‘Quest’ Is a Moving Portrait of an American Family

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Christopher and Christine’a Rainey in the documentary “Quest,” directed by Jonathan Olshefski. Credit Colleen Stepanian/First Run Features

Barack Obama is not the subject of “Quest,” Jonathan Olshefski’s new documentary, an intimate and patient portrait of a North Philadelphia family. But the film, which begins and ends with presidential elections — Mr. Obama’s in 2008 and his successor’s eight years later — is shadowed, in some ways haunted, by his presence and his temperament. At one point, he appears on television, in the wake of the massacre of school children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods,” he says, referring to the places that have been devastated by gun violence. “These children are our children.”

The simple inclusiveness of that idea and the feeling behind it — the sense that this nation, with all of its troubles, is something we’re all in together — may sound especially poignant now, and even a bit quaint. But a similar ethic of solidarity informs every moment of “Quest,” which brings us into the neighborhood and the home of Christopher and Christine’a Rainey and their teenage daughter, PJ.

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Trailer: ‘Quest’

A preview of the film.

By FIRST RUN FEATURES on Publish Date December 7, 2017. Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive. Watch in Times Video »

Christopher is also known as Quest, which is the name of the recording studio where he sits behind the mixing boards as local rappers spit their rhymes. Christine’a is Ma Quest, and the two of them, without vanity or any expectation of praise or reward, serve as mentors, confidants and semi-parental figures for the people around them. Mr. Rainey wakes up at dawn to deliver coupon circulars door to door. His wife works long hours at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. If you lived in North Philly, you would want to know them. “Quest” offers the gift of imagining that you do, even as it honors their complicated, sometimes opaque individuality.

Mr. Olshefski doesn’t pry too intrusively into their lives. He and his crew record only what the Raineys are willing to tell and show, and a story takes shape in response to events in their lives. Time flows like a current rather than advancing steadily according to the calendar or the clock. Mr. Obama’s first term passes in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, PJ and her father are talking about Mitt Romney as the 2012 election draws near.

Politics is part of their world, and some of the issues that have recently galvanized public debate — health care, addiction, crime, tensions between the police and African-American citizens — figure prominently in “Quest.” Gun violence affects the Raineys with direct and traumatic force, disrupting the film’s calm, contemplative rhythm. (There’s another, blessedly benign twist later on.) The disaster that strikes them is upsetting, and the stoicism with which they keep going is at least equally moving.

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Mr. Rainey with his daughter, PJ. Credit Jonathan Olshefski/First Run Features

But the movie doesn’t hold up its subjects as symbols of suffering or as emblems of strength. The Raineys themselves make no such claim: They take pride in the normalcy of their lives. When Christine’a hears Donald J. Trump making a pitch to “the African-Americans” who he believes live in unrelieved squalor, she responds with disgust: “You have no idea how we live.”

Is it too much to hope that he watches “Quest”? Its power lies in its attention to the drama of everyday existence, and Mr. Olshefski’s sharp eye for character. We track PJ’s adolescent moods, the tenderness and occasional tension that defines her parents’ relationship, and also the ups and downs of other friends and kin. Ms. Rainey’s older son, William, begins treatment for brain cancer as he’s about to become a father. A talented rapper named Price, one of Mr. Rainey’s creative collaborators and a drug user and alcoholic, squanders his promise and his friend’s good will as he fights his habit.

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Rep. John Lewis to skip Trump visit to Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

John Lewis is pictured. | AP Photo

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a former civil rights organizer who worked in Mississippi during the 1960s, has sparred with President Donald Trump in the past. | David Goldman/AP Photo

12/07/2017 04:04 PM EST

Updated 12/07/2017 04:35 PM EST

Civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis and Rep. Bennie Thompson announced Thursday they will not attend President Donald Trump’s upcoming visit to the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, calling the trip “an insult” to the African-Americans commemorated there.

“President Trump’s attendance and his hurtful policies are an insult to the people portrayed in this civil rights museum,” Thompson (D-Miss.) and Lewis (D-Ga.) said in a joint statement.

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Trump is scheduled to appear at the opening of the museum in Jackson, Mississippi, on Saturday. The museum, according to its website, will feature galleries that hearken back to a time “when Mississippi was ground zero for the national Civil Rights Movement.”

Trump’s attendance has come under fire from civil rights groups, with the NAACP casting it as an “affront” to African-Americans.

“President Trump’s statements and policies regarding the protection and enforcement of civil rights have been abysmal, and his attendance is an affront to the veterans of the civil rights movement,” NAACP president and chief executive Derrick Johnson said in a statement earlier this week.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it “unfortunate” that Lewis and Thompson would miss an event “honoring the incredible sacrifice civil rights leaders made to right the injustices in our history.”

“The president hopes others will join him in recognizing that the movement was about removing barriers and unifying Americans of all backgrounds,” she said according to a press pool report.

Lewis, a former civil rights organizer who worked in Mississippi during the 1960s, previously sparred with Trump after the Georgia lawmaker said Trump would not be a “legitimate president” prior to his inauguration, an event he boycotted in protest. He also took exception to Trump saying as a candidate that African-American communities were in the “worst shape they’ve ever been in before.”

“Is he talking about worse than slavery? Worse than the system of segregation and racial discrimination — when we couldn’t take a seat at the lunch counter and be served? Worse than being denied the right to register to vote, to participate in the democratic process and live in certain neighborhoods and communities?” Lewis said during an MSNBC interview last September.

After the White House announced Trump had accepted an invitation from Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to attend the opening ceremony, Thompson released a statement urging Trump to reconsider policies that the lawmaker cast as disadvantageous to African-Americans.

“His unfair budget cuts in agriculture, education, health care and housing disproportionately impacts people of color and is viewed by many as an act reminiscent of Jim Crow policies of the South,” Thompson said.

Joanna Neff of The Light Expansion Center to be Featured on CUTV News Radio

LARGO, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES, December 7, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — When you have a revelation, it has the power to change you forever. It’s like every aspect of you goes, “Wow! I finally got it!” But it’s nearly impossible to experience these revelations when our most harmful emotions are trapped. Our trapped emotions can cause causing chronic illness, stress and pain. Releasing harmful emotions trapped in our body blows away blockages to more joyful living and openness to new ideas.

Joanna Neff is an energy healing facilitator and founder of the Light Expansion Center. She lives in Largo, Florida, where she conducts distant-healing sessions.

“I don’t call myself a healer,” says Joanna. “I believe that I assist people in healing themselves. I guide you through a process of discovering for yourself what’s standing in your way. That’s the way I approach all my work.”

Joanna has found that “almost all healers begin as unhealed healers.” In Boulder, Joanna discovered a hotbed of alternative healing inspired by “New Age”/Old Wisdom. She took advantage of all these resources and made quite a bit of progress. She began studying with masters in Boulder and beyond, and learning the healing techniques so she could offer them to others. She describes it as a 19-year apprenticeship.

Today, Joanna specializes in a modality known as Emotion Coding Release, which allows for the permanent release of harmful emotions trapped in our physical bodies. Joanna locates where specific emotions are trapped, including in our energy field.

“I consider emotion coding release to be ‘the top of the mountain’. This is the kind of session that I feel liberates people more in their now lifetime here on Earth,” says Joanna. “We’ve been carrying a lot of these harmful emotions lifetime-after-lifetime. Because there are no Time or Space barriers to the methods I use, the results are powerful.”

What we think of as symptoms are really the keys to raising our self-awareness. Joanna helps her clients reflect on areas in their life they can become more conscious of, so they can experience more “Eureka” moments. It’s a catalyst that moves you forward.

“Self-awareness is the key to life success for all of us,” says Joanna. “I am a teacher who also helps remove obstacles to people’s self-awareness. This is how you transform from an unhealed healer to a healed healer yourself: through self-awareness that leads you to be able to make conscious, beneficial choices.”

CUTV News Radio will feature Joanna Neff in an interview with Jim Masters on December 11th at 12pm EST.

Listen to the show on BlogTalkRadio.

If you have a question for our guest, call (347) 996-3389.

For more information on Joanna’s work, visit http://www.melora.org.

Lou Ceparano
CUTV News
(631) 850-3314
email us here

Analyzing Race and Gender Bias Amid All the News That’s Fit to Print

Ms. Bell, 34, a Chicago native, is an African-American artist straddling two worlds dominated by white men: media and art. Though there are writers and journalists who applaud her analytical approach to deconstructing news, Ms. Bell noted, there are people in the arts who are more cautious. “I’ve been told that maybe I shouldn’t focus so much on race,” she said. “Art people try to get me to diversify my work and not pigeonhole myself so I won’t be seen as the ‘race girl’ in the art world. But everything is about race. It’s tough not to say it’s about race.”

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“I’m creating a narrative that goes against the dominant narrative put forth by the news,” Ms. Bell says. Credit Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times

This was apparent to her even when she worked as a grant writer for a syringe-exchange program. She spent five years in that job before applying to Columbia’s masters program in journalism. Eventually she experienced a “quarter-life crisis,” which prompted her to take a semester off. “I went to Paris for a month and spent time in an art collective not doing art,” she said. “I’m from what feels like a small gay black space, and I needed time to be in a different space where I could think through ideas.” Upon her return, she completed her degree in 2013.

It is that concern for historically marginalized groups that is the focus of her“Counternarratives” series, which examines the print version of The Times. “I’m creating a narrative that goes against the dominant narrative put forth by the news,” she explained.

One installment of her series looked at a front-page article about the United States swimmer Ryan Lochte and the controversy swirling around his robbery claim during the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Underneath the headline (“U.S. Swimmers’ Disputed Robbery Claim Fuels Tension in Brazil”) was a photo of the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt, referring to the article in an inside page about his winning gold in the 200 meters. To Ms. Bell, that particular juxtaposition — with no image of Mr. Lochte on the page — was egregious.

As was the special display on the sports section front of a profile of the retired tennis player John McEnroe, she said. Two large images ran with the article about Mr. McEnroe’s career and new book. He also talked at length about a comment he had made about Serena Williams’s rank if she had played on the men’s circuit. (It would be, he said, “like 700 in the world.”) The McEnroe feature appeared the same day Serena’s sister Venus Williams was to play a historic match at Wimbledon — she had reached the singles final there at 37. The day before, an article about her feat ran without an image on the sports section front. The Williams piece was “dwarfed in comparison to McEnroe’s,” Ms. Bell said. When contrasting the articles about Mr. Lochte and Mr. McEnroe, she said, “an important question emerges about how The Times centers whiteness,” when the news stories are positive and when they are negative.

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Ms. Bell working on her art at her studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. With her series “Counternarratives,” she aims to expose certain media biases. Credit Béatrice de Géa for The New York Times

Inside her windowless Bushwick studio, Ms. Bell has taped drafts of her works to the wall and spread them out on the floor. “I do subscribe to The Times,” she said. “My studio is like an archive room.” To her, it’s crucial to examine current publications with a historical lens. Once she’s identified an article, she proceeds to work.

“I choose a story because there’s been some kind of violation to me,” she said. “It’s imperative to show how a turn of phrase or a misplaced photo has real consequences for people at the margins who are still suffering under the weight of unfair and biased representation.”

While her art has been exhibited at Bennington College in Vermont and Atlanta Contemporary in Georgia, her fans have printed smaller versions of “A Teenager With Promise” and posted them on the streets of Washington, D.C., and Chicago. (Ms. Bell mostly pastes her works onto walls in the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Clinton Hill and Crown Heights neighborhoods of Brooklyn.) Prints are also on view in a group show at the Koenig & Clinton gallery in Brooklyn, MoMA PS1 in Queens as well as at the Nathan Cummings Foundation in Manhattan.

Ms. Bell said she wants to help readers engage more critically with the news through her art. Occasionally, she will linger on the street just to observe how people react to her work. One day, she said, two men were about to climb into a car and one of them stopped to look at Ms. Bell’s piece. His friend urged him to hurry and get in, she said. “The guy replied, ‘I’m trying to learn something.’”

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Welburn Captures Lifetime Design Achievement Award

Ed Welburn shows off the new trophy that will be given to the 2017 North American Car and Truck of the Year winners.

GM’s former chief designer Ed Welburn has been named the recipient of the 2018 Eyes on Deisgn Lifetime Achievement Award. The annual award is unique in that the selection is made by the previous winners of the award.

This group includes scores of well-known design executives, including Chris Bangle, Nuncio Bertone, Wayne Cherry, Walter de Silva, Willie G. Davidson, Tom Gale, Giorgetto Giugiaro, Chuck Jordan, Robert Lutz, Syd Mead, Shiro Nakamura, Patrick le Quement, Sergio Pininfarina, Stewart Reed, Peter Schreyer and Jack Telnack.

Industry News!

The award will be presented to Welburn next June during the annual Eyes on Design weekend, which culminate in the annual automotive design exhibition, held every Father’s Day on the lakefront grounds of the Eleanor & Edsel Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores outside Detroit.
Welburn, who has been described “the man who brought beauty back to GM,”  was just the sixth head of design for General Motors. He was also the first to lead the division on a global level, placing him in the same company as such design legends as Harley Earl and Bill Mitchell.

Ed Welburn was not only the first African-American design chief but only the sixth man to head design for General Motors.

(Former GM Design Chief heads list of 2017 HOF inductees. Click Here for the story.)

During his 44-year career, Welburn oversaw many designs, including those for the Corvette, Cadillac Escalade and the revived Chevrolet Camaro along with such concept cars as the Oldsmobile Aerotech, the Cadillac Ciel and the Buick Avista.

Welburn decided early on that a career in automotive design was for him, sketching cars as a young child and writing his first letter to GM when he was 11. The company responded, and he followed their recommendations, studying design, sculpture and painting at Howard University’s school of fine arts, which led to a college internship with GM in 1971

(Click Here for more about the retired GM design chief designing the NACTOY trophy.)

One year later, he became the first African American hired to design vehicles at GM, and he’s never looked back. Besides creating the striking cars, he also designed several pace cars for the Indianapolis 500 and the most recent presidential limousine.

In 2016, GM dedicated its Center for African American Art at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Welburn’s honor. In 2017, he was inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame and was awarded an honorary doctorate of fine arts by the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.

(For more about Welburn’s newly designed trophy, Click Here.)

Since his retirement from GM in 2016, he’s launched The Welburn Group, a design consultancy. He also continues to advise GM Design on its new facility in Warren, Michigan.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Challenging the Neoliberalism at the Root of Trump’s Authoritarianism

Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on October 4, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)Donald Trump speaks to supporters at a campaign rally at the Prescott Valley Event Center in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on October 4, 2016. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

What are the longer term trends that give rise to the presidency of Donald Trump? What will be the national and global impacts? And what do we need to do to resist? Henry A. Giroux tackles these questions in The Public in Peril: Trump and the Menace of American Authoritarianism. “This courageous and timely book is the first and best book on Trump’s neo-fascism in the making,” says Cornel West. To order your copy, click here and make a tax-deductible donation to Truthout now!

Confronted with the undermining of constitutional democracy, Henry A. Giroux argues for a radical social transformation in The Public in Peril. In the following excerpt, he argues that in order to succeed, the uprising must include both “a change of consciousness and structural change.”

 “To be truly radical is to make hope possible rather than despair inevitable.” —Raymond Williams 

The United States stands at the endpoint of a long series of attacks on democracy, and the choices faced by the American public today point to the divide between those who are committed to democracy and those who are not. Debates over whether Donald Trump was a fascist or Hillary Clinton was a right-wing warmonger and tool of Wall Street were a tactical diversion. The real questions that should have been debated include: What measures could have been taken to prevent the United States from sliding further into a distinctive form of authoritarianism? And what could have been done to imagine a mode of civic courage and militant hope needed to enable the promise of a democracy as a governing principle? Such questions take on a significant urgency in light of the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Under such circumstances, not only is the public in peril, it is on the brink of collapse as the economic, political, and cultural institutions necessary for democracy to survive are being aggressively undermined. As Robert Kuttner observes:

It is hard to contemplate the new administration without experiencing alarm bordering on despair: Alarm about the risks of war, the fate of constitutional democracy, the devastation of a century of social progress. Trump’s populism was a total fraud. Every single Trump appointment has come from the pool of far-right conservatives, crackpots, and billionaire kleptocrats. More alarming still is the man himself — his vanity, impulsivity, and willful ignorance, combined with an intuitive genius as a demagogue. A petulant fifth-grader with nuclear weapons will now control the awesome power of the U.S. government. One has to nourish the hope that Trump can yet be contained. Above all, that will take passionate and strategic engagement, not just to resist but to win, to discredit him and get him out of office while this is still a democracy. We can feel sick at heart — we would be fools not to — but despair is not an option.[1]

Kuttner rightly mitigates such despair with a call for resistance. Yet, such deep-seated anxiety is not unwarranted given the willingness of contemporary politicians and pundits during the 2016 presidential battle to use themes that echoed alarmingly fascist and totalitarian elements of the past. According to Drucilla Cornell and Stephen D. Seely, Trump’s campaign mobilized a movement that was “unambiguously fascist.”[2] They write:

We are not using the word “fascist” glibly here. Nor are we referencing only the so-called “alt-right” contingent of his supporters. No, Trump’s entire movement is rooted in an ethnic, racial, and linguistic nationalism that sanctions and glorifies violence against designated enemies and outsiders, is animated by a myth of decline and nostalgic renewal and centered on a masculine cult of personality.[3]

 Large segments of the American public have been written out of politics over what they view as a failed state and the inability of the basic machinery of government to serve their interests.[4] As market mentalities and moralities tighten their grip on all aspects of society, democratic institutions and public spheres are being downsized, if not altogether disappearing. As these institutions vanish — from public schools to health-care centers — there is also a serious erosion of the discourses of community, justice, equality, public values, and the common good. This grim reality has been called a “failed sociality” — a failure in the power of the civic imagination, political will, and open democracy.[5] As the consolidation of power by the corporate and financial elite empties politics of any substance, the political realm merges elements of Monty Python, Kafka, and Aldous Huxley. Mainstream politics is now dominated by hard-right extremists who have brought to the center of politics a shameful white supremacist ideology, poisonous xenophobic ideas, and the blunt, malicious tenets and practices of Islamophobia.

To read more articles by Henry A. Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

On the other side of the political spectrum, the Democratic Party operates in the service of the war machine, financial elite, and various registers of the military-industrial-academic-surveillance complex. In the current political climate, centrism and extremism increasingly become indistinguishable. The older political establishment’s calls for regime change and war are now supplemented by the discourse of state-sanctioned torture, armed ignorance, and a deep hatred of democracy. One consequence is that both parties have thrown, in different degrees, immigrants, poor minorities of class and color, refugees, the working class, and especially young people under the bus. Neoliberalism, with its full-fledged assault on the welfare state and public goods, the destruction of the manufacturing sector, and a dramatic shift in wealth to the upper 1 percent, has destroyed the faith of millions in democracy, which lost its power to contain the rich in a runaway form of casino capitalism. With the erosion of the social contract and the increasing power of the rich to control both the commanding institutions of society and politics itself, democracy has lost any legitimacy as a counterweight to protect the ever widening sphere of people considered vulnerable and disposable. One consequence has been that the dangerous playbook to neo-fascist appeals has gained more and more credence. In addition, large portions of the American public have turned willingly to Trump’s brand of authoritarianism.

Trump’s election has produced widespread despair, fear, and anxiety in the most vulnerable, largely confirmed by the fact that “over a thousand hate crimes have been reported since Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election.”[6] Even more foreboding is the fact that not only does Trump inherit the repressive policies and practices that followed 9/11 such as a growing national security state, the National Defense Authorization Act, a permanent war culture, the paramilitarization of the police, widespread intrusive surveillance, and the illegality of drone assassinations, but he has at his disposal the ability to wield a massive degree of executive power. As Kuttner makes clear:

But one should not minimize the perils. Trump will wield a massive amount of executive power. This is a man with a short fuse and a long enemies list . . . he can use the power of the presidency to conduct vast surveillance, threaten the commercial interests of the free press, selectively prosecute, and further weaken the labor movement while his allies in Congress change the ground rules of federalism to undermine progressive policies of blue states and cities. Trump will float above cadres of conservative professionals with detailed playbooks. They will try to back-load the impact of unpopular policies such as deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare.[7]

The future looks bleak, especially for youth as they are burdened with debt, dead-end jobs, unemployment, and, if you are black and poor, the increasing possibility of being either incarcerated or shot by the police.[8] Trump has redefined government as the enemy of economic and social justice and in doing so has created a number of cabinet positions that will run what might be called ministries of repression and injustice. The United States has become a war culture and immediate massive forms of resistance and civil disobedience are essential if the planet and human life is going to survive.[9] Domestic terrorism defined as intentional and criminal acts of violence by the state against civilian populations has become the new norm in the United  States.

The savagery of a war culture and its sundry forms of domestic terrorism was on full display in the United States with the September 13, 2016 shooting of Tyre King in Columbus, Ohio, a 13-year-old child who ran from the police while holding a BB gun. Tyre was “5ft tall and weighed less than 100lbs . . . [and was an] eighth-grader [who] played football and other sports, and was in a young scholars program.”[10] After this innocent child was killed, there were more shootings of unarmed African Americans in spite of growing public protest against police violence. For example, Keith Lamont Scott, 43, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was shot dead while sitting in his truck while waiting for his son to return home on a bus from school. On May 2, 2017, a Texas police officer in Balch Springs, Texas shot into a car killing 15-year-old Jordan Edwards. These shootings barely scratch the surface of the workings of a police state and the increasing number of assaults waged against poor communities of color. As Nicholas Powers points out,

The old racial line between “Black” and “White” has been redrawn as the line between criminal and citizen. Up and down the class hierarchy from poor to wealthy, Black people have to dodge violence, from macroaggressions to economic sabotage and from public shaming to physical attacks . . . every day another person of color is shot by police, and the hole left inside families are where loved ones used to breathe. The cops not only steal the lives of our children; they steal the lives of everyone who loved them. A part of us freezes, goes numb.[11]

There can be little doubt that America is at war with its own ideals and that war is being waged against minorities of color and class, immigrants, Muslims, and Syrian refugees. Such brutality amounts to acts of domestic terrorism and demands not only massive collective opposition but also a new understanding of the conditions that are causing such sanctioned violence and the need for a fresh notion of politics to resist it. This suggests putting democratic socialism on the agenda for change.

The struggle for democratic socialism is an important goal, especially in light of the reign of terror of the existing neoliberal mode of governance. It is crucial to remember that as a firm defender of the harsh politics and values of neoliberalism, Trump preyed on the atomization and loneliness many people felt in a neoliberal social order that derides dependency, solidarity, community, and any viable notion of the commons. He encouraged both the fantasy of a rugged individualism and the toxic discourse of a hyper-masculine notion of nativism, while at the same time offering his followers the swindle of a community rooted in an embrace of white supremacy, a white public sphere, and a hatred of those deemed irrevocably other. The ideology and public pedagogy of neoliberalism at the root of Trump’s embrace of a new authoritarianism must be challenged and dismantled ideologically and politically.

Yet, the task of challenging the new authoritarianism will only succeed if progressives embrace an expansive understanding of politics. This means, among other things, refusing to view elections as the ultimate litmus test of democratic participation and rejecting the assumption that capitalism and democracy are synonymous. The demise of democracy must be challenged at all levels of public participation and must serve as a rallying cry to call into question the power and control of all institutions that bear down on everyday life. Moreover, any progressive struggle must move beyond the fragmentation that has undermined the left for decades. This suggests moving beyond single-issue movements in order to develop and emphasize the connections between diverse social formations. At stake here is the struggle for building a broad alliance that brings together different political movements and, as Cornell and Seely observe, a political formation willing to promote an ethical revolution whose goal “is not only socialism as an economic form of organization but a new way of being together with others that could begin to provide a collectively shared horizon of meaning.”[12]

Central to The Public in Peril is a refusal of the mainstream politics of disconnect. In its place is a plea for expansive social movements and a more comprehensive understanding of politics in order to connect the dots between, for instance, police brutality and mass incarceration, on the one hand, and the diverse crises producing massive poverty, the destruction of the welfare state, and the assaults on the environment, workers, young people, and women on the other. As Peter Bohmer observes, the call for a meaningful living wage and full employment cannot be separated from demands “for access to quality education, affordable and quality housing and medical care, for quality child care, for reproductive rights and for clean air, drinkable water,” and the pillaging of the environment by the ultra-rich and mega corporations.[13] He rightly argues:

Connecting issues and social movements and organizations to each other has the potential to build a powerful movement of movements that is stronger than any of its individual parts. This means educating ourselves and in our groups about these issues and their causes and their interconnection.[14]

One approach to such a task would be to develop an expansive understanding of politics that necessarily links the calls for a living wage and environmental justice to demands for accessible quality health care and the elimination of conditions that enable the state to wage assaults against Black people, immigrants, workers, and women. Such relational analyses also suggest the merging of labor unions and social movements. In addition, progressives must address the crucial challenge of producing cultural apparatuses such as alternative media, think tanks, and social services in order to provide models of education that enhance the ability of individuals to make informed judgments and discriminate between evidence-based arguments and opinions, and to provide theoretical and political frameworks for rethinking the relationship between the self and others based on notions of compassion, justice, and solidarity.

Crucial to rethinking the space and meaning of the political imagination is the need to reach across specific identities and to move beyond single-issue movements and their specific agendas. This is not a matter of dismissing such movements, but creating new alliances that allow them to become stronger in the fight to succeed both in advancing their specific concerns and in enlarging the possibility of developing a radical democracy that benefits not just specific but general interests. As the Fifteenth Street Manifesto group expressed in its 2008 piece, “Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals,” many groups on the left would grow stronger if they were to “perceive and refocus their struggles as part of a larger movement for social transformation.”[15] Any feasible political agenda must merge the pedagogical and the political by employing a language and mode of analysis that resonates with people’s needs while making social change a crucial element of the political and public imagination. At the same time, any politics that is going to take real change seriously must be highly critical of any reformist politics that does not include both a change of consciousness and structural change.

Footnotes:

[4] For a brilliant analysis of the anger and fears among those working-class individuals and groups written out of the American Dream, see Arlie Russell Hochschild, Strangers in Their Own Land (New York: New Press, 2016). See also, George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014).

[5] Alex Honneth, Pathologies of Reason (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), p. 188.

[7] Kuttner, “The Audacity of Hope.”

[8] See, for instance, a number of insightful articles on police violence against people of color in Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price, eds, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016).

[9] On the militarization of everyday life, see: Rosa Brooks, How Everything Became War and the Military Became Everything: Tales from the Pentagon (New York: Simon and Fraser, 2016); Radley Balko, Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (New York: Public Affairs, 2014); Nick Turse, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2008).

[11] Nicholas Powers, “Killing the Future: The Theft of Black Life.” In Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price, eds, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2016), p. 14.

[12] Cornell and Seely, “Seven Theses on Trump.”

[15] Situations, Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals (New York: Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), p.  1.

Copyright (2017) by Henry A. Giroux. Not to be reprinted without permission of the publisher,  Routledge.

Expert stresses immediate action to combat public health disparities

In a event hosted by the Wisconsin Union Directorate’s Distinguished Lecture Series Wednesday, speaker Leana Wen advocated for what she believes can be real, tangible solutions to the problems faced in public health.

Wen is the current health commissioner for the City of Baltimore, a position through which she sets and implements public health policy. Wen brought decades of experience as an emergency room medical doctor, public health professor and policymaker to the lecture.

In her lecture, Wen stressed the ideas of taking action to bring about real change in combating public health disparities. She identified three concepts she said could be most effective on this front.

The first concept Wen identified as a possible agent for change in public health was challenging the “pervasive narrative of choice.”

Journalists find difficulties in remaining neutral in health care reporting, panelists sayThe Center for Journalism Ethics held a panel Wednesday to discuss the difficulties for a journalist to report on health Read…

Wen said the idea everyone has equal access and ability to make good choices for their health is false, and understanding this is essential to combating disparities.

“Choice is predicated on privilege, and privilege is not something everyone has,” Wen said.

Wen said wealthier people in the United States have greater access and ability to buy healthy foods and live healthy lifestyles — something which she said is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of white Americans compared to people of color, particularly black Americans.

Wen said unhealthy lifestyles are oftentimes the only option open to families of low socioeconomic status, which makes the “narrative of choice” false. She identified combating this narrative as one mechanism by which action can be taken to reduce racial health disparities.

Wen also stressed the importance of immediate action, rather than “admiring” the problem through inactive academic studies which tell the public information it already knows to be true.

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“We have studied these problems to death,” Wen said. “I don’t mean that we shouldn’t do more research, but I don’t need another research study to tell me about the problems and disparities that exist.”

Instead of studying the problem, Wen advocated for active solutions to combat the problem. She said small, seemingly ineffective solutions can sometimes have great effects.

When Wen first came to Baltimore, she said less than 20 percent of students who were screened as needing eyeglasses actually had them, which can have adverse effects on their ability to perform well in class and vision, and even further rippling effects from that.

She said providing eyeglasses to students helped in part to combat the disparity in educational achievement levels, which remain stark in the city and which have rippling effects to many other areas.

Wen believes no matter how small an action may seem, or how ineffective its outcome may appear, it is important to pursue that action.

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“If there is one tangible thing we can do that we know can make a difference, let’s not get paralyzed … because there is something that we can do right now,” Wen said.

Calling out problems when we see them was the third concept for taking action identified by Wen. In the public health sector, Wen said one of the most pervasive problems which must be called out is stigma, particularly as it is attached to addiction.

Wen said the way addiction is addressed has changed, as it now seen as more of a disease than a choice. She said the change in how addiction is perceived is due in part to the fact that the opioid epidemic has begun to affect the white community.

“We have incarcerated generations of black and brown people to whom we owe an apology, because if we understand addiction to be a disease now, we sure didn’t treat it like that a couple of years ago,” Wen said.

In her closing remarks, Wen advocated for immediate action on these and other issues on everyone’s behalf, and stressed that those who stand up against injustice are on the “right side of history.”

Triangle-grown social media: The story behind Durham’s SpokeHub and its five African American founders

Version two of SpokeHub — a social media and chat room-like communication application— hits Apple and Google Play stores this week.

It’s the brainchild of five Durhamites with a long history in the region. Between the five of founders—Richard Berryman III, Robert Hartsfield, John York, John McAdory, and Terry Johnson, they’ve worked at some of the most well-known Durham-based startups from Channel Advisor to Bronto,  and several were even educated in Durham Public Schools.

SpokeHub

The idea behind the app—to create a space where people could chat about shared interests— even came to co-founder John York while attending a local high school basketball game. When the referees made a call the fans didn’t agree with. York naturally wanted to chat with others throughout the gymnasium about the play and subsequent call but knew his social media network didn’t align with those in the room so posting on Facebook or Twitter would have confused his friends and not provided the conversation he sought.

It was then the concept behind SpokeHub came to him, a room or channel where people with shared and similar interests or who are at the same events can engage meaningfully with each other.

But the SpokeHub team didn’t want to just build another social media app. Rather, they wanted to build something that would “inspire the next generation.” Specifically, they hope to inspire the next generation of North Carolinians and minority populations—as they’re all North Carolinians and African-American—a fact that distinguishes them from startups and founding teams across the country but is increasingly more standard in Durham, where startup teams and their leadership are increasingly more diverse.

They take pride in the fact they’re building their business in Durham, and say the Durham community is “embracing SpokeHub 100%.” Local businesses have supported the team by providing feedback on their product, sharing their networks with the team, and adopting or spreading the word about the app.And they’ve actively sought opportunities region’s opportunities and support from the entrepreneurial community too.

SpokeHub team with Brand Ambassador and TV Star George Lopez. Pictured from Left to Right: George Lopez, John York, Robert Hartsfield, Taylor Glymph, Richard Berryman III (in the back), Kerianne Enderline & Yolanda Rodgers Howsie (sitting down.

For example, they were one of 12 teams who participated in in the first Google for Entrepreneurs Exchange: Black Founders program  in 2016 hosted by the American Underground, and they’re currently housed at the Frontier —the coworking and office space for startups in RTP. They also have assembled an impressive board of advisors that contains serial entrepreneurs like Donald Thompson, owner of the High Country Grizzlies and President of Creative Allies, and Terrence Burroughs, President and owner of The Burroughs Health Care Management Group.

The founders admitted that navigating the fundraising process has been challenging, but identify the the difficulty of the process—not their race—as the root of that challenge.

To navigate the process, the team leaned on Lori Jones Gibbs, a Senior Vice President of Community Development Banking at PNC Bank who has offered the team advice, and introductions to the region’s investment community. The advice payed off—they’ve raised $140,000 of their planned $500,000 seed round to date.

And the team plans to pay the goodwill shown them by the Durham community forward to the next generation through their app and support.

Hartsfield feels one of the best ways to inspire the next generation is through SpokeHub itself. He says, “it’s going to change the way people are going to communicate,” and that the platform enables youth to have real, two-way conversations that they couldn’t have outside of SpokeHub. They also want to inspire entrepreneurship and careers in technology among Durham’s youth by exposing them to their stories and educating them on the opportunities. The founders believe that by sharing their story as Durham-raised entrepreneurs that are now competing with social media giants, the SpokeHub team can encourage young students to view entrepreneurial and technology careers as “cool and attainable.”

SpokeHub’s logo appears in “Marshall” promotion.

It’s a big vision, and their vision for the future of SpokeHub is equally as big. At the recent premier of the movie Marshall where SpokeHub participated as the social media partner, their logo appeared alongside the logos of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. This image perfectly encapsulates their vision—that SpokeHub would be spoken of in the same breath, become as as pervasive in our culture, and seen as or more useful a tool as the three social media giants.

Fund established to preserve African American historical sites

HISTORICAL MARKERS—In this March 31, 2014 file photo, Ana Edwards talks about historical markers at the Lumkin Jail historical site in Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

WASHINGTON (AP)—A new $25 million fund is being set up through the National Trust for Historic Preservation to help ensure that historical sites important to African-American history are no longer endangered.

The African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund, announced Wednesday, will be financed through partnerships with groups like the Ford Foundation and the JPB Foundation, and already has more than $3 million on hand.

“There is an opportunity and an obligation for us to step forward boldly and ensure the preservation of places which tell the often-overlooked stories of African-Americans and their many contributions to our nation,” said Stephanie Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The money will be used to address critical funding gaps for the preservation of African American historical sites, including memorializing some places already lost to history, like Shockoe Bottom in Richmond, Virginia.

Shockoe Bottom was the center of Richmond’s slave trade, second only in importance to New Orleans between 1830 and 1865, but much of it has been paved over. The National Trust named Shockoe Bottom one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in 2014, and is working to add a memorial park to the area.

“The preservation challenge there is how do you memorialize this place and keep the story alive to inform future generations,” she said.

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Review: ‘Quest’ Is a Moving Portrait of an American Family

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Christopher and Christine’a Rainey in the documentary “Quest,” directed by Jonathan Olshefski. Credit Colleen Stepanian/First Run Features

Barack Obama is not the subject of “Quest,” Jonathan Olshefski’s new documentary, an intimate and patient portrait of a North Philadelphia family. But the film, which begins and ends with presidential elections — Mr. Obama’s in 2008 and his successor’s eight years later — is shadowed, in some ways haunted, by his presence and his temperament. At one point, he appears on television, in the wake of the massacre of school children and their teachers in Newtown, Conn. “These neighborhoods are our neighborhoods,” he says, referring to the places that have been devastated by gun violence. “These children are our children.”

The simple inclusiveness of that idea and the feeling behind it — the sense that this nation, with all of its troubles, is something we’re all in together — may sound especially poignant now, and even a bit quaint. But a similar ethic of solidarity informs every moment of “Quest,” which brings us into the neighborhood and the home of Christopher and Christine’a Rainey and their teenage daughter, PJ.

Christopher is also known as Quest, which is the name of the recording studio where he sits behind the mixing boards as local rappers spit their rhymes. Christine’a is Ma Quest, and the two of them, without vanity or any expectation of praise or reward, serve as mentors, confidants and semi-parental figures for the people around them. Mr. Rainey wakes up at dawn to deliver coupon circulars door to door. His wife works long hours at a shelter for survivors of domestic violence. If you lived in North Philly, you would want to know them. “Quest” offers the gift of imagining that you do, even as it honors their complicated, sometimes opaque individuality.

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Mr. Rainey with his daughter, PJ. Credit Jonathan Olshefski/First Run Features

Mr. Olshefski doesn’t pry too intrusively into their lives. He and his crew record only what the Raineys are willing to tell and show, and a story takes shape in response to events in their lives. Time flows like a current rather than advancing steadily according to the calendar or the clock. Mr. Obama’s first term passes in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, PJ and her father are talking about Mitt Romney as the 2012 election draws near.

Politics is part of their world, and some of the issues that have recently galvanized public debate — health care, addiction, crime, tensions between the police and African-American citizens — figure prominently in “Quest.” Gun violence affects the Raineys with direct and traumatic force, disrupting the film’s calm, contemplative rhythm. (There’s another, blessedly benign twist later on.) The disaster that strikes them is upsetting, and the stoicism with which they keep going is at least equally moving.

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