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Reactions To D.C. Mayor Calling Residents 'Slaves'


And now it's time for Backtalk. That's where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere and hear from you, the listener. Editor Ammad Omar is here once again.

Ammad, what do you have for us today?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: OK, Michel. In just a few minutes we're going to hear the next installment of our Muses and Metaphor series - that's in honor of National Poetry Month and we've been asking listeners to tweet poems in 140 characters or less.

Now, a lot of listeners have been emailing and posting on the website, asking if they can send us poems in other forms instead of Twitter.

MARTIN: Phoebe Nicely(ph) of East Aurora, New York wrote in. What's not to like about a Twitter poem, you ask? Plenty, I say, as one who cannot tweet. Two years with no voice for verse. Embrace us all.

OMAR: Well, Michel and Phoebe, I hate to say it, but rules are rules. We actually...

MARTIN: I don't hate to say it.

OMAR: Well, we actually got some really nice email poems, but they are longer than 140 characters and that's why it's got to be through Twitter. All you need to do is go to Twitter.com, sign up, write in your poem and type the pound sign or hash tag and the phrase TMMPoetry. We know you can do it. If you can email, you can tweet.

MARTIN: That's what I'm saying. We know you can do it. And we will have one of those tweeted poems coming up later in the program. What else, Ammad?

OMAR: Well, we got quite a bit of email after we spoke with the mayor of Washington, D.C., Vincent Gray, on Monday. It was Emancipation Day, which is the anniversary of the end of slavery in the district, but Mayor Gray said residents here aren't exactly free.

MARTIN: Right. The mayor reminded us that residents of the city have no representation in the United States Senate, no voting members in Congress, and it has to send its budget to Congress for approval, even though most of the revenue is generated locally. And this is what Mayor Vincent Gray said about that.

MAYOR VINCENT GRAY: When you can't spend your own money, you are a slave.

MARTIN: Matthew Hud(ph) from Lansdale, Pennsylvania wrote that he's sympathetic to the mayor's cause, but he says he doesn't agree with the rhetoric.

MATTHEW HUD: Could you look a real slave in the eye and say that? Despite emancipation 150 years ago, real slaves in bondage for sex and other economic reasons exist in Washington, D.C. Mayor Gray would be much better off to spend the day mounting an effort to root out slavery in all its horrible forms within the boundaries of our nation's capital.

MARTIN: Thanks, Matthew, and thanks to others who wrote in. What else do you have, Ammad?

OMAR: Well, we've got a news update. We spoke last month about a group called ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. Its membership is made up of state lawmakers and also corporations and the group drafts and lobbies for laws they'd like to see enacted. One of those laws that they advocated for in several states was the so-called Stand Your Ground law. Of course, that was cited in the killing of Trayvon Martin. It lets someone use deadly force if they feel threatened.

Well, that case brought so much negative attention to ALEC that several companies pulled out of the organization. ALEC has now disbanded the Public Safety and Elections Taskforce that advocated for laws like Stand Your Ground. The organization says it's doubling down on economic issues.

MARTIN: OK. Any other stories to bring us up to date about?

OMAR: Well, we have some congrats in order. Time magazine is out with its list of the 100 most influential people in the world and a lot of those people were on this show before they got on that list. I'm talking about Jeremy Lin from the New York Knicks, the actress Viola Davis, the chef Jose Andres, Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards and educators Freeman Hrabowski and Walter Isaacson.

MARTIN: And we don't want to brag, but we are. Two of our recent guests won Pulitzer Prizes as well - Matt Apuzzo for his investigative work on the New York Police Department surveillance of Muslims, especially Muslim students; and Wesley Morris for his film criticism. So congrats to all of our influential guests.

Ammad, anything else?

OMAR: Yeah. Michel, we spoke this week about the reopening of the Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. and one of the former ushers there told us about one of his favorite performances, the song "You'll Never Walk Alone" by Roy Hamilton. Well, James Gibbs (ph) from Philadelphia writes in to remind us that the original version of that song is from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical "Carousel."

MARTIN: Well, thank you, James. And you know what? Let's play a little bit of that now.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) When you walk through a storm, hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark.

MARTIN: And, remember, with TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line at 202-842-3522 or visit us online at NPR.org/TellMeMore. Please remember to leave us your name. We've had conversations this week with Michelle Obama, the first lady, Senator Dick Durbin, former attorney general Alberto Gonzales - that are generating a lot of discussions online, and you can join in and you can also find us on Twitter. Just look for TELL ME MORE/NPR.

Thanks, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.