How Writing Breaks Barriers In The Name Of MLK

Jan 21, 2020

On today's program: Students share how poetry gives voice to their experiences; PA voters get introspective about their media diets; what it takes to cut energy use in state-owned buildings; and a new memoir explores the taboo subject of abuse in queer relationships.

CMU ceremony honors student writing in the name of MLK
(00:00 — 15:00) 

Now in its 21st year, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards recognizes the prose and poetry of college and high school students exploring how difference and discrimination have affected their world views. Awards director Jim Daniels joins The Confluence alongside two prizewinners to discuss their pieces. 

Joss Green, a junior drama major, won for their poem, “The fancy media company uses the word ‘slave’ to describe machines controlled by the master computer.” Green says poetry allowed them to give voice to their experience as a minority in a classroom. 

Isabel Yoon, a senior neuroscience major, won for her poem, “Quality Inn,” which details her experience in an elevator. Yoon says she was speaking Korean with her mother when another man in the elevator shouted at them to speak English.

Media habits can shape voter choices
(16:12 — 20:50) 

The path to presidential victory runs directly through Pennsylvania, and polls show it will be a close race in 2020. So over the next year, WESA is checking in with four voters ahead of the election about issues that will sway their choice at the ballot box.

90.5 WESA’s Lucy Perkins reports this month about where they get the information that will shape their votes. The panel agrees that disinformation is a problem and that the responsibility often falls to voters themselves to parse out the facts. 

Incremental changes were step one for Wolf’s GreenGov Council
(20:55 — 27:53)

The governor’s office proudly announced this month a 3 percent year-over-year reduction in energy use in state government buildings. How did they do it? And what’s the prognosis for the state’s much loftier goal of 26 percent by 2025?

Mark Hand is the director of the interagency GreenGov Council, which was created by the same gubernatorial executive order that promised to sharply decrease carbon pollution in the commonwealth. He says the goal is achievable but will be more challenging as the years go on.

In the Dream House is writer Carmen Maria Machado's third book. Her essays, fiction and criticism have appeared in publications nationwide.
Credit Art Streiber / AUGUST/Graywolf Press

Acknowledging domestic abuse across sexual orientation
(27:56 — 36:50)

Author Carmen Maria Machado says she wrote her latest work, “In The Dream House,” as a balm for readers searching for literature about queer domestic abuse. 

Through the memoir, she exemplifies an LGBTQ relationship, that like so many others, often conforms to respectability politics, which makes discussing issues that could negatively reflect the community difficult. 

“I think it doesn’t just apply to queer folks, it applies to all kinds of marginalized people,” she tells 90.5 WESA’s Katie Blackley. “We’re just human beings and we do human being things and some of those things are really messed up.” more!

90.5 WESA’s Caroline Bourque, Caldwell Holden and Rosa Williamson-Rea contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.