP17)

In 1978, Lois Gibbs was a young mother with a child in a school that was found to be built over a toxic chemical waste dump site. Lois gained international attention and incredible momentum in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s as she led the fight for environmental justice for children and families affected by the environmental disaster identified with the neighborhood where it occurred, Love Canal. “I was waiting on someone to knock on my door and tell me what to do, to explain how I could...


What the Eyes Don't See: Mona Hanna-Attisha & Flint’s lead water crisis. (S01EP16)

“Flint is a story about what happens when the very people that are charged with keeping us safe care more about money or power than they do about you or your children,” says Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha. Known as “Dr. Mona,” the pediatrician came to national prominence for exposing the water crisis in Flint, Mich., caused by high lead levels, and standing up to government officials who tried to downplay the seriousness of the contamination. In the aftermath, she become a passionate voice for...


The 45 Words that Define Us: Max King on a First Amendment under fire, why we let rights slip away & how we can save them (S01E15)

One of the most fundamentally important sentences for the United States of America is this: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” A single sentence. A mere 45 words. Those 45 words are the entirety of the First Amendment found in our Bill of Rights, and...


Environmental justice superhero Mustafa Santiago Ali and the Hip Hop Caucus are shifting minds and votes one community at a time. (S01EP14)

It is no understatement to say that Mustafa Santiago Ali is a superhero in the environmental justice world. He earned his stripes serving in the Environmental Protection Agency for more than two decades, becoming a founding member of the Office of Environmental Justice and, most recently, serving as senior advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization. As winter 2017 lingered on, Mustafa resigned from the EPA when deep cuts in budget and staff were being proposed. He...


Born for Storms: Angela Blanchard was a rock during Houston’s Hurricane Harvey & now she’s out to change the world for good (S01EP13)

The late-summer evening of Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, is forever etched in Angela Blanchard’s mind. National Weather Service maps showed increasingly ominous swirls of blue, green, yellow and red hovering over the Gulf of Mexico as the force of Hurricane Harvey amped to a top speed of 132 miles an hour. The Category 4 storm wreaked havoc on Louisiana, Nicaragua, Honduras and Belize, saving its most brutal impact for Houston, Texas. The number who died reached 107, and the storm caused an...


New Power: Author Henry Timms explains what it is, how to get it & why it’s changing our hyper-connected world. (S01EP12)

For most of recorded history, the rules of power were clear: Power was something to be seized and then guarded at any cost. This "old power" was owned by a tiny fraction of humankind, and beyond reach for the vast majority of people. But the ubiquitous connectivity of our world today is allowing something altogether new to occur, and makes possible an extraordinarily different kind of power: people-centric, participatory-focused and spreading with lightning-fast speed. “If you are able...