An Interrupted Dialogue with Cuban Writers and Readers
Four Books to Read in January

Beacon Broadside: A Year in Review


As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back to some of our most popular posts of 2014, as well as some gems you might have overlooked. Consider it a countdown of a different sort, a look back at a year that was both volatile and filled with possibility, with posts that reflected both the intensity and diversity of our readers. And consider it a promise, as well, that our 2015 posts will be filled with the same inquisitive spirit and intellectual curiosity. Happy New Year!

#1 & #2: Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

The top two posts of the year were both by historian and Indigenous rights activist, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, whose An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States is the first history of the United States to be told from an Indegenous perspective. In both posts, Dunbar-Ortiz examines the dark history of US holidays marked by the blood of Native peoples. Her “Open Letter to President Barack Obama” implored that we end the celebration of Christopher Columbus, “the very face of European colonialism,” and change the holiday to Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead. “The Myth of Thanksgiving” exposes the nationalist origins of our Thanksgiving tradition, and asks that we use the day to celebrate the resiliance and survival of Native Nations.

If you were a fan of those posts, you might read Dunbar-Ortiz’s “150 Years after Sand Creek: The Limitations of Apology,” which examines the centuries-long US war against Native peoples, or “Indigenous People and the Myth of Disappearance,” an extensive Q&A with Dunbar-Ortiz about An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States.

#3: How Good Is TIAA-CREF?

When James W. Russell set out to debunk the hype behind 401(k)-style retirement schemes in his book Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis, one company kept eluding criticism: the “nonprofit” TIAA-CREF, retirement plan to many university professors and administrators (as well as, full-disclosure, Beacon Press). In “How Good Is TIAA-CREF?” Russell exposes the nonprofit’s fee structures and corporate practices that reveal TIAA-CREF to be fundamentally no different from all the other financial service giants profiting off our declining retirement accounts.

For those interested in the retirement crisis, and some of the potential solutions being floated, don’t miss Russell’s breakdown of President Obama’s proposed MyRA plan: “Obama’s MyRA: A New Plan That Will Benefit the Financial Services Industry More Than Retirees.”

#4: 10 Facts You Didn’t Know about Immigration and the Undocumented

Aviva Chomsky’s Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal shows how “illegality” and “undocumentedness” are concepts that were created to exclude and exploit, and this popular post from May exposes ten facts about immigration that are sure to surpise even the most educated activist.

Less seen but no less impactful is Chomsky’s exposé of the undocumented child border crisis, and the real source of pressures that continue to bring Central American children to our borders.

#5: To the Mountaintop: The Last Speech of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

On March 18, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first addressed the striking Memphis sanitation workers and their supporters. In a few words, King added union rights for the working poor to his campaign on behalf of the unemployed, a significant victory for labor that Michael K. Honey illuminates in this thoughtful excerpt from All Labor Has Dignity”, a collection of Dr. King’s thoughts on economic equality.

Honey returned to his roots in “Toward a Better World: Following the Way of Martin Luther King,” a moving, must-read post about his passion for Dr. King’s teachings.

Bonus Post: Jimmy's Blues: James Baldwin's Poetic Legacy

April brought National Poetry Month and the release of Jimmy’s Blues and Other Poems, all of the published poetry of James Baldwin, including six poems previously only available in a limited edition. To mark the occasion, Beacon publicity assistant Nicholas DiSabatino shared his personal connection with Baldwin’s prophetic and often quite personal poems.

Known for his extensive foresight and incisive critique of American racism in speeches and prose, Baldwin was no less forgiving in his poetry. As Ferguson, Missouri erupted in protest after the exoneration of Officer Darren Wilson, lines from Baldwin’s apocalyptic “Staggerlee wonders” came to mind, so we asked poet Jericho Brown to bring life to those lines in a video that reframes the poem for our current time. Read a little about “Staggerlee wonders” in this recent post, and watch the video below: