By Steve EarlyThe Chevron fire became a wake-up call for citizen action to make California refineries safer for their own workers and less harmful to air quality, community health, and the environment in general. Since August 2012, labor and community organizers have used lobbying, litigation, regulatory intervention, electoral politics, and strike activity to pursue these goals. There has been some safety enforcement progress, modest financial concessions by Big Oil, and related promises to behave better in the future. Yet, thanks to Big Oil’s legal and political clout in our nation’s second largest oil refining state, the wheels of environmental justice turn much too slowly.
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By Andrea RitchieAs Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color wends its way into the world after living in my computer, countless boxes in my apartment, and in my heart and mind in various forms for the past decade, I find myself in Detroit for the annual Soros Justice Fellows conference. It feels like I am in the best possible place for this moment. We are here, in part, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, which has me reflecting on the role police violence against Black women—often invisible in the retelling—played in sparking the uprising, and ongoing resistance to police violence in the Motor City.
By Mary Frances BerryOur electoral process is broken. Polls, interviews with voters or prospective voters all confirm discontent with our system and a sense of unfairness, corruption or unresponsiveness. At the state and local levels, such issues as expanding Medicaid, insuring clean drinking water, addressing homelessness, figuring out how to “fix” education, repairing streets and other infrastructure, police community relations, all depend on an effectively functioning political system. The public routinely expresses a sense of uncertainty about when and how to vote, who can vote, and whose votes count, whether in state and local or national primaries or general elections. The uncertainty is exacerbated by increased population mobility. Some jurisdictions make changes in the law and are then challenged and endure expensive litigation costs because of provisions attacked as voter suppression.
By Michael BérubéIn disability studies, we tend to be skeptical of the so-called “supercrip” and allergic to any suggestion that people with disabilities can be inspiring. But it really is quite difficult to go to a Special Olympics meet, of whatever size, and not be inspired by the passion of the athletes and the dedication of the legions of volunteers. When you realize that only fifty years ago, almost no one believed that “the retarded” could participate in athletic events, you realize just how extraordinary Eunice Shriver’s vision was. And if you’re me, you thank her family—and all those volunteers.
A Q&A with Marcus EriksenPlastic can entangle wildlife, but much of the harm comes from ingesting micro plastics. Single-use products that leave our land are shredding in the oceans to form microplastics the size of grains of rice or smaller. These absorb other pollutants, like pesticides and industrial chemicals, in high concentrations. The literature is showing that these chemicals then migrate into the bodies of marine life when ingested. Plastic is proving to be a vector for pollutants to get into the food chain, which much of humanity harvests to feed itself.
by Kay WhitlockThe legacy of the private school movement born of mass resistance to desegregation and the structural violence and inequality that animate it remain with us today. It is not possible to make the shift from Incarceration to Education without openly unmasking, naming, and uprooting them.
By Wen StephensonThere’s a popular image of Henry David Thoreau as an apolitical hermit, a recluse, aloof and detached, even misanthropic, a crank indulging his private fantasy in his cabin in the woods. This has always been a caricature; his active involvement in the Underground Railroad and resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act put the lie to it. We know that he helped multiple fugitives on their way to Canada, guarding over them in his family’s house—the Thoreau family were committed abolitionists, especially his mother and sisters—even escorting them onto the trains, which entailed no small personal risk. And of course, we know that he wrote and spoke forcefully and without compromise against slavery and for human freedom.
By Bob KosturkoThere are dozens (perhaps hundreds?) of editions of Walden currently in print—and eBook and audio. How then to design a fresh new cover for Beacon Press’s evergreen backlist title? The answer lay in Thoreau’s mantra, Simplify!
By Tom Montgomery FateIn Walking Thoreau writes “Above all, we cannot afford not to live in the present.” In his Journal he writes. “Both for bodily and mental health court the present.” But how is that possible in the modern world?
By Howard AxelrodApple Sirs, I thank you for your appreciation of my lecture at the recent TED Dead conference: “Thinkers of Yesterday, Challenges of Today.” (Your company, as Mr. Jobs declared in his own lecture, truly has eyes and ears everywhere.) I must confess some of your letter eluded my understanding—for instance, the polite imperative: “Please drill down to deliverables.” Am I to understand that you view my ideas as buried underground, like a vein of gold or a healing spring?
Like everyone else who works in publishing, I grew up as a bookworm. My grandfather and my parents used to take me to the children’s section at the Needham Public Library, and we’d leave with more books than I could carry. In high school, my friend Alex and I were total Harry Potter diehards. We used to make trivia quizzes to determine which of our classmates was worthy of attending the movie premieres with us. So books were always a huge part of my life, but it never occurred to me to make books into a career until I had finished my second year of law school. Luckily, there are plenty of ways in which law and publishing intersect—contracts, licensing, permissions, and more—so I started networking and scouring the Boston area for jobs that combined my interests. When I saw my job posted at Beacon in December 2012, it sounded perfect for me. And it was!
By Lennard Davis
Twenty-seven years ago, disability activists threw away their canes, crutches, and wheelchairs. They proceeded to slowly and painfully crawl up the steps to the Capitol to protest those who would block the Americans with Disabilities Act. The “Capitol Crawl,” as the event was called, has become in retrospect a powerful visual symbol the difficulties faced by people with disabilities when confronted with barriers and obstacles created by politicians and others. Now, faced with massive cuts in disability medical care and services under the proposed Republican dismantling of Obamacare and Medicaid, disability activists are staging protests around the country.
By Carole JoffeMany Americans are puzzled by the all-out attacks by the Trump administration on contraceptive services: the administration has signaled its intention to take contraception out of the list of no co-pay preventive services authorized by Obamacare; it has made clear its eagerness to defund Planned Parenthood; and it has appointed longtime ideological opponents of contraception to positions of power in the federal bureaucracy, including direct oversight of family planning programs. The question becomes, why is an administration firmly opposed to abortion taking steps that will only assure more unintended pregnancies, some of which in turn will lead to an increased demand for abortions? What became of that short-lived moment in American politics when contraception was viewed as the main point of “common ground” between supporters and opponents of abortion?
By Lynn K. HallWhen you Google the name of the man who raped me when I was eighteen, the top hit says, “There are bad men. And then there are bad man. *** is one of the very worst men.” When I publicly accused this man of rape, I stood in a sizeable line of survivors. That there were five of us and the details of one of the cases—the girl was young, and disabled, and badly injured by the assault—left no doubt about the credibility of our stories. Our rapist was convicted, incarcerated, and served fourteen months. That may seem like a paltry sentence, and it is, but the point is that he saw the inside of a prison. He is now a registered sex offender with a past which follows him forevermore. The bigger point: I am believed.
By Angela SainiAs a lifetime geek (you’re welcome to inspect my membership card — it comes in the shape of an engineering degree), I’ve long been a devoted worshipper at the altar of science. I’ve attended nerd nights on two continents. I’ve spoken at Google. I even wrote a book about geek culture in India. For me, as for millions of others, there’s no better way of understanding the world than the scientific method. So imagine my horror when I finally learned that science wasn’t the perfect world of lab-coated, bespectacled good folk that I had always imagined it to be. Underneath the whiz-bang discoveries that populate the science pages, there are deep, dark problems that threaten to undermine public confidence in research—and that show it’s possible for bad, biased research to survive and thrive.
By Kay WhitlockHere’s a thought I keep coming back to during this tradition month of Pride celebrations (and protests by some LGBTQ folks against the growing corporate influence and welcoming of strong police presence in Pride celebrations.) It’s not my thought alone. Any number of people—activists, organizers, scholars—have, over many years, voiced something similar. Let’s center criminalized transgender, gender nonconforming, and queer folks in the moral, cultural, and political imaginations and agendas of movements for LGBTQ liberation. Especially criminalized queer communities of color.
By Christian ColemanReveling in science fiction/fantasy for an openness she saw lacking in other genres, Octavia E. Butler gave us gene-trading extraterrestrials, psionically powered mutants, a genetically engineered vampire, a reluctant time traveler forced to visit the brutal past of American slavery. There was no subject matter she wouldn’t tackle, no story she wouldn’t write during her three-decades-long career—except for one. The ghost story. She didn’t believe in ghosts. Raised as a born-again Baptist, Butler stopped believing in the afterlife and a celestial caretaker by age twelve. “Somehow you’re supposed to believe and have faith but not worry about having any evidence to support that belief and faith,” she said in a 1988 interview. “That just doesn’t work for me, and I never went back.”1 Coincidentally, at age twelve she began trying her hand at science fiction.
By Haroon MoghulEver notice how, when a disturbed young Muslim commits an act of violence, it’s immediately blamed on his religion—but when a disturbed white and non-Muslim man commits an act of violence, it’s because he’s a “loner,” “disturbed,” or “troubled”—even when there are clear indications he is motivated by and sees himself as part of a transnational network of extremists? The way the media portrays Muslims, you’d think we are immune to any kind of mental trauma, or that our actions can only ever be motivated by religion. But Muslims are human beings (surprise!). Our minds work like everybody else’s. We are susceptible to the same weaknesses, and liable to go through the same pains and traumas.
This month, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? turns fifty. King’s acute analysis of American race relations couldn’t be more prophetic. Written in 1967, in isolation in a rented house in Jamaica, King’s final book lays out his plans and dreams for America’s future: the need for better jobs; higher wages; decent housing; quality education; and above all, the end to global suffering. King’s dreams are very much our own today.
By Rev. Elizabeth M. EdmanPeople are going about their business with big, black smudges on their foreheads. My queer lens kicks in: “They’ve come out of the closet—as Christian.” Then the lightbulb moment: “What if progressive Christians could make ourselves visible on Ash Wednesday as both Christian AND queer-positive?” I make a note on my phone and set an alarm to go off in January.