Us & Them

Podcast

Us & Them is a podcast exploring all sides of the cultural issues that too often divide us.

Peabody Award winner Trey Kay brings us stories that may make you rethink your opinions on cultural issues.

Us & Them is a joint project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, PRX and Trey Kay Productions.

You can subscribe to Us & Them on Apple Podcasts, NPR OneRadioPublicSpotifyStitcher and beyond. 

You also can listen to Us & Them on WVPB Radio. Tune in on the fourth Thursday of every month at 8 PM, with an encore presentation on the fourth Saturday at 3 PM.

This project has been made possible through support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the West Virginia Humanities Council, PRX, and the CRC Foundation.

WVU Department of Health Sciences and Lalena Price

It’s been about 10 weeks since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the country, including West Virginia. While state officials are now reopening businesses, the pandemic is far from over. Seventy-eight West Virginians have died due to COVID-19. Unemployment claims have reached 250,000.

But the pandemic has exacted another toll — it’s fractured many of our healthcare institutions.

Forced Apart: Same Pandemic, Unequal Education

May 28, 2020
Lalena Price

West Virginia’s 2020 school year, from kindergarten through college, is wrapping up unlike any other.  In recent years, Mountain State communities have been devastated by man-made crises and natural disasters, but nothing has affected the state’s education system like a world-wide pandemic.

The Legacy Of The Upper Big Branch Disaster

May 13, 2020
Joan Marcus

Ten years ago, the Upper Big Branch Mine exploded in West Virginia. Twenty-nine men died and an investigation uncovered that a legacy of overlooked safety measures contributed to the disaster.

A new play called “Coal Country” focuses on the stories of the men and their families. It aims to put a spotlight on prejudice against the rural working class — to bridge a divide between city dwellers and those who work with their hands underground.

Nurse Eva Travels To A COVID-19 Front Line

Apr 30, 2020
Eva Crockett

The coronavirus pandemic prompts many reactions from people. Some people can be overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Others step up to help where they can.

Us & Them host Trey Kay splits his time living in West Virginia and New York. A few weeks ago, he got a message from someone trying to help Eva Crockett, a West Virginian traveling nurse looking to help treat COVID patients in New York City hospitals.

Forced Apart: A Virus Creates New Divides

Apr 23, 2020
Lalena Price

A global public health crisis in the form of an invisible virus, now officially divides us from each other. We’ve learned to call it ‘social distancing.’ But the coronavirus is creating or reopening many layers between us and them.

 

Us & Them: The Connector

Apr 8, 2020
Trey Kay

In many cities and towns, there are people in charge, and there are people who get things done. Joe Slack is an instigator for community change in West Virginia’s Upper Kanawha Valley. He sees the needs in his region, one that’s been hit hard by one economic disappointment after another.

But Slack is a self-described squeaky wheel. He connects people, helps identify realistic opportunities and then works to make things happen.

Trey Kay

Appalachia is a unique region of the country. Its namesake mountain range boasts a tangle of thick forests where the economy has relied on forestry, manufacturing and mining for jobs. The Kanawha River winds through West Virginia upstream from Charleston and was once a hotbed of mining operations and chemical plants.

 

Cameron Donohue

Trey Kay, host of WVPB’s program Us & Them, was a part of Marshall University’s 2nd annual TEDxMarshallU event on Saturday, March 14.

 

Without A Home Can You Be A Good Neighbor?

Mar 11, 2020
Kyle Vass

Homelessness is one of the things that divides us in America. It’s an Us & Them issue that can spring from, and inform our views on other social topics.

The number of homeless people nationally has dropped in the past decade, but there was an increase between 2017 and 2018. A West Virginia man saw a need and is trying to help.

Grandfamilies Of The Opioid Crisis

Feb 27, 2020

Chemical addictions and the opioid crisis have divided millions of U.S. families. An addicted parent can abandon responsibilities to their children. When a grandparent steps in to help, it creates a new kind of family structure. Some call it a grandfamily. Addictions can create a generational Us & Them divide in a household. It also spotlights underlying financial issues that cause a strain between parents and their adult children.

 

Us & Them: Diversity Divide

Feb 12, 2020
Rich Egger/Tri States Public Radio

There are now more students of color at some universities and colleges in the U.S. In the past decade at Western Illinois University, the non-white student population nearly tripled to one-third of the enrollment. The change helped fill classrooms and satisfy the school’s mission. But it’s part of what pushed the school’s first African-American president out of his job.

Us & Them: Should History Be Set In Stone?

Jan 23, 2020

When we learn our history, we see things that reflect our past. Paintings of famous battles and statues of men who were heroes to some. But how we interpret our legacy changes. Time can warp our notion of a once righteous cause.

There are examples around the world of ways we have edited our past. In the U.S., recent decisions to move Confederate monuments and take down Confederate flags. But the effort to cleanse the past is global.

Max Nesterak

North America’s early experiences with Us & Them come from our history with indigenous people. In the 19th century, a nascent U.S. government used treaties with Native tribes and nations to take land and resources. Those treaties relocated Native people to reservations. More than a century later, from 1950 - 1970, U.S. programs were still moving people around.

Us & Them: Music With A Message

Dec 26, 2019
Mauro Milanich and Andrés Corbo

Music can entertain and inspire and serve as a way to share another person’s truth. This episode, Us & Them talks with two musicians, each with roots in Appalachia, whose work offers their view of the world.

Us & Them: We The Purple

Dec 12, 2019

Democracy may need a reboot, or a kickstart. Pick your favorite term, but the fact is, our system of government requires our participation. When we lose trust, it suffers.

Us & Them: Abortion Divides

Nov 27, 2019

Do you disagree with any of your close friends or family members about abortion? When’s the last time you actually talked about it? For many of us, the abortion debate defines Us & Them and sometimes, we feel it better to avoid the subject altogether.

Recently, several states have enacted laws restricting access to abortion services. Some states have signed laws banning the proceedure and next year, the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case that could change the right to legal abortion.

Nikki Tundel / Photo of Paul Dorr from APM Reports, a production of Minnesota Public Radio®. © 2018 Minnesota Public Radio®. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Paying taxes is one of those things we just can’t avoid… except for the local tax measures we get to vote on. One of the best examples is school spending. When local school officials ask for additional money for new academic programs or school buildings, taxpayers must approve it. There’s one man who has worked with citizen’s groups in dozens of places to fight against more money for public schools. He’s been successful in many places and his efforts highlight the Us & Them in all of these communities.

Us & Them: Three Tales of Coal

Oct 24, 2019
WV Archive

For decades, coal was king in West Virginia. It paid good wages, paid the bills for many local services through taxes, and kept small towns alive. But more of our nation’s electricity is starting to come from other sources like wind and solar power. Coal is losing out.

Jesse Pratt Lopez/100 Days in Appalachia

We’re in the midst of the 2019 hurricane season, and people in the Bahamas are still digging out from Hurricane Dorian. In 2018 hurricane Florence hit the coast of North Carolina, which left 51 people dead and caused $24 billion in damage in the state. 

William Ronald Pulliam, 65, in court as he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for shooting 15-year-old James Means to death in Charleston’s East End.
Kenny Kemp / Charleston Gazette-Mail

For the past three years, the Us & Them team has tracked the case of James Means, the 15-year-old boy who was shot and killed by 62-year-old William Pulliam on the East End of Charleston, W.Va.

The case got national attention partly because Pulliam is white and Means was black. This week, the story came to a sad unexpected conclusion.

Us & Them: Faith In Science

Sep 26, 2019
Ashley Rodgers

Science and faith can offer a different perspective of the world... of life... and of what we believe. When you mix in a third ingredient - politics - the dynamic can become toxic. Whether you consider evolution versus creationism or the causes of climate change, there are people who say their religious beliefs make it difficult for them to have faith in science. However, some scientists say there is nothing in theology that separates them from their faith and beliefs. This episode looks at people of faith and people of science to find some common ground. Trey speaks with Dr.

Bob Aaron / WCHS-TV

The Us & Them team has tracked the case of James Means - a 15-year-old boy who William Pulliam shot and killed in Charleston, W.Va., in November 2016. The case got national attention partly because Pulliam is white and Means was black. It was one of a number of shootings that focused on questions about racial injustice in our legal system. Last month, Pulliam agreed to plead guilty to second-degree murder. A week later, he wrote to the judge and asked to revoke his plea. Last week the judge called Pulliam into court to get a clarification.

Daniel Breen

Last spring, we put out an episode called “Farm Wars.” It was about Arkansas farmers' never-ending battles with “pigweed” or as some call it “Satan’s Weed.” It’s incredibly hard to get rid of. There’s a controversy in that state over a herbicide called “dicamba” that’s used to keep the weeds at bay, but has divided the farming community. 

Mitch Hanley

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, in the last two years, 2 million people in the United States misused prescription opioids for the first time. “Steve,” a curious kid from New Hampshire, found his mom’s oxycodone pills in the medicine cabinet and liked the way they made him feel. Before long, he wanted to see what the big deal was with heroin, and doubted that he’d become addicted. As it turns out, he got hooked on his first try. In this episode, we’ll hear Steve’s struggle to stay clean and how his addiction became a family affair.

William Pulliam
KENNY KEMP / Gazette-Mail

Last week, William Pulliam -- a 65-year-old Charleston, West Virginia man -- agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder. He was originally charged with first degree murder for killing an African-American teenager named James Means. On Tuesday, the judge received a letter from Pulliam, asking for the plea deal to be revoked.

Classic Alfred E. Neuman
Norman Mingo / MAD Magazine

MAD Magazine, once the touchstone of American satire and snark, is winding down its publication after 67 years. Trey says, as a kid, MAD’s adolescent-focused, subversive content helped him connect with his inner “wise ass.” It made him feel smarter and stupider at the same time. And now he’s trying to reconcile an Us & Them world without MAD firing its arrows toward the sacred cows of our culture.

Nafea (Fay) Adkins (left), mother of the late James Means, and Dominique Cole outside of a courtroom in Charleston, WV
Trey Kay

For nearly three years, the Us & Them team has followed the James Means’ case - a 15-year-old boy who was shot and killed  in Charleston, WV, by William Pulliam, who was 62 years old at the time. The case got national attention partly because Pulliam is white and Means was black. It was one of a number of shootings that focused on questions about racial injustice in our legal system. Pulliam’s trial was scheduled to begin  late this summer, but instead there’s been a surprise outcome.

My Friend From Camp

Jul 25, 2019
Albert Melise and Mitch Hanley

Two men, one a British citizen of Pakistani heritage, and the other a former housing police officer in the Boston area, were unlikely to meet, until the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001. But after the Bush Administration launched the War on Terror, Moazzam Begg was detained and held at the U.S. Detention Camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where Albert Melise was a guard. You can’t get much more Us & Them than that.

Detainees are seen outside tent shelters used to hold separated family members, Friday, June 22, in Fabens, Texas.
Matt York / AP Photo

U.S. immigration policies are very much in the spotlight recently with reports on conditions at some of the southern border detention camps and fresh concerns about children being held apart from their parents.

Pride in the Mountain State

Jun 26, 2019
Ted Brightwell performing at Gay Pride Celebration, Charleston, WV June 2019
Chris Gosses

It’s Gay Pride month across the country and a celebration of increasing tolerance and rights for the LGBTQ community. Attitudes have changed in many places, including the Mountain State - where more than 50 percent of residents believe the Bible is the word of God.

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