Anita Rao

Anita Rao is the Managing Editor and regular host for The State of Things, WUNC's daily, live talk show that features the issues, personalities and places of North Carolina. She hosts the recurring series "Embodied: Conversations about Sex, Relationships & Your Health."

She fell in love with interviewing and storytelling as a Women's Studies and International Studies major at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and began her radio career at WUNC as an intern for the nationally distributed public radio program The Story. From 2011 - 2014, she worked for the Peabody Award-winning StoryCorps Production department, where she pitched, edited and produced conversations from across the nation--from Chicago, IL to Pineville, North Carolina.  

Anita was born in a small coal-mining town in Northeast England but spent most of her life growing up in Iowa and has a fond affection for the Midwest. In her spare time she also co-hosts and produces a podcast and radio show about millennial feminism called "She and Her."

Anna Luisa Daigneault, known as Quilla, is the audio muse that makes the Embodied podcast sparkle. WUNC collaborated with Quilla to craft the theme for Embodied and other background music for the recurring series, which approaches taboo topics through a feminist lens.

 

Back in November, WUNC chose to discontinue “The State of Things,” North Carolina’s only live public radio program heard in the mountains, on the coast and in the Piedmont. Those of us who make the daily talk show were surprised and saddened by the decision — however, we are thrilled to continue offering the Embodied series into 2021 as a live weekly program from noon to one on Fridays. Listeners can also look forward to season two of the podcast adaptation.

This March, our world turned digital. Zoom meetings, virtual school and video chats dominated work, school and home life. To ease this transition to computer-based life, the state’s public libraries stepped up for their communities.

  The letters begin with various greetings. “Dear 50 year of age self.” “To my future children.” “Dear future me, It’s me, I mean you, but circa 2020.” These are the words of a group of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill undergraduates who processed the reality of a pandemic-dominated year through letters to the future as a class assignment this spring.

Activist Skip Gibbs was in the midst of leading a protest in Durham this summer when he felt that something wasn’t right. In the crowd, which had gathered to demand that the city council redirect the police department budget into social services, he saw mostly white faces.

Asheville-based singer-songwriter Ben Phantom’s father never talked about his time in Vietnam. So when he finally decided to go back for a visit after 42 years in the United States, Phantom brought a video camera.

This week the Raleigh City Council approved rezoning for Downtown South, a $2.2 billion development project that will bring shops, housing and a soccer stadium to southeast Raleigh. The space was previously zoned as an industrial district. Downtown South’s mixed-use zoning clearance is just an early step in the project’s progress.

Academy Award-winning director Steve McQueen took over a decade to fully realize his vision of a collection of stories about the West Indian community in London in the '60s, ‘70s and '80s. That idea came to life last month with the release of a five-part film anthology called "Small Axe." The films explore the joy and pain of life in this immigrant community — and its important contributions to London's history.

When the first wave of federal COVID-19 provisions became available to businesses in April, Black business owners received a very small amount of relief funding. And the North Carolina Business Council estimates the number of Black businesses in the state has decreased by 41 percent since the beginning of the pandemic. There are several reasons for this, including the racial wage and generational wealth gaps, both of which contribute to Black businesses starting up with lower capital and struggling to sustain themselves without economic relationships with banks and other wealth-holding institutions.

Increased coronavirus case numbers and deaths in North Carolina have taken a lethal toll on people inside state prisons. The number of coronavirus-related deaths has doubled since the end of September, and more than one of every six prisoners has tested positive, according to reporting by Charlotte Observer investigative reporter Ames Alexander. In December, four prisoners at four different facilities died in the span of five days. Outbreaks have continued across the system.

There will be no COVID baby boom in the United States. In fact, a decrease in childbirth is expected, with existential fear prevailing over hormones and boredom. Similar downward trends occurred during the 2008 recession and the 1918 Spanish flu. Now experiencing their second economic crash, 15% of millennials are less interested in having children due to COVID-19. Meanwhile, others made the decision long before the pandemic.

The Asheville City Council voted to remove the third and final Confederate monument from Asheville’s Pack Square Tuesday night. The 65-foot Vance Monument commemorates Zebulon Vance, North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War and U.S. Senator during Reconstruction who opposed civil rights for Black people.

COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing shortage of licensed nurses in the state of North Carolina. Too few nurses are available for staffing at local hospitals, leading to double and triple shifts for nurses who are healthy enough to work, as well as nurses’ increased exposure to COVID-19. This problem is expected to persist after vaccines become available, and retired nurses are being asked to return to work and assist with future distribution.

When Caitlin Gooch began working at a daycare center and a Boys and Girls Club in her hometown of Wendell, North Carolina, she noticed that students were not as interested in reading as she would have hoped. She started showing them pictures of her horses at her father’s farm, if they agreed to read and work on their vocabulary.

Harris Teeter or Food Lion? Earth Fare or Ingles? Lowes Foods or Lowe’s lumber yard? Groceries matter a lot to North Carolinians. And for good reason — our state produced some groundbreaking supermarket chains. From the end of the independent butcher shop to the racial integration of the checkout aisle, businesses experimented and changed the course of how we get our food.

Host Anita Rao lingers in the aisle with grocery scholars and independent grocers to learn about the suburban supermarket and alternative foodscape futures.

Her guests are:

The inventor of gross domestic product — the sum of all goods and services of a particular nation — warned that it was not a good measurement of human welfare. Yet, since the 1940s, the single number has dominated policy recommendations, despite those foundational shortcomings. A recent report highlights the economic contributions and costs that GDP fails to take into account.

When Ella Dawson got diagnosed with genital herpes, she felt like her body betrayed her. Herpes was something dirty, something bad that happened to other people. For a 20-something coming into her sexuality and body confidence, a sexually transmitted infection was a huge setback.

While North Carolina’s urban centers were the sites of COVID-19 concern in March and April, the more sparsely populated parts of the state are now facing the highest rates of community spread of the coronavirus. Today, clusters of infection remain centered in the state’s urban centers, but broader community transmission is increasingly common outside the cities.

With more than 2,000 hospitalizations in North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has announced a tentative plan to make Pfizer’s vaccine available to state residents, regardless of health insurance status. While this long-term plan may mitigate future spread, residents are still struggling with how to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.

North Carolina-based emcee Markee Steele recently changed his name. Formerly known as Mark Steele, a moniker given to him by super-producer 9th Wonder, Steele felt the need to change the course of his career this year. The ESPN-featured indie artist, formerly known as Mark Steele, started with a new stage name, then created a new label, Thee Marquee Recordings.

When Anne-Maria Makhulu tells her family history, it sounds as if she is paging through a well-worn textbook in her mind, memories written in the margins next to dates and city names. And in a way, she is. Makhulu is a cultural anthropologist who teaches at Duke University. Her research work is autobiographical, she says, based on her experiences as a child of an English mother and a South African father growing up in Europe and Africa.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eviction moratorium protects North Carolina tenants from evictions until the end of the year. Any tenant can provide their landlord with a declaration form that attests they are unable to pay their rent and at risk of homelessness.

Hemp — including smokable hemp — is legal in North Carolina. But that is only the case if the hemp does not contain more than trace amounts of THC, the main psychoactive compound in marijuana. Hemp and marijuana can be similar in appearance. Both contain some level of THC, though hemp’s concentration is much lower.

Bree Matthews is a 16-year-old girl with a desire to separate herself from her old life after her mother’s passing. While attending a residential program for bright high schoolers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bree is thrown into the world of magic. 

Over 5 million North Carolinians cast ballots in this year’s election, many of them opting for mail-in and early onsite voting. While there is still a lot we do not know about voter demographics, we do know that the pandemic did not deter voter engagement. 

Does your sick leave policy include time off to care for roommates, best friends or chosen siblings? Over 60% of people under the age of 25 live in non-family households, and 28% of all adults live alone in the U.S. It is a distinct turn from historical numbers and the persistent, politicized ideal of the two-parent nuclear family. Workplaces and governments are beginning to broaden the definition of family to include non-biological relationships in their sick-leave protocol.


North Carolina has a history of split-ticket voting. In 2016, the state voted in a Republican president — but put a Democrat in the governor’s seat. The same thing happened in 2004, with George W. Bush for president and Mike Easley for governor. 

In the U.S. as well as around the world, skin color has long been associated with social perceptions of beauty, intellect and class. Studies have shown that many perceive lighter skin as indicative of higher intelligence. Research also suggests that those with darker skin experience higher instances of criminalization

Robeson County-born, Greensboro-raised musician Phonte Coleman has traveled all over the world, but there’s no other place he can imagine living than North Carolina. A founding member of the rap group Little Brother, as well as a member of the genre-bending music group The Foreign Exchange, Coleman appreciates the quiet, lowkey community he’s built in the state and the focus on his craft that it affords him.

For over a century, Black farmers have faced challenges in securing federal and local funding to aid their farms in times of need and during crises. COVID-19 has been no different. From lack of access to information about coronavirus relief provisions for farmers to difficulty finding spaces to safely vend during the crisis, the pandemic has made obstacles even more stark.

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