State of the Re:Union

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State of the Re:Union
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Running time 60 Minutes
Country United States
Language(s) English
Home station WJCT-FM
Creator(s) Al Letson
Writer(s) Various
Senior editor(s) Taki Telonidis
Producer(s) Tina Antolini, Laura Starecheski, Brie Burge, Jan Bennett, Creative Empire LLC.
Exec. producer(s) Al Letson and Ian DeSousa
Website http://www.stateofthereunion.com

State of the Re:Union is a nationally aired Public Radio show created and hosted by playwright and performance artist Al Letson. With a journalistic, documentary-style approach, the hour-long program focuses exclusively on one city or town in the scope of an episode featuring interviews, commentary, recordings, listener-generated letters and music. State of the Re:Union is distributed by the Public Radio Exchange and National Public Radio and is available as a free podcast.

Origins[edit]

State of the Re:Union was a concept created by Al Letson as an entry in the Public Radio Talent Quest, which started with more than 1,400 hopefuls. The contest aimed to identify a new generation of Public Radio on-air talent. After four rounds and voting from both a select panel of judges and the public at large, three winners were selected. For his pilot episode, Letson and team created "Welcome to D.C." Two of the three winning shows were awarded with a year's worth of funding to produce new episodes, including State of the Re:Union.

Format[edit]

The stated mission of State of the Re:Union is to "show listeners how we are more alike than we are different and the many ways our differences are celebrated." The additional underlying premise is to show "how a particular city, town or area creates a community." Each hour-long episode centers on a particular area and typically poses a question with which to explore the area. For example, the Jacksonville episode asks the question, "Is Jacksonville the Bold New City of the South?" as it is advertised. Typically, the show centers on three to four segments that feature stories that try to answer the proposed question. Letson narrates the program and conducts most of the interviews, but stories are also heard from first-person narratives. The main segments are accompanied by listener-written and read letters to the city, music, lighter fare and Letson's spoken word pieces.

Chosen topics are typically selected from current events, cultural happenings and out-of-the-ordinary business ventures. Due to such a wide range of features, the tone ranges from serious, investigatory and at times somber to happy, hopeful and humorous.

About Al Letson[edit]

Early in his career, Al Letson established himself in the Poetry Slam Movement, reaping artistic credibility and renown. He has performed on a number of national, regional and local stages, including HBO's Def Poetry Jam, CBS's Final Four PreGame Show and commercial projects for Sony, the Florida Times Union, Adobe Software and the Doorpost Film Project.

In addition to hosting, producing, editing and writing State of the Re:Union, he works as a professional playwright, actor and director. His plays have been performed across the country to critical acclaim including Summer in Sanctuary, Julius X and Griot: He Who Speaks the Sweet Word. Letson has directed several stage productions and three movie shorts, one of which, Sign Language, was a semi-finalist for the Fox filmmaking reality show On the Lot.

Episodes[edit]

Pilot season[edit]

Pilot episode - Welcome to D.C.

Featured: Washington, D.C.

Subjects: Unknown Aspects of the Nation's Capitol, Go-Go Music, Shaw District's Gentrification Challenges, Interview with Ian MacKaye

Produced by Al Letson and Taki Telonidis

Listen to the podcast

Episode 1 - Motor City Rebound

Featured: Detroit, Michigan

Subjects: Detroit Artist Broken Window Glass Project, Activist Grace Lee Boggs, Avalon Bakery, Inner City Agricultural Revolution, Baker's Keyboard Lounge

Produced by Al Letson and Zak Rosen

Listen to the podcast

Episode 2 - Jacksonville: Bold New City of the South?

Featured: Jacksonville, Florida

Subjects: Church of Jacksonville Takes on Racial Issues, Operation New Hope Paves the Way for Recitivism Programs and the Controversy surrounding the Name of Local High School Nathan B. Forrest High School

Produced by Al Letson and Creative Empire, LLC.

Listen to the Podcast

Episode 3 - Heart of the Heartland

Featured: Des Moines, Iowa

Subjects: Al Obeidi on His Story and New Home, The Des Moines Social Club, The Envy Corps and their music, a personal voyage on Gay Marriage in Iowa and innovative, yet simple Pig Farming methods used by one creative farmer to prevent being squeezed out by bigger factory farms

Produced by Al Letson and Creative Empire, LLC.

Listen to the Podcast

Season 1[edit]

Season one is composed of 12 total episodes that include five spring season episodes, five fall season episodes and two specials. State of the Re:Union's spring season carriage topped out at 172 markets and the Black History Month special on Bayard Rustin was carried in 165 markets.

Black History Month Special - Bayard Rustin, Who Is This Man?

Featured: Bayard Rustin

Subjects: Bayard Rustin - Rustin counseled Martin Luther King Jr. on the use non-violent resistance, was the architect of the March on Washington and forever altered the course of American History. Despite these accomplishments, his name is not mentioned alongside other civil rights leaders. This episode explores his work, his life and tackles the question, why didn't Rustin make the history books?

Listen to the Podcast

Brooklyn - Change Happens

Featured: Brooklyn, New York

Subjects: Atlantic Yards is the biggest development project in Brooklyn's history and State of the Re:Union examines why residents are so divided about it. The episode also includes a whimsical tour through the borough, a look into the memory murals found throughout Brooklyn and an interview with musician and producer John Forté.

Listen to the Podcast

Brooklyn - Change Happens was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.

Greensburg - To the Stars through Difficulties

Featured: Greensburg, Kansas

Subjects: A massive tornado came close to wiping the entire town of Greensburg, Kansas, off the map in May 2007. This episode includes residents recounting their experience on the night of the tornado and the aftermath, as well as a look into the town's decision to rebuild green.

Listen to the Podcast

Greensburg - To the Stars through Difficulties was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.

Milwaukee - City of Vision

Featured: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Subjects: Family House, an assisted living center for seniors that was started by a registered nurse that quit her job and moved back to Milwaukee to make a difference. Also featured is Will Allen's urban agricultural movement and the effects of violent crime are explored as former convicts face residents and local law enforcement.

Listen to the Podcast

Milwaukee - City of Vision was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.

New Orleans - The Big Easy

Featured: New Orleans, Louisiana

Subjects: State of the Re:Union visits New Orleans to explore how the city is negotiating that tension between the old and the new, from race relations to po boys to combating crime, five years after Hurricane Katrina. Topics from the rebuilding process to bounce hip-hop are included.

Listen to the Podcast

New Orleans - The Big Easy was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.

Oakridge - A Work in Progress

Featured: Oakridge, Oregon

Subjects: At one time considered "The Heart of the Timber Empire", the town's economy came crashing down when the lumber mills closed shop. This episode explores how the town is rejuvenating its economy and image.

Listen to the Podcast

Oakridge - A Work in Progress was released as part of SOTRU's Spring Season.

Española - The Land Remembers

Featured: Española, New Mexico

Subjects: Acequias are an ancient tradition and this episode explores what they are, how they work and their uncertain future. The area's culture is explored through folk musician, author and educator Cipriano Vigil. Lowriders are a family tradition in the area dubbed the "Lowrider Capital of the World".

Listen to the Podcast

Española - The Land Remembers was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.

Twin Cities - World within Two Cities

Featured: Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota

Subjects: From Tibetans to Somalis, Iraqis to the Khmer people of Cambodia, the Twin Cities have become a wildly diverse haven for immigrants. In this episode, SOTRU explores the worlds within the Twin Cities, from Ethopian Lutherans to Hmong rappers to a Somali community struggling with a devastating mystery.

Listen to the Podcast

Twin Cities - World within Two Cities was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.

Austin - Growing Pains

Featured: Austin, Texas

Subjects: Austin is wrestling with maintaining its countercultural feel due to the success that has ushered in new development and population growth. The episode also explores the boom of trailer eateries, the Cathedral of Junk and the Make Austin Normal movement, a counter to the Keep Austin Weird movement.

Listen to the Podcast

Austin - Growing Pains was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.

Los Angeles - Home, Sweet Home

Featured: Los Angeles, California

Subjects: The episode explores the idea of home from many vantage points. The Mariachi Plaza has been a gathering place for mariachis since the 1960s and has become a fountain of employment and community for them. The episode also includes the Watts House Project, the Starry Kitchen and transitional age youth homelessness.

Listen to the Podcast

"Los Angeles - Home, Sweet Home" was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.

"Appalachia - Appalachia Rising"

Featured: Towns throughout West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky

Subjects: This episode explores mountain top removal mining and its economic and environmental implications. Also featured is a radio show that gives hope to prisoners and a small West Virginia town reinventing itself as a center for the arts.

Listen to the Podcast

"Appalachia Rising" was released as part of SOTRU's Fall Season.

State of the Re:Union Veterans Day Special - Coming Soon

Accolades[edit]

Multimedia[edit]

State of the Re:Union's website, www.stateofthereunion.com features segments produced solely for the web, videos taken from stories featured in the radio show, articles, a music podcast titled Sounds of the Re:Union and blog posts from Al Letson as well as members of the State of the Re:Union team. Podcast and Videos State of the Re:Union features a number of videos and podcasts that dig further into stories featured in the radio program, thoughts from host Al Letson on a wide range of subjects as well as a podcast that focuses exclusively on music called Sounds of the Re:Union.

Sounds of the Re:Union recently released a podcast exploring indie rock featuring some of the genre's biggest names including Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service), Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh, Chris Hrasky (Explosions in the Sky), Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and Pat McGuire (Editor-in-Chief of FILTER Magazine).

Live Events[edit]

State of the Re:Union Preview Party - June 19, 2009

Al Letson hosted a preview party at WJCT studios that included:

  • A video feature as well as an interview and audience question and answer session with Pastors Mike and Connie Smith from the “One Nation, Under God” segment.
  • An interview and audience question and answer session with Kevin Gay of Operation New Hope from the “Operation New Hope” segment.
  • A video feature of the "What's In a Name?" segment.
  • A sneak peek of the nearly-finished State of the Re:Union video introduction.
  • An audience question and answer session, as well as a spoken word performance from the show’s creator and host, Al Letson.

SOTRU - A Celebration of Community - September 8, 2010

State of the Re:Union held a fundraising event at the Hicks Auditorium in the downtown Jacksonville Library that included:

  • A presentation by SOTRU host, Al Letson, that was emceed by WJCT's Melissa Ross and an introduction from NPR's Eric Nuzum.
  • A recounting of Season 1 travels.
  • A viewing of three State of the Re:Union documentaries - New Orleans: Murder Board, Austin: Trailer Eateries and Appalachia: Mountain Top Removal Mining. and
  • A multimedia poem.

Season 2[edit]

State of the Re:Union has officially wrapped production of Season 1 and is in the planning and research stage of Season 2.

External links[edit]