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New York radio show The Harlem Connection features UNC professor and student DJs

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Linguistics professor Michael Terry was recently featured on an episode of New York radio show The Harlem Connection. Photo courtesy of Michael Terry.

UNC student DJ's got a chance to be on the New York radio show, The Harlem Connection, along with linguistics professor J. Michael Terry on an episode that focused on the power of words. 

The Harlem Connection is a weekly radio program with themed episodes that showcase different music with a connection to Harlem.

The theme of the "Tar Heels Takeover" show was Nommo, an Afrocentric term referring to the power that words have to create and change reality. 

Terry, an associate professor in the department of linguistics and adjunct associate professor in the department of African, African American, and Diaspora studies, spoke on the show about his research on African American English dialects and how differences in home and school dialects can affect children’s education. 

The L.A.W., executive producer and an on-air host of The Harlem Connection, has been friends with Terry since first grade and said he was the perfect person to interview for the Nommo-themed episode. 

“Since I have this research project that dealt with the power of language in that broad sense, it made sense to pull me in and put me on the air," Terry said.

The L.A.W. said he was struck by Terry's enthusiasm as he spoke about the University in their interview.

“He has a way of talking about UNC that is just really exciting and engaging,” The L.A.W. said. “I thought it would be really cool if we could capture some of the energy of the students, and that’s what led me down the rabbit hole to reaching out to the local radio station to say ‘Hey, let’s see if we can get some students involved.’”

DJ AD, DJ BANGS and DJ Moomaw — all DJs from WXYC, UNC's student-run radio station — were featured on the show.

DJ BANGS, also known as Hannah Cousins, is a senior and WXYC’s programming manager. Cousins was excited about the premise of the show.

“They really try to include all different kinds of music and connect it back to the musical roots in Harlem, which connects a little bit to WXYC since we’re a freeform station, and we do a lot of music exploration and experimentation,” she said. “Our missions kind of aligned in that way.”

Cousins said the DJs got a diverse list of songs and were able to plan the order in which to play them to create different musical relationships. She liked the way the show intertwined Terry’s linguistics research with the musical connections of Nommo.

“It was great to get in touch with them and hear what they’re passionate about and how their radio station works, seeing as how commercial radio is much different than college radio typically,” she said.

Senior and WXYC station manager Aysha Diallo, who goes by DJ AD on the air, said being on The Harlem Connection was exciting, although she would have liked to have more control over the song selection.

“I’ve only been on one radio station in my life, so it was exciting to find out that I’d be on another one,” Diallo said.

Diallo said the DJs played a mix of older and current R&B, jazz, soul and rap.

The L.A.W. was glad the show could feature the student DJs.

“I think that the DJs involved brought a certain level of style and energy and, frankly, youthfulness that I thought made the episode much stronger and more special,” he said.

For Terry, the experience was fun, and he was glad to be able to speak about linguistics to a new audience.

“I always enjoy having the opportunity to talk to people about linguistics in contexts that aren’t a classroom or a conference,” Terry said. “Linguistics is one of those fields where a lot of people are not really clear what a linguist does, so getting a chance in that sort of setting to say here’s what a linguist is, here’s some things that I’m interested in and I’m doing in my research is always a pleasurable experience.”


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