By Brando Skyhorse and Lisa Page: In June 2015 a surprising number of Americans stopped to gawk at a thirty-seven-year-old “African American” woman named Rachel Dolezal who, after an almost decade-long act, was outed by her parents as a white woman who chose to pass as black. The national response, culminating in a Today show appearance, was extreme. Some were outraged by her deception, while others drew parallels between her right to live her “truth” the same way Caitlyn Jenner embodies hers. Rachel—or “#BlackRachel” as she trended online—never once “broke character.”
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A typical day involves reading and copyediting manuscripts or parts thereof, so editing for style, sense, and grammar, while maintaining the author’s style and intention. When I’m not doing that, I’m corresponding with authors about language and usage (sometimes deadlines), overseeing (that’s the managing part) the work of the wonderful freelancers who also copyedit manuscripts for us, spending quality time with The Chicago Manual of Style, reviewing edits with editorial and production staff. Then I read some more.
By Sasha Pimentel: I didn’t know that my poetry collection For Want of Water had been selected as winner for the National Poetry Series for a good week or two after Gregory Pardlo had chosen it, but that was my fault. I’d spent the summer with my family in Sonora and had turned my phone off. When we returned to the United States, I was walking through the airport when the caller ID from “Princeton, NJ” flashed on my phone, and I answered it because I was curious what sort of telemarketing came from Princeton. It was Beth Dial from the National Poetry Series. I remember plugging my unphoned ear with my finger to hear her through the terminal’s noise. I couldn’t believe it.
By Molly Velazquez-Brown: Fall has always been my favorite season. I love the feeling of a cozy sweater and a cup of warmed mulled cider mixed with ghost stories and the crunch of changing leaves. I am comfortable living my truth of autumn everything. But here’s what I don’t love about the season. The offensive Halloween costumes that come disguised as “spooky” fun. I’m not talking gory bloody “it’s-hard-for-me-to-look-at-how-grotesque-your-costume-is” offensive. I mean the mocking of a culture. The belittling of a race—or more often, several. The reduction of peoples to single stereotypes. Growing up Mexican-American, this is a problem I have encountered my entire life.
By Ben Mattlin: In mid-October, disability-rights activists were justifiably outraged and dismayed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ latest action. According to the Washington Post, the Trump appointee had rescinded seventy-two policy documents related to the rights of students with disabilities. So heated were the reactions on social media and elsewhere that, a few days later, the Education Department tried to allay fears by explaining that the intent was merely to eliminate redundancies and outdated language. The changes, a department spokesperson said, would have zero effect on students with disabilities. But if they had zero effect, why bother?
By Christopher M. Finan: Addiction killed a young friend of mine last fall. Americans are alarmed by the surging number of fatal drug overdoses, mostly caused by prescription painkillers, heroin, and fentanyl. There were 52,000 in 2015, and it is estimated that 59,000 people died in 2016. What are we doing about it? Not enough.
Fifty years ago today, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech to students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia. In it, he lays out three important steps to follow in order for the students to reach their full potential, no matter their status life, and calls on them to actively commit to the struggle for freedom and justice. King’s words are inspirational for students of any age, of any era. Especially now during our troubled times. In honor of the speech’s anniversary, we’re looking at the ways the empowering message of his speech resonates and guides us still today.
In light of the latest issues concerning gun control, sexual assault, and healthcare in America, we’re offering a list of resources for you to look through. The Las Vegas shooting that killed fifty-nine people and injured more than five hundred has us talking about gun control again. Even though, just a couple of weeks later, the media seem to have moved on to other topics, we need to keep the conversation going.
By Philip Warburg: At a time when President Trump and his followers in Congress are hell-bent on dismantling the clean energy architecture of the Obama era, many Americans are looking beyond Washington, and even abroad, for solutions to our climate crisis. I recently witnessed one of these transformative gems on a visit to the Danish island of Samsø, which just passed the twenty-year mark in a campaign to supply all of its energy needs from local renewable resources.
By Michael Bronski: Charley Shively, one of the pivotal figures in the Gay Liberation Movement, died Friday, October 6 at the Cambridge Rehabilitation and Nursing Home, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He had been a resident since June of 2011, suffering from Alzheimer’s. He would have been eighty on December 8, 2017. At the 1977 Boston Gay Pride march, Shively became infamous for his burning of the Bible—as well as his insurance policy, Harvard diploma, and teaching contract—as a protest against oppressive institutions.
A Q&A with Jennifer Browdy: Writing is one of the most powerful forms of activism, because it can live on into the future, rippling out in unpredictable ways and inspiring so many others. The writers included in Women Writing Resistance are actively reaching out to communicate their perspectives on a whole host of human rights and social justice issues. For them, writing is an act of resistance to all the mainstream forces that too often have silenced and ignored women’s voices. It’s a way of taking back their agency and insisting on being heard.
I thought I’d continue in academia but realized in grad school that I didn't like teaching, so faced with student debt and with no idea how to channel my love of books and my interest in social justice, I considered a number of different careers before I noticed an opening at Beacon Press. I’d been a longtime fan of Beacon and jumped at the chance to work as an editorial assistant. Needless to say, publishing was the right career path.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: I was tremendously heartened in the first days of the Trump administration in January to see thousands of people come out to airports around the US to protest the president’s travel ban. People mobilized because of what was at stake. It was not just the status of foreign travellers, but our core values as a society. In the echoing halls of airport terminals from coast to coast, a spirit of resistance and humanity came alive.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: Since the days of the #NoDapl encampment, now nine months in the past, dozens of films have been released documenting the event. One of the latest is an offering from award-winning documentarian Brian Malone, titled Beyond Standing Rock. Malone has been touring the film and I recently had the chance to view it in Los Angeles, at the Autry Museum of the American West. What follows is my review of the film.
A Q&A with Jonathan Rosenblum: In my experience bargaining union contracts and negotiating with politicians, I’ve found that it’s easy to overestimate the importance of what happens at the bargaining table. When I’ve led union negotiations, I’ve emphasized to bargaining team members that what we win in the end depends ninety percent on what we do outside of bargaining, and only ten percent on what takes place inside the room.
By Andrea Ritchie: According to a 2015 investigation by the Buffalo News, based on over 700 cases documented over a ten year period, on average a police officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days. And those are just the ones who are caught, representing, by all accounts, just the tip of the iceberg of this pervasive yet invisible form of police violence.
By Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen: Celebrate democracy. Invite local musicians to a public park or library event room to share and teach songs related to freedom and democracy. And if you have the clout of an organization behind you, goad them to go for the spectacular. Imagine tens of thousands in a big-city stadium celebrating democracy. Wouldn’t Bruce Springsteen be up for that? We love the idea of audiences honoring Leonard Cohen by chanting and swaying to his powerful “Democracy,” with its refrain “Democracy is coming to the USA.” Concerts with a message have an impressive history.
A Q&A with Deborah Meier and Emily Gasoi: One reason why early advocates pushed to establish a universal, compulsory education system was because, in a democracy, the presumption is that we are all part of the “deciding class,” and therefore need to be educated in order to make informed decisions. And public institutions and spaces, including public schools, are essential in a democracy, because their very existence conveys that we are a society in which we meet together and share common resources. So it’s not just public schools that we argue are essential, but public institutions writ large. Throughout the book, we deliberately use the word commonweal, which means the “welfare of the public.” It’s a word that few people use in conversation, but we make a modest effort to bring it into our communal conscious.
By Carole Joffe: In addition to all the other devastating blows Houston-area residents weathered from Hurricane Harvey, those women who had previously scheduled an abortion or who suddenly realized they had an unwanted pregnancy were in particularly difficult straits. Area clinics were closed immediately after the storm, and in any cases, many potential patients had no way of reaching a facility even if one was open. Fortunately, due to a quite extraordinary mobilization effort on the part of abortion providers in Houston and elsewhere, the situation for those needing abortions improved considerably and far quicker than one would have had reason to believe.
By Joseph Rosenbloom: As a graduate student at Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about the social ill of poverty and vowed to do something about it. He put the resolve on hold. For his first decade as a civil rights leader, he dedicated himself to ending racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans, not poverty. By the mid-1960s, however, the idea to grapple with the issue of poverty had seized him with a fierce urgency. “What does it profit a man,” he often quipped, “to be able to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”