Crosscurrents | KALW


Monday-Thursday at 5pm

Crosscurrents is KALW Public Radio's award-winning news magazine, broadcasting Mondays through Thursdays on 91.7 FM. We make joyful, informative stories that engage people across the economic, social, and cultural divides in our community.

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Photo provided by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Roman Mars first produced “99% Invisible” out of his bedroom for KALW 10 years ago. Today it’s one of the top podcasts on iTunes. In this interview, Roman talks about his start in radio and his bestselling book.

Courtesy of Calvin Kai Ku / Medical Clown Project


What do you get when a clown, a clinical psychologist, and a patient walk into a hospital? You get something called the Medical Clown Project.  This Bay Area non-profit that sends clowns to hospitals, emergency rooms, and retirement homes. In this installment of our @WORK series, we meet a medical clown. 

Few can argue that the country isn't heavily divided politically right now. Racial divides have deepened and it can feel like even having conversations with each other is a burden. President Joe Biden dedicated his inaugural speech to unifying the country, finding common ground, but how?

Courtesy of Chesa Boudin

When Chesa Boudin took the helm as the city’s top prosecutor in San Francisco, he promised to be different. He pledged to use the power of the San Francisco District Attorney's office to reform the justice system. The city’s police union balked, warning he would be too lenient on criminals. This is the first installment of an ongoing series that looks at Boudin’s first year in office. It's The Progressive Prosecutor. We begin with Boudin’s unlikely path to the San Francisco DA’s office.

A Revolutionary Poet Fans The Bay's Literary Fires

Jan 20, 2021

Author and educator Tongo Eisen-Martin was just named San Francisco's eight poet laureate. His work as prison activist to revolutionary poet has taken him from San Francisco to South Africa, with stops at Columbia University and Riker's Island. In this interview, Eisen-Martin shares stories behind his art, his upbringing, and his human-rights advocacy work.

Rafiki Coalition

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts continue across the state and the country, there have been multiple polls, surveys, and articles that say among all racial and ethnic groups, Black Americans are the most hesitant to get it.

IGOR PUTINA / Flickr Creative Commons

During the pandemic, journalists have been the eyes and ears of the community. But, it poses a challenge: how do you tell stories about people without being able to get close to them? In this installment of our @WORK series, we meet Visual journalist Andrew Nixon who covers stories for Cap Radio. 

As part of our @WORK series, we hear from a farmer in Davis, about what it’s been like working through a pandemic. About how COVID-19 has, and hasn’t, changed her world of farming.

Andrew Stelzer

The three largest mental health treatment facilities in the U.S. are jails. The criminal justice system has become the primary way the United States deals with mental illness. In the second of a two-part documentary, we see how some communities are working to find solutions to this misalignment of care.

Listen to part one of this audio documentary here.

Andrew Stelzer / KALW

In part one of a two-part investigation into how the country’s jails have become our default mental health treatment centers, we go to Santa Rita jail in Alameda County, one of the largest — and deadliest — jails in California.

Listen to part two of this series here.

Joanna Gilkeson / USFWS, used under CC-BY-2.0

The California monarch butterfly population has reached an all-time low and scientists worry the species might go extinct. But, in December 2020, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to add them to the endangered species list. And it's not just the butterflies that have been denied environmental protections. If we only focus on monarchs, we're missing the big picture.

William C. Leikam

Almost 90% of the natural landscape along the Bay has been lost to human development. Climate change and sea level rise mean even more of it is going away. So what will happen to the hundreds of wildlife species that live there? Ask the Fox Guy.

Courtesy of Daniel Nam

The arrival of vaccines at the end of 2020 brought hope that there would be a light at the end of this long COVID-19 tunnel. Still, this week, cases around the country and the state continue to surge, and the vaccine rollout has been much slower than expected.

Christine Nguyen / KALW

Many people don’t recognize dementia, and not recognizing it can lead to death. Most caregivers are unprepared to manage dementia in their own family. And, for many ethnic minorities, such as Vietnamese, there is little support.


Tim Seelig is the artistic director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. He shares his thoughts on COVID's effect on the gay community and the chorus going virtual for their holiday concert. 

Fear, Freedom, And Black Satire

Dec 17, 2020

Local comedian Valerie Vernale tells a joke from her stand-up act and then breaks it down, explaining how comedy is a way for her to tell the truth and combat fear at the same time.

The pen, the mic, the camera are all powerful tools that people in media have used to get our attention, but, for Black women journalists, getting a hold of that power and keeping it, has been a tough path to navigate. In this episode of The Stoop, we explore the profession with journalist Jemele Hill, and hear about the past from veteran journalist Belva Davis.

Skye Heritage

In this story from The Spiritual Edge, we meet Sarah Byrne-Martelli, a hospital chaplain who is caring for COVID-19 patients when their families can't visit because she believes no one should die alone.

Sacred Steps: Making Space For Women In Mosques

Dec 15, 2020
Azad Essa / Middle East Eye

From The Spiritual Edge, this is the story of how Malcolm X inspired an outspoken Christian girl from Alabama, and how she went on to inspire a national campaign and a fatwa — a religious legal opinion — aimed at persuading the men who control America’s mosques to share space and power. 

courtesy of Bryan Keith Thomas

Artist Bryan Keith Thomas pays homage to Black Southern culture and Black ancestry in his work. In this interview, he talks about the spiritual meaning behind his art.

Should we support Black no matter what? In this episode of The Stoop, we discuss the pressure to conform with liking all things Black, even when you don’t really feel that way, whether it’s Black art, the Black politician, or a hashtag.

San Francisco author Scott James reads from "Trial By Fire." It’s about the deadliest single building fire in modern American history. 

Black Hour / Creative Commons, used under CC BY-NC 2.0

For the first time since 2012, Oakland has reached over 100 cases. Oakland native Glen Upshaw is a violence interrupter. He and his team peacefully resolve conflicts in the community. Upshaw shares why he thinks there has been a rise in killings in 2020.

Lives Worth Living Through Humor

Dec 4, 2020
Courtesy of Dara M Wilson

Local Bay Area comedian Dara M Wilson talks about why she was personally called to the stage, and how humor is handed down from generation to generation in the Black community.

Comedy Is For The People

Dec 4, 2020
Courtesy of Alexandria Love

Local comedian Alexandria Love uses her radio essay to explore the power of communication in comedy, and what that has meant for Black communities.

Courtesy of Danielle Fuentes Morgan

Danielle Fuentes Morgan is the author of “Laughing to Keep from Dying: African American Satire in the Twenty-First Century.”

Troy Chew Puts A Hip Hop Twist To European Artistry

Dec 2, 2020
Courtesy of Troy Chew

Troy Chew brings unique style to the canvas. His artwork is Black urban and African Diaspora cultures meets European painting traditions. He talks about how hip hop and Black American slang inspire his work.

The National Guard / Flickr / Creative Commons

News about the pandemic has been hard to miss. Coronavirus hospitalizations are soaring across California, leading to stricter COVID-19 restrictions in much of the state. Health officials are preparing for another surge of cases in the next few weeks, and they predict hospital ICU beds could reach peak capacity soon.

San Francisco Public Library

What’s it like to be San Francisco Poet Laureate? Kim Shuck gives us insight on her experience. She also talks about her writing, beading artistry and being directly impacted by the epidemic of missing and murdered Native American women.

Courtesy of Steve Kerr

In the 1920s Stanley and Elsa Kerr cared for thousand of children in Beirut, Lebanon, who’d lost or become separated from their parents in the Armenian Genocide.

Their grandson is Steve Kerr.

And Armenians have been in love with the Kerr family ever since.