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Alison Bechdel / HMH Books & Media

Alison Bechdel is a popular American cartoonist. She’s best known for her graphic memoir “Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic,” which was later adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical. She’s also a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. The Vermont resident's new graphic memoir, “The Secret To Superhuman Strength,” is about exercise and the new fitness trends Bechdel picks up with each decade – from running to yoga to skiing. But it's also about transcending.

Tanya Miller

Cities around New England have declared racism a public health crisis. Scholar-activist Katharine “Kat” Morris is especially interested in the intersection between racism, health and environmental justice -- something she talked about in her 2019 TEDxUConn talk. Morris noted that a fifth of Connecticut’s pollution is concentrated in five cities where the majority of the state’s people of color reside: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury.

Karin Shedd / Yale University

Yale University psychology professor Laurie Santos says happiness is about having joy in your life and with your life.

“If we’re maximizing you being happy in your life -- that’s lots of positive emotions,” Santos told NEXT.

She says you’re happy with your life when you’re satisfied at a meta level.

Vanessa de la Torre / Connecticut Public Radio

Leticia Colón de Mejias worked for Hartford HealthCare for years. But after seeing a documentary about climate change, she changed the trajectory of her life.

“Boy, I thought I was helping people in health care, but the reality is that if we don’t tackle climate change and change the way we interact with energy and the environment, all this work I’ve been doing is for nothing,” she told NEXT in a recent interview to mark Earth Day.

Joe Klementovich

We heard about Mardi Fuller from an Instagram post. She introduced herself as an outdoor enthusiast and shared how the “white colonial imagination has never created room for Black folk to enjoy Nature.”

Nicole Franzen

In the rural town of Freedom, Maine -- population 700 -- there’s the renowned restaurant The Lost Kitchen. It’s the brainchild of owner and chef Erin French and the crew of women who work with her. During normal times, the restaurant is fully booked for the season -- months in advance. The New York Times has written about it. So has Martha Stewart Living.

Danielle Laws / Baronial Designs Photography

Aigné Goldsby’s mom was a hairdresser. So as a kid, Goldsby would flex a variety of hairstyles. But at her majority white school, kids would do things like pull on her weave, Goldsby recalled.

When Goldsby grew up and became a lawyer, she didn’t feel at ease bringing her full self to work.

“As a Black woman it’s been difficult for me, and it’s certainly been a process for me to feel comfortable in predominantly white spaces,” she told NEXT.

ALONSO NICHOLS

Jennifer De Leon grew up attending mostly white schools in the Boston area, where she tried to fit in.

“I was in this mode of survival and assimilation,” said De Leon, an author and assistant professor of creative writing at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.

Marena Lin / Project Restore Us

What we eat -- and where -- has changed for many of us over the past year. Some people are getting more takeout, while others are spending a lot more time at home, cooking both elaborate and simple meals. The New York Times reported that cookbook sales increased by 127% from 2019 to 2020.

Ben Gray / AP Photo

After the killings of eight people in Atlanta, including six Asian women, Caroline H. Lee wrote a commentary for WBUR’s blog Cognoscenti, responding directly to news reports that said it was “unclear” whether the killings were motivated by racism. Her commentary is titled, “Call The Shootings In Atlanta What They Were: Targeted Violence Against Asian American Women.”

Miseal Martinez

When singer Niu Raza wrote the song “Madagascar,” she wanted to capture the feeling of home through her lyrics and sound.

In an interview with NEXT, Raza said she brought in traditional Malagasy singing from her home country of Madagascar and blended it with the influences of pop music and Afrobeat. “Madagascar” is featured on her first full-length album “Mm-hmm,” which was released earlier this year.

NASA

NASA’s Artemis program plans to land the first woman on the moon by 2024. Half of the Artemis team is composed of women, including Jessica Meir, who grew up in Caribou, Maine.

In a recent interview on NEXT, Meir traced her career ambitions back to the first grade, when the teacher instructed students to draw a picture of what they wanted to be when they grew up. Meir drew herself, standing on the lunar surface in a spacesuit with the American flag.

Charlie Vega is the heroine of Crystal Maldonado’s debut young-adult novel, “Fat Chance, Charlie Vega.” When Charlie describes herself, she uses the word “fat.” She’s learning to celebrate who she is and how she looks -- although her weight still affects her relationships with crushes, her best friend and her mom. 

Since the racial reckoning last summer after the police killings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, people are talking more openly about racism and inequality. Many workplaces are prioritizing training around diversity, equity and inclusion, and some people are feeling more comfortable talking about experiencing microaggressions. 

“Microaggressions are things that people often experience daily. And the people who commit microaggressions often don’t realize they’re doing so," said Renee Wells, director of education for equity and inclusion at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

The latest vaccination data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that some New England states are vaccinating against COVID-19 quicker than others, with Connecticut currently ranking as one of the top states in the U.S. and the top in New England.

New England states ranked by the percentage of people who have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose:

Mark Mirko / Hartford Courant

In 2013, a social worker named Winston Taylor showed up for jury duty in New London, Connecticut. He was being questioned as a potential juror in the murder trial of Evan J. Holmes. When a state's attorney asked Taylor about his perceptions of police, he said he had at times been fearful of cops -- based on his experiences as a Black American. Taylor also said he knew good police officers and would be a fair juror.

Adam Glanzman / Northeastern University

A professor from Northeastern University in Boston is bringing a “justice first” mindset to President Joe Biden’s Department of Energy. Shalanda Baker has been appointed deputy director for energy justice.

Jesse Costa / WBUR

Severe storms. Heat waves. Rising seas. New England is already seeing the impacts of climate change, and scientists project they will become more severe and deadly, shaping how we live and work in the northeastern U.S.

In a special ahead of Inauguration Day, the New England News Collaborative and America Amplified look at climate change in our region and how President-elect Joe Biden’s administration could affect future climate action. Biden has proposed the most ambitious climate platform of any incoming U.S. president in history.

Robin Lubbock / WBUR

Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, according to federal data. Those emissions have harmful impacts on health and the environment, and it's a problem we contribute to when we drive, fly, take public transportation or buy food that was carted across the country. 

NOAA Permit #932-1905

The tension between protecting the environment and people’s livelihoods is on full display in the new documentary “Entangled,” a film that focuses on one of the world’s most endangered species – the North Atlantic right whale – and the lobster industry, which is the most valuable fishery in North America.

Joe Amon / Connecticut Public/NENC

This election, NPR and many local affiliates, including stations within the New England News Collaborative, will count on The Associated Press to call the winner of the presidential race and other key contests in the U.S.

To make its call, the AP deploys a network of stringers and analysts in all 50 states to examine the vote tallies as they come in from local and county clerks.

Alonso Nichols

Liliana Cruz of Boston has just been selected for a school desegregation program. At dawn, she takes the bus to a mostly-white high school in the suburbs. There she makes friends, endures microagressions and racism, wrestles with her identity and finds her voice. That's the premise of Jennifer De Leon's debut novel “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From,” which came out this year. 

Fred Bever / Maine Public

There’s only one Republican serving in Congress from New England: U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, whose seat is highly contested this year.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public

It’s been three weeks since Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. Like other sports, teams have played in isolation and without fans. But they’ve taken steps to make the season feel normal, from canned crowd noise (like at this Red Sox game against the Mets) to cardboard cutouts of fans in the stadium.

Ben James / New England Public Media

When a peer says something you think is racist, ignorant or wrong, what do you do? Most people agree that staying silent is not a good idea. But do you talk to them privately or take them to task publicly? Known as call-out culture, some think public shaming is a way to further social justice and change. But not everyone agrees with that approach.

Courtesy Huma Farid

Since the killing of George Floyd, some Americans have been examining their role in perpetuating racism and are committing to no longer being silent and inactive.

Peter Biello / NHPR

Elizabeth Marshall Thomas has spent most of her life observing the natural world and writing about it. She’s written 14 books over her half-century career, including the New York Times-bestselling book “The Hidden Life of Dogs.” Her new book, “Growing Old: Notes On Aging With Something Like Grace,” came out this year. Thomas, 88, joined NEXT and talked about enjoying the slower pace of aging.

Jesse Costa / WBUR

Like the country at large, New England states are taking a patchwork approach to reopening during the pandemic. Rhode Island just entered phase three on Tuesday, while most of the other states are still in phase two — meaning we can now go inside a restaurant to eat, more stores can open, and in many states, people can go to the gym. But don’t be fooled, experts say: Reopening does not mean the pandemic is over.

Chion Wolf / Connecticut Public

Did you know that before the clock was invented, we used to sleep in two installments? Or that the standardization of cameras and film led to racial bias in the production of photographs?

Jesse Costa / WBUR

Protests over police violence and racism continue across the country. And some state and local government leaders in New England are starting to announce changes. Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh declared racism a public health crisis, joining several other cities and towns in the region.

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