Today is International Women’s Day, a global day to honor and celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political accomplishments of women. Observed since the early 1900s, it marks a call to action for accelerating gender equality. This year’s campaign theme, #BeBoldForChange, implores us to help build a more inclusive, gender-equal world. It also coincides with the “Day Without a Woman” general strike, organized to bring attention to the inequalities women still face, including lower wages, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. Women in thirty-five countries are participating in the strike.
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A Q&A with Tanya ErzenI taught a college course on women and citizenship in US History in a women’s prison in 2003 in New York City, Bayview Correctional Center. The prison has since closed and will house a women’s organization that works on global women’s issues. I noticed that during that time, the majority of people I saw coming into the prison, aside from family members and loved ones of those incarcerated, were religious volunteers, and I became curious about the presence of religious groups inside. It was around that time that a colleague sent me an article about Florida transforming its state prisons into faith-based character institutions. Since I write about evangelicalism and religion in general, I wanted to explore how people in prison experience the presence of so many religious groups.
I vividly remember sitting on my bed my sophomore year in college trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, because law school didn’t seem like an amazing option at that time. I remember asking myself, “Self, what do you want to do? What do you like to do?” Insert long story about how I’m a reader/writer and I exhausted most options because I couldn’t see myself doing anything besides being around books and helping them—help in the sense that I thought books weren’t being marketing to their full potential online or in bookstores, and the industry needed help with diversity in both literature and staffing. I found Beacon after I finished my publishing program. I really just wanted a change and to work for a company whose mission I could get behind and one that would help me continue learning after graduating.
By Jonathan RosenblumWhen I first heard the good news on February 3 that U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart had slapped a restraining order on Trump’s travel ban, I texted a labor attorney friend: “Goodness—Judge Robart! Am I obliged to like him now?” You see, while millions of people are applauding Judge Robart for upholding the Constitution and blocking xenophobia, some of us have had a very different experience in his Seattle courtroom. Back in 2012, SeaTac Airport workers were hauled before him by attorneys for Alaska Airlines and the Port of Seattle. By the time they left Robart’s court, they had been stripped of basic workplace rights.
By Martin MoranA few years ago I had the privilege of serving as a French-speaking interpreter for a group of refugees, many of them survivors of torture, who were seeking asylum in the United States. Most of the immigrants I worked with were from war-torn regions of Africa. They all happened to be Muslim. In recent weeks, with the issuing of a travel ban against seven predominately Muslim countries and news of many immigrants being deported, I have been thinking constantly about the men and women I worked with, especially one young man whom I’ve called Siba in my recent book All the Rage: A Quest.
A Q&A with Stacey PattonPeople think that hitting a child is a form of teaching. We think it will protect them. And people grow up to invert the violence they experience as children as something that was good, particularly in African-American culture. As a people, we attribute our success to having had our bodies processed through violence and quite frankly what it does is confirm a long-standing racist narrative about Black bodies. The only way to control us, the only way to make us “good,” law-abiding, moral people is with a good whupping. It seems that we unconsciously agree with that narrative.
By Gayatri PatnaikOne of my sharpest memories as a girl was when an immigration officer came to our house in rural Finzel, Maryland when I was about nine years old. He showed up at our house unannounced and I still remember the stunned look on my mother’s face when she answered the door. I didn’t realize until much later how high the stakes were or how very close we had come to being deported. While I can’t share specifics, I can say that one of the things the officer asked for was the phone number of people my mother knew who could attest to her character. And I remember sitting there in our kitchen hearing the one-sided conversation as he called friends or acquaintances or colleagues of my mother’s, one after another. When he left, I walked with him to the door and he shook my mother’s hand and told her she was a remarkable woman and that if she didn’t hear from him in the next six months, she wouldn’t have to worry about her citizenship status further.
By Margaret ReganOn a beastly hot June day, Jesús Arturo Madrid Rosas stood near the DeConcini Port of Entry, keeping a close eye on the street that transformed itself from Grand Avenue, Nogales, Arizona, into Avenida Adolfo López Mateos, Nogales, Sonora. The United States and Mexico jostled up against each other at the crowded crossing, and armed guards from the two nations—prowled just steps away from each other. Jesús was on the lookout for deportados. He was an officer for Mexico’s federal Repatriación Humana agency, and it was his job to welcome his deported compatriots back to their native land.
By Kay WhitlockThe forty-fifth President of the United States and his administration require danger and enemies to exist. They could not have come to power and cannot remain in power without continuing to mobilize against them. Especially racialized enemies: Muslims here and abroad, immigrants and refugees, “hardened criminals,” impoverished residents and gang members in “crime-infested” cities, cop-killers, fraudulent voters, Black Lives Matter, “failing public schools,” terrorist demonstrators and protestors, and cherry-picked “other countries” said to foster terrorism, breach national security, or steal American jobs and prosperity. All made to bear the weight of some illusory white nationalist “greatness,” tragically crumbling under the lethal onslaught of an increasingly multiracial, multicultural society.
By Lori L. TharpsBlack history is American history. It’s not separate. It’s not different. We were there for all of the good, bad, and ugly that made this country what it is today. From the Revolutionary War, to the Civil War, to putting a man on the moon, we were always there, and often in the front row for all of the action. We physically built this country, but we were also actively engaged in the planning, implementing, and designing of the structures that created the foundations of our society. We made art and music, designed clothing and cars that today are considered 100 percent American. But still in 2017 we have to fight to prove to our fellow citizens that not only have we contributed greatly, but that we simply matter.
A Q&A with Caroline LightOrdinarily, the duty to retreat obligated you to first try to avoid a violent confrontation before meeting force with force, unless you were threatened in your home. Starting in Florida in 2005, Stand Your Ground laws have granted some people an exemption from criminal prosecution when they claim to have killed another person in self-defense, as long as their fear of the deceased can be seen as “reasonable” in court. In some jurisdictions, SYG laws make it very difficult for police to arrest someone in the wake of a deadly encounter, because they must first establish evidence that the killing was not in reasonable self-defense.
By Aviva ChomskyThe rise in undocumented workers over the past several decades has gone along with a rise in the invisible, exploited labor that they perform. The generally unacknowledged work that they do is a crucial underpinning to the standard of living and consumption enjoyed by virtually everyone in the United States. But, clearly, an economic system that keeps a lot of people unemployed and another group trapped in a legal status that restricts them to the worst kinds of jobs does not really benefit everyone.
By Lisa KotinI will never understand how lovers can buy one another chocolate for Valentine’s Day. If I eat chocolate, the last thing I want to do is to get romantic. I just want to hole up in the bathroom with my box of sea salt caramels and my nuts and chews. Door locked. Lights off. So not even I can see myself going down on the goods.
By Rashod OllisonIt was February 1988, and I was in the fourth grade, the new kid at Fair Park Elementary in central Little Rock. I was nervous, of course, because I was the new kid. And nobody wants to be the new kid. But unlike previous classroom situations, I wasn’t the only black face in the place. There, in Mrs. Charlotte James’ orderly room, I was surrounded by kids who looked as though they could have been my cousins—black and brown faces staring back at me sans the entitled icy glares I usually got from white kids in Hot Springs. Also, Mrs. James was black, as stately and no-nonsense with her pearls and round glasses as the Baptist church mothers who silenced me with a stern look whenever I was disruptive in the Lord’s house. She was my first black teacher, and I was “so excited” like the Pointer Sisters.
By Carole JoffeMany who celebrated the success of the recent worldwide Women’s Marches—record-breaking numbers, wonderful esprit, and their peacefulness—were also gratified by the significant participation of men in the women-led events. This widely noted involvement of men in the marches prompted me to think of another important example of men supporting the aspirations of women, but one less noted today: the role of Black men in the struggle for abortion rights before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion nationwide. These men played crucial roles in key legal cases, introduced pioneering pro-choice legislation, and as doctors, made sure women could get this essential care.
Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to express my strong opposition to the nomination of Jefferson Sessions for federal district judgeship for the Southern District of Alabama. My longstanding commitment which I shared with my husband, Martin, to protect and enhance the rights of Black Americans, rights which include equal access to the democratic process, compels me to testify today.
By Lynn HallThe accomplishment of climbing one of the Seven Summits changed my entire psyche going into the publication of Caged Eyes. During the three weeks between summiting and book publication, my outlook has been very different. There have been a few harder days of panic and somatic upheaval, but overall I’m much more focused on my successes and the journey which brought me to this destination. I’m much more focused on my original intention of the book: dismantling cultures of shame and silence.
By Sharon Leslie MorganWhen Dr. Carter G. Woodson created “National Negro Week” in February, 1926, my oldest uncle was a newly conceived embryo. Louis Nicholson would emerge into the world in October of that year, born into a society in which African Americans were a mere six decades into freedom from 264 years of enslavement. “Jim Crow” was the law of the land. Black people were being segregated, terrorized, and lynched—even in his hometown of Chicago. Woodson chose February as the celebration date for “Negro History Week” because it coincided with the birthdays of abolitionist Frederick Douglass and “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln.
I’ve been in publishing since about 2000, so a lot has changed! At that point, company websites were just becoming the norm, but direct sales on those sites and content management systems definitely weren’t. Remember a time when social media didn’t exist? I do. We’re much more connected to readers than ever before. I spend a lot of my time working online, so these are some of the things that really stand out for me. There’s so much that has stayed the same, too, but one thing that really sticks out right now is that people continue to turn to books to fulfill basic needs, like finding comfort and solace in others’ experiences. Or to understand a different point of view or find ways to move forward in a difficult time. I worked in publishing in the post-9/11 world, and now we’re in the Trump era, and books continue matter.
By Nicholas DiSabatino“Is there anybody out here tonight still feeling the Bern?” Labor journalist Steve Early called out this question to a group of over eighty-five people at his Porter Square Books event in Cambridge, MA, on the evening of January 25, coyly referring to the foreword from Senator Bernie Sanders for his new book, Refinery Town: Big Oil, Big Money, and the Remaking of an American City.