Out in the Open·Full Episode

Legacy Projects

We all want to build a strong legacy for ourselves ー something we can be proud of. But when a wrench gets thrown into your life story... you've got to find a way to make it right. This week, Piya asks: How do you manage a complicated legacy?

This week, Piya asks: How do you manage a complicated legacy?

Sharon Morgan embarked on a journey to discover more about her ancestral roots in slavery. In this photo of relatives, Tommie Joe Leslie (left), Mama Rhody Leslie (middle), and Frank Leslie (right), in 1940s Chicago. All of them migrated from Alabama, where Mama Rhody was enslaved. (Submitted by Sharon Morgan)

This episode was originally published on May 10, 2019.

We all want to build a strong legacy for ourselves – something we can be proud of. But when a wrench gets thrown into your life story... you've got to find a way to make it right. This week, Piya asks: How do you manage a complicated legacy?

Here are the stories from this week's episode...

Her ancestors were slaves. His were slave traders. They took a road trip to 'confront that history'

Sharon Morgan is the descendant of slaves. Tom DeWolf is the descendant of the largest slave-trading dynasty in U.S. history. Together, they took a road trip to significant sites in each of their family's pasts to better understand how the legacy of slavery has affected them. They share their revelations about racism, intergenerational trauma, and what we can do about it today.

Louis Riel's great-great niece proudly defends her uncle's legacy ー but doesn't think he should be exonerated

In one narrative, Louis Riel was a traitor who was hanged for treason after mounting a rebellion against Canada. In another, he's a brave defender of the Métis people and founding father of Manitoba... which has led some to call for his posthumous exoneration. Piya speaks with Jean Teillet, great-great niece of Riel, about her pride in his legacy, why she thinks exoneration's not the answer... and what she makes of those in her own family who disagree with her.

'I've done horrible things': Former neo-Nazi is haunted by a past that may be fuelling white supremacy today

Arno Michaelis used to be a well-known neo-Nazi organizer and musician. Today, he's a peace activist. But he struggles with the thought that his past actions continue to influence other white supremacists today. He tells Piya about the tension between using his story to advocate against hate, and the guilt he feels knowing the ongoing destruction his past could effect.

'I don't apologize for Sharknado': Cult film's screenwriter considers his legacy

When Thunder Levin dies, the first credit in his obituary will be that he was the brains behind the Sharknado movie franchise. After struggling to make it in film for decades, he was asked to write the over-the-top sci-fi disaster film... and the sequels kept coming. As he tells Piya, while he's proud of the success, he hopes to capitalize on it to make his legacy more than that.

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