By Christian Coleman | Break out the confetti and the champagne! We’re having a double celebration for civil rights activist Desmond Meade! First, he has been named a 2021 MacArthur Fellow! Secondly, it’s the first-year anniversary of his book, “Let My People Vote: My Battle to Restore the Rights of Returning Citizens.” The MacArthur Foundation selected him to join this year’s class of Fellows because of his work to restore voting rights to 1.4 million formerly incarcerated citizens in Florida and to remove barriers to their full participation in civic life.
By Robert P. Moses and Charles E. Cobb, Jr. | The Algebra Project is first and foremost an organizing project—a community organizing project—rather than a traditional program of school reform. It draws its inspiration and its methods from the organizing tradition of the civil rights movement. Like the civil rights movement, the Algebra Project is a process, not an event. Two key aspects of the Mississippi organizing tradition underlie the Algebra Project: the centrality of families to the work of organizing, and organizing in the context of the community in which one lives and works.
The Civil Rights Movement has lost another great one. Radical educator, global-minded activist, MacArthur genius fellow. On July 25 at age 86, Bob Moses joined the ancestors. While we’re heartbroken about his passing, we remain honored to have published Radical Equations, which he wrote with Charles E. Cobb to tell his story of founding the Algebra Project. He provided a model for anyone looking for a community-based solution to the problems of our disadvantaged schools and improving education for poor children of color.
A Q&A with Leigh Patel | As someone who has a deep love of learning and teaching, places of formal education have often brought me some amount of heartbreak. We have absolutely stunning teachers because they are also learners, and students who teach as they continue to learn. However, much of education, and glaringly so in higher education, has been shaped by mythologies of who is smart, intelligent, deserving, and more recently in higher education, what to do to bring in money. I often say to my students that they have been told lies about society in their K-12 education and that they’ve come to love those lies.
By Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove | As I’ve traveled to share North Carolina’s story, I’ve seen how a reconstruction framework can help America see our struggles in a new light. Everywhere we’ve gone—from deep in the heart of Dixie to Wisconsin, where I saw water frozen in waves for the first time—I heard a longing for a moral movement that plows deep into our souls and recognizes that the attacks we face today are not a sign of our weakness, but rather the manifestation of a worrisome fear among the governing elites that their days are numbered and the hour is late.
A Q&A with Aviva Chomsky | The United States has tried to remake Central America in its own (US) interests and in the interests of US corporations, time after time. During the 1970s and 80s, Central Americans rose up in protest against a system that dispossessed peasants from their land in favor of big plantations and export agriculture enforced by US-supported militaries and police. Nicaraguans won their revolution in 1979, toppling the US-supported Somoza dictatorship.
By V. P. Franklin | In the fall of 2019, award-winning actress and political activist Jane Fonda felt compelled to launch a campaign of civil disobedience to call attention to the climate crisis facing current and future generations. Atmospheric greenhouse gases had reached their highest levels that year, and the Trump administration was not only denying the climate crisis but was also engaged in striking down federal regulations aimed at mitigating the impact of fossil fuels.
By Leigh Patel | On Friday, June 4, the remains of two Black girls, Delisha and Katricia “Tree” Africa, were to be collected from the home of physical anthropologist Alan Mann, an emeritus professor associated with both the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton University. Delisha and Tree were members of the Black liberation community in Philadelphia known as the MOVE. On May 13, 1985, Philadelphia police officers fired thousands of shot and grenades at 5:30 in the morning, peppering the row house where this communal organization resided.
Raise your hand if you’re going to Pride this year! 2020 has been voted off the island. More importantly, we missed Pride. As we strut our stuff under the sun, let’s not forget why we have the parades in the first place. The queers, drag queens, and trans women—especially the folx of color—who fought back against police violence. The fight for LGBTQ rights has never stopped since the Stonewall uprisings. Whether it’s the fight for self-acceptance and self-expression, for the right to marry, for the right to use the bathroom aligned with your gender identity, for affordable access to HIV medication, for the abolition of violent and oppressive systems, there’s always a fight.
By Zach Norris | Like white supremacy, patriarchy is a system of domination, this one claiming the superiority of the father (the straight male) and granting him more of all the influential and desirable stuff: more political leadership and moral authority, and more rights to own resources and property. As a result, women must get less of the power and the resources. The patriarchy also disadvantages or outright harms anyone who does not conform to heterosexuality or gender norms.
By Zach Norris | From among all the things that actually harm us, a mere sliver is addressed by our criminal legal system—a term I prefer over “criminal justice system,” because calling it a “justice system” inaccurately links it to justice, as well as fairness, healing, and safety. Generally speaking, the criminal legal system works great at protecting you and keeping you safe if you are a rich white man. It protects your power, prestige, and property, while debunking, debasing, and diminishing those who would question your right to those privileges. If you’re anyone else, it’s a lot less likely to result in justice, let alone healing.
Hats off to all students graduating this season! Because whew! This is no easy time to finish up school. The ideal graduation ceremony would be outdoors, filled with the company and applause of loved ones. Most will be held online, some outside within the parameters of social distancing. It won’t be the same, and frankly, nothing has been since March last year. But isn’t that what graduating is all about? Growing into the next new phase, whatever that phase happens to be? Before we get all misty-eyed and sob into our masks, here’s a list of recommended reads for the occasion.
By Andreas Karelas | Based on the latest findings of positive psychology research, I suggest that, in order to address climate change, we need to cultivate different values—values that place a greater emphasis on community and less on consumption—and that living according to these values will have the benefits of reducing our impact on the planet and increasing our personal well-being. To do this I’ll describe what I believe to be an effective three-step approach: (1) cultivate gratitude, (2) choose simplicity, and (3) focus on serving others. If we can learn to be more grateful for what we have, simplify our lives, and put more effort into serving others, I think we’ll be well on our way to a happier, more sustainable world.
By Aviva Chomsky | Joe Biden entered the White House with some inspiring yet contradictory positions on immigration and Central America. He promised to reverse Donald Trump’s draconian anti-immigrant policies while, through his “Plan to Build Security and Prosperity in Partnership with the People of Central America,” restoring “US leadership in the region” that he claimed Trump had abandoned. For Central Americans, though, such “leadership” has an ominous ring.
A Q&A with Sharon daVanport | AWN finds our history deeply rooted in the need to find community and shared-lived experiences. At the time AWN entered the autism community, the narrative centered mostly around young white boys and men. In those early days, we discovered quickly that AWN was an initiative that was desperately needed.
Where would we be without the leadership of extraordinary women who chose to challenge the societal status quo? This year’s theme for International Women’s Day was Choose to Challenge. As Women’s History Month draws to a close, we’re highlighting books from our catalog to celebrate the inspiring women who saw the need for change, and took action for equality!
A Q&A with Robin Broad and John Cavanagh | This book is about two of the most unlikely and inspiring victories that we’ve ever witnessed or had the privilege to be part of. That these wins take place in a poorer country, one that the United States and global corporations have exploited for decades, makes the wins even more remarkable. As we celebrated the victories, we realized that by sharing the story of these wins in a narrative nonfiction book, we could also share this sense of hope with readers, including readers who may have given up hope in these challenging times.
By Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert | What you learned about Rosa Parks in school was a myth. Much of what is known and taught about her is incomplete, distorted, and just plain wrong. Because Rosa Parks was active for sixty years, in the North as well as the South, her story provides a broader and more accurate view of the Black freedom struggle across the twentieth century. Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert show young people how the national fable of Parks and the civil rights movement—celebrated in schools during Black History Month—has warped what we know about Parks and stripped away the power and substance of the movement.
By Julian Bond | The next songs are traditional songs from the standard hymnal and church repertoire that have been altered to become Freedom Songs, this one from the height of the Birmingham movement in 1963. It is based on the parable of the lost sheep. The singers are Carleton Reese and the Alabama Christian Movement Choir, and the song is a traditional gospel song with new words. As you listen, you’ll hear the leader, Carleton Reese, open with the call, “Oh Lord, I’m running,” and the choir will respond, “Lord I’m running, trying to make a hundred.”
By Julian Bond | We are going to listen today to several Freedom Songs, all of them taken from a three-record set “Voices of the Civil Rights Movement: Black American Freedom Songs 1960–1966”—all of them should blow your mind. The set was compiled by Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Director of the Smithsonian’s Program in Black American Culture. You will hear her voice on some of these songs and will remember her from the movement in Albany, Georgia. She is best known as the Founder and Director of the singing group Sweet Honey in the Rock. In the liner notes, she says the “music culture of the civil rights movement was shaped by its central participants: black, Southern, and steeped in oral tradition.”