Monday, April 11, 2016

Michael Moore on Flint and feeling the Bern

In his speech, “It Only Hurts When I Laugh” Michael Moore opened by saying “We’re living in a very strange time, politically, and in many other ways.”
On Wednesday, April 6, Moore spoke at Miller Auditorium in a kickoff to the Lewis Walker Institute’s 2016 Moore has directed 10 documentaries and written eight books about various social issues in America. His most recent film is “Where to Invade Next,” which follows him through visits to different countries in Europe and Africa, highlighting different ideas the U.S. could steal from those countries.
He warned the audience about the outcome of the upcoming election. “Let me tell you, the Canadians have very strict immigration laws when it comes to americans. They are not gonna take us in, we are gonna have to deal with this. Hopefully, in November, not after November.”
A native of Flint, Moore expressed strong opinions on the Flint Water Crisis, saying “Flint Michigan is not suffering through a water crisis. Water is really just the weapon. This was a race crime. I did an interview with the New York Times about three weeks ago. I said that to her, and she said ‘oh geez, how can you say that?’ How can I say it? Well, let’s look at the cities in Michigan and the school districts where the governor has replaced the duly elected officials, and tell me the skin color of these cities, and tell me honestly. This reporter, she was based in Chicago, so she knows Michigan. Would governor snyder have done this to Bloomfield Hills? Would he have done this to Ann Arbor? Would he have done this to Traverse City? No.”
He went on to explain why he believes this happened specifically in Flint. “Once you answer that question, we don’t need to have much more of a discussion as to the reasons why he thought he could get away with doing this, because he knew that the people of Flint, a majority black city A city that officially has 40% of it’s people living below the official poverty level, you know that means it’s a lot more. It’s a majority poor city, it’s a majority black city. And that means it’s a city that doesn’t have lobbyists, doesn’t make campaign contributions, doesn’t have anybody to stick up for it, and can be ignored. And they were ignored. From day one, people were complaining about what was coming out of their taps, and nobody did nothing. The local media did nothing.”
“The governor made this decision, and this is why this is not a water crisis. The governor said to his quote emergency manager, which that title should be changed really. Master would work. Overlord would work. He said to him ‘Hey, we just gave the rich in Michigan a billion dollar tax cut. Now, we’re going to have a billion less dollars coming into the state treasury. So we gotta cut back, I want you to find some ways to cut back. So he got together with the governor’s people and they had a little meeting about this, and they said ‘Oh, good idea. We could unplug Flint from Lake Huron and make them drink water out of the Flint River.’ ‘Genius idea, how much would we save?’ ‘15 million dollars.’”
“And then somebody, we know this from the emails, said ‘Well, shouldn’t we treat the water, because somebody said something about if we run the Flint river water through there, the Corrosive nature of the water will remove the lead in the pipes and possible the lead will get in the water.’ ‘How much will that cost?’ ‘$3/day’ ‘Naah, too much money.’ That’s all it would cost. Not $3 per home. So they went ahead and did this.”
Moore went on to rally support for Bernie Sanders while maintaining that Hillary Clinton is a candidate who has a history of supporting the type of social change that Moore supports.
Near the beginning of his speech, Moore remarked that the last time he was in southwest Michigan, he was visiting the sisters of St. Joseph, who taught him in elementary and middle school, sharing his latest film with them. As he was finished speaking, one of the nuns who taught him in middle school surprised him on stage. He seemed excited to see her, and they reminisced about a class she taught.
After Moore gave his speech, a few community members gathered on stage for a discussion. One member of the conversation asked about Moore’s use of humor to deal with issues of moral outrage. He said “By the time I was an adult, it was clear to me that the funniest people were the angriest people. Our best comedians were the angriest.”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates on race and mass incarceration

Photo credit: Adam Schwallie, Western Herald
In my role at the Western Herald, I occasionally have the opportunity to meet amazing people who visit Western Michigan University. This semester, Ta-Nehisi Coates visited WMU, and I had the chance to speak with him prior to his speech. He was wonderful - very humble and down-to-earth, and he made time to speak with student journalists.
Here's the article I wrote for the Herald about the event.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Ta-Nehisi Coates spoke to an audience of 2,500 in Miller Auditorium on race, mass incarceration in the war on drugs, and made a compelling case for reparations.
Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic. His book, “Between the World and Me” was a 2015 National Book Award finalist and he is a recent winner of the McArthur Genius Grant. Coates is amongst the most notable writers on race in America today. His visit to Kalamazoo was sponsored by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, and was part of their yearly meeting.
Prior to his speech at Miller, he spoke to student journalists privately at Kalamazoo College about his literary influences, which included hip-hop. “They were making it beautiful, and by beautiful, I don’t mean sexy, I don’t even mean glamorous. I mean showing the life and the humanity under the oppression, and they’re so textured and so layered.”
When asked about his ideas of the future of race relations he admitted to not being able to know. “I have no idea, you know that? It’s very hard to articulate, I mean I wouldn’t have told you we were going to have a Black president, so I’m probably the wrong person to go to for predictions.”
He also mentioned that “Between the World and Me” was the culmination of years of conversations between Coates and his son, who is a teenager. “The process of writing was when I sat down, but much of what was in the book was what we had been talking about for years.”
 Later in the evening at Miller Auditorium, Coates centered his speech on the effects of mass incarceration and the war on drugs in African American communities, saying “You guys have heard a lot of words about mass incarceration, but I think it’s very important to contextualize exactly what we mean by that. The United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s inhabitants, and yet it accounts for 25% of the world’s entire prison population.”
He went on to say, “This has had incredible effects on black communities. For black males, prison is no longer a rare experience, it is almost as common, or just as common, or more common as going into the military, as going to college, as joining a labor union. Prison is now normal. It’s just a part of your life cycle. If you’re an African American born in this generation today, and you drop out of school, you have roughly a 60% chance of eventually going to prison. It’s become a rite of passage for black males in this country.”
 Coates said that for many people, time in prison causes them be unable to find jobs and to drop out of society. “The problem is, when you drop out of society, you don’t go by yourself. You take your family with you, and so when folks come back from prison, for instance, or if folks are arrested in public housing, depending on where you’re in public housing, your family can be kicked out, your family can be disqualified for food stamp programs. When you come back you can’t get access to food stamps. Perhaps you have some notion of improving yourself when you get out of prison, but you can’t get access to Pell Grants to go to college. A whole suite of programs that we normally allow for American citizens, we immediately disqualify for folks who go to jail.”
Coates explained how mass incarceration has a major effect on families of incarcerated people. “I spent some time here in Michigan, in Detroit talking to families. It was nothing like hearing the mother, as I did, of a 16-year-old boy who’s gone off to jail. The mother I talked to, she was already on disability herself. She’s having to send money into this prison, into this kid’s life so he can deal with his own upkeep. She’s having to pay for phone calls so that she can have basic contact with him. So when he was sent to jail, it wasn’t like the system just punished him, it punishes his mother to. It radiates out.”
Coates pointed out the sharp contrast between the public’s response to growing heroin abuse amongst white people, and crack cocaine in the 1980’s. “There was a piece in the New York Times about a week ago. It was about the rise in heroin among more white people, and there was a kind of humanity that was reflected when folks were asked about these heroin addicts that was totally alien to me. I lived through the era of crack, and I remember what the response was to crack, and it was nothing the humane ‘we need to help folks, we need to be compassionate,’ it was nothing like that.” He questioned this difference, and pointed out that race was the primary difference between crack and heroin epidemics.
Coates then moved onto the topic of reparations, which he has written about for The Atlantic. He argued that for generations, African Americans have been working for and paying taxes into a system that does not serve them equally, and that a long history of mistreatment cannot be ignored.
He said “The notion that black people don’t deserve the same treatment as white people in this country is literally as old as the country itself.”
He also pointed out that much of the wealth in America was built on slavery, and that African Americans who are descended from slaves deserve a portion of that wealth. “The four million black people who were living in the south in 1860, under slavery constituted the largest asset, the largest pool of wealth in any area in this country. So you could have taken, in 1860, all the railroads...all the productive capacity of the country together and put it together, and it would have been worth less than the four million enslaved black people.”

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Terry Gross is amazing. That is all.

Today, the New York Times Magazine published a profile of Terry Gross, and it confirms my belief that Gross is amazing, wonderful, literally everything I want to be when I grow up.
Over the years, Gross has done some 13,000 interviews, and the sheer range of people she has spoken to, coupled with her intelligence and empathy, has given her the status of national interviewer. Think of it as a symbolic role, like the poet laureate — someone whose job it is to ask the questions, with a degree of art and honor.
The article examines not just Gross but the interview format itself, and why we feel drawn to and comfortable with her as an interviewer, and specific memorable interviews that she has done.
The interview wish is as old as the form itself. Journalistic interviews in the United States increasingly began to appear in the 1860s. Before that, when reporters talked to people, they typically didn’t quote them. Once interviewing started, it became a craze. It had its own practitioners, often women, who were thought to be better at drawing people out. Henry James’s journalists were almost all ‘‘interviewers,’’ and his characters, like Selah Tarrant in ‘‘The Bostonians,’’ crave their scrutiny: ‘‘The wish of his soul was that he might be interviewed,’’ James wrote.

At first the interview was regarded as a particularly American phenomenon — pushy, but fair too, because it involved the cooperation of the interviewee, not just a sneaky reporter. The practice shifted radically after World War II. Television gained popularity — the age of the broadcast interviewer began. And psychoanaly­sis — that other great innovation in opening people up — was being practiced more widely.

Gross’s interviews have often been compared to therapy. That’s in part because of her seemingly neutral stance, but also because of the feeling of safety she gives her interviewees. Once in a while, a guest confesses to Gross that he’s confiding something for the very first time. ‘‘I don’t know that I’ve said that to anyone,’’ the ‘‘Project Runway’’ host Tim Gunn told Gross in 2014, of spending time in a psychiatric hospital as an adolescent. Gross’s response was as affecting as Gunn’s story. She handles confessions quietly, acknowledging the weight of what’s been said without drawing undue attention to it. 
I'm so interested in the way people fantasize about their interview with Gross. I sometimes imagine that conversation, but I naively assumed that was just me - I feel like my tiny, private world has been invaded by other people wishing they could have an interview with Gross too.
‘‘My No. 1 fantasy of all time is to be interviewed by Terry Gross.’’‘‘I have gone so far as to rehearse answers to specific questions. … ’’‘‘Every single time I hear a Terry Gross interview, I wonder what it would be like for her to do some research on me and do an interview.’’

Saturday, October 10, 2015

SiTE:LAB Rumsey Street Project is Amazing

It's no secret that I think SiTE:LAB is amazing. This year, Rumsey Street Project blew my mind. Rather than taking up a whole building, they took over an entire block of abandoned buildings, including several houses, a garage, and an old church.

This was the inside of a building once owned by the church next door. It's been abandoned for several years.
This wrap showed the entire inside of the building.

 This building was covered in graphite, with images projected on the windows that weren't boarded up.

 This church was fascinating - church buildings retain some remnants of their original purpose, and it's sort of ghastly.

 This house was strange, and felt like it was this curated display of personal belongings. Like an altar to someone who had to run away.

This garage was a mismash of household objects, in multiples for effect.

 These nails were accompanied by a video of the artist, smashing them lyrically.

After filling out a sheet of arbitrary information, visitors recieved a large, colored sticker, and placed in on the black and white photo that corresponded to their sticker. This yellow one in the middle was mine.
The photos covered the walls.
 I love the way this house felt like it's own little island, untouchable.
This aluminium structure was attached to an old ceiling fan, rotating and casting shadows throughout the day.
It's fascinating to see how different artists handle similar spaces, and how they honor the pasts of those spaces. I'm also interested to see how they come together into a cohesive venue. It's changed over the years, and they've integrated performance aspects into the work.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Lady Biz: Six Bloggers to Follow

One of my long-term goals is to start a business. Right now, I think this business will be a public relations firm that focuses on working with non-profit clients. I talk about this often, because I believe that connecting with other people who have similar goals is important. I also spend a lot of time reading blogs written by women who own businesses. I hope to learn from them, to understand how I can succeed, and some of the challenges I'll probably face.

Here are my favorites:
And Kathleen at Braid Creative - I've been following Kathleen for a long time, way before she started Braid. She's a graphic designer and coach for creatives. Kathleen is super driven and someone who I see as being able to balance a career that she cares deeply about with a strong personal life. She also talks about small business on Being Boss, which is a great podcast.
Sarah Von Bargen blogs at Yes and Yes - Sarah does content strategy, and she has a wonderfully funny, smart blog. I admire the way she blends the two and never seems like a sell-out.
XO Sarah - Sarah is a web designer and aerialist. In the past year, she's expanded way beyond her web design business to include more passive income products - things like ebooks and online courses, where the equation changes from time spent working * hourly rate = $ to product * people who want it = $$$. It's been really fascinating to watch this transition and understand how that could apply to other types of businesses.
Nubby Twiglet at Branch - Shauna is a graphic designer who also teaches people how to blog with The Blogcademy. I love Shauna's aesthetic and the way she's followed her passions and found a way to work with people who are like-minded. In self-helpy language, I think they call this "finding your tribe."
Chelsea Fagan at The Financial Diet - I've been following Chelsea's blog for a while, and I read her book, "I'm Only Here for the Wifi," right when it came out. The Financial Diet is a blog about personal finance for women. Personally, I find the content to sometimes be a little too focused on things that are conventionally feminine. Often, there are posts about how to save money on makeup and clothes. I barely wear makeup and don't really like shopping, so these posts almost make me feel like I'm not feminine enough. Still, I find the growth of the blog to be fascinating and inspiring, and I always geek out about personal finance.
Beehive Content at L Bee and the Money Tree - Lauren blogs about personal finance, and has just gone full-time at her freelance business, Beehive Content. I appreciate that Lauren is just starting out - where Kathleeen and Shauna seem so established, Lauren is at a place where I could see myself being, after working at it for a couple years. I'm very interested to see where Lauren ends up in a few years, so I'm going to keep reading her blog.