On June 16th, I was a guest on the WSLR Peace and Justice Report – an outstanding program on progressive politics, broadcasting live from beautiful Sarasota, Florida.
The hosts conducted a gracious and thoughtful interview, asking me questions about my book, I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters, an assortment of political issues, and the future of American democracy. The entire episode is worthy of your attention, but my segment begins at the halfway point.
Early last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at length with former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. about his groundbreaking work and prescient ideas regarding voting rights, “states’ rights” racism, and democracy itself. Read my story on his meticulous dissection of the dangers facing American democracy, and his bold and imaginative proposal for rectification at Salon. You would be hard pressed to find this high quality of analysis elsewhere in mainstream discourse.
Pictured below is Jackson and me at the chart of Jackson’s making, which I describe in the story.
Here is a video of the discussion that took place on May 24th for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History with Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and me. A couple of disclaimers are necessary:
1. The museum director, in his introduction, said that my book, “I Am Somebody: Why Jesse Jackson Matters,” is a memoir that Rev. Jackson and I wrote together. The director, clearly, did not even look at the title of the book, or the museum’s own advertisements for the event. While the interviews Jackson gave were crucial, and provide the heart of the book, “I Am Somebody” is my biography, independently written, of Jesse Jackson.
2. There were numerous technical difficulties. Therefore, if you watch, you might notice a few abrupt and awkward cuts.
Despite these unfortunate errors, it is a great discussion. Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. spoke with characteristic brilliance and inspiration about human rights, progressive politics, and his own battles for genuine democracy. Our moderator, Aaron Bryant, showed some wonderful photographs from the museum’s archives of a young Jesse Jackson leading the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968.
Reigning queen of cool, Chrissie Hynde, recorded a magnificent new record using cell phone technology during the pandemic: Standing in the Doorway: Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan.
I was happy to review it for No Depression. Read my thoughts on Hynde’s singing and new arrangements, the mini-genre of Dylan tribute albums by women singers that has emerged in the past few years, Dylan’s songwriting, and the record itself.
In a new essay for CrimeReads, I write about one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years, Willy Vlautin’s The Night Always Comes. Not only a riveting story with characters who feel as alive as your next door neighbors, it is also a brilliant exploration of class struggle and the abuse of the working class in present day Portland, and more the broadly, the United States. In addition to reviewing The Night Always Comes, I also explore the rich tradition in crime literature of dealing with class struggle in the United States, and the dearth of contemporary stories that present the financial precarity of life in the “world’s wealthiest nation.”
I had the honor and pleasure of interviewing Noam Chomsky for the second time. We discussed his answer to the question, “What is politics?”, intellectual culture in the United States, the power and necessity of activism, and a variety of other historical and political issues. Chomsky provided brilliant analysis on topics ranging from modern state capitalism to the fascistic threat from the Republican Party. He also reminisced about his childhood, and the culture of solidarity that existed within his “first generation, mostly working class” community.
I’ve recently written two essays for the outstanding literary website, CrimeReads. The first is a review of Hemingway’s underrated novel, To Have and Have Not – an essay that doubles as an exploration of Hemingway’s radical politics.
For lighthearted fare, I joined the CrimeReads tradition of recommending getaway movies for the pandemic. My choice is the 2003 potboiler starring Denzel Washington, Out of Time.
I had the pleasure of interviewing singer/songwriter, David Huckfelt, about his new record, a collaboration with various Native musicians and writers. The album beautifully captures the synthesis between American folk and indigenous tradition – creating a musical portrait that is not only enjoyable, but also timely and culturally resonant.