civil rights | WAMC

civil rights

Brian Quijada and Nygel D. Robinson - screencap from "A DIOS" video - From the MEXODUS concept album about the Underground Railroad that led south to Mexico.
Brian Quijada/Nygel D. Robinson via YouTube / via YouTube

“Mexodus” is a new musical work by Brian Quijada and Nygel D. Robinson inspired by the estimated 4,000-10,000 enslaved people in the Southern part of the United States who found new lives in Mexico instead moving to the northern United States.

With the support of New York Stage and Film, Quijada and Robinson started working on “Mexodus” at the the beginning of our recent global pandemic. They have been collaborating while physically separate through technology -- releasing one track per month, with accompanying video of the two artists performing, for twelve months. Track 7 was recorded last February at Vassar’s Modfest.

New York Stage and Film will present “Mexodus” at Vassar College on July 17 at 7 p.m. and at Marist College on July 24 at 3 p.m.

Book cover for "When Evil Lived in Laurel"
W. W. Norton & Company / W. W. Norton & Company

In January 1966, Vernon Dahmer, head of a Mississippi chapter of the NAACP and a dedicated advocate for voter registration, was murdered by the White Knights, one of the most violent sects of the KKK in the South.

Veteran journalist Curtis Wilkie’s "When Evil Lived in Laurel" is the chilling story of this little-known brutal murder from the Civil Rights era and its aftermath, which ultimately led to the downfall of the infamous Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers and the destruction of his virulently racist organization.

To recreate these harrowing events—the conversations, incendiary nighttime meetings, plans leading up to Dahmer’s murder, and the nearly botched execution of them—Wilkie drew on his exclusive access to the almost daily journals, kept secret for fifty years, of a former Klan infiltrator for the FBI who risked his life to help break the White Knights.

Book cover for "Punch Me Up To The Gods"
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Brian Broome is a poet and screenwriter, and K. Leroy Irvis Fellow and instructor in the Writing Program at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been a finalist in The Moth storytelling competition and won the grand prize in Carnegie Mellon University's Martin Luther King Writing Awards.

His debut memoir, “Punch Me Up to the Gods” is available today. It begins in his early years - growing up in Ohio as a dark-skinned Black boy harboring crushes on other boys. The book is framed around Gwendolyn Brooks’s poem “We Real Cool” and is earning rave reviews.

Dinah Yessne's first political act, as she recalls it, was spinning a homemade Wheel of Fortune at a fundraiser for presidential candidate Henry Wallace when she was three years old. From that auspicious beginning, she went on to champion the causes of her time: civil rights, peace, anti-war, women's rights, gay rights, economic equality, immigrant rights, and at one time or another she was tapped by Governor Madeline Kunin to run for State Office, endorsed by Congressman Bernie Sanders - and just plain ticked off one day presidential candidate,  Howard Dean. 

She tells the stories in her new book "Politically Defined: Memoir of an Unknown Activist."

Book cover for "No Common Ground"
The University of North Carolina Press

When it comes to Confederate monuments, there is no common ground. Polarizing debates over their meaning have intensified into legislative maneuvering to preserve the statues, legal battles to remove them, and rowdy crowds taking matters into their own hands. These conflicts have raged for well over a century--but they've never been as intense as they are today.

In "No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice," Karen L. Cox depicts what these statues meant to those who erected them and how a movement arose to force a reckoning. 

Book cover for "Let's Talk Race"
New Society

"Let's Talk" Race confronts why white people struggle to talk about race, why we need to own this problem, and how we can learn to do the work ourselves and stop expecting Black people to do it for us.

Written by specialists in race relations and parents of two adopted African American sons, Fern Johnson and Marlene Fine, the book provides unique insights and practical guidance, richly illustrated with personal examples, anecdotes, research findings, and prompts for personal reflection and conversations about race.

Book cover for "When America Stopped Being Great"
Bloomsbury Publishing

BCC reporter Nick Bryant joins us this morning to discuss his new book, "When America Stopped Being Great."

Sifting through almost four decades of American history, Bryant unpacks the mistakes of past administrations combining engaging storytelling with recent history to show how the country moved from the optimism of Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ to the darkness of Trump’s ‘American Carnage’.

It concludes with some of the most dramatic events in recent memory, in an America torn apart by a bitterly polarized election, racial division, the national catastrophe of the coronavirus and the threat to US democracy evidenced by the storming of Capitol Hill. Nick Bryant is a BBC senior foreign correspondent. He has been posted in Washington, South Asia, Australia and, most recently, New York.

Book cover for "The Agitators"
Scribner

Dorothy Wickenden is the author of "Nothing Daunted" and "The Agitators," and has been the executive editor of The New Yorker since January 1996. She also writes for the magazine and is the moderator of its weekly podcast The Political Scene. A former Nieman Fellow at Harvard, Wickenden was national affairs editor at Newsweek from 1993-1995, and before that was the longtime executive editor at The New Republic.

In "The Agitators," Wickenden uses the intimate perspective of three friends and neighbors in mid-nineteenth century Auburn, New York to the fascinating and crucially American stories of abolition, the underground railroad, the early women’s rights movement, and the Civil War.

Book cover for "Stakes is High" - red and gray text on a black background
Bold Type Press / Bold Type Press

Mychal Denzel Smith’s last book, "Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching," was a powerful account of what it means being a young black man in America. In his follow up, he confronts the well-meaning liberal reaction to the 2016 election and calls on us all to reckon with who we are as Americans and, perhaps more importantly, who we want to be.

We have been invested in a set of beliefs about our American identity: our exceptionalism, the inevitable rightness of our path, and the promise that hard work and determination will carry us to freedom.

But in his new book, "Stakes Is High," Mychal confronts the shortcomings of these stories--and with the American Dream itself--and calls on us to live up to the principles we profess but fail to realize. He exposes the stark contradictions at the heart of American life, holding all of us, individually and as a nation, to account. We’ve gotten used to looking away, but the fissures and casual violence--of incarceration, poverty, misogyny, and racism--are ever-present. But there is a future that is not as grim as our past. In this profound work, Mychal helps us envision it, with care, honesty, and imagination.

Book cover for "The Token"
provided - New Society Publishers / provided - New Society Publishers

Community, business, and organization leaders often ask: "How do I get diversity in my group?" According to our next guest - the work is real, but it's a minefield out there. And even progressive leaders can still, perhaps unknowingly, be racist and uphold oppressive systems.

In "The Token: Common Sense Ideas for Increasing Diversity in Your Organization," community organizer Crystal Byrd Farmer, acts as the bridge between majority white organizations that are dedicated to social justice and "diverse" people in community they want to recruit, across identities of race, LGBTQ, education, socioeconomic status, and disability.

Book cover for "Why Didn't We Riot?"
Penguin/Random House / https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/

South Carolina–based journalist Issac Bailey joins us to reflect on a wide range of complex, divisive topics—from police brutality and Confederate symbols to respectability politics and white discomfort—which have taken on a fresh urgency with the protest movement sparked by George Floyd’s killing.

Bailey has been honing his views on these issues for the past quarter of a century in his professional and private life, which included an eighteen-year stint as a member of a mostly white Evangelical Christian church.

His new book, “Why Didn’t We Riot? A Black Man in Trumpland,” speaks to and for the millions of Black and Brown people throughout the United States who were effectively pushed back to the back of the bus in the Trump era by a media that prioritized the concerns and feelings of the white working class and an administration that made white supremacists giddy, and explains why the country’s fate in 2020 and beyond is largely in their hands.

Issac Bailey is an award-winning journalist and the James K. Batten Professor of Public Policy at Davidson College.

When the young Alfred Charles Sharpton told his mother he wanted to be a preacher, little did he know that his journey would also lead him to prominence as a politician, founder of the National Action Network, civil rights activist, and television and radio talk show host. His ability and willingness to take on the political power structure makes him the preeminent voice for the modern era, a time unprecedented in its challenges.

In "Rise Up," Reverend Sharpton revisits the highlights of the Obama administration, the 2016 election and Trump's subsequent hold on the GOP, and draws on his decades-long experience with other key players in politics and activism, including Shirley Chisholm, Hillary Clinton, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more.

Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Jon Meacham joins us this morning to discuss his new book “His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope.”

It is an intimate and revealing portrait of civil rights icon and longtime U.S. congressman John Lewis, linking his life to the painful quest for justice in America from the 1950s to the present.

Meacham calls Lewis “as important to the founding of a modern and multiethnic twentieth- and twenty-first-century America as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and Samuel Adams were to the initial creation of the Republic itself in the eighteenth century.”

The United States is recognized as the most religiously diverse country in the world, and yet its laws and customs, which many have come to see as normal features of American life, actually keep the Constitutional ideal of “religious freedom for all” from becoming a reality.

Christian beliefs, norms, and practices infuse our society; they are embedded in our institutions, creating the structures and expectations that define the idea of “Americanness.” Religious minorities still struggle for recognition and for the opportunity to be treated as fully and equally legitimate members of American society.

In the new book, White Christian Privilege, Khyati Joshi traces Christianity’s influence on the American experiment from before the founding of the Republic to the social movements of today. Mapping the way through centuries of slavery, westward expansion, immigration, and citizenship laws, she also reveals the ways Christian privilege in the United States has always been entangled with notions of White supremacy. 

We aired a portion of this interview today in memoriam. 

Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis died on Friday, July 17, 2020. He was 80 years old. 

One of the original 13 Freedom Riders and an eye-witness to many momentous and historic occasions in the last 50+ years of working in public service, Lewis was the son of sharecroppers; he survived a brutal beating by police during a landmark 1965 march in Selma, Alabama; and became a towering figure of the civil rights movement and a longtime US congressman. In 2012, Joe Donahue spoke with him in about his book "Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change." 

In J. Chester Johnson's new book "Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and a Story of Reconciliation" he tells the journey of two Americans - one black and one white. "Damaged Heritage" begins with an account of the 1919 Elaine Race Massacre which, though arguably the worst on record, has been widely unknown for a century due to a white-washing of our history.

Chester Johnson is a poet, essayist, and translator, he served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury Department under Jimmy Carter.

Book Cover for How to be an Antiracist and photo of Ibram X. Kendi
Author photo by Jeff Watts

Joe Donahue: Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In his new book “How to Be an Antiracist”, Professor Ibram X. Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas that look to help us see all forms of racism clearly understand their poisonous consequences and work to oppose them in our systems, in ourselves. Ibram X. Kendi is the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. He's also a columnist at the Atlantic and author of “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America”, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. His latest is “How to Be an Antiracist”. 

6/3/20 Panel

Jun 3, 2020

     The Roundtable Panel: a daily open discussion of issues in the news and beyond.

Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, President of the Albany branch of NAACP Debora Brown-Johnson, Dean of the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Cybersecurity at the University at Albany Robert Griffin, and Peabody and Emmy Award winning journalist Linda Ellerbee.

Several people who clashed with police Tuesday morning early this morning were arrested after confrontation on Quail and West streets. Police say they were hurling rocks and bricks at police officers. The clash occurred shortly after midnight and followed a standoff around the city's public safety building on Henry Johnson Boulevard.

All of this came after a peaceful show of civil disobedience in the streets of Albany throughout the day on Monday. Albany police chief Eric Hawkins met yesterday with protesters and told them he takes reports of police brutality very seriously. We are joined by the Chief of Police for the city of Albany Eric Hawkins.

6/2/20 Panel

Jun 2, 2020

     The Roundtable Panel: a daily open discussion of issues in the news and beyond.

Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, Assistant Professor at Albany Law School Ciji Dodds, investigarive journalist and Adjunct Professor at UAlbany Rosemary Armao, and former Associate Editor of The Times Union Mike Spain.

6/1/20 Panel

Jun 1, 2020

      The Roundtable Panel: a daily open discussion of issues in the news and beyond.

Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, Professor Emeritus of History at Baruch College, CUNY and author of "Fight the Power: African Americans and the Long History of Police Brutality" Clarence Taylor, political consultant and lobbyist Libby Post, and Bard Center for Civic Engagement Senior Fellow and Dean of the School of Continuing Education at the American University Cairo Jim Ketterer.

Racial tension in America has become a recurring topic of conversation in politics, the media, and everyday life. There are numerous explanations as to why this has become a predominant subject in today’s news and who is to blame. Our next guest says, as Americans prepare once again to cast their Presidential ballots, it’s more important than ever to have a smart and thoughtful conversation about race.

In “Getting Smart About Race,” sociology professor Margaret Andersen discusses why racial healing should be an integral element of our everyday discussions surrounding race and how to move the conversation in a positive direction.

The Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) is a non-profit based in New York with with a two-fold mission: to conduct research that leverages talent across the divides of gender, generation, geography and culture and to create a community of senior executives united by an understanding that full utilization of the global talent pool is at the heart of competitive success.

CTI recently published a report entitled “Being Black in Corporate America: An Intersectional Exploration.” Julia Taylor Kennedy is an Executive Vice President at CTI and was a co-research lead on the study. She joins us to discuss the findings of the study and offer solutions.

In "All Blood Runs Red: The Legendary Life of Eugene Bullard - Boxer, Pilot, Soldier, Spy," Phil Keith and Tom Clavin share the story of Eugene Bullard; the first African American military pilot, who went on to become a Paris nightclub impresario, a spy in the French Resistance and an American civil rights pioneer.

Tom Clavin joined us.

“The Great Society,” the sequel to Robert Schenkkan's 2014 Tony-winning epic “All the Way,” began its Broadway run at the Vivian Beaumont Theater on September 6. Bill Rauch, who helmed "All the Way," also directs the new work which officially opens on October 1 for a limited run through November 30. Brian Cox stars in the production as President Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Capturing Lyndon B. Johnson's passionate and aggressive attempts to build a great society for all, the new play follows his epic triumph in a landslide election to the agonizing decision not to run for re-election just three years later.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy; Albany City Police Chief Eric Hawkins
Composite Image by Dave Lucas

In response to unrest generated in Washington, Albany County has launched a webpage designed to assist local undocumented immigrants.

Recent events have turned the spotlight on the issue of race in modern America, and the current cultural climate calls out for more research, education, dialogue, and understanding. "Race and Social Change: A Quest, A Study, A Call to Action" focuses on a provocative social science experiment with the potential to address these needs.

Author Max Klau explains how his own quest for insight into these matters led to the empirical study at the heart of this book, and he presents the results of years of research that integrate findings at the individual, group, and whole system levels of analysis.

The Stonewall Reader

Jun 27, 2019

Jason Baumann is coordinator of humanities and LGBT Collections at the New York Public Library, where he develops and promotes literature, philosophy, and religion collections at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Baumann coordinates the Library's LGBT Initiative and has curated "Love & Resistance: Stonewall 50" a major exhibit at NYPL which is on view now through July 13. Baumann is the editor of "The Stonewall Reader."

June 28, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, which is considered the most significant event in the gay liberation movement, and the catalyst for the modern fight for LGBTQ rights in the United States.

Drawing from the New York Public Library's archives, "The Stonewall Reader" is a collection of first accounts, diaries, periodic literature, and articles from LGBTQ magazines and newspapers that documented both the years leading up to and the years following the riots.

Great Barrington Historical Society's 2019 lecture at St. James Place In Great Barrington, Massachusetts is: "Elizabeth Freeman’s Case for Freedom: The End of Slavery in Massachusetts and the Black Berkshire Community in Post-Colonial America." The talk by Dr. David Levinson is scheduled for May 11.

Levinson is a cultural anthropologist and former vice-president at Yale University's Human Relations Area Files, an anthropological think-tank. He is co-author of “One Minute a Free Woman: Elizabeth Freeman and the Struggle for Freedom.”

Jewish Voice for Peace -Hudson Valley has scheduled a panel entitled “We All Belong Here: Hearing the Voices of Muslim Women,” the event is a panel discussion with Muslim women to examine the intersectionality of diversity and “otherness” and how those inform our perceptions and governmental policies.

The discussion will be based on the personal experiences and narratives of Muslim women living in our region. This event will take place on Saturday, May 4th 1:30-4 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Kingston.

Our guests are Cheryl Qamar - an Arab-American & social activist from Saugerties, New York who is the Chair of the Anti-Islamophobia Committee for Jewish Voice for Peace-Hudson Valley and Susan Smith, Director of operations at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, community liaison for the Muslim Peace Fellowship, and a member of the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, New York, an intentional residential community of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

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