Robert Goodwin

Jefferson Exchange Host

Robert Goodwin is a substitute host on The Jefferson Exchange and the host of the monthly segment "The Keenest Observers."  Through it, he leads our exploration of issues affecting people from minority communities, and how all of us think and talk about race.

Rob's full-time job is as Associate Director of Education and Engagement at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  His work in theater is complemented by journalism training in college.  Rob hails from a college town, Carbondale, Illinois, the home of Southern Illinois University, one of his alma maters.  Rob finished his education with an MFA in acting from DePaul in Chicago.

"The Keenest Observers" is heard on the last Tuesday of most months in the 9:00 hour of The Exchange.

Where did you top out in math--algebra, geometry, something else?  Mitchell Jackson and a lot of people he knew had to perform something called "survival math:" quick calculations to figure what it would take to survive a confrontation in a tough neighborhood. 

Jackson tells the story in his memoir Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family

He joined us last year for an interview in our segment The Keenest Observers, with Rob Goodwin. 

Oregon Arts Commission

Oregon bears a permanent stain from joining the union (in 1859) with black "exclusion laws" on the books.  Nobody with dark skin was allowed to live in the state. 

The laws neither got much enforcement nor lasted long, but African Americans remain a small minority.  A significant one, though... and the history of African Americans in Oregon is celebrated in the photographic display "Black Legend, Black, Oregon," on display in the governor's office through late March. 

Intisar Abioto is the photographer and artist who assembled the work. 


Kiese Laymon has had an interesting life, to put it mildly.  Fortunately, he's a good writer, too, so we get to read about his life and how he's dealt with a number of challenges. 

They include issues with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and gambling.  He presents the challenges, and how he overcame them, in his memoir, titled simply Heavy

Rob Goodwin, the host of our segment The Keenest Observers, returns to host Kiese Laymon. 

via "Contact High" by Vicki Tobak

Hip-hop has eclipsed rock as America's most important musical culture. In this month's The Kennest Observers, guest Vikki Tobak joins host Robert Goodwin in discussing a striking collection of candid photographs of the legends and innovators of hip-hop.

Anyone who practices a religion can appreciate the long traditions involved in worship.  Few can imagine trying to restore those traditions after a long absence. 

But that is what native communities face, as they work to continue traditions stopped by force, by killing, and by banishment to reservations. 

Dr. Cutcha Risling Baldy, who teaches Native American studies at Humboldt State University, details the work of the Hoopa tribe in restoring a women's coming-of-age ceremony that had been stopped.  Her book is We Are Dancing For You.

Geoffrey Riley/JPR News

To call Octavio Solis a prolific playwright is a big understatement.  He's written enough plays to fill a shelf, enough plays to give someone a cramp picking up all the scripts. 

And the work continues; next year the Oregon Shakespeare Festival will host the world premiere of "Mother Road." 

Solis has had several of his plays staged at OSF already, and has participated in the "Play On" project, rewriting Shakespeare's works into modern English. 

Public Domain,

Many of the people who played "Indians" in Hollywood westerns were of Italian descent.  Orson Welles made a filmed version of "Othello" that featured Welles in blackface. 

Cultural appropriation still happens.  And it can be confusing to both the perpetrators and the people whose culture is appropriated. 

Surabhi Mahajan, from an immigrant family of color, hosts an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project on cultural appropriation, with sessions across the state. 

Bruce Haynes is used to studying people and urban communities in particular; he's a sociologist at the University of California-Davis.  But his latest book, with Syma Solovitch, turns the lens around, to focus on three generations of his own family, in Harlem. 

The book is called Down the Up Staircase: Three Generations of a Harlem Family, and it traces the rising and falling fates of the family and its community. 

This is the latest edition of The Keenest Observers.  Host Rob Goodwin returns to interview Bruce Haynes.