Focus

WILL - Focus - February 13, 2014

The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers

After sifting through thousands of documents, Brian Dolinar finished a book started over 70 years ago. The work he helped to complete? "The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers."

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(Duration: 51:14)

The question: What was life like for black Americans in Illinois during the 1930s?

Before World War II, President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration funded a special division of the Illinois Writer’s Project that employed black writers living in Illinois. The special program, which was led by Harlem Renaissance poet Arna Bontemps and white writer Jack Conroy, encouraged major black voices who lived in Chicago in the 1930s to write about everything from aspects of domestic life to politics, literature and religion. Novelists Richard Wright and Frank Yerby, and dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham were among those who wrote or did research for a projected volume on African-American history in Illinois.

When funding for the project was diverted to the war, the papers written by those voices were put into a box and set aside – until Brian Dolinar uncovered them and complied them into a new book “The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers.” This hour on Focus, Jim Meadows talks with Brian Dolinar about discovering those lost writings after all these years.

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WILL - Focus - December 11, 2013

What’s Ahead for South Africa

Nobody can replace Nelson Mandela in the hearts of his people; his place in history will not soon be forgotten. South Africa as a nation, however, will continue to exist without him. This hour on Focus, we’ll discuss his legacy and what’s ahead for the country now that he’s gone.

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(Duration: 51:40)

Nelson Mandela in 2008

Ken Salo grew up in Cape Town, South Africa and compares living in apartheid era South Africa to what he imagines it would have been like to live in the Jim Crowe era South in the United States. He attended a segregated university there and says what you could do and where you could go was dictated by whether or not you were black, white or colored.

This hour on Focus, we’ll hear from Salo about the racial issues that Nelson Mandela spent his life and career confronting and what it was like to be confronted with them as a young man in daily life. Host Jim Meadows also talks with Teresa Barnes, who lived in South Africa for 25 years and studies the country’s political and social history.

Categories: Politics, Race/Ethnicity

WILL - Focus - August 29, 2013

Indian Accents

Why do racial stereotypes change over time? How do they develop? According to author Shilpa Dave, the movies play a huge role. This hour on Focus, Jeff Bossert talks with her about her new book “Indian Accents: Brown Voice and Racial Performance in American Television and Film.”

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(Duration: 51:54)

An scene from the film "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay"

Growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, Shilpa Dave loved going to the movies. Her father was a self-proclaimed film “buff,” and Dave loved every minute of it. Her parents immigrated to the US from India before she was born, and as she grew older, she started to wonder why there were no people who looked like her in the movies she went to see with her father. This hour on Focus, Jeff Bossert talks with American Studies Professor and author Shilpa Dave about her new book “Indian Accents” recently published by the University of Illinois Press. In it, she examines Indian culture and its portrayal in American popular film. We’ll talk about why there were very few prominent Indian or South East Asian characters until the late 1990’s and the affect Bollywood’s growing success is having on casting in Hollywood films. 

During this episode of Focus, we’ll hear about an MTV cartoon that caused a hunger strike in New Dehli and forced the network to release a formal apology because of its animated depiction of Gandhi and will talk about “Raj,” the popular character from “The Big Bang Theory” and Apu, the Indian convenience store owner from “The Simpsons.”

Categories: Cinema, Race/Ethnicity

WILL - Focus - April 05, 2013

Coming up on Focus: Mad Men, The War on Drugs, and Bond….James Bond

Are you a fan of AMC’s “MadMen”? Who do you think is the best James Bond? Is it time for the US to end the war on drugs?  Find out more about what’s coming up next week on Focus and join our conversation.

MadMen Cast

Coming up next week on Focus, we’ve got a little something for everybody – from James Bond to gardening, we welcome you to join our conversation!


WILL - Focus - March 04, 2013

Miriam Cooke and Hijab Trendz

Have you ever used writing as an outlet? Today on Focus, we examined stereotypes about Arab women with Professor Miriam Cooke, who studies how Islamic women empower themselves through writing. Then, Mariam Sobh, a native of Champaign and the founder of the fashion blog Hijab Trendz joins the program. 

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(Duration: 50:24)

Mariam Sobh wearing a white hijab

During this hour on Focus, we talk with Professor Miriam Cooke about how she got started studying Muslim women and their writing and why their writings are important. She talks with us about women who inspired the feminist movement in the Middle East and why it became important during the 1990’s. Cooke is a Professor of Arab Cultures at Duke University and the Director of the University’s Middle East Studies Center. She’s been a visiting professor in Tunisia, Romania, Indonesia, and Qatar and is one of the foremost scholars on Islamic Feminism and Arab Culture.

Then during the second half of the hour, we talk with Mariam Sobh. She’s the founder and editor-in-chief of Hijab Trendz, a fashion blog for Muslim women. Host Jim Meadows talks with Sobh about her decision to cover her hair, what it means and how some Muslim women are choosing not to.



WILL - Focus - January 14, 2013

Interview with Filmmaker Byron Hurt

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(Duration: 51:20)

Byron Hurt standing in front of wall covered by grafitti

Describing himself as "more than a filmmaker," Byron Hurt is an anti-sexist activist who provides cutting-edge male leadership, expert analysis, keynote addresses, and workshop facilitation in the field of sexual and gender violence prevention and education. His latest film "Soul food Junkies," looks at the links between African-American identity and "soul food," much of which is high in fat and calories. Hurt's father died of pancreatic cancer, and this type of high-fat diet is a risk factor for the illness.

Categories: Food, Health, Race/Ethnicity

WILL - Focus - December 27, 2012

Interview with Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas

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(Duration: 50:33)

Since the beginning of his career in journalism eight years ago, Jose Vargas has written hundreds of stories — including covering the 2008 presidential campaign for The Washington Post; profiling Al Gore for Rolling Stone and Mark Zuckerberg for The New Yorker; writing and producing a documentary on the AIDS epidemic in the nation's capital; and winning a Pulitzer Prize for helping cover the Virginia Tech massacre.  A little over a year ago, Vargas wrote a groundbreaking essay in the New York Times Sunday Magazine revealing his "undocumented immigrant" status.  Since then, he founded Define American and has worked to facilitate dialogue about the DREAM Act and immigration issues.

This is a repeat broadcast from Friday, October 26, 2012, 10 am


WILL - Focus - December 12, 2012

Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan

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(Duration: 51:18)

Portrait of Tamim Ansary and Book Jacket for Games Without Rules

Born in 1948, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tamim Ansary is a writer, lecturer, editor, and teacher based in San Francisco.  He directs the San Francisco Writer’s Workshop, teaches through the Osher Institute, and writes fiction and nonfiction about Afghanistan, Islam-and-the-West, democracy, current events, social issues, and as he says, "my cat, and other topics as they come up."


WILL - Focus - December 07, 2012

This Indian Country: American Indian Activists and the Place They Made

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(Duration: 50:30)

For years, Frederick Hoxie asked students to name three American Indians and almost universally, the names mentioned were the same: Geronimo, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. Many Americans see Indians as occupying a position outside the central narrative of American history. It’s almost a given that Native history has no particular relationship to the conventional story of America. Indian history may be seen as short and sad, one that ended a long time ago.

In This Indian Country, Hoxie creates a counter-narrative; Native American history is also a story of political activism, with victories in courts and campaigns rather than on the battlefield. For more than two hundred years, Indian activists have sought to bridge the distance between their cultures and the republican democracy of the United States through legal and political debate. Over time their struggle defined a new language of “Indian rights” and created a vision of American Indian identity, engendering a dialogue with other activist movements.

Among the people discussed in “This Indian Country” is Sarah Winnemucca, who was the first American Indian woman to publish a book in the U-S. Follow the link below to read Winnemucca’s “Life Among the Piutes.”


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