Oakland Symphony was forced to cancel its season but they've continued to rehearse through Zoom. In lieu of its regular in-person concert, they performed their version of "This Land is Your Land" and posted it on YouTube. Its conductor, Michael Morgan, says of the song choice, "It's often misinterpreted as just another patriotic ditty. The reputation of its composer, Woody Guthrie, is smoothed over and sanitized. But the fact is, it was written in 1940 when many patriotic songs seemed to either exclude or present a very narrow vision of what it was to be American. 'This Land is Your Land' comes out of the bedrock of the social justice movement. It was an anthem of inclusion when inclusion was not mainstream. This song is radical. Woody Guthrie was a socialist, if not a communist, and his song is for everybody..."
Yes, he's talking about the same Woody Guthrie who had a sticker on his guitar that read, "THIS MACHINE KILLS FASCISTS":
screengrab via Oakland Symphony/YouTube; image via United States Library of Congress/Wikipedia Read the rest
In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his iconic "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," a profoundly important message that King's adviser and friend Dr. Clarence B. Jones called a "symphony of social justice." In 2018, Oakland composer Zachary Watkins (Black Spirituals) wrote Peace Be Till for the contemporary classical group Kronos Quartet, in honor of Dr. King's activism. The staggering excerpt above features Dr. Jones, currently director of the University of San Francisco Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice, reads from the "Letter from the Birmingham Jail."
Film edited by Evan Neff.
Peace Be Till premiered on January 19, 2018, at New York City's Carnegie Hall during "The ’60s: The Years that Changed America" festival. Read the rest
I first learned of Philadelphia Printworks because of a sweatshirt they designed for the Brooklyn Museum's showing of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983, an absolutely essential exhibition of black artists' work at the intersection of activism, empowerment, and cultural pride. (The exhibition is currently on view at San Francisco's de Young Museum.) Philadelphia Printworks describes itself as "a social justice heritage brand and screen printing workshop."
I bought the "Soul of a Nation" crewneck and also the "People's Free Food Program hoodie" celebrating the Black Panthers' influential community program launched in 1969 that fed thousands of children every day.
"Soul of a Nation"
"Octavia Butler" by Nick James
"Freedom Trail/Freedom Summer" Read the rest
Amazon is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees, apparently to help pay for raises. The internet retail giant pledged earlier this week to raise pay to at least $15 an hour. Read the rest
Johnny Cash was born on February 26, 1932. That's today – except, 86 years in the past.
When Cash died back in 2003, I was pretty shaken up. I grew up listening to his music. Once I had my own home, his music was in constant rotation, along with bands like The Clash, The Pogues, and James.
Most of the people I know remember him from his latter day works, like his cover of "Hurt," or for Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of him in Walk the Line. When I think of Johnny, it's for the fact that he never missed a chance to call bullshit on power or to highlight the plight of the less fortunate in the music that he wrote. "Man in Black" is a fine example of that.
Cash was no saint, but he tried hard to be a better person than he really was. I suppose, being something of an occasional turd myself, I still look to him in that regard. Read the rest
I've been following BurritoGate, the story of two white women in Portland who went to Mexico (barely, they went to Puerto Nuevo,) and liked the burritos. The pair decided to learn to make flour tortillas, ran into some language barriers, and then came back to Portland to serve breakfast burritos one day a week from a taco cart. Social Justice could not stand the 'cultural appropriation.' Read the rest
On her YouTube channel, Riley J. Dennis breaks down the case against the frequently used argument “there are more important issues to talk about.” Read the rest
Depending on whom you ask, a crazy lady got bent out of shape over a dad joke, or a pro-cop token sexually harassed a peaceful protester. Below are both versions of this modern-day Rashomon. Like Harambe, the Hugh Mungus meme works for all political persuasions.
(image: Block The Bunker Facebook event)
Seattle held raucous City Council meetings over plans to build an expensive new police precinct opponents call "The Bunker." Emotions ran high. This much everyone agrees on.
During the chaos, local news teams were interviewing attendees, including resident Rudy Pantoja. Pantoja expressed appreciation and support for the police, who had helped his daughter get help with her personal and legal problems. Protester Zarna Joshi felt the press was not covering the event proportionally, and began to film Pantoja's interview to show that his views were not representative of the protesters. After the interview, Pantoja saw Joshi was filming him. What happens next is an Abbott and Costello routine for the modern era. The transcript below honors Pantoja's nom de guerre, "Hugh Mungus."
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Billy Corgan, of the Smashing Pumpkins, laments the fact he can't say a certain word without becoming unpopular, which is the result of social justice groups shutting down free speech.
"It's pretty remarkable that I could say one word right now that would destroy my career," he said, as the screen displayed images of Michael Richards and Paula Deen, both of whom faced derision after using the N-word. "I could use the wrong racial epithet or say the wrong thing to you or look down at the wrong part of your body and be castigated and it's a meme and I'm a horrible person. Every day through the media, through advertising, we see people being degraded, we see people doing all sorts of things that we should be horrified at as a culture. So we've normalized all sorts of things, but we live in a world where one word could destroy your life but it's OK to, if you're a social-justice warrior, spit in somebody's face."
Yet, he says, such groups "don't have power." The epiphany: always hovering just out of view. Good luck sticking to the right racial epithets, Billy. Read the rest
Caitlin Flanagan has written the funniest and most incisive glimpse into what it's like for today's road hacks whose livelihoods depend on navigating the treacherous waters of the college comedy circuit. Read the rest
“This is a watershed moment for civil rights that finally brings the dream of living in an equitable society one tiny fraction of a step closer to reality,” said civil rights lawyer Helene Najjar, adding that the country could now turn its attention to closing the income gap, ending racial discrimination in law enforcement, and providing equal educational opportunities for all children, among tens of thousands of other issues." Read the rest
The Reagan era kicked off a project to dismantle social mobility and equitable justice. This trenchant, angry, gorgeous graphic zine launched in response.
Oakland's troop of Radical Brownies are girls of color, aged 8-12, who learn about the Black Panthers and Brown Berets, and who campaign for body-acceptance and an end to police violence. Read the rest
Vi Hart and Nicky Case created a brilliant "playable post" that challenges you to arrange two groups of polygons to make them "happy" by ensuring that no more than 2/3 of their neighbors are different. Read the rest
On Tor.com, author and reviewer Jo Walton has an insightful look at why so many science fiction readers and writers are discussing David Graeber's Debt: The First 5,000 Years, a book that is already a darling of the Occupy movement:
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One of the problems with writing science fiction and fantasy is creating truly different societies. We tend to change things but keep other things at societal defaults. It’s really easy to see this in older SF, where we have moved on from those societal defaults and can thus laugh at seeing people in the future behaving like people in the fifties. But it’s very difficult to create genuinely innovative societies, and in genuinely different directions. As a British reader coming to SF there were a lot of things I thought were people’s amazing imagination that turned out to be normal American things and cultural defaults. And no matter how much research you do, it’s always easier in the anglosphere to find books and primary sources in English and about our own history and the history of people who have interacted with us. And both history and anthropology tend to be focused on one period, one place, so it’s possible to research a specific society you know you want to know about, but hard to find things that are about the range of options different societies have chosen.
What Debt does is to focus on a question of morality, first by framing the question, and then by examining how a really large number of human societies over a huge geographical and historical range have dealt with this issue, and how they have interacted with other people who have very different ideas about it.
CBC's long-form/big think radio program Ideas recently featured a lecture called "Feeding Ten Billion" from Raj Patel, an Africa development scholar formerly with the World Bank, and author of The Value of Nothing. Patel's perspective on global agriculture and social justice is incisive and contrarian. I've never heard anyone talk about the demerits of the "Green Revolution" in agriculture like this, and it was an eye-opener. A perfect hour-long listen for the weekend's chores. MP3 link Read the rest
[video link] US-based Egyptian blogger, speaker, and journalist Mona Eltahawy was released today after spending 12 hours detained by Egyptian security forces in Cairo. According to her tweets, she was arrested by riot police while observing the ongoing protests in Tahrir Square, where thousands of Egyptian citizens are calling for the military junta SCAF to be disbanded, and a representative, democratically-elected leadership to take their place.
While she was held, Mona managed to tweet from a fellow detainee's Blackberry that she had been beaten and was in prison. When she was released, Mona tweeted more details: she had been sexually and physically assaulted, and sustained a broken arm and a broken hand from beatings inside the interior ministry in Cairo, in the early hours of Thursday morning.
"The whole time I was thinking about article I would write," she writes, "Just you fuckers wait."
A number of journalists and well-known voices from Twitter have been detained in the last few days, including Egyptian-American documentary maker Jehane Noujaim, and Maged Butter, shown below (WARNING: graphic image): Read the rest