Ruthie Foster, The Blues, and a Town That Needs Lifting

No Depression recently featured my essay on Ruthie Foster, the importance of the blues in American life, and the urban decay of Park Forest, IL – the setting of a recent Foster performance, as a cover story.

Park Forest 2

In the essay, Park Forest is emblematic of countless American towns that have struggled with white flight, racial fracture, and economic decline. The magnificent and mighty Ruthie Foster becomes a songbird of hope for not only her Park Forest audience, but everyone within earshot of her beautiful music.

Read the essay at No Depression.

Ruthie

 

New Political Essays at Salon

I recently wrote an essay about the dangers of America’s apathy toward white supremacy – an increasingly popular and violent movement that threatens to undermine the entire democratic project.

Similarly, I threw Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanual, and his apologists, against the wall for foaming at the mouth over Jussie Smollett, but showing absolute disregard for the innumerable injustices against black citizens in Chicago, and other cities – large and small – across America.

Read the essays at Salon.

New Journalistic Essay: Visiting Cook County Jail with Jesse Jackson

On Christmas morning, I accompanied civil rights leader, Jesse Jackson, on his fiftieth annual visit to Cook County Jail, the largest in the Chicagoland area. In my essay, I report on Jackson’s moving remarks to inmates, and the work of his organization, Rainbow/PUSH, to combat racial and class biases in the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the existence of modern day debt prisons.

Read it at the Daily Ripple.

Jesse Jackson Cook County Jail 2

End of The Year Update: Music, Politics, and Poetry

The website fell silent over the past few months. Appearances, however, are deceptive. What follows is a month-by-month update of my writing through the fall and winter.

September: I wrote an essay on the legendary Aretha Franklin, and the decline of soul and passion in American music for the American Conservative. I also interviewed Americana songwriting legend, Alejandro Escovedo, for Salon.

Be About It Press ran my first published poems.

October: I interviewed Brent Smith, lead singer of Shinedown, for No Depression.

November: This Zine Will Change Your Life, under the curation of the always brilliant Ben Tanzer, published my poem, “High School Night.”

I reviewed Take Good Care, the new record from The Revivalists, for No Depression.

At the American Conservative, I crossed into territory few writers dare explore by analyzing “political correctness” with a position equally sympathetic to its proponents and critics.

December: For the Los Angeles Review of Books, I wrote about how Edward Hopper’s depiction of America as a lonely and fractured society is stunningly applicable to a country under the leadership of Donald Trump.

In my newest essay, hot off the digital press, I lament and analyze the sad state of American culture, where romantic love is suddenly out of fashion

Enjoy your reading, and Happy New Year!

The Poetry of Democracy: Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, and Aretha Franklin

The first time I interviewed Warren Haynes, he said, “We now live an era when someone can press a button on a computer to make a bad singer sound average, and someone can press a button on a computer to make an average singer sound good. But no one will ever be able to push a button to make someone sound like Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin.”

Aretha Franklin’s artistic might and magic defied all human limitation.

Thinking about her death, I revisited one of the most powerful moments of recent memory – When she and Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. collaborated to eulogize Rosa Parks.

I wrote an essay on their soul stirring tribute to one of America’s greatest heroes.

 

Jackson Franklin