Scrambling to educate myself after being faced with the realization of what I don’t know and of the ways in which I am complicit in racism, I came across a name: Austin Channing Brown. Brown is the author of a must-read book, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness, published in 2018.
I also heard she hosts a web series called The Next Question. My stack of books growing and my arms and eyes in need of respite, I decided to listen to an episode. What I discovered is an incredible resource: a space to listen and learn and then follow up with the wealth of leads and links provided.
The Next Question offers access to thought-provoking conversations with changemakers, those working in courageous and innovative ways to move us toward a more just world.
This web series is the brain-child of Brown who co-hosts the show with Jenny Booth Potter and Chi Chi Okwu.
There is no substitute for tuning in, but allow me to highlight some of the guests and their radical ideas for foundational change.
Episode 1: Spoiler Alert – Segregation is Still Here
Nikole Hannah-Jones is an investigative reporter for the New York Times. Hannah-Jones’s primary focus is school segregation, it’s lingering, unfair, and damaging existence. Her bold idea is that private schools be abolished and funding redistributed so that the segregation that has seeped back into our system is eliminated in the interest of offering a quality education to EVERY child in this country. This is based on the fact that true integration works.
Hannah-Jones is at work on a book that explores this issue, entitled The Problem We All Live With, the same title as Norman Rockwell’s painting portraying Ruby Bridges being escorted to school by US Marshals during desegregation in 1960.
Hannah-Jones is also the originator of the New York Times’ “The 1619 Project” for which she was just awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary on May 4, 2020.
Her introductory essay to this series, “Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written, Black Americans have fought to make them true”, is an extremely important read. Don’t miss it.
Hannah-Jones co-founded the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, dedicated to cultivating more awareness and interest in the field of investigative reporting among young people of color.
A quote that stays with me from Hannah-Jones’s conversation on The Next Question, and can also be found on her website is: “In a country built on racial caste, we must confront the fact that our schools are not broken. They are operating as designed.”
It is beyond time for a new design.
Episode 4: Abolition Today
Maya Schenwar is an activist and writer focused on prison abolition.
Her books are:
Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better
Who Do You Serve and Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States.
Schenwar’s next book, co-written with Victoria Law, Prison by Any Other Name: The Harmful Consequences of Popular Reforms, is due out next month, July 2020.
With a prison system that is rotten at its roots, Schenwar advocates for something entirely different. She’s not alone in her stance for the abolition of incarceration; she is a strong, brilliant voice that is not going away.
In place of the prison industrial complex, she sees an alternative that involves building up our communities by redirecting resources. This shift would create a livable society for all, especially those most hurt by the current prison system, Black Americans. The current system not only destroys lives, it does very little to reduce harm and violence.
Schenwar is also editor-in-chief of Truthout, “a nonprofit news organization dedicated to providing independent reporting and commentary on a diverse range of social justice issues.”
One of the many points that Schenwar makes in her conversation on The Next Question is that prison itself is a place of trauma and violence AND hurt people hurt people.
It’s beyond time to uproot a prison system that perpetuates harm and violence.
Episode 5: Behind the Protest
Charlene Carruthers is a professional community organizer and activist, a staunch and tireless leader in the fight for racial and social justice. Carruthers’s mission is to increase the numbers of marginalized people who are equipped and empowered to take a lead and speak up for justice.
Carruthers’s book Unapologetic: A Black, Queer and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements, “provides a clear framework for activists committed to building transformative power, encouraging young people to see themselves as visionaries and leaders.”
In addition to her front-line protest work and her writing, Carruthers founded and directs the Chicago Center for Leadership and Transformation which works with those interested in becoming activists and leaders in what we know is a marathon toward equity. Carruthers knows well that there are skills and strategies necessary to be an effective community organizer.
In her conversation on The Next Question, Carruthers says that good organizing is like theater work. In any protest, there’s the story, directors, stage set, actors, and the press. For a protest to be effective, “We have to think about what story we have to tell,” and it takes a bold and talented activist like Carruthers to relay the story in a most compelling way, setting a movement in motion.
Listen in on The Next Question!
For me, the stubborn walls of segregation that I had allowed to surround me are crumbling. Listening to these revolutionary thinkers who are working to dismantle systematic racism has broadened my knowledge and thinking and inspired me. And my stack of books has grown substantially and that’s okay too!
Austin Channing Brown, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Maya Schenwar, and Charlene Carruthers are Nasty Women Writers and Activists!
© Maria Dintino 2020