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'Voices demand to be heard': Lessons learned from four months of stories on Two Americas

Sunrise in Wyoming
Posted at 9:53 AM, Dec 24, 2021

ATLANTA — I’ve spent the last four months traveling the country producing stories for our segment Two Americas. And those travels have taught us so much about America, so many don’t get to see.

The main takeaway? Whether amidst magnificent mountains or far-reaching farms, whether in big cities or tiny towns, along highways or railways, voices demand to be heard.

There is a sense among many of feeling forgotten. We met residents of inner-city Albany, New York, grateful for a few fridges of free food stocked on their streets. We met lifelong West Virginians, lamenting the state of their state since the coal industry left town.

Voices are pleading, demanding, and rising. And when others respond, big things can happen. In St. Paul, Asian and African communities convinced state leaders to include their neighborhoods on the region’s new rail line.

In Athens, Georgia., six decades after urban renewal displaced an entire Black community to build a few college dorms, the mayor issued an apology and promised reparations.

And in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, a state university partnered with the Cherokee Nation to open the nation’s first medical school on tribal land.

So often, these conversations are complicated. Sometimes solutions feel like stones in the ocean.

In Phoenix, Grand Canyon University unveiled a new program for participants with developmental disabilities … but it’s one of just three such programs in the state.

Near Savannah, a longtime farmer embraces the warming climate by growing oranges and grapefruit farther north than anyone’s ever tried.

He’s thriving, but so many other farmers continue to struggle.

Ultimately, we discovered the myriad ways in which we’re all connected. The school staffing shortages burden teachers in Greenville, Mississippi, are hamstringing parents in Stillwater, Minnesota.

The same systemic forces pressing down on the historic Black Tulsa are creating uphill climbs for Latinx farmers in the Carolinas. The COVID-19 pandemic has left millions grieving, and that grief knows no border.

From our struggles to our celebrations, we indeed have more in common than we may think.

That’s what we’ve learned from the voices we’ve heard. It’s what we’ve tried to convey in our many stories from the many states of our country. And it will remain our mission: to expand the America we know by shining a light on the America we may not.