You might see a lot of red umbrellas today. Not because it's raining or snowing; it may even be bright, sunny and warm where you are. But whatever the weather on this December 17th, people will be carrying red umbrellas to honor and remember the many victims of violence against sex workers.
Our annual holiday sale is now on! Get 20% off your entire purchase at www.beacon.org. Simply use code GIFT20 at checkout to receive your discount. Orders over $50 will also receive a King Legacy Series canvas tote bag! And, as always, we offer free standard shipping on all orders.
In addition, 15% from the sale of every book you buy will be donated to First Literacy who works to to create a fully literate society. As part of our mission, Beacon promotes the importance of literature—and therefore a literate society—in democratic life.
On November 30, Melissa Harris-Perry honored my biography of Rosa Parks, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks, by including it amongst a group of ground-breaking Black feminist texts and histories on her “Black Feminism Syllabus.” This recognition came on the 58th anniversary of Rosa Parks' bus arrest and the public marking of the day, including the RNC's unfortunate tweet celebrating “Rosa Parks’ bold stand and her role in ending racism.” The RNC’s tweet spoke to what has been a theme at the heart of much Parks memorialization across the political spectrum—the honoring of her is regularly accompanied by a element of national self congratulation. Her stand is often now commemorated as a way to mark how far we’ve come in the successful movement to end Jim Crow segregation and racism.
What my book sought to do was rescue Rosa Parks from the narrow pedestal she exists upon. This national sainthood has paradoxically diminished the scope and importance of her political work and functions, across the political spectrum, to make us feel good about ourselves as a nation. It misses the lifelong activist who worked against injustice in both the North and South and paid a heavy price for her political work but kept struggling to address contemporary racial and social inequalities until her death in 2005. It misses her global vision and how she was treated as un-American for great stretches of her life by many Americans for these political activities. And finally, it misses that a real honoring of her legacy requires us to do the same hard, tedious, scary work of pressing against the injustices of our time, both nationally and internationally, because she firmly believed the movement was not over.
Rosa Parks greets Nelson and Winnie Mandela after his release from prison in 1990
Fifty countries treat sex work as a legitimate job, and it has been legalized with restrictions in eleven others. Nevertheless sex workers are still widely stigmatized, discriminated against, harassed, and, in those countries where prostitution is considered illegal, treated as criminals. This is especially true in the United States, which is one of the few industrialized nations that continues to criminalize prostitution. As Melinda Chateauvert reveals in her new book Sex Workers Unite: A History of the Movement from Stonewall to Slutwalk, these laws have put sex workers at risk.
Chateauvert agreed recently to talk with us about Human Rights Day and how important it is that the international campaign for human rights include sex workers, who have always been key activists in the struggles for gay liberation, women’s rights, reproductive justice, labor organizing, prison abolition, and other human rights–related issues.
The first SlutWalk in Toronto (photo by Anton Bielousov)
Exactly fifty-eight years ago today, just days after Rosa Park's historic arrest, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta watched tensely from their living room window as the first moments of the Montomery Bus Boycott unfolded. Dr. King recounts those anxious early minutes in his book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, part of our King Legacy Series:
Jewish Book Month, which originated in 1925 right here in Boston, ends tomorrow with the beginning of Hanukkah. We thought we'd commemorate the annual tradition with some never-too-late reading recommendations by a few of our authors. For more suggestions of Judaic titles to read during Hanukkah, or for any occasion, Beacon Presshas you covered.
Author photo: Stephanie Williams
Susan Katz Miller, author of Being Both, offers several titles that celebrate the diversity of interfaith life:
Mixed-Up Love by Jon M. Sweeney and Michal Woll is important as the first memoir written by a rabbi married to a Catholic. Jon and Rabbi Michal will appear on a panel with me in March at the Jewish Community Center in Silicon Valley. They tell their story in alternating voices, providing both perspectives, which reminded me of the classic pioneering joint memoir by interfaith couple Ned and Mary Rosenbaum, Celebrating Our Differences.
In the second part of our literary examination of JFK's legacy, we begin with a look at the hopes that the next generation brought to JFK's candidacy, and how those hopes—combined with the pressures of the campaign and the mounting conflict in Vietnam—led to the impromptu "definition" of the Peace Corps during an unplanned campaign stop at the University of Michigan. Later, Claire Conner takes us to Dallas on the morning of November 22, 1963, where she as a curious young woman—and daughter of the national spokesman for the ultraconservative John Birch Society—had gone to see the presidental motorcade, only to witness anguish and paranoia in the aftermath of JFK's assassination.
There is perhaps no modern President whose legacy resonates in the public consciousness as much as John F. Kennedy's. It was, in a sense, the first modern presidency: The first to be televised—from its historic inauguration to those shocking final moments in Dallas fifty years ago today—and the first to truly grapple with the maelstrom of social unrest that would lead eventually to the posthumous passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, just months after his death. In this first of two posts on JFK's legacy, we reach into some of our recent books for look at the Kennedy administration's complex and evolving relationship with race and the Civil Rights Movement, starting with the struggle between the Kennedy's Secretary of the Interior Stewart Lee Udall and Washington Redskins owner George Marshall over the integration of his team, and ending with an on-the-ground accounting of the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights, and JFK's meeting with the major civil rights leaders of the time.
Note: This article and its accompanying updates appeared previously on Wen Stephenson's blog at The Nation.
Yeb Sano, lead Filipino delegate to the UN Climate Conference (Creative Commons, courtesy tcktcktck.org)
Hunger allows no choice To the citizen or the police; We must love one another or die.
W.H. Auden wrote that, sitting in a dive on 52nd Street nearly three-quarters of a century ago, as the world plunged into darkness on September 1, 1939. I’ve been thinking of those words a lot lately. Because it feels to me, and many others I know, like we’re poised at the edge of another darkness.
It’s a darkness already visible, right now, in the Philippines, where thousands are dead and many hundreds of thousands made refugees by the force of a storm like none had ever seen.
And it’s a darkness visible in the bright corporate halls of a conference center in Warsaw, where delegates to the nineteenth annual U.N. negotiations on climate change are divided and dithering, even as the window to prevent civilizational catastrophe rapidly closes.
Editor's Note: We were all shocked to read the recent news that the western black rhinoceros, teetering on the edge for decades, had been officially declared extinct. At Beacon Press, we understand the urgency for ecology and conservation as part of our broader humanitarian mission. What can be learned from the tragedy of extinction? That now, more than ever, we must redouble our efforts to save those species that remain close to the brink: the Bengal tiger, the giant panda, the Sumatran elephant, or—as conservationist Nancy Merrick details below—our closest relative, the chimpanzee.
Two-year-old Sara has moxie. Dangling upside down, one hundred feet above the forest floor, she is absolutely fearless even though today is one of her first forays into this African forest.
Not every orphaned chimp discovers their tree-climbing talent so readily, we’re told. It all depends on how they were treated, how little they were when they lost their mothers, and their innate nature. But Sara’s genes seem programmed for audacity. We gaze upwards to feast on Sara’s first time launching from limb to limb as though she were spring-loaded, first time grabbing whole handfuls of fruit while dangling one-handed from a tree branch, and first time nonchalantly scaling upwards into the canopy to dazzle the other chimps.
This weekend, over three hundred synagogues, mosques, and Muslim and Jewish organizations, and thousands of Muslims and Jews in over thirty countries on all six continents will begin to come together to celebrate unity between the two religions. It is part of the "Weekend of Twinning" programming series, a growing effort by Jews and Muslims to confront Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in their communities and beyond, and to replace hatred and fear with increased understanding and a sense of shared purpose. Programming will continue through the end of the year.
out for the distressing double-header, I saw the Polish film Aftermath the
same weekend as 12 Years a Slave. Both films were an opportunity to view how
a filmmaker handled a country’s national shame through the art of storytelling. Aftermath, is a fictional film inspired by Jan Gross’s book Neighbors, about the Jedwabne pogrom, a 1941 massacre of a
Polish village’s Jewish population by their Catholic neighbors. It’s just been released in the US. 12 Years, based on the diary of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped and pressed into bondage in the American South, brings to
Technicolor luridness the hideous cruelties of the slave trade.
are deeply disturbing and both films necessitate a revising of a national
self-image. For Poles, that involves admitting that they were not always the
victims in World War II; on some occasions, they were perpetrators. Americans must countenance
that our country’s literal foundations were built on the blasphemy of human
What happens when we define some people as more human than others? A Q&A with Susan Fiske about the new science of racism. Note: This post originally appeared on the Greater Good.
The questions raised by racism and xenophobia go straight to the heart of what it means to be human, for they involve dehumanization. Prejudice means we implicitly embrace a definition of humanity that includes some—usually those who most resemble us—and excludes others.That’s why Susan T. Fiske was invited to speak at Being Human 2013, a showcase (co-sponsored by the Greater Good Science Center) of scientific insights into the nature and direction of our species.
Fiske has especially explored how snap judgments shape our social interactions. She has found that people we see as warm and competent elicit the most positive emotion and behavior from us. Unfortunately, however, her studies show that those perceptions are heavily influenced by factors like race, age, gender, disability, and more—and that this millisecond social-sifting translates into widespread stereotyping and discrimination.
As Fiske described at Being Human, all over the world it is the poor, homeless, and immigrants who bear the brunt of discrimination, eliciting feelings of outright—but often subconscious—disgust from study participants. I spoke with her backstage at that event about her research and hopes for a future without prejudice.
Jeremy Adam Smith: What does prejudice reveal about what it means to be human?
Most of us know at least a few young teens—15-, 16-,
17-year-olds. A son or daughter. A niece
or nephew. A neighbor or a friend’s
grandchild. We see them around, waiting for the school bus, surfing the
sidewalk on a skate board, hanging out at the mall. Despite what they insist,
teens are only on the cusp of adulthood, and most of us will do whatever we can
to help them make it in the world.
Until, that is, one of those youths gets arrested. Then
all that good will disappears. At least that’s the case in over half the states
which have yet to change their laws prosecuting young teenagers (under the age
of 18) as adults and, if convicted, sending them to adult correctional
facilities. Suddenly that young person becomes
an exile to all the protections and decencies that communities work hard to
provide their children, and she or he enters a world that is blind to the needs
and vulnerabilities of every developing adolescent. (This disenfranchisement is
made starkly clear by the fact that in some states the parents of those teens are
not notified when their children are arrested.)There is nothing nice about a
kid in an adult prison or jail—nothing any of us would wish on the young teens
that we know.
Immigrants, workers, union members and community activists marched on May Day in San Jose. Marchers protested attacks on immigrants, unions and the rights of workers, and called on Congress to pass a just immigration reform. (David Bacon)
—Boston is the home to many firsts: the first public park, the first subway, the first kidney transplant. Could the next first be a literary cultural district? With help of a planning grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Grub Street will refine the concept and pitch the MCC for designation of such a district.
Note: This post is a lightly edited version of remarks given by Carole Joffee upon accepting the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Family Planning in Seattle on October 7. It previously appeared on the RH Reality Check.
My journey as a researcher of abortion provision started in the late 1970s. I had just moved to the Philadelphia area for my first academic job, and I began an ethnography of a Planned Parenthood clinic in that city that was in the midst of incorporating abortion services. My interests at that time were in observing how a social movement issue becomes translated into a health-care “service.” But after immersing myself in that clinic for over a year, I became deeply interested in all categories of abortion providers, broadly speaking—counselors, nurses, physicians, clinic directors—and I have been studying providers ever since.
What I would like to do today is revisit some of the main points of my book, Doctors of Conscience: The Struggle to Provide Abortion Before and After Roe v. Wade. What I attempted in that book was to apply a sociological lens to the work of providers, including an investigation of the “social status” of providers, which is sociological jargon for asking, more simply, how did involvement in abortion work affect both the personal and professional relationships of that first generation of providers whose work spanned the years immediately before and after legalization?
I argued, based on the interviews I conducted with those physicians, that abortion provision early on suffered from a marginality from the rest of medicine. As I put it, “mainstream medicine supported legal abortion but not the abortion provider.” Very briefly, I claimed that within medical circles the legacy of the “back alley butcher” of the pre-Roe era carried over and stigmatized all those who had performed abortions before Roe and went on to do so afterwards—even the “doctors of conscience” I interviewed who had provided, at great personal risk, safe and ethical care before legalization. I also wrote of the personal isolation many felt as a result of engaging in this work.
You may be excused if you failed to notice that last week was National Save for Retirement Week. Promoted by the financial services industry, which profits handsomely from each extra dollar placed in 401(k) and similar retirement savings accounts, the week does not exactly compete with Halloween and Thanksgiving for public attention.
The financial services industry would like for us to believe a number of things. We can save enough for retirement if only we will do it and stop wasting our money on frivolous lattes instead. It is our moral obligation to do this. It will be no one’s fault but our own if we don’t save enough for a secure retirement. It is there to help us be provident as a responsible custodian of our surrendered savings.
I began to question this in the 1990s, long before my own retirement age was imminent. You see, I made the single biggest financial mistake of my life in 1986. In beginning the public university job that I still hold, I was given the choice between a tradition public pension plan and TIAA-CREF, a 401(k)-like plan, that relied on personal stock market investing. Numerous people assured me that the 401(k)-like plan was by far the better choice. But several years later I was in for a rude shock when I compared the actual benefits. Even in the bull markets of the 1990s, the projected benefits of my 401(k)-like plan were half those of the traditional pension plan I had rejected.
With the government shutdown crisis finally over, President Obama has pledged once more to make immigration reform the centerpiece of his second term agenda. But change couldn't come sooner for many immigrant communities, who have seen the battlefront for immigration equality steadily shift from the court rooms and legislative halls to the streets outside their homes, schools, and playgrounds. Mirta Ojito's new book Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town, which went on sale last week, documents the rising tide of hate crimes against immigrants and focuses on one such community that found itself the target of an onslaught of harassment and abuse, culminating in an incident that sent the community reeling and brought the issue of immigration reform right to their doorsteps.
Ojito reenacts the tragic events of that evening in the opening pages of her book: