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Author Addresses Life, Loss And Black Parenthood In 'Color Him Father'

Courtesy of Dr. Lawrence Drake II
Author Lawrence Drake wrote "Color Him Father" after the loss of his adult daughter, Kia, left him searching for writing that felt true to his experience. When he found none, Drake wrote his own.


On today's program: Tuesday’s election results are in; as school lunch debt grows, "lunch shaming" returns; a peek inside a hemp processing facility as Pennsylvania’s industrial hemp growing season comes to a close; a Pittsburgh author finds brotherhood with other grieving black fathers; and new research asks if doctors receive gifts from opioid manufacturers, will they prescribe more? 

Takeaways from Super Tuesday
(00:00 — 12:42) 

About 28 percent of Allegheny County's nearly 1 million registered voters cast ballots Tuesday in off-year statewide, municipal and county contests. Winners include:

  • Pittsburgh City Council District 1: Bobby Wilson
  • Pittsburgh City Council District 3: Bruce Kraus
  • Pittsburgh City Council District 5: Corey O’Connor (unopposed)
  • Pittsburgh City Council District 7: Deb Gross (unopposed)
  • Pittsburgh City Council District 9: Ricky Burgess
  • Pittsburgh City Controller: Michael Lamb (unopposed)
  • Allegheny County Controller: Chelsa Wagner
  • Allegheny County Executive: Rich Fitzgerald
  • Allegheny County District Attorney: Stephen Zappala
  • Allegheny County Treasurer: John K. Weinstein (unopposed)
  • Allegheny County Council Member-At-Large: Bethany Hallam
  • Allegheny County Council District 2: Cindy Kirk
  • Allegheny County Council District 5: Tom Duerr
  • Allegheny County Council District 6: John Palmiere
  • Allegheny County Council District 7: Nick Futules (unopposed)
  • Allegheny County Council District 8: Paul Zavarella (unopposed)
  • Allegheny County Council District 10: DeWitt Walton (unopposed)
  • Allegheny County Council District 11: Paul Klein (unopposed)
  • Allegheny County Council District 13: Olivia Bennett (unopposed)

Several Common Pleas judges were up for retention — all won another 10 years by a nearly 3-1 margin. Superior Court judge candidates Daniel McCaffery, Megan McCarthy King, Amanda Green-Hawkins and Christylee Peck are still awaiting results; early tallies were too close to call.

Voters also approved a citywide ballot measure to help fund a backlog of park maintenance projects and upgrades through the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. Marsy’s Law, which passed easily statewide, still faces a court challenge. The measure would give constitutional protection to victims, but opponents like the ACLU say it goes too far and would actually impinge defendants' rights.

90.5 WESA politics editor Chris Potter and Harrisburg bureau chief Katie Meyer break down what happened and what comes next.

Pennsylvania quietly reverses "lunch shaming" ban as debt grows
(13:56 — 17:32) 

In a reversal of a 2017 ban, Pennsylvania reinstated a “lunch shaming” policy over the summer that allows schools to give cheaper, alternative meals to students who can’t afford food in the cafeteria.

Language within this year’s school code bill allows districts to withhold hot meals from students who accrue more than $50 in lunch debt.

State Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, who helped lead the 2017 effort to ban lunch shaming, says the tactic is paramount to bullying low-income children and their families.

"And oftentimes, it’s for very small amounts — a couple hundred dollars at most."

The practice typically affects students who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price lunch programs but still struggle to pay for school meals.

With hemp back in Pennsylvania, a look at the industry's challenges
(17:35 — 21:55)

AgraPharm is one of more than 300 companies and individuals licensed by the state to grow hemp this year, and CEO Ed Santillan says he’d hoped to spend his inaugural season growing a seedless strain to be processed into CBD products. 

But things didn’t go as planned. WESA’s Liz Reid visits the hemp processing facility in Beaver County.

Hemp has a long history in Pennsylvania. Though illegal to grow through much of the 20th century, it was a foundational crop when the colony was first settled in the 1600s and 1700s.

Author wants to change how grieving fathers are perceived
(21:56 — 34:21)

Fathers grieving the deaths of their children is a “brotherhood no man wants to join,” author and psychologist Lawrence Drake says.

Drake’s 41-year-old daughter, Kia, died two years ago from sarcoidosis and stomach cancer. The experience gutted him: “As a psychologist, you understand the stages of grieving, but you can’t treat yourself.”

Drake says he couldn’t find any literature that spoke to his experience as a grieving African American father, so he decided to write his own. “Color Him Father” paints a picture of Drake and six other black men who lost their children to illness, opioid overdoses and a plane crash. He also writes about misconceptions and stereotypes, like black fathers not being present in the home, which he says has never been the norm in his community. 

Drake says some of the deaths chronicled in “Color Him Father” go back more than two decades, but the fathers decided to open up about their experiences more recently to honor their late children. 

Study links rate of opioid prescriptions with gifts
(34:23 — 38:38) 

New research from the University of Pittsburgh found doctors were more likely to prescribe opioid medications after receiving gifts from pharmaceutical companies compared to peers who didn’t receive gifts. 

Researchers compared prescription rates of more than 200,000 doctors from before and after they received a gift of $100 or more. While the results are not proof of a gift’s influence, WESA’s Sarah Boden reports they establish an association between gifts and prescribing. 

90.5 WESA’s Julia Zenkevich contributed to this report.

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.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Megan Harris is a writer, editor, photographer and curator for Pittsburgh's NPR News station. She leads editorial coverage for The Confluence, 90.5 WESA's live, one-hour, daily morning news show.
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