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.
This will be our second summer with our favorite global party-crasher, the pandemic. (Leave already, Pandy! We want to get on with our lives.) Seems like a lifetime ago when this started, huh? Except this season, the rollout of vaccines is making outdoor time under the sun a little freer and a little less fraught with worry. Although still nowhere near the comfort and safety level we need, some of us may make to the beach. Others may make it as far as their backyard. Wherever you set your beach blanket or beach chair, vaxxed and masked, we have some audiobook suggestions for the occasion.
The townspeople have clutched their pearls and fetched their pitchforks to raise hell against the new boogeyman du jour allegedly stomping the horizon. Do we dare speak its name? That boogeyman is . . . Critical Race Theory. White conservatives don’t want its antiracist agenda infecting children’s minds. The backlash is no different from the time when our former white supremacist in chief called for teaching “patriotic” histories.
A Q&A with Stephanie Pinder-Amaker and Lauren Wadsworth | As people who hold marginalized identities, we often have been the “only” or the “pioneer” in our workplace. As a result, we frequently experienced not only identity related aggressions but consistent requests to train those around us on how to be more culturally aware and responsive. Neither of us started our careers aiming to be “diversity experts,” but like many with marginalized identities, we continued to be called upon, and eventually embraced the role.
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.
This year’s theme for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is Advancing Leaders Through Purpose-Driven Service. Beacon Press views their writers as leaders, charting the way to a better future with uncovered histories, cultural commentary, and more. Which is why, as AAPI Heritage Month wraps up, we’re putting the spotlight on the work of our Asian American writers. The following list of recommended reads—by no means exhaustive—honors their work and contributions to our society and American history at large.
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.
A Q&A with G’Ra Asim | Toni Morrison’s aphorism is definitely germane to the genesis of this book. As I write about in the chapter “Evidence of Things Unscene,” I started working on “Boyz” in a grad school MFA workshop. At first, I was trying to write essays on punk and straight edge in a less overtly personal way. The feedback I got from my instructors and classmates was that the “I-character” in my essays was difficult to fully imagine or believe. That led me to a larger idea: for the most part, we all walk around with our own IRL dramatis personae of what kind of people we think exist in the world.
Beacon Press supports our authors, the Asian and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, and all those fighting against American xenophobia and hatred. This violence is not new. It has a long history in this country. We know that recent acts of violence are rooted in the same white supremacy and hate that take the lives of Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color. We remain committed to publishing resources to help dismantle the systems of white supremacy, hate, and toxic masculinity. #StopAsianHate #EndWhiteSupremacy
A Q&A with Morénike Giwa Onaiwu | It’s interesting, because it kind of makes me think about certain medications. Some do not have any adverse reaction when taken together. Neither is there a positive reaction. They just coexist simultaneously but aren’t necessarily interrelated in any meaningful way. Another medication might help enhance the efficacy of another—maybe by increasing its metabolism rate or boosting its effect in some other way so they interact in a helpful way.
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!
By Christian Coleman | It’s another fest of firsts for Octavia E. Butler! The multi-award-winning author and MacArthur fellow is having a moment, or rather a series of rolling moments that’s been gaining speed over the last few years, and we hope it keeps going!
By Yaba Blay | The US Census reveals much about the country’s perspective on race. It counts people according to how the nation defines people, and historically, those people counted as Black have been those people with any known Black ancestry. Blacks are defined by the one-drop rule. No other racial or ethnic group is defined in this way, nor does any other nation rely upon this formula; the one-drop rule is definitively Black and characteristically American. It should make sense then that the origins of the rule are directly linked to the history of Black people in the United States, and as such, our discussion of the one-drop rule begins during the period of colonial enslavement.
By Alex Zamalin | Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of the long-running television serial, The West Wing, prefers flair to substance. His characters talk fast and sound like civics teachers. But it’s not clear, beyond aspirational quotes, what they offer. The same is true in this acceptance speech. During his Golden Globes acceptance speech for writing the Netflix film, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” Sorkin quoted one of the film’s character’s, Abbie Hoffman, saying, “‘Democracy is not something you believe in or a place to hang your hat. But it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles.’ I don’t need any more evidence than what happened on Jan. 6 to agree with this.”
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 Helene Atwan | When Beacon was founded, in the mid-1850s, two burning issues of the day were abolition and women’s suffrage. Here, as we transition from Black History into Women’s History Month, I’m feeling so proud of our lasting tradition of publishing biographies that celebrate Black lives and women’s stories, and often both.
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.”
Black history isn’t just about the history-makers and big social movements. They begin as everyday people whose day-to-day experiences, inner Black life, and Black joy—this especially!—are just as much a part of Black history. Without daily life and joy, the picture narrows solely on struggle and trauma, and comes off as incomplete. We need it all.
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.”