A Q&A with Howard Axelrod | “The Stars in Our Pockets” considers the questions I’ve wrestled with since returning from the Vermont woods: How do environments, both natural and digital, change our orientation in the world? And if adapting to the digital environment means losing traits that you value, how do you determine which trades are worth making?
You won’t find corny-ass statements here proclaiming that the year 2020 will usher a time of clearer vision. Puh-lease. That’s tired. What’s worth saying here, however, is we need to keep our eyes on the issues that matter to us as we begin a new decade. Now that’s wired. We can get a picture of what matters by looking back at some of the top read blog posts on the Broadside in 2019.
By Raj Kumar | As much as billionaires might like to think of their giving as an unalloyed good, their philanthropy will increasingly be a subject of controversy and a political issue itself. In the United States, where more than half of all billionaires live, even our president among them, there is growing concern that our political system is being undermined by the divide between the billionaire class and everyone else. That has, in turn, put major US philanthropy in the spotlight, as three recent books make clear.
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker | Second only to the Columbus discovery story, the Thanksgiving tale is the United States’ quintessential origin narrative. Like the Columbus myth, the story of Thanksgiving has morphed into an easily digestible narrative that, despite its actual underlying truths, is designed to reinforce a sense of collective patriotic pride. The truths are, however, quite well documented. Their concealment within a simplistic story inevitably depicts a convoluted reality about the Indigenous peoples who played crucial roles in both events, and it presents an exaggerated valorization about the settlers’ roles.
A Q&A with Carlos A. Ball | I was struck, a few years ago, by the ways in which large corporations were coming out (no pun intended) against the passage of anti-LGBTQ laws, such as so-called religious freedom laws and transgender bathroom laws. Partly in response to strong criticism by corporate America, several states, including Arizona, Indiana, and North Carolina, rescinded the anti-LGBTQ laws. That made me start wondering why corporations were taking such public stances in favor of LGBTQ equality, while remaining generally neutral on other so-called hot button social issues.
By Peter Jan Honigsberg | When Brandon Neely sat down to interview with us in Houston, Texas, he brought his wife. She knew much of his story, but it seemed that he wanted her to hear him share his story with us. Maybe he would recall something new, something he had not told her before.
By Kyle T. Mays | This Native American Heritage month, I want to bring a moment of historical clarity to the topics of solidarity and tension as they play out in the contemporary connection between African American and Native American peoples. I am Black American and Saginaw Chippewa. My mother’s side of the family is from Cleveland, my dad’s side of the family from Detroit. I am the descendant of Indigenous peoples in North America and Indigenous peoples from Africa. I know the former; I have yet to find out about the latter.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | If you want a preview of how corporate America intends to play in the 2020 elections, look no farther than what’s happening in Seattle’s municipal elections right now. Amazon just dumped $1.45 million into the local Chamber of Commerce political action committee, a record political buy aimed at radically remaking city government to suit the desires of the behemoth that now dominates the region’s economy.
By Paul Ortiz | I wrote An African American and Latinx History of the United States because I believe that history has an indispensable role to play at a time when many of our leading politicians are again invoking anti-Latinx and anti-Black hatred in order to garner votes. I was born in 1964. I grew up in the 1970s, a time of “backlash” against the Mexican American and African American civil rights movements. Politicians like California’s Pete Wilson, Arizona’s Joe Arpaio, and New York’s Donald Trump rose to political power by blaming immigrants and African Americans for society’s problems.
By Eileen Truax | I first met the Romero family in 2013 on a trip to Arizona. In this household, the three children were taught that everyone was equal. they were raised to respect their elders, to be proud of their country of origin, and to love the United States, where they had lived for twenty years. But deep down, they all knew they were not the same: though Cynthia, the youngest, was a US citizen, her older siblings, Steve and Noemí, were undocumented.
A Q&A with Andrew S. Lewis | I am a person—an American—who believes in climate change. (I hate that we even have to say “believe,” as if it were a religion and not a simple fact of science that’s been proven for decades.) More difficult was the fact that I was writing about people from my hometown, people who knew people in my family, people who members of my family have to see on a regular basis. It’s a small place. But structuring the book in an investigative way, which allowed me to lean on the core tenants of journalism, offered me the opportunity to extract myself from large sections of the narrative and to simply listen objectively.
A Q&A with Andrew S. Lewis | I grew up on the Bayshore, and my family was deeply connected to the water and wetlands that surrounded us. We fished the bay, went crabbing in the creeks. I understood that we lived within a beautiful, ecologically diverse natural space. I always wanted to be a writer, and one of my favorite books as a kid was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. One of the main reasons that it was my favorite book was because the Mississippi River landscape Twain evokes reminded me a lot of the Bayshore. Later, in my teens, my grandfather would tell me stories about the Prohibition years, when bootleggers paid off his father to use his Bayshore land to transport booze smuggled in from the bay. For years, I toyed around with fictional stories about the Bayshore during Prohibition, just believing there was a story there.
By Ruth Behar | If I had to choose one aspect of my life that had the greatest impact on me as a thinker and a writer, it would be that I was born a Jew in Cuba. And after that, it would be that I came to the United States as an immigrant child, carrying this doubled sense of identity which would eventually be articulated in an American context in the English language, but always with a longing for the native Spanish that was spoken in my family. As a girl and a young woman growing up in New York, I struggled to find a way to give voice to the experience of being a Cuban immigrant, while always yearning to know the island that my family remembered nostalgically, but to which I was told we would never again return to live.
By Gayatri Patnaik | Several months ago, when I was in the midst of editing Imani Perry’s biography of Lorraine Hansberry (Looking for Lorraine), I remember stopping and thinking about how special Imani’s voice was. She is extremely knowledgeable and intellectually sophisticated, but she also had this ability to write about Hansberry in an intimate way, and with an eloquent simplicity. A few minutes later, I happened to read a Facebook post from Imani about one of her sons and I immediately thought, How lucky her kids are to have Imani as their mother. And then I became curious and wondered, How is she educating them?
Lyn Mikel Brown | Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg made her way to New York City a few weeks ago via an emission-free racing yacht. She’s here to tell us, as she’s been doing since she was eleven, that “our house is on fire.” The climate crisis is urgent. We dismiss it at our own peril.
By Michelle Oberman | None of the laws Oklahoma passed were new. They simply passed every measure enacted by other pro-life states, along with the occasional model bill drafted by Americans United for Life. The laws cover a broad range of issues. Some of the laws, such as a ban on sex-selective abortion, are plainly symbolic. Women seeking abortions in Oklahoma, as in other states, need not provide a reason for terminating their pregnancies. There is no way to enforce this provision.
By Jonathan Rosenblum | With the seemingly endless marathon of presidential electioneering approaching full stride, we now get to experience that quadrennial ritual of Democratic establishment candidates queuing up to pledge how they are going to save the labor movement by raising wages and making it easier for workers to organize into unions.
By Jacy Reese | When I met Oliver Zahn in 2015, he was director of the Center for Cosmological Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Zahn was a fellow member of the local effective altruism community, a social movement and philosophy based on trying to maximize one’s positive impact on the world. In July 2016 I helped the German-born scientist and his family pack up some of their possessions as they prepared to move out of their California home. By this time, Zahn had transitioned to apply his expertise to a mission-driven startup, working as chief data scientist at Impossible Foods, one of the most famous animal-free food companies today.
By Fred Pearce | America’s iconic nuclear landscape is the Nevada National Security Site, a fenced-off and largely deserted tract of sand, cactus, and Joshua trees that is bigger than Rhode Island. Once, when America was testing its atomic bombs here, it was the site of high jinks and revelry. Everything new and exciting in America was labeled “atomic,” and Nevada was the place to experience the cutting edge of the new age.
1619, a year to go down in infamy like 1492. 400 years ago this month, a ship reached a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia, carrying more than twenty enslaved Africans. Stolen from their homes, these men and women were sold to the colonists in what would become known as the United States. The Atlantic Slave trade would feed this vicious cycle of reducing Africans to commodities through the brutal bondage of forced labor and sexual coercion, the repercussions of which we live with centuries later. How do we as a country reckon with and heal from this history? We asked some of our authors to reflect on this and share their remarks below.