By Philip C. Winslow: On a hot summer morning in 1954, when I was eleven years old, I saw my first human death by gunshot. The victim was a boy about my age. He had been playing with a .22 caliber rifle thought not to be loaded, I was told. The gun discharged, the bullet passed through his neck, rupturing the left carotid artery, and he bled out. I saw him only afterward. I never knew his name, the circumstances, nor anything about him or his family. But sixty-four years later, I clearly recall the stillness in death, his ashen face, the color of his hair, and the small entry wound in the left side of his neck. The death was ruled accidental, or, as they say these days, unintentional. Shaken, that night I had a long discussion with my mother about the unfairness of death, and about the consequences of the negligent handling of firearms.
By Gayatri Patnaik: I had the very good fortune to meet Dr. Mary Frances Berry (MFB) when I was twenty-one years old and working at the University of Pennsylvania. Having recently graduated from college with one major and an excessive number of minors (three!), I was undecided about what to pursue in graduate school. I ended up in Philly, working in Penn’s history department, where, in addition to supporting the professors administratively, I was allowed to sit in on classes and lectures.
A Q&A with Annelise Orleck and Liz Cooke: On March 25, 2011, I stood in the Great Hall of the People in New York’s Cooper Union, where I had helped to organize the hundredth anniversary commemorations of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, the disaster that killed 146 young workers and changed for a long time the way that US government agencies related to issues of workplace safety. We wanted to be sure that those who attended that day understood that while Triangle changed much for the better in the US for a long time, now workplace conditions had started to erode again, that there were still millions worldwide who worked in jobs that threatened their safety and even their lives.
By Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen: In 1999, Dee Hock, founder of Visa, quipped, “It’s far too late and things are far too bad for pessimism.” But eighteen years later, pessimism can feel like the new realism. After all, just three Americans control more wealth than the bottom half of us. In last year’s election, less than one percent of Americans provided most of the $6.4 billion in campaign spending, worsening an imbalance in political influence that’s long been with us. Even in the 1980s and 90s average Americans, according to a data-deep study, exerted “near zero” influence in Washington.
By David L. Hudson, Jr.: Student activists engaged over the battle for civil rights and war protests changed the course of American history. Today, this feeling of student activism seems to be returning—its latest iteration inspired by the horrors of mass school shootings. To have their voices heard, students exercise their First Amendment freedoms of expression to speak out against a failure to change gun laws, petition government officials to amend laws, and assemble together peaceably to amplify their voices and concerns.
By Ginny Gilder: Oh, ye Olympians, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways: I love thy exuberance, thy unalloyed passion, and unabashed desire to excel. I love thy seizing of the moment and the spotlight to showcase thy best. I love thy allowing, nay, inviting me to glimpse the size of your hearts, to cherish your boldness, and to embrace the offering of your humanity, its unique expression and exercise. I love that you somehow make my expression and pursuit of my own humanity, albeit far removed from the venue of sport, snow or ice, and likely with less superior skill and less relentless determination, seem possible and worthy of pursuit.
By Carole Joffe and David S. Cohen: Abortion is many things in America. Divisive. Politicized. A fact of life. It is also, in the world of health care, unique. Part of what makes abortion provision unique is that it happens amid relentless efforts to create as many obstacles to it as possible. The preternatural determination of abortion providers overcomes most of these obstacles, but for too many women, there’s something else that makes their abortion possible: volunteers.
By Caroline Light: First passed in 2005 in Florida, “Stand Your Ground” laws provide criminal and civil immunity to people who use lethal violence to defend themselves when they are reasonably afraid for their own or another’s safety. Since their passage in over half the states, the laws have been shown to exacerbate our nation’s already unjust practices of adjudicating self-defense. The laws amplify the impact of existing racial and gender biases, by making it easier, for example, for white (or white-appearing) people to kill non-whites without legal repercussions. In spite of proponents’ arguments that SYG laws protect women from “abusers,” they rarely provide immunity for women who defend themselves from their greatest statistical threat, their own intimate partners and exes.
Last year on Inauguration Day, our authors voiced to Donald Trump what they wanted him to know, understand, and beware of as commander-in-chief. Since then, the myriad doubts, concerns, and fears about what he and his administration would do during his term have persisted and/or increased. Some of our authors have returned with follow-up responses for him in the wake of his State of the Union address. We share them with you below.
By Michelle Oberman: Americans have spent the past forty-five years fighting over whether abortion should be legal. I spent the past ten years trying to figure out how it matters. I traveled to Chile and El Salvador to see what happens when abortion is banned. I learned that, even when abortion is illegal, it remains commonplace and the law against it is rarely enforced. My journey also helped me understand how misguided our battle over abortion has become.
By Philip Warburg: Donald Trump’s much-touted tariff on imported solar panels and cells couldn’t be a worse fit for America’s energy needs. Instead of accelerating our use of solar power, it will discourage the development of this clean energy resource and rein in the growth of solar jobs. For a president who—in his rhetoric at least—is hell-bent on creating US jobs and putting America First, does this move make any sense?
A Q&A with Mary Frances Berry: Black women going public about rape is not new. Harriet Jacobs, in her 1861 autobiography, denounced her rape by her master. Ida B. Wells, in 1892, denounced the rape of Black women and girls by white men in her newspaper along with the lynching of Black men for false accusations of raping white females. Other Black women, including Anna Julia Cooper and Fannie Barrier Williams, also sounded the alarm. The files of the Justice Department and the NAACP contain complaints of the rape of Black women throughout the Jim Crow Era. Recy Taylor, like Harriet Jacobs, went public and spoke out about her own rape by six white men.
A Q&A with Michelle Oberman: Americans have spent the past forty-five years fighting over whether abortion should be legal. I spent the past ten years trying to figure out how it matters. I had a couple of reasons for wanting to know why. First, because I’m a law professor and I study women’s health issues, the abortion war has been raging throughout my career. We fight over abortion’s legality like it matters, with both sides investing millions of dollars in lawyers and lawsuits every year. Many Americans now cast votes to elect our public officials based on their abortion stance. But what difference would it make if abortion was illegal? I wanted to know what was really at stake.
By Brian Clements, Alexandra Teague, and Dean Rader: All three of us are poets and professors. We all also write prose. Our jobs rely on and live in words. And yet, there are no real words to describe our complicated emotions about this anthology. On the one hand, we are grateful that it exists. On the other, we are mortified that it exists. We are pleased these amazing poems and responses are out there in the world; we are horrified there are increased reasons for them to be in this book.
2017 has been ragged and turbulent, charged with a fraught political climate spawned by a divisive presidential election. 2017 witnessed assaults on progress in racial justice, backlashes against environmental protections, and more. When we needed perspective and lucid social critique on the latest attacks on our civil liberties, our authors were there. We couldn’t be more thankful for them. They make the Broadside, which reached its tenth anniversary this year, the treasure trove of thought-provoking commentary we can turn to in our troubling and uncertain times. As our director Helene Atwan wrote in our first ever blog post, “It’s our hope that Beacon Broadside will be entertaining, challenging, provocative, unexpected, and—maybe above all—a good appetizer.” We certainly hope that’s the case for the year to come. Before 2017 comes to a close, we would like to share a collection of some of the highlights of the Broadside. Happy New Year!
With the release of The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, the story of the Pentagon Papers has rekindled public conversation about the importance of a free press. The papers divulged the history and facts of the United States’ political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, which were kept a secret from the nation until Daniel Ellsberg leaked copies of the papers to the New York Times to publish as excerpts in June of 1971. The Washington Post began printing excerpts as well. The film’s release couldn’t have come at a more relevant time. Its historical dramatization of how an administration tried to stop the paper from printing parts of the reports speaks to what we see happening now: a president openly attacking news outlets and making accusations of “fake news.”
By Michelle Oberman: We visited Christina at her grandmother’s home in El Transito, a village two hours outside San Salvador. She began her story at the point when she was seventeen and expecting her second child. Several months into her pregnancy, she and her three-year-old son left El Transito and moved to San Salvador, living in the second bedroom of her mother and stepfather’s apartment so that Christina would be close to the public hospital when her baby came.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker: By now it’s obvious that Donald Trump is acting out a twisted vendetta to erase every trace of Barack Obama’s eight-year legacy. The creation of the Bear’s Ears and Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monuments are part of that legacy, which were efforts to protect vast swaths of relatively pristine and undeveloped land in southern Utah in one of his last acts as president. That’s one frame for understanding Trump’s recent reversal of the monument designation for most of that land—approximately fifty percent for Staircase Escalante, and eighty-five percent in the case of Bear’s Ears. Altogether, the national monument designation protected roughly 3.5 million acres of public lands.
The combined House and Senate GOP tax bill is going to hurt more than just our economy. In our fraught political climate, anxieties and concerns are running high with regard to the impacts we should brace ourselves for in various sectors of American society. We reached out to a few of our authors to ask what’s at stake now that the House and Senate have struck a deal on the bill and are preparing a final version to deliver to Trump before Christmas.
By Jeanne Theoharis: The air was hot and sticky. Surrounded by clergy, Rev. William Barber lambasted the voter suppression that had compromised the 2016 presidential election. “Long before Russia hacked our election, our government was hacked by racism.” Since Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and the Supreme Court’s 2013 stripping of the Voting Rights Act, Barber explained, twenty-two states had passed new laws making it harder for people, particularly people of color, to vote.