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'The Common Ground Initiative' podcast tells the stories of a diversifying New Hampshire

A photo of Anthony Payton sitting next to a glass table with a mug on it.
Anthony Payton is the host of the Common Ground Initiative podcast.

'The Common Ground Initiative' is a new podcast featuring essays and interviews in an effort to find unity and common ground in New Hampshire's diverse population.

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The podcast launched about a month ago and is produced in partnership with the Granite State News Collaborative and the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communications at Franklin Pierce University. It shares the stories of Granite Staters that aren't often heard, and explores the diversity of New Hampshire as the state continues to grow and change.

All Things Considered host Peter Biello spoke with the podcast's host, Anthony Payton, about the Common Ground Initiative, how it began, and where he hopes to take it. Below is a transcript of their conversation.

Peter Biello: So, in one of your essays that that accompanies an interview with a veteran, you say "making America great" starts with individuals who are actively looking to uplift their communities. And after listening to your podcast, I couldn't help but wonder if this is, to some extent, what you're trying to do. Is it?

Anthony Payton: Right, absolutely. Trying to unify our communities, I believe, is a huge step because I'm always saying that our children are watching how we behave, and we don't want to continue to create generations of mistrust and, you know, strife between each other. So that's one of the major things I think that this podcast and this writing piece on the Common Ground Initiative is trying to achieve.

Peter Biello: So what areas of common ground are you seeking in this podcast?

Anthony Payton: I would say for both people, both sides to communities as a whole to see the other side of the coin because we only usually get one side of a narrative. We only get a narrative of a certain kind. And I speak on that narrative being, you know, the white guy who might have an American flag. We automatically view him as a racist. The Black guy who kneels for the flag, if he's an athlete or whatever, we automatically assume that he hates this country, and that's not always the case. So I feel like I'm the bridge or the conduit between two different communities and sets of people, not just white and Black, either, because it just runs the spectrum of people as a whole and try to get past those stereotypes. And even if those stereotypes still prove to be true, I believe that we can still coexist. And if you have the right people, you can exchange ideas and views and still be civil and still show up at each other's barbecue.

Peter Biello: Along with the podcast, which features essays, you interview people and you're asking them questions that really get at what it's like to be Black in New Hampshire. I wanted to ask you what you thought about this as a starting point. What makes it such a good starting point for this podcast and this project?

Anthony Payton: Well, the the makeup of this state is changing and, to me, the diversity is a great thing. But I also want to welcome in - there are white people who may be sitting back and watching their shrinking numbers and feel some type of angst or a little bit nervous. And my thing is to let them know, hey, let's extend each other's hands and get to see what each side is about. Because the face of the state is changing and certain things are being more welcomed in certain cultures and things like that. So I just believe that that's why it would be a great starting point because so much is changing. We're at a time now when people hate whoever's running this country, it doesn't matter who it is. There's such strong passion and emotion from either side of the aisle. And it's like, all right, well, let's try to bridge this together. Because like I said, we're going to go into generations of this. We already in generations of it. So let's try to, at least here in New Hampshire, let's try to bridge that. Let's try to bridge that gap.

Peter Biello: This podcast is really just getting started. Who are you hoping to speak to for your upcoming interviews? Is there a guest that you'd really like to have on your program?

Anthony Payton: Oh, wow. There are a few guys that I have within my radar, a couple of white guys, a couple of Black guys, a couple of Hispanics. But, anyone who can bring the other side of the coin and can have that discussion in a civil manner. Being passionate about a certain topic, that's one thing. But, you know, let's try to remain civil because like, when you can become blind with anger and fury, you really don't use your ears. And that's universal. That just isn't for one set of people.

Peter Biello: And it seems like if your first few episodes are any indication, you're leaning towards guests who aren't politicians or people who don't already have a giant megaphone, but more along the lines of ordinary people who can share a perspective that perhaps your audience hasn't heard yet.

Anthony Payton: Absolutely. And not to say that we wouldn't welcome those people who have larger platforms, but it's just right now we're welcoming in those quiet, those voices that aren't heard much that you really don't get to see or hear from.

Peter Biello: Well, Anthony Payton, thank you very much for speaking with me, I really appreciate it.

Anthony Payton: Peter, thank you for having me and I look forward to seeing you guys again. Thank you so much.

Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
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