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Book cover for "Stakes is High" - red and gray text on a black background
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Mychal Denzel Smith’s last book, "Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching," was a powerful account of what it means being a young black man in America. In his follow up, he confronts the well-meaning liberal reaction to the 2016 election and calls on us all to reckon with who we are as Americans and, perhaps more importantly, who we want to be.

We have been invested in a set of beliefs about our American identity: our exceptionalism, the inevitable rightness of our path, and the promise that hard work and determination will carry us to freedom.

But in his new book, "Stakes Is High," Mychal confronts the shortcomings of these stories--and with the American Dream itself--and calls on us to live up to the principles we profess but fail to realize. He exposes the stark contradictions at the heart of American life, holding all of us, individually and as a nation, to account. We’ve gotten used to looking away, but the fissures and casual violence--of incarceration, poverty, misogyny, and racism--are ever-present. But there is a future that is not as grim as our past. In this profound work, Mychal helps us envision it, with care, honesty, and imagination.

While you may not immediately recognize the name François Clemmons, you certainly may know him from his groundbreaking role as Officer Clemmons, a recurring character on "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" with Fred Rogers.

Clemmons overcame a difficult childhood of discrimination to become a musician, a noted choir director, and to serve as a positive image of a black American at a time when racial tensions in the United States were very high.

As he writes in his new memoir, he found a family in Fred Rogers, a friend and mentor. He writes about his life and his deep friendship with Rogers in his new memoir "Officer Clemmons."

Monique W. Morris, co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute, is the author of several books, including "Pushout," and "Black Stats." Her work has been featured by NPR, the New York Times, MSNBC, Essence, The Atlantic, the Washington Post, Education Week, and others.

Wise Black women have known for centuries that the blues have been a platform for truth-telling, an underground musical railroad to survival, and an essential form of resistance, healing, and learning.

In her highly anticipated book "Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues: Education for the Liberation of Black and Brown Girls," leading advocate Monique W. Morris invokes the spirit of the blues to articulate a radically healing and empowering pedagogy for Black and Brown girls. The book reimagines what education might look like if schools placed the thriving of Black and Brown girls at their center.

In "All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard - Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy," Phil Keith and Tom Clavin share the story of Eugene Bullard; the first African American military pilot, who went on to become a Paris nightclub impresario, a spy in the French Resistance and an American civil rights pioneer.

Tom Clavin joined us.

Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate NY presents “The Most Spectacularly Lamentable Trial of Miz Martha Washington” by James Ijames. The show will run at the Meader Little Theatre at Sage College June 7 through the 16. The production is directed by Patrick White.

A recently widowed Martha Washington lies helpless in her Mount Vernon bed, ravaged by illness and cared for by the very slaves that will be free the moment she dies. As she begins to slip away, she falls deep into a fever dream of terrifying theatricality that investigates everything from her family to her historical legacy.

Here to tell us more about the production are Black Theatre Troupe and this production are Black Theatre Troupe Artistic Director Jean-Remy Monnay and actors Lucy Breyer and Angelique Powell who play Martha Washington and Doll, respectively.

Clarence Taylor is Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College, CUNY, and author of "The Black Churches of Brooklyn," "Knocking at Our Own Door: Milton Galamison and the Struggle to Integrate New York City Schools," "Black Religious Intellectuals: The Fight for Equality from Jim Crow to the 21st Century," and "Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights and the New York City Teachers Union."

His new book, "Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality in New York City," he examines the explosive history of police brutality in New York City and the black community’s long struggle to resist it. Taylor brings this story to life by exploring the institutions and the people that waged campaigns to end the mistreatment of people of color at the hands of the police, including the black church, the black press, black communists and civil rights activists.

Ranging from the 1940s to the mayoralty of Bill de Blasio, Taylor describes the significant strides made in curbing police power in New York City, describing the grassroots street campaigns as well as the accomplishments achieved in the political arena and in the city’s courtrooms.

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Kiese Laymon, Ottilie Schillig Professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Mississippi, is the author of the novel "Long Division" and a collection of essays, "How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America."

In his new book, "Heavy: An American Memoir," he writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling.

By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.

American Son” is a new play, now in previews on Broadway and marking the Broadway debut of playwright Christopher Demos-Brown. The play had its world premiere in 2016 at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The new drama examines our nation’s racial divide through the eyes of an estranged, interracial couple. Over the course of one evening, the couple’s disparate backgrounds collide as they confront an unexpected crisis involving their son, the police, and an abandoned car.

On Broadway, the play stars Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan and our guest, Eugene Lee.

Lee once performed for President Lyndon B. Johnson at his Texas ranch in a command performance of “A Raisin the Sun.” Forty-five plus years later, he is still performing in film, television and theater, and he has also become an acclaimed writer. He has worked and traveled with New York’s renowned Negro Theatre Ensemble, performing in the Pulitzer Prize winning “A Soldier’s Play” and numerous other works. He is considered a “Wilsonian Warrior” for his many appearances in the works of August Wilson, including the Broadway production of “Gem of the Ocean.” He is Artist in Residence and Artistic Director of the Black and Latino Playwright’s Conference at Texas State University.

Michael Eric Dyson is one of America’s premier public intellectuals and the author of the New York Times bestseller "Tears We Cannot Stop." He occupies the distinguished position of University Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times, and is a contributing editor of The New Republic and ESPN’s The Undefeated. Ebony magazine named him one of the 100 Most Influential African Americans and one of the 150 most powerful blacks in the nation.

His new book, "What Truth Sounds Like: Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, and Our Unfinished Conversation About Race in America" highlights a pivotal moment in America’s recent past. In May, 1963 a leading politician ended up learning more than he had bargained for when he asked America’s then hottest writer, and his friends over for a chat about black America’s rage. RFK walked away from the nearly three-hour meeting livid – that the black folk assembled didn’t understand politics, and that they weren’t as easy to talk to as Martin Luther King. But Kennedy’s anger quickly gave way to empathy. Kennedy set about changing policy – the meeting having transformed his thinking in fundamental ways.

Every big argument about race that persists to this day got a hearing in that room: disdain for black dissent, the belief that black folk wallow in the politics of ingratitude and victimhood, and that they lack hustle and ingenuity. In "What Truth Sounds Like," Dr. Dyson deftly merges this past and our present to explore the tense intersection of the conflict between politics and prophecy – of whether we embrace political resolution or moral redemption to fix our fractured racial landscape.

    Cory Booker made headlines in 2002 when, at the age of 32, he became one of the youngest people to run for mayor of Newark. Though he lost that first race, Booker went on to be the city's mayor from 2006-2013, before becoming a U.S. Senator representing New Jersey.

The former Stanford football player joins us this morning to talk about his political career so far, his endorsement of Hillary Clinton, his new book, "United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good," and what he thinks it will take to get both sides of the aisle working together.

  When Damon Tweedy began medical school, he envisioned a bright future where his segregated, working-class background would become largely irrelevant.

Instead, he found that he had joined a new world where race is front and center. Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients.