Yesterday, the Maryland state’s attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby announced that she will prosecute six police officers for the death of Freddie Gray. In the press conference announcing her decision, which you can watch above, Mosby outlines in painful detail the timeline that led to Freddie Gray’s death. Gray was was just 25 years old when he died on April 19, after being arrested on April 12 and suffering a spinal cord injury while in the custody of the Baltimore police. She also explains that Freddie was arrested illegally. Around the 16 minute mark, Mosby vows:
To the youth of this city, I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment, this is your moment. Let’s ensure that we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause. And as young people, our time is now.
It’s been lovely to see photos and videos of protestors in Baltimore celebrating Marilyn Mosby’s announcement, and saying that, for the first time, they feel heard and recognized.
A young photographer called Devin Allen is sharing his photographs of protestors in Baltimore on his Instagram account. His tender portraits document the courage, love, and persistence with which young people have called for justice for black people in Baltimore. His images are stunning, and a welcome counterpoint to mainstream media’s depictions of protestors.
My heart swells for the teens out on the streets of Baltimore demanding justice for Freddie Gray, Mya Hall, and black people who have been brutalized, targeted, criminalized, and killed in their own communities. I root for the young people and protestors who have called for real reparations, and who insisted that black lives have value while facing armed National Guards in riot gear. But what can I really do other than listen, read, educate myself, and turn up to protests in my own city?
Well, 11 Things White People Can Do to be Real Anti-Racist Allies is ON IT with concrete advice from 12 prominent POC social activists and thinkers, including this bit of wisdom from the writer and activist, Rebecca Carroll:
When you are taking in media, notice when you’ve just finished reading five stories on a website, or watched six trailers in front of a movie, or glanced over the magazine covers at the supermarket checkout line without seeing a single person of color (other than Beyoncé). When you are on the subway and you see young black people talking loudly, expressing themselves and letting off steam, realize they see you looking at them, clutching your bag, passing quiet judgement you likely don’t even know you’re passing. But above all else, realize they are youth, young black people, who are faced with this sort of tacitly pointed denigration on a daily basis and who are just trying to grow and live.
And, speaking of things to listen to and read, I strongly strongly recommend watching Ta-Nehisi Coates’s talk at John Hopkins University’s Forum on Race, which he gave a day after the protests broke out in Baltimore. Coates, who is basically a national hero, started his brilliant, inspiring, and, at times, deeply personal talk by discussing the legacy of “plundering” from black people in America:
If you want to understand the relationship between African Americans and the country that they inhabit, you must understand that one of the central features of that relationship is plunder—the taking from black people in order to empower other people. Obviously, enslavement, which lasted in this country for 250 years—the period of enslavement in this country is much longer than the period of freedom for black people—is the ultimate plunder. It is nothing but plunder, of your body, of your family, of your labor, of your everything—of your very essence.
Then, he connects the idea of “plunder” with how our country’s criminal justice system treats black people.
There is a methodology, a tool that has been used to make sure that black people are available for plunder. And a major tool in making that process happen has been the criminal justice system. It’s very, very important to understand. I read the governor in the New York Times today, and he was saying in the paper that—you know, because it’s going to be a big day tomorrow—he was saying “violence will not be tolerated.” And I thought about that as a young man who’s from West Baltimore and grew up in West Baltimore and I thought about how violence was tolerated for all of my life here in West Baltimore.
I’m also grateful for this “Baltimore Syllabus,” a publicly available Google doc started by @iteach4change, which includes crowdsourced links to articles that have been a source of illumination and clarity for me.
This Policy Mic piece provides seven facts about police brutality, incarceration, unemployment, and the demographics of Baltimore, that help to explain why Baltimore residents have been protesting.
Ta-Nehisi Coates’ essay “Nonviolence as Compliance,” is a powerful discussion of the decades-long existence of police brutality in Baltimore. Coates also explains how “well-intended pleas” for nonviolence are “the right answer to the wrong question.” Coates, a native of Baltimore, does not claim that rioting or violence are “correct” or “wise,” but makes the point that, “When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.”
Kody Keplinger was 17 years old when she wrote the young adult novel, The DUFF: (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), which has just been released as a film starring Mae Whitman. In a piece for Seventeen magazine, Kody explains that even though her novel is about self-acceptance, she continued to struggle with her own body image even after it was published. This is a great read about finding and wielding your own self-confidence.
If you love mythology and are looking for summer reads, this Barnes and Noble blogpost about books based on myths from around the world will be very helpful. Go beyond the Greek gods and immerse yourself in stories drawn from a range of cultures and mythologies.
— The Vagenda Team (@VagendaMagazine) April 24, 2015
There’s been huge backlash against a controversial weight-loss advertising campaign which was visible all over London’s Underground system. I loved seeing activists amend the advert, which asked women if they were “beach body ready”—because yes, if you have a body and can take it to the beach, then you’re ready! After a lot of campaigning and a petition, the Advertising Standards Authority has banned the the advert in its current form. Small victories.
This incredible photo of the spiritual healer and performance artist Shameeka Dream sage-cleansing the Baltimore police circulated on Twitter and Tumblr this week. On her personal blog, Shameeka writes about her experiences at the protests, including how it felt to be pepper sprayed by police. She also offers insight into how her spirituality helped helps her cope in oppressive situations. Shameeka seems like an incredible woman and I’m glad that this amazing photo is attracting attention to her work.
And speaking of spiritual women, I loved this feature about Brooklyn-based “art witch” Molly Burkett, who has managed to turn her spiritual practices into a thriving career. It’s really exciting to me when I see women making a living doing the things that they love to do, and for Molly, it’s using the Tarot in combination with other artistic pursuits. Her ideas about spirituality always being in “constant flow” are also super fascinating.
This week, the United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of same-gender marriage. And while the Court’s justices appeared by split over the arguments, Notorious RBG, also known as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was having none of this. During the legal arguments, Ruth Bader Ginsburg forcefully pushed against discriminatory definitions of marriage. She has been champion for civil rights since she was appointed a Justice in 1993, and I feel so so lucky that she’s in the Supreme Court.
I really enjoyed this oral history of the creation of Lush’s last album, Lovelife. In this in-depth interview with two of rock music’s finest ’90s musicians, Miki Bereyni and Emma Anderson hit back against the idea that they discarded their shoegaze roots and went commercially pop for Lovelife, and dismiss reunion rumors by explaining that they’re moms with jobs and lives outside of music.
Last weekend was the White House Correspondent’s Dinner, an annual event involving the press and the President’s administration. This year, Cecily Strong was the dinner’s comedic host, and she KILLED IT. Her jokes about being the first straight woman to host the event in 20 years, and about Hillary Clinton being the inevitable next President, had me dying. She also made the press corps promise not to “report on Hillary’s appearance,” since “that is not journalism.” TRUTH.
Okay, look. If someone was threatening to hurt my dog, there is nothing in the world that I wouldn’t do to save my little baby. But PUNCHING A BEAR IN THE FACE? Carl Moore is the name of the hero who socked an actual bear to save his dog that he “loves like a daughter.” To round it off, he states emphatically that “the man or beast that I run from ain’t been born, and his momma is already dead.” I MEAN?! You would have to possess tons of bravado to have the nerve to PUNCH A BEAR, but Carl’s got in spades.
I was baffled by the report that some Russian bookstores chose to take Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus off their shelves because it has a swastika on the cover. According to the article, the staff were trying to comply with a government directive that the Nazi symbol shouldn’t appear anywhere in Moscow ahead of the Russian Victory Day holiday. But this attempted flushing-out seems to me to miss the point of Spiegelman’s book, and other accounts like it. Removing literature that reflects on history’s painful realities does a disservice to those whose lives were tragically affected or taken from them.
According to this New York Magazine article, doing activities alone might be just as much fun as doing them in a group. I used to feel awkward about eating by myself—is everyone judging and/or pitying me??????—until I realized I could just focus on the delicious meal in front me. Also, I love going to the movies by myself. That way, I get to eat all the popcorn.
If I could go back in time and give newbie 12-year-old me some wisdom-in-hindsight advice on the life of shows/bands/crowds/sweat/pure joy she was beginning to choose, it would be to read the guidelines outlined in this essay by Chicago music blog Store Brand Soda. l’m super grateful for this piece about harassment and accountability in punk communities. After sharing a really upsetting account of public harassment at an Austin music venue, the author shares some super-crucial info:
In 2012, blogger Cliff Pervocracy coined the term [the missing stair] to describe individuals who pose a danger to others, but are tolerated within a community because everyone is aware of their issues. If you know about a missing stair in an unlit stairwell, you can work around it and avoid it. No one bothers to fix the missing stair because jumping over it works just fine.
If I had been told about such “missing stairs” in new communities and towns I had moved into in my life as an enthusiastic young, female person, I would have been saved from not just some very real embarrassment, but real pain, too. So what do we do about this? At the end of the piece, there’s a list of rules for combatting harassment and building and repairing communities. All I want to do is to enjoy what I love—music and community—with my friends, happily and safely. This article made me think about how, as we all grow up, we might make our shit the best best best possible version of itself. ♦