The 21st Show

ENCORE: Rise In Syphilis Cases; ‘We Are Proud To Present’ At Steppenwolf; Emoji Inclusivity


'We Are Proud To Present' at Steppenwolf theater in Chicago.

It’s one of many preventable diseases that we associate with another time, but according to public health officials, Syphilis is back and actually on the rise. Plus, who gets to talk about history - especially when that history is brutal and hard to talk about in the first place? That’s the subject of a play from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater. We revisit a conversation with Director Hallie Gordon and Director of Enrichment Programs Scott-Boria. Plus, we’ll hear how emojis actually get made  from some of the people advocating for more emojis that reflect their daily lives.

Rise In Syphilis Cases In Rural Counties

The sexually transmitted disease can cause serious neurological damage. It can even be fatal. But it’s completely treatable and curable. But the new battleground for the disease is rural counties across the West and Midwest. Here in Illinois, cases have almost trippled in a decade, with a third of those cases outside Chicago. 

Lauren Weber has been reporting on this for Kaiser Health News where she’s the Midwest Correspondent. Dr. Vidya Sundareshan  is an Associate Professor at SIU Medicine in Springfield and an infectious disease specialist. They spoke with Niala Boodhoo back in May of this year. 

'We Are Proud To Present' At Steppenwolf

In the early 1900s, the Herero and Nama people of Namibia were murdered by German colonizers. Scholars estimate that 80 percent of the Herero and 50 percent of the Nama were killed. And even though the term genocide wasn’t really created until after World War II - this is considered the first genocide of the 20th century.

If you’ve never heard of it, you’re probably not the only one. And that fact is the subject of a play staged at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago. It also toured six Chicago neighborhoods, in a partnership with the Park District and Library. And - it was presented to high school students as part of Steppenwolf for Young Adults. 

The title of the play is a mouthful. It’s called: 'We Are Proud to Present A Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884 - 1915,' and it focuses on six students who are working on a presentation about the Herero.

In March, Niala Boodhoo spoke with the Director Hallie Gordon and Carmen Scott-Boria, Director of Enrichment Programs at BUILD, a community partner at Steppenwolf.

Emoji Inclusivity

If you keep in touch with friends and family through text message, you’ve probably used an emoji or two -- those little smiley face symbols you can find on your smartphone keyboard. Of course, nowadays emojis include much more than just faces - you can find everything from food to animals to emoji couples, or emoji families. 

That variety is part of the reason why almost everyone on the Internet has gotten in on the emoji game - Adobe says emojis are used by 92 percent of the world’s online population.But even with more than three thousand emojis to choose from, you can’t always find the one you’re looking for to express yourself or one that reflects you. 

Ranjitha Kumar is an assistant professor of computer science at the University of Illinois. She and her colleagues actually created a bubble tea emoji. Melissa Thermidor is a member of Emojination, an international grassroots group that works to make emojis more inclusive of diverse backgrounds. She is also social media lead at the National Health Service in the U.K. They both spoke with Niala Boodhoo this past summer.

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