Duke University’s African and African American Studies professor Mark Anthony Neal recently launched a new weekly program, “Left of Black,” which conducts interviews with academics, authors, and artists discussing important cultural issues affecting the Black community.

“I definitely see this program as an extension of my desire to make the knowledge produced in and by the university available to a wider public,” Neal said. “It is also a chance to highlight the ideas of folk who aren’t the standard talking heads.”

Neal describes the program as offering “a contrarian view of Blackness,” or a perspective that goes beyond the status quo of what it means to be Black. Blackness, he says, cannot be defined as “a political position in the left/right paradigm.”

The 45-minute show, now in its second month, includes Neal interviewing two guests, in studio or by Skype, and introducing a “question of the week.” Student volunteer Galvin Wells of North Carolina Central University poses the question to viewers in short video clips.

The most recent episode of the online show aired on Duke’s Ustream channel, ustream.tv/dukeuniversity on Monday, and in light of the mid-term elections, focused on politics.

The episode featured interviews with former NPR news analyst, Farai Chideya, and Cathy Cohen, a political scientist from the University of Chicago.

“Left of Black” stays current by zeroing in on the most talked about topics of the time, in relation to the Black community. It airs live online each Monday, and this past week’s show delved into NPR’s firing of political commentator Juan Williams, in addition to looking at the political races.

Chideya, who is the host of “Pop+Politics with Farai Chideya,” a three-part radio series on the 2010 mid-term election, recently wrote a piece criticizing how poorly NPR deals with diversity.

Cohen, the author of “Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics,” and co-editor of a new book series, “Transgressing Boundaries: Studies in Black Politics and Black Communities,” discussed the importance of African American voter participation in the mid-term election.

So far, “Left of Black” has featured topics including the anniversary of the Million Man March, the current state of R&B music, Black masculinity in Hip Hop, African Americans struggling in the publishing industry, Black mega-churches, Bishop Eddie Long, the Morehouse dress code, and Black female sexuality.

Past episodes can be seen on Duke University’s Ustream channel and viewers are encouraged to actively participate in conversation while the shows airs via Twitter by tagging #LeftofBlack or #dukelive.