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‘Are You Listening?’ Ten Highlights From a Generational Moment


Protesters at UC-Berkeley are met with police violence. (Photo: Laleh Behbehanian)

This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on student and youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out November 10 and November 24. For this edition, ten people submitted a video and a brief update on their organizing in the struggle for black life. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. “One struggle”

In the past two weeks, members of the Missouri GSA Network have joined with Millennial Activists United to shut down highways and major intersections, convene community forums and march with Metro Trans Umbrella, chanting, “Black lives matter!” and “Stonewall was a riot!” As young trans women and gender nonconforming people of color, we are in one struggle against murder at the hands of police, the criminalization and pushout of students of color in schools and the gender policing we do within ourselves. We ask: #AreYouListening?

—Lin Ferguson

2. “We ain’t going to stop until our people are free”

In New York, FIERCE has been in the streets with our drums, our voices and our bodies. We are marching to ensure that, when we chant, “Black lives matter!” all black lives are uplifted and remembered. We are tired of black bodies, queer bodies, youth bodies and trans bodies being seen as disposable. We will continue to use what we have in the struggle for justice for all black lives lost due to police violence.

—Darielle Harris

3. “As soon as the tower dings…”

On December 4, at 12:15 PM, 100 black students at the University of Texas organized a die-in in response to the non-indictment of Eric Garner’s murderer. We lay in the intersection of 21st and Speedway, one of the busiest on campus, while non-black allies stood around us as a protective shield, holding signs reading, “Black Lives Matter.” With the help of the the People’s Task Force, African and African Diaspora Studies Department professors and many members of the Austin community, we shut down traffic and stood in solidarity.

—Tyler English-Beckwith

4. “We are here, whether you choose to see us or not”

This demonstration, a sit-in led by Howard University students at Union Station in Washington, DC, saw participation from students from schools acorss the district and beyond. As black people, it is time for us to claim our economic potential, demand legislation that protects black lives and educate our communities. Though this nation chooses to ignore us, do know: we are here!


5. “We will be teaching… building… healing”

On November 25, members of the Black Youth Project 100 Chicago Chapter organized a twenty-eight-hour sit-in in front of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office at City Hall to bring attention to the fact that a Black person is killed by a police officer, security officer or self-appointed vigilante every twenty-eight hours. There were also die-ins at the twenty-eight-minute mark to underscore the point. During the sit-in, there were political education teach-ins about BYP100’s policy agenda, the Agenda To Keep Us Safe, in addition to healing circles and community building.

—Camesha Jones

6. “It is no longer the time to be silent at the water cooler”

People in Ohio are taking action in solidarity with those across the country—and in response to the recent string of police killings that have left John Crawford, Tanesha Anderson and Tamir Rice dead. Led by Black youth, the movement in Ohio is bringing together people of all races, genders and ages. We are having conversations about how to move policy and structural change at the local and statewide levels and shake up the current political and economic makeup of our cities.

—James Hayes

7. “In our communities, we know these stories”

On December 3, we converged on Chicago’s Dirksen Federal Building as part of a forty-three-city day of action coordinated by #USTired2 and #YaMeCanse. From Chicago to Ferguson, we watch and suffer as the police violate basic human rights and the cries for justice for black lives goes unheard. In Ayotzinapa, we watch as students are disappeared by the police and protestors are met with violent repression—at the hands of another state that has decided to use force against its own people.

—Laura Ramírez

8. “Occupation is a crime, from Ferguson to Palestine”

Students for Justice in Palestine at the College of Staten Island stands against racism, state terror and oppression of all forms. Eric Garner was killed by a system of racist police brutality that has murdered black people in our communities for years. If we do not stand against this system, we are complicit in it. After hitting the streets following the non-indictments in the Eric Garner and Mike Brown cases, we will continue marching—and organizing.

—Students for Justice in Palestine at the College of Staten Island

9. “Put people over profit”

Student activists in Memphis took part in Black Friday protests to support Walmart strikers and protest the murders of black youth at the hands of police. We stormed a Walmart store in Cordova, Tennessee, chanting “Black lives matter!” and “People over profit!” As we were forced out by police, and one person was detained, we continued protesting outside the store and performed a die-in at a nearby mall.

—Michele Nyberg

10. “Shut it down”

After the decision in Ferguson, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice partnered with Rockaway Youth Task Force, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and students from Columbia University to bring people together to boycott Black Friday. On the busiest shopping day of the year, we made our voices heard at Macy’s, Herald Square and Times Square. Since then, we have helped organize This Stops Today after the non-indictment announcement in Eric Garner’s case and are organizing a national campaign to demilitarize campus and local police departments.

—Million Hoodies Movement for Justice

Bobst Protest, Social Media as Battleground for Race


Demonstrators participate in a rally against a grand jury’s decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, Thursday, December 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

This article originally appeared on NYU Local’s website and is reposted here with permission.

In the past two weeks, we have seen the nation grapple with the Ferguson and Staten Island grand jury decisions, demonstrating frustration through protests that have brought hundreds of thousands of vocal objectors to public spaces in dissent of what they call the American leniency of its police forces through systemic, violent racism that continues to plague impoverished communities.

In response to the outspoken reaction, the NYU Black Students Union has made plans to stage a die-in—a popular form of silent protest against wrongful death—for this Wednesday, December 10, in the NYU Bobst Library. Students will lie on the floor in silence for a long time.

In response to the upcoming BSU demonstration, outspoken members of the NYU community have made objections to the die-in, and the Eric Garner protests in general, by taking to the most respectable platform the vigilant millennial knows how to use: social media.

These Facebook comments and tweets have spurred a terribly disconcerting discussion surrounding race relations in America, the American judicial system, the tragedies of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and white privilege.

On both sides of the argument, we discover a saddening reality present among a certain population of the American youth (and adults—they’re guilty too) who commit, themselves, offenses as egregious as the inertial events that have initiated the discussion: spewing and ranting offensive opinions with hardly any factual backing, and doing so behind the protection of anonymity, or the defense of the natural informality of social media.

Here are some common threads that have stained the conversation over the past two weeks, found on Twitter, Facebook and NYU Secrets:

Heads up to the “protestors” at NYU, especially those ones “protesting” in private spaces where no one in the general public (especially cops) will even see you: you aren’t changing anything. You aren’t improving anything. You’re whining and bringing a negative light to the entire cause. You wanna change something? Get into politics. Become a cop. Stop laying on the fucking ground and expecting the world to change for you because the Internet told you you deserve it. [via NYU Secrets]

Will be stepping on people in Bobst if they are in my way. It’s goddam finals week. [via NYU Secrets]

Anyone who protests anything is a total ASSHOLE. IT ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING. YOU ARE ANNOYING. [via Twitter]

They [protesters] really could care less about the decision, it is an excuse to riot, cause mayhem, loot and damage. [via Facebook]

The people who are opposing today’s protests would probably be up in arms over the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I think that says enough about where they’re coming from. [via NYU Secrets]

Can’t wait for people like OP to die off so we can make real progress. [via Facebook]

PLEASE check your White Privilege. [via Twitter]

I will make no specific refutations to the arguments made above, for doing so holds no place in a journalistic setting. There is no necessity to do so, which would be stooping to the level of courage it takes to submit a comment through an anonymous posting service.

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The most disheartening wrinkle in the outlandish activity being seen on social media is that most of the people who are taking to the comments sections and Secrets pages are not just trolling—they are people who feel that they hold a stake in the argument, and are conducting themselves in the least honorable way possible.

These conversations, set apart from those of which are conducted in an intelligent manner and in a proper setting, only handicap our ability to progress as a community. To deny ourselves the right to change is to deny ourselves the right to be wholly American.

If there is anything to be learned from the strong, public action of the Eric Garner demonstrations, it’s this: voices that find the courage to speak out publicly for things they believe, with no mask or caricatured veil, are the ones that are heard.

And it is those that deserve an applause, not a shaming.

Note: The die-in that was originally planned for Monday, December 8, has been consolidated with the Black Students Union’s die-in for Wednesday, December 10, at noon on the main floor of Bobst.

Read Next: “Activists Stage a ‘Royal Shutdown’ of Barclays Center”

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 12/05/14?


Police officers patrol in Brownsville, New York. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)  

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad. 

"The Unmanageables," by Sarah Ellison. Vanity Fair, January, 2015.

A long, detailed read on the inception, tribulations and growing pains of First Look Media. The combination of journalists and management is rarely anything but a powder keg, and the ungovernable characters at First Look Media are the epitome of muckrakers in a class of their own. The first painful purge has already occurred, and once the dust settles, I look forward to reading some investigative reporting our nation so desperately needs.

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

"My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything OK," by Kiese Laymon. Gawker, November 29, 2014.

In an essay that combines expertly crafted creative nonfiction with sharp political analysis, Kiese Laymon writes about race, violence and the institutional enforcement of white supremacy, all through the lens of his Vassar faculty ID. It's a haunting piece that needs no introduction—only a strong recommendation to read it, sit with it and read it again.

Edward Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

How Not to Get Away With Murder,” by Michael J. Mooney. D Magazine, December 2014.

In his latest story for D Magazine, Michael J. Mooney begins with an attempted murder. Nancy Howard, a mother of three, was followed into her garage by a man with a gun who demanded her purse before he shot her in the temple. It sounds like a simple botched robbery, right? But then Mooney starts telling you everything that led up to the shooting and spins one of the most bizarre true crime stories you'll read this year by detailing how Howard's cheating husband embezzled $30 million from his employer and shelled out millions to a string of drug-addicted, incompetent hitmen over the years.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, by Eric Foner

These last two weeks have been crushing, exhausting and emotionally draining. First the non-indictment for Officer Darren Wilson was announced in Ferguson. It is a travesty of justice. This lack of an indictment led to a week of protests all over the country. This week, Eric Garner's death became the focus of even more protests when the grand jury failed to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo for his murder. Despite his death being filmed. Despite the medical examiner ruling Garner's death a homicide. As an American who believes deeply in justice, not merely the procedure of the law, I feel deeply betrayed. I have read and listened to so many voices discussing what is happening and where we are as a country. All I can think of in response to this collective grief and anger is the title of Eric Foner's book about the period immediately following the Civil War. Titled Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877, it deals primarily with events 150 years ago, but it might as well be about America right now. It is in that period of time, during Reconstruction, that the foundations of our unjust criminal legal system were laid. Policing and the law were constructed to target free African Americans. So for some historical perspective, I suggest this book. It is a long read. But Reconstruction was a time in the US where there was so much hope, and where subsequently, kowtowed by racism, so many mistakes were made. We are living out the horror of those mistakes everyday. Maybe when more of us understand why this systemic violence by the state against people of color happened, and keeps happening, we will have a better chance at making transformative change.

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

"Spain gets passing grade in public sector corruption index," by Alejandra Torres Reyes. EL PAÍS, December 3, 2014.

Spain, my home country, has a relatively ethical public sector, according to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index by nonprofit Transparency International. Scoring 60 out of 100, Spain ranked 37th on a list of 175 countries, climbing up three places over the past year. This is both good and bad news for me and all Spaniards: we're doing ok in government accountability, but we can do a lot better. It's crucial that people, regardless of their nationality, hold their government(s) accountable—and this report underscores the importance of this statement. But the index is also a wake-up call for the media because we're supposed to be democracy watchdogs. So, if you want to see how ethical your government is, click here to access all the data.

NOTE: The report doesn't take into account political-party corruption, focusing solely on countries' public sectors.

Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.

"NYPD to begin testing body cameras amid chokehold ruling," by Reuven Fenton and Yoav Gonen. New York Post, December 2, 2014.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says that body cameras will bring greater transparency and accountability to the NYPD. Unfortunately, the grand jury decision to not indict Eric Garner, whose death at the hands of a police officer was caught on film, is a sober reminder that transparency does not necessarily lead to accountability. The NYC pilot program will cost $50,000. Obama is calling for millions (more than $250 million) to be spent on body cameras and training around the country. Many have questioned whether the potential gains are worth the increased surveillance of communities that are already heavily surveilled; the Eric Garner decision has them wondering whether the potential gains would ever materialize at all.

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements.

"The New Republic: An Appreciation," by Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Atlantic, December 9, 2014.

There are two parallel conversations taking place amongst journalists in the wake of TNR's collapse, "almost totally separated by race" as Vox's Matt Fisher writes. For journalists of color, there is a shocking amount of outrage that has been generated over recent events given years of silent complicity with TNR's long history of racist editorializing and questionable hiring practices. Where was the outrage before? What merits outrage amongst media makers and why? It's refreshing to read a prominent magazine journalist like Ta-Nehisi Coates name this uncomfortable and hurtful contradiction.

N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

If Our Grief Were Colorblind,” Connie Schulz. Creators.com, December 3, 2014.

Tamir Rice joined the list of blacks dying at the hands of police officers when Timothy Loehmann shot him. Rice, 12 years old, was playing with a toy gun when, approximately two seconds after Officer Loehmann’s arrival, he was shot to death. In an insightful column, Connie Schulz makes a very good point about the perception that is too often a familiar response to police brutality.

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

"Should Suicidal Students Be Forced To Leave Campus," by Rachel Aviv. The New Yorker, December 1, 2014.

In the winter of 2012, W.P., a Princeton freshman, tried to kill himself. Once he swallowed twenty pills, he thought of his mother and how upset she would be, and walked to the student health center. After three days in the hospital, when W.P. was physically recovered, Princeton's director of student life told him he was required to take a leave of absence and was no longer permitted on campus. He appealed the decision, but was denied. W.P's psychiatrist claims that a "sense of purpose" was important to his recovery. By banning him from campus, some might argue that Princeton officials took this away from him. W.P. moved back to his hometown and spent a year working in retail and attending therapy sessions before he was allowed to return to Princeton for the Spring '13 semester. Although W.P. was allowed to return, the debate continues. Does making a policy to ban suicidal students help them in the long run by giving them time to forget about coursework and devote all of their energy to recovery? Or does it eliminate a sense of purpose, making them feel more like failures and less motivated to get well? It's a tricky situation, especially because a student's life is on the line. As for W.P., he said "his year away was a 'growing experience, but not because Princeton made it so. I had no perspective on how time does move on.'"

Fifteen Millennial Movements Taking Off This Week


A sign at the University of California (photo: Cal Progressive Coalition)

This post is part of The Nation’s biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out October 24 and November 10. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The Free Speech Movement

On November 19, after University of California regents voted to increase tuition by 27.6 percent over five years, students at UC-Berkeley launched an indefinite occupation of Wheeler Hall. This increase extends the privatization of the UC system, where in-state tuition has already more than doubled in the past decade, sparking massive mobilizations and building occupations. At almost all UC campuses, students have rallied and marched against the fee hikes, with a brief occupation at UC-Riverside and an ongoing, indefinite occupation of the Humanities 2 building at UC–Santa Cruz. At the start of our occupation, more than 300 students and supporters packed the Wheeler Hall lobby. We voted to ratify three demands: no tuition hikes, full transparency of the UC budget under California Assembly Bill 94 and the dropping of all charges against Jeff Noven, arrested at the November 19 Regent’s meeting in San Francisco under false charges. We have continued maintaining the Wheeler Commons with daily general assemblies, teach-ins, working group meetings, art and banner making, open mics, movie screenings and study sessions. On Monday, November 24, in coordination with students across the state, we will have a class walkout and day of action.

—Kitty Lui

2. The General Body, Everywhere

On November 20, THE General Body, a coalition of more than fifty student organizations, ended our eighteen-day sit-in at Syracuse University’s administration building. The coalition announced that, while we are vacating the space, the movement is not going anywhere until critical needs of the university community are addressed—including guaranteed scholarships for students of color and commitments to end rape culture and improve counseling and mental health services. Students leave affirmed by new networks and concessions won—hiring an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, delaying the passage of a corporate vision statement and an increase on the minimum pay for TAs—but also determined to continue resistance to the university’s top-down restructuring campaign by creating broad, bottom-up coalitions among students, teachers, staff, parents and alumni. As education is being reduced to a corporate transaction across the country, in the space of the sit-in, we have rediscovered education as social transformation.

—Ben Kuebrich and Yanira Rodríguez

3. In Colorado, Students Opt-Out

In September, Mountain Vista High School in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, announced that seniors would be taking the Colorado Measures of Academic Success, a standardized test. CMAS is not an accurate representation of my learning or my teachers’ ability to teach me, takes time away from authentic classroom instruction and is a waste of taxpayer dollars. In response, a group of students from around the school spread the word and made a plan to help others opt-out. On November 12 and 13, despite misinformation spread by the principal that we are required to take the test by law, that it is a requirement for graduation and that it is tied to teacher compensation, 43 percent of the senior class refused to take the test. Our school joined a movement of schools around the state—with opt-out totals as high as 97 percent. As the spring test, PARCC, looms, we will continue educating students and parents and lobbying the state legislature to eliminate high-stakes testing.

—Andrew McGraw

4. In Newark, Students Show Up

On November 13, the Newark Students Union bused a delegation to Washington, DC, where Newark superintendent Cami Anderson was scheduled to attend a panel at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative policy think tank, to discuss the success of the One Newark Plan and how other cities can privatize public education as it is currently happening in Newark. Startled by our appearance, the AEI staff tried everything in their power to kick us, black and brown bodies, out of the space. After an hour of patiently waiting for the event to start, it was canceled due to a “security breach.” At that point, we took control of the room and tried to explain to attendees why Anderson refused to show her face. The next week, the Barringer High School branch of the NSU walked out to protest the school’s punitive, underresourced, unresponsive environment—left unaddressed by the One Newark plan. Students were forced to stay inside by security guards and police officers, violating their right to protest. As the administration maneuvers to close schools, displacing at least 8,000 students, we will continue to recruit students and build stronger bases throughout the city for actions soon to come.

—Jose Leonardo

5. In Manhattan, TFA Shows Its Cards

On Thursday, November 13, United Students Against Sweatshops students who have been at the forefront of a groundbreaking campaign to reform Teach for America traveled to New York for an open meeting with TFA leadership. After a long conversation with TFA CEOs, we were disappointed to hear that the organization plans to continue driving policies that harm working-class communities and displace veteran teachers across the country. Students brought up their three campaign demands—that TFA only send corps members to regions with actual teacher shortages, that corps members receive more adequate training and that TFA cut ties with corporations such as Walmart and Goldman Sachs—and asked why these changes haven’t been made. We also expressed concern at TFA’s influence in spreading corporate education reform policies, such as school closures, mass teacher layoffs, high-stakes standardized testing and the privatization of public education. The CEOs denied our concerns and made no indication that they plan to take meaningful action. We will continue our campaigns to kick Teach for America off our campuses until our demands are met.

—Dani Lea, Blake McGhghy, Hannah McShea and Will Daniels

6. How Can Deportations End?

Alongside numerous allies, the Immigrant Youth Coalition has successfully organized to stop the deportation and criminalization of immigrants in California by engaging in direct action and litigation and pushing for legislation such as the TRUST Act and driver licenses for all. After President Obama’s most recent announcement, our work remains very much the same. We are continuing to focus our efforts on preventing deportations by ending gang injunctions, which use racial profiling to place young people of color in gang databases, as well as practices that contribute to the school to deportation pipeline. We are also allocating resources to support LGBTQ undocumented people, who are particularly vulnerable to violence and human rights abuses. This includes LGBTQ detainees, for whom we are building support networks and providing basic necessities when released. By building capacity to organize those who are detained, we also hope that detainees can lead the fight against the 34,000-bed quota for detention centers and the private prison corporations who profit from them.

—Jonathan Perez

7. When Will New York Wake Up?

After a year of conversation with New York University’s Office of Financial Aid and mounting student support for a proposal to allow university financial aid resources to be accessed by undocumented students, the university will open these opportunities to incoming undocumented students from New York starting in the 2015–16 academic year. For the DREAM Team at NYU, this is a first step in the university’s commitment to equal educational opportunities for undocumented students, reflecting its stated efforts to bring its own financial aid policies “into closer alignment” with the vision for the New York State DREAM Act. The state DREAM Act, which was narrowly outvoted in the state senate last spring, has received support from leaders of both public and private New York higher education institutions. NYU now becomes one of the largest private institutions to open institutional aid to undocumented students, taking action where state politicians have not. While we continue to work alongside the New York State Youth Leadership Council and DREAM Teams across the city and state to escalate in support of the state DREAM Act, we are advocating for the expansion of NYU’s program to include undocumented students nationwide.

—Ivan Rosales, Maria Monica Andia and Mark Tseng Putterman

8. A Win for Ethnic Studies

Since the beginning of the school year, students from the Roosevelt Taking Action club, alongside the Community Rights Campaign and a student, teacher and community coalition, Ethnic Studies Now, have organized to make ethnic studies a requirement in all high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and expand it to other school districts statewide and nationwide. LAUSD has over 90 percent students of color; with these classes, we seek a better understanding of who we are, where we come from and how oppressions are formed and undone—which, put together with the fight to end the school-to-jail track, will help build a larger movement to end educational racism. At Roosevelt High, we made dozens of classroom presentations, collected hundreds of petitions signed by our classmates, organized community film screenings of Precious Knowledge on the fight to defend ethnic studies in Tucson, worked with our teachers to make short videos with the hashtag #ourhistorymatters and organized students to come out to the LAUSD vote on November 18. At the vote, 700 people across all ages and backgrounds rallied, filling the school board meeting room and spilling over outside. When the board passed the resolution 6-1, we made history by fighting to claim that of our people.

—Isabel Sanchez

9. A Win for Student Voice

On November 14, after a year of intense deliberation among California lawmakers, school officials, advocates and students, the California State Board of Education unanimously passed the final Local Control Funding Formula regulations, giving 4 million low-income and ESL students a voice in how schools spend money on their education. The LCFF, passed in July 2013, allots funding from Proposition 30 to historically underfunded schools. Initially, parents, teachers and school administrators all had a say in how the new funds would be spent in classrooms—but students did not. In response, Californians for Justice organized thousands of students in San Francisco, Richmond, Oakland, San Jose, Fresno, Long Beach, Los Angeles and the Inland Empire to challenge the State Board of Education for a voice through the Student Voice Campaign. Now, the regulations require all 1,001 school districts to include students in the development of their funding and spending plans, setting the tone for educational priorities across California.

—Saa’un P. Bell

10. #YaMeCanse

After years of people disappearing, cartels inflicting violence throughout the state, and a government known for dirty tricks, people are getting angry. In Mexico, the disappearance of forty-three students from the teachers college of Ayotzinapa was the straw to break the camel’s back. On November 20, Mexicans told the world to stand in solidarity with their revolution. With #YaMeCanse, or “Enough, I’m tired,” as the call, forty-three cities across the United States joined Mexico for a day of action—voicing the truth that the US has pushed Mexico to where it is today via policies including Plan Merida and NAFTA. In New York, students, elders and migrant communities held a blockade in front of the Mexican consulate and performed a die-in inside Grand Central Station, chanting, “Murder made in the USA!”

—Camila Ibanez

11. #WCGtoUN

On November 12 and 13, We Charge Genocide’s eight-person delegation staged two historic protests at a meeting of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva. First, we walked out in response to the US government’s suggestion that the prosecution of 330 police officers over five years indicates significant progress toward ending police violence. The next morning, the UN grilled the US on issues of police violence, particularly against youth of color. The US dodged questions and misled committee members, at one point claiming tasers aren’t lethal. In protest, we rose silently with our fists in the air, each holding an image of Dominique Franklin—a 23-year-old friend who was tased to death by Chicago police this summer. Several other organizers and advocates stood or raised fists in solidarity. We then held our raised hands together for thirty minutes in honor of the thirty minutes that Rekia Boyd’s body lay in the street after being shot by a Chicago police off-duty officer. On this international stage, our stories, lives and struggles were recognized—amplifying our organizing efforts in Chicago.

—We Charge Genocide

12. #R2E

Starting on November 10, students from Birzeit University have toured the United States as part of the Right to Education Campaign. Starting in Ferguson and moving to schools across the country, the campaign seeks to illuminate the effects of the Israeli occupation on students’ ability to access education and academic opportunity. On November 18, students on the West Coast tour visited UCLA and addressed the university body at the undergraduate student government’s divestment hearings. The hearing also gave a platform to thirty-two student organizations that endorsed and supported the resolution to divest from corporations complicit in Israel’s occupation. That night, the student government passed the divestment measure by a landslide 8-2-2 margin, becoming the sixth of nine University of California campuses to hold majority votes for divestment.

—Rahim Kurwa

13. Taking Over the Board

On November 17, hundreds of students at the University of Southern Maine walked out of class and assembled on the quad to share stories about the adverse affects of ongoing budget cuts. We then marched to the UMaine System Board of Trustees meeting, where we disrupted the meeting with chants and took over the trustees’ seats—staging our own board meeting and calling for a different future for USM. The demonstration was the latest in a series of protests against the wholesale dismantling of USM by the board of trustees. Five programs have been eliminated since October, and twenty-five tenured faculty were “retrenched”—that is, fired—on October 28, with many more coerced into retirement. Students for #USMFuture has demanded reversal of the cuts, restoration of shared governance and renewed state investment in public higher education. Our actions were in conjunction with a week of action, coordinated by the International Student Movement, from Pittsburgh to Belgrade to Sierra Leone. We plan to continue to connect our movement to those of our allies in the struggle for the right to education.

—Meaghan LaSala and Philip Shelley

14. Camping Out—and Winning

On Monday, November 17, following a letter to the interim chancellor and a meeting with the chancellor’s executive assistant, graduate students marched across the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa campus to protest proposed reductions in the number of teaching assistant positions and proceeded to set up camp in the courtyard of the Campus Center. For three days and three nights, we marched and camped on campus, demanding our positions not be cut, equitable hiring of assistants across units and a commitment to budget reform. On November 18, we met with administrators to discuss our demands. The following afternoon, the interim chancellor released a statement announcing that our positions would be saved for the spring 2015 semester; the unit a student’s advisor belonged to would not impact students’ hiring status; and a budget allocation model would be proposed in December 2014 rather than toward the end of spring 2015. At the board of regents meeting the next day, we testified further about transparency and budget reform. Though our sit-in has ended, we are continuing to work for budget reform and administrative transparency.

—Vincent Cleveland

15. Moving the Moment, in Ferguson and Beyond

Editor’s note: On November 20, Akai Gurley, an unarmed, 28-year-old black man, was killed by police in Brooklyn. On November 23, hundreds from across the city, and across generations, massed in East New York. (Video: CBS)

—New Yorkers in Resistance

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 11/20/14?

People protest for Michael Brown, who was killed by a police officer Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad.

"Machil sentencing: 3 lives taken for the sake of medals, each bought at Rs 50,000," by Muzamil Jaleel. The Indian Express, November 14, 2014.

Three Kashmiri men executed in cold-blood. Their bodies lay dead near the Line-of-Control after a “shootout” in the mountains along the Indo-Pak border. The army says they killed three infiltrators, “Pakistani terrorists.” It turns out, they were not. The eleven people accused consist of a Colonel, two Majors, five soldiers and three civilians. This is the Machil fake encounter case, where these three young unemployed men, lured in the false pretenses of jobs, were taken to the border, and then killed. One of their faces was cosmetically darkened to give the appearance of a beard. His name was Shafi Lone – he was only 19.

I visited the families of the victims back in March for a story, where they desperately hoped for justice in a process they cannot fully understand. Earlier this week a decision finally came, an Army court martial concluded the case. In a rare instance of justice against uniformed men in Kashmir, five of them were sentenced to life in prison. The sentenced men can appeal, but this is a small victory for justice, in a place where justice is often skirted, and more often, outright denied.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and critiques of Israeli exceptionalism.

Lost in Rawlsland,” by George Yancy and Charles Mills. The New York Times, November 16, 2014.

Professor George Yancy interviews Charles Mills as part of a series of interviews with philosophers on race. A professor of philosophy at Northwestern, Charles Mills, a renowned critical race theorist and the author of The Racial Contract and other titles, picks apart the logic of Rawlsian liberalism as is reflected by the false neutrality of "post-racial" thinking often lauded by whites. Here's Professor Mills suggesting the role that recognizing difference plays in making concrete the abstract idea of social justice:

“Rawls himself said in the opening pages of “A Theory of Justice” that we had to start with ideal theory because it was necessary for properly doing the really important thing: non-ideal theory, including the “pressing and urgent matter” of remedying injustice. But what was originally supposed to have been merely a tool has become an end in itself; the presumed antechamber to the real hall of debate is now its main site. Effectively, then, within the geography of the normative, ideal theory functions as a form of white flight.”

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

"Transgender Pioneer and Stone Butch Blues Author Leslie Feinberg Has Died," by Advocate.com Editors. The Advocate, November 17, 2014.

[Note: the following reflects the pronouns used by Leslie Feinberg's life partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt, in her obituary for Leslie.]

It is no exaggeration to say that I would not be who I am if it weren't for Leslie Feinberg. We all need elders—people who've come before us, whose faces reflect our own—and in Leslie, gender non-conforming folks had an impossibly courageous elder. It was Leslie who taught us to claim our identities with pride, to love ourselves, to refuse to be marginalized, and to never stop challenging power. Leslie was a tireless activist and an ally across movements. Her passing reverberates through our community, but so does her legacy. (And if you're a queer person who hasn't read Stone Butch Blues, give yourself the gift of reading it now.)

Edward Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

Double Jeopardy” by Paige Williams. The New Yorker, November 17, 2014.

After convicting Shonelle Jackson of capital murder in 1998, an Alabama jury unanimously rejected the prosecution’s request to sentence the teenager to death. But, as Paige Williams points out, capital cases in Alabama don’t end with the jury’s decision. “The state’s judges can exercise an unusual power: they can ‘override’ a jury’s collective judgment and impose the death penalty unilaterally.” Although Jackson's role in the murder was unclear, the judge in his case decided to impose the death penalty anyway. Williams’s latest story for The New Yorker is framed around Jackson’s saga and uses his narrative to show how judicial overrides cast a pall over criminal justice in Alabama, especially when elected judges are able implement them to appear tough on crime.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

“We Need Doula Care to Achieve Reproductive Justice,” by Elizabeth Dawes Gay. RH Reality Check, November 11, 2014.

Women dying during childbirth in the US in 2014 is not what comes to mind when discussing maternal mortality. But the US ranks only fiftieth in the world for maternal health, despite our massive spending on healthcare. It is sad and shocking that since hitting a low in 1987, maternal mortality rates in the US have grown at alarming rates. There are very specific communities that feel the effects of these terrifying numbers. African American women are four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. The reasons for this have a great deal to do with the inequality in our healthcare system. According to reproductive health experts and reproductive justice advocates, there is a simple way to fix this problem.

Doulas, who act as advocates for pregnant women before, during and after childbirth, make a huge difference in healthcare outcomes, especially for women of color. Elizabeth Dawes Gay, over at RH Reality Check, reports on how doula care can reach more women. With the expansion of healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, millions of women now have access to medical care. However, doula care is not included in any of the expanded women's wellness coverage by the ACA for private or public insurance. If Medicaid coverage was expanded at the federal level to include doula care, women all over the country who previously have not been able to employ doulas as part of their birth plan would now have the option. Only women in Oregon and Minnesota have the opportunity to have doula care reimbursed under Medicaid. These failures to ensure the health and safety of pregnant women of color and their children are unacceptable. Reproductive justice means being able to choose how you give birth, and the seemingly obvious ability to labor and deliver a baby in a safe environment where you are getting the medical attention you need and deserve. If doulas can help make this a reality, let's expand doula coverage nationwide now.

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

"Whatsapp Just Switched on End-to-End Encryption for Hundreds of Millions of Users" by Andy Greenberg for WIRED. November 18, 2014.

Now that Congress has refused to reform government surveillance and address society's privacy concerns, messaging giant Whatsapp is implementing an encryption system called Textsecure, upgrading its security standards. I think this piece is relevant because it highlights the fact that even the private sector is taking steps to protect people's right to privacy—in fact, major tech companies like Google and Facebook supported the USA Freedom Act that Congress just blocked and would've overhauled NSA surveillance—while the government stands still.

Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.

"Congress is irrelevant on mass surveillance. Here's what matters instead.” by Glenn Greenwald. The Intercept, November 19, 2014.

This piece is both a good explainer of the "USA Freedom Act" (the NSA "reform" bill) that failed in the Senate this week, and an outline of the ways the world has changed in response to the Snowden revelations. Greenwald's point boils down to 'chin up, people': "the battle is underway," he writes, "and the forces of reform are formidable—not because of anything the U.S. congress is doing, but despite it."

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements.

A racial state of emergency: How we prepare for devastation in Ferguson,” by Brittney Cooper. Salon, November 19, 2014.

In her column this week for Salon, Dr. Brittney Cooper asks us—as Black people and as allies who love Black people—to find joy in the calm before the storm. Cooper urges us to find joy however we are able to in a moment pregnant with the expected non-indictment of Darren Wilson. For her, joy is a Black woman director's filmic representation of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, set in the U.S. south. Ava DuVernay's Selma is the aesthetic portal to a joy that shields against the violent crucible of race in America and, according to Cooper, an artistic force to inspire a burgeoning movement. The historical continuity between the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and today's resistance makes legible both how we inherit struggle as genealogy and the timeless indomitability of the Black spirit. In Selma, in Ferguson, in the wake of Black death and the storm of unrest that inevitably follows, Black people go on living and resisting—and that's beautiful. Cooper and DuVernay remind us: we have been here before and we will be here again, it's our ancestors' stories that give us strength to go on.

"There are films that galvanize movements," Cooper writes. "As I sat watching 'Selma,' I knew this film would be one of them." High praise indeed.

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N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

The Untold Story of Fatherhood,” by Stacia Brown. Colorlines, November 18, 2014

Over the past few years, media personalities have described the lack of black fathers as an “epidemic of fatherlessness.” However, in a 2013 Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report indicating that black fathers are more active with their children than white and Latino fathers. Stacia Brown profiles four black fathers who are confirming the findings of the CDC report. They have their own entry points to fatherhood, but nevertheless they are rewriting the narratives of black fatherhood in our world.

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

"Death by Deadline Part One," by Ken Armstrong. The Marshall Project, November 15, 2014.

The Marshall Project launched this week with a multi-part feature that looks into how lawyer error can prevent death row inmates from getting a final appeal. The story opens by explaining the case of Kenneth Rouse, who was tried by an all-white jury. After he was sentenced to death, one of the jurors revealed that he thought "he thought black men (“niggers” was the term he was quoted as using) raped white women for bragging rights." Although the claim for juror bias was undeniable, Rouse's final appeal was never heard. "Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, Rouse's lawyers had just one year after his initial state appeal to petition for a last-resort hearing in federal court. They missed the deadline by a single day." Rouse later received a second chance under North Carolina's Racial Justice Act, but many inmates in his situation weren't so lucky. Armstrong's investigation shows that since the one-year statute of limitations was signed into law, the deadline has been missed "at least 80 times in capital cases. Sixteen of those inmates have since been executed." As for Rouse, his appeal is still pending.

Read Next: Why Are Some Colleges Still Blaming the Victims in Sexual Assault Cases?

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 11/13/14?

Students at Holmes Elementary School in Miami listen to their teacher, a TFA graduate, during a class. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad.

Israel’s One-State Reality,” by David Remnick. The New Yorker, November 17, 2014 Issue.

“It’s not just Jews against Arabs. It’s the Orthodox versus those who don’t think they can keep all six hundred and thirteen commandments of the Bible. It’s rich people versus poor people. At some point, something came over Israel so that everyone has his own ideas—and everyone else is an enemy,” said Reuven Rivlin, Israel’s president and member of the right-wing Likud party. “It’s a dialogue among deaf people and it is getting more and more serious.”

What’s most troubling about these quotes is not just the pervasive intolerable politics that are occurring inside the Knesset, it’s that these words are coming from a right-wing politician about his peers and nation who have veered even further right than once imaginable. This is the state of affairs in Israel, and this is the climate in which a solution seems even more unattainable.

“I’m not asking if we’ve forgotten how to be Jewish,” he said, “but if we’ve forgotten how to be human.”

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and critiques of Israeli exceptionalism.

Shlomo Sand is not Jewish Any More,” by Phillip Kleinfeld. Vice, November 10, 2014.

There is a long history of Jewish writers and intellectuals who have been controversially critical of their own cultural ties. Karl Marx is a famous example, and others include Hannah Arendt, though I think her received rebellion against the Jewish community was more of a scapegoating than an active repudiation. In his recent book How I Stopped Being a Jew, Shlomo Sand has joined the ranks of thinkers who have repudiated their Jewish identity, conceivably in an attempt to do justice to the memory of it as something worth fighting for. This approach differs from those of other so-called “post-Zionists” (see Judith Butler’s Parting Ways: Jewishness and the Critique of Zionism) who attempt to rebuild a Jewish identity (sometimes secular, sometimes religious) that is detached from nationalisms, chauvinisms, jingoisms and other related isms.

What Palestinian Media is Saying about the Jerusalem violence,” by Henriette Chacar. +972 Mag, November 7, 2014.

I was drawn to this piece by Palestinian-Israeli journalist Henriette Chacar because it reflects a growing interest in Palestinian media. The complexity with which our media covers Israeli society and interacts with Israeli media is much more comprehensive and dynamic when compared to its relationship to Palestinian counterparts. Most news-going Americans are familiar with Haaretz, the prevailing face of Israeli independent media (I should say I don’t actually know how independent they are, I haven’t checked their books). Nonetheless, much fewer are familiar with Palestinian outlets like, Ma’an News Agency. Ma’an catalogues daily the realities of occupation; stories that are often lost on those outlets whose audiences do not primarily include Palestinians. I think it leads to the false impression of Israeli society as fundamentally more plural and more three-dimensional, an impression which can strengthen the resolve of racist thinking. I look forward to more pieces that take seriously the complexities of a Palestinian national dialogue (one, which like it’s Israeli counterpart, extends across a diaspora).

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

Teach for America and protesting Harvard students open dialogue,” by Valerie Strauss. The Washington Post, October 25, 2014.

In the latest development of the battle between Teach for America and Harvard activists, The Washington Post has published a series of letters between the two groups. The omission of the “detailed information” that originally accompanied TFA’s final letter makes it sort of like a joke without a punchline: the document, available on the organization’s website, is even more remarkable—and disputable—than the letters themselves. Regardless, this conflict is a fascinating one to keep your eyes on. TFA seems unable to ignore this particular group of critics for one very significant reason: they are the organization’s prime market.

Edward Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

Why Innocent People Plead Guilty,” by Jed S. Rakoff. The New York Review of Books, November 20, 2014.

In response to England’s tyrannical way of doling out justice in the colonies, the American criminal justice system was designed to allow for justice to be meted out under public scrutiny before a judge and a jury. But, as federal judge Jed Rakoff argues in The New York Review of Books, the constitutional protections that the accused are supposed to enjoy have largely been undermined by the devolution of the criminal justice system into “a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight.” This closed system gives prosecutors the lion’s share of the power in sentencing and that, Rakoff argues, combined with mandatory minimums, creates a climate that can incentivize innocent people to plead guilty.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

Can White Teachers Be Taught How to Teach Our Children?” by Melinda D. Anderson. The Root, November 12, 2014.

The demographics of American public education continue to change, reflecting this nation’s robust diversity. This year, for the first time, more than half of American K-12 students are children of color. Despite this demographic shift, only 18 percent of teachers are people of color. The vast disconnect between the majority white teaching profession and the lives and experiences of the majority students of color only becomes more damaging over time. We see research being released all the time underlining this point. Studies show that black children in preschool are suspended at much higher rates than white children, and the rates of suspension for black girls far exceed those of white girls in all grades. Then, of course, because of the increased criminalization of rule breaking in schools by children of color, the result is the school to prison pipeline. All these factors point to the need for racially aware, competent teachers, who understand race, class and gender as historical, political and social realities that impact their students’ lives. Teachers cannot get in front of classrooms without having done the work of deconstructing the biases, racism, sexism and classism, that we are all socialized into. The damage they do to students of color is too much.

The Root reports on a conference at University of Pennsylvania convened to discuss this very issue of how to train teachers to deal with race in the classroom in a safe, inclusive way. The author of the article, Melinda D. Anderson, says, “What’s missing is research that examines the effect of racially incompetent teachers on student achievement,” and asks the most compelling question of all. “How much of the ‘achievement gap’ can be correlated to the lack of racially proficient white teachers?”

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

How Voter Suppression Helped Produce the Lowest Turnout in Decades,” by Juan Thompson. The Intercept, November 7, 2014.

This article is a short but mandatory read. It claims that voter-ID legislation in combination with fishy voter-fraud-prevention technology considerably affected voter turnout in the past election, keeping minorities away from the polls. Voter participation plummeted to an estimated 36 percent nationwide, something that hadn’t happened since the 1940s. For example, a fraud-prevention software known as Crosscheck, which was used in twenty-seven states and examines voters’ personal information to detect duplicate registrations, has been blamed for purging numerous minority voters with common last names among their communities.

We’re faced with outrageously antidemocratic voter-identification laws along with a reckless (perhaps even malicious) use of technology in the political system that result in minorities and other underrepresented groups being left out of the electoral process. I think we shouldn’t just look away.

Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.

The Other Facebook Revolution,” by Catie Bailard. Foreign Affairs. November 11, 2014.

I recommend this article in spite of the fact that it raises more questions than it answers, and that it fails to adequately explain, as the subheading promises, “How the Internet makes people unhappy with their governments.” I clicked because I had just read an Economist article that asked why Obama’s approval rating was so low when by most standards our country is in pretty good shape. I wanted this article to explain that, and perhaps also explain why the midterm elections were such a disaster. It did not. In fact, it told me the Internet should make Americans happier with our government, because “the mirror-holding and window-opening mechanisms boost public satisfaction with government in advanced democracies and public dissatisfaction in nations with weak democratic practices.” This seems overly general if not wrong to me, but I still recommend the article for all the potential avenues of inquiry that it does suggest.

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements.

The Carceral State,” by Kameelah Janan Rasheed. The New Inquiry, November 12, 2014.

In a wide-ranging interview for The New Inquiry, Kameelah Janan Rasheed sits down with author and filmmaker Eric A. Stanley to map the contours of the prison industrial complex as it exists in the state of California. Emblematic of the carceral state writ large, the Golden State has enjoyed a progressive reputation despite operating one of the most brutal and massive state prison systems in America. But with the recent passage of Prop 47—and the reduction of harsh sentencing to follow—Stanley and Rasheed’s conversation has special resonance. As they talk through abolitionist futures and prefigurative politics, queering liberation movements and accountable visions of justice, it becomes clear that the urgency propelling these intersectional movements to seek radical change is the human cost of mass incarceration.

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N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

The Movement for Racial Justice is Bigger Than a Political Party,” by Rashad Robinson. Ebony, November 12, 2014

Last week’s midterm election proved to be devastating for the Democratic Party, as the Republicans will now control the House and Senate during the last two years of President Obama’s tenure. Executive director of ColorofChange.org Rashad Robinson wrote an uplifting piece this week for Ebony.com maintaining that black voters increased their political voice this year compared to the 2010 midterm elections, even with increased voter suppression efforts, and that the racial struggle for progress is larger than a political party.

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

Abortion in Missouri Is the Wait of a Lifetime,” by Justin Glawe. The Daily Beast, November 12, 2014.

Texas has received national attention for its restrictive abortion practices, but Missouri is now the state with the most prohibitive abortion laws in the country. In September, Missouri legislators passed HB 1307, which requires women to wait a full seventy-two hours (not just three calendar days) before receiving an abortion in Missouri’s only clinic. Previously, an average of 6,000 women each year had procedures at the clinic. The new law means women who travel to St. Louis for the procedure will have to take more time off of work, which can deter some women from following through. It also makes a difference in whether some women will have medical or surgical procedures and gives no exception to women who are victims of rape or incest. Finally, “the new waiting period means something almost every pro-life advocate doesn’t want: abortions later in pregnancy.”


Read Next: Fall interns’ recommended reading

Fall Interns' Recommended Reading

Nation interns.

Fall 2014 Nation interns

This piece has been reposted from The Nation Institute.

Talal Ansari, Los Angeles, California

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri

My interest in this book came initially from my fascination with the Naxalites in India, a Marxist guerrilla group that controls much of the tribal regions of India known as the "Red Corridor." They control a substantial chunk of the country. Much of that land also happens to be mineral-rich and extremely poor–an unfortunate combination. Lahiri’s story of two brothers, one who joins the Naxals, and another who leaves for the United States, brings to light much of India's troubled history with Communism and class inequality.

Aaron Braun, Brooklyn, New York

The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy

Finally got a chance to read Arundhati Roy's first novel. It's insanely beautiful and deeply historical. My favorite moment involves, so far (I'm almost done), involves a small plaque that reads "Work Is Struggle. Struggle Is Work." 

Naomi Gordon-Loebl, Brooklyn, New York

Corona, by Bushra Rehman

Coronais the coming-of-age novel that New Yorkers — born or transplanted — have all been waiting for. Expertly told in a non-linear form that reflects the layered narrative, it tells the story of Razia, a queer Desi woman growing up in Corona. It's as much a love letter to Queens as it is a book about identity and self-possession. And if you're anything like me, you'll find yourself thinking about it long after it's over.

Edward Hart, Kansas City, Missouri

What It Takes, by Richard Ben Cramer

Richard Ben Cramer, who died last year, wrote what's widely considered to be the quintessential book about American political races through his detailed reporting from the trail of the 1988 presidential campaign. His book is magisterial in its scope, and many of his observations are just as applicable to today's political climate. But the book, for all its detail, never becomes tedious (granted, though, I'm only halfway through its 1,000+ pages).

Yazmin Khan, Norwalk, Connecticut

Empire of Cotton: A Global History, by Sven Beckert

This book is a fascinating read, tracing the history of the modern world through cotton. Sven Beckert is a historian at Harvard who focuses on capitalism, and cotton is the vehicle through which he explores the establishment of the American economic system, and the economic approach of European colonization.

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro, Santiago de Compostela, Spain

Blindness, by José Saramago

It's been a while since I read this novel by deceased Portuguese novelist José Saramago, but I can't help including it here. Blindness takes place in an unnamed country where, all of a sudden, nearly everyone loses their vision. Following the outbreak, the government rushes to confine everyone infected in quarantine facilities. In the "prisons," violence rules. As society collapses and humanity evaporates, one woman becomes the eyes for her husband and several other, guiding them amid chaos. The novelcriticizes modern society and its "blindness." It's a metaphor for the many ways we aren't able to see.

Jessica McKenzie, Emporia, Kansas

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, by John le Carré

I had the arrogance to think I knew what was going on in this book, so when I got to the quickly unraveled conclusion I was devastated. It's also newly relevant (sort of) because of the alleged similarities between the Snowden saga and John le Carré novels. Atmospherically, it's also perfectly suited to these windy and cold autumn nights.

Muna Mire, Toronto, Ontario

Fire Shut Up in My Bones, by Charles Blow

From the first moment my eyes came across an excerpt of Charles Blow's new memoir in the pages of the New York Times, I knew I would lay hands on it, by hook or by crook. The words electrified my soul, setting my brain alight. Naturally, I told everyone I could about how much I wanted to have this text in my life. I set an intention and the universe conspired with me: I happened upon an advance copy, gifted to me by The Nation (good looking out and a hat tip to my fellow intern Naomi). Since then, the book hasn't left my person. I am taking my time with it — it's a short read. But, slowly, slowly, not unlike the pace of life in the Louisiana Blow conjures to the page, I am delving into what is becoming one of the most impactful autobiographical texts I've ever encountered.

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N'Kosi Oates, Neptune, New Jersey

Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Final Year, by Tavis Smiley

On April 4, 1967 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his most controversial sermon ever at Riverside Church in Manhattan. As an exemplar of Christianity, King renounced America's gargantuan participation in the Vietnam War. Death of a King details the final year of his life leading up to his assassination precisely one year after his Riverside speech. Inundated with intimacy, the book accompanies King as his personal thoughts and insecurities emerge, revealing the turbulences of a public figure fighting to direct America's moral compass and the complexities of conceding one’s values amid the rejections of others.

Allison Pohle, Solon, Ohio

The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in AfghanistanJenny Nordberg

In Afghanistan, parents have sons and daughters, but they also have "bacha posh," which translates to "dressed up like a boy." In her book, Nordberg embeds herself in Afghanistan's male-dominated culture to investigate why prepubescent girls are passed off as boys to their classmates and communities. The book centers on Azita, a member of Parliament who has four daughters, which is seen as a weakness. She and her husband decide to make their youngest daughter a son, which changes the public's perception of her. But "Mehran," as her daughter is now called, must also deal with the public's changed perception of her as she navigates Afghanistan's "man's world." Nordberg artfully explores the gender divide, as well as the divide between foreigners and natives. While her female subjects, Azita and Mehran, are forced to stay in the country, Nordberg is free not only to live as a woman, but also to leave.

Read Next: Can Youth Build New Worlds With the Ballot Alone?

Can Youth Build New Worlds With the Ballot Alone?

Students vote.

Students vote at a polling place in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Here’s a question that my fellow youth climate activists and I face: do we use existing systems to build a better world, or do we try to create new systems that bypass the ineffective institutions that have abandoned our generation?

The recent midterm elections starkly highlight this dilemma.

Let’s start with the Republicans. The party knew exactly what it was doing. It produced disciplined and coordinated candidate platforms guided by comprehensive databases mastered for insights into each individual voter. The result was targeted messaging that masked the party’s true intention: empower elites to maintain the status quo of entrenched economic inequality and destructive climate change denial. Intentionality, control and power supported the Republican platform. The party has skillfully created a “false mandate,” changing American politics with ~4.3 million votes and billions of dollars in campaign contributions.

The Democrats failed to develop a coherent strategy of their own. Confused and timid, the party tried to distance itself from President Obama. New candidates and incumbents alike failed to provide a compelling vision for voters. There was little unity and cohesion. The grassroots network that elected Obama didn’t activate to produce the voter turnout needed to turn the tide.

This is where the dilemma arises. What are Democratic and Progressive platforms to do in this situation? They can attempt to play the Republican’s game by using clever messaging to manipulate a population into supporting their agenda. Tom Steyer this approach, pouring millions of dollars of his own fortune into key races with the hopes of counteracting conservatives; financial influence. Steyer’s theory didn’t play out exactly as planned but he did win four of seven races in a very tough electoral year for Democrats.

But if the Democrats take the Steyer approach, does it only perpetuate the broken, ineffective, and corrupt system that is modern American politics? It is time for progressive politics to forge new paths and create agendas that build trust and transparency, revolutionize campaign funding and ensure that politicians respond to constituents over lobbyists.

Obama built an unprecedented grassroots network that catapulted him to office in 2008. Where are those networks now? Obama abandoned them after his election. He failed to build on the extraordinary momentum he achieved. Now the same grassroots have abandoned Obama. As I wrote recently for The Nation, the fossil fuel divestment movement can lay the foundation for the next wave of political mobilization around progressive causes. The movement targets corporate influence and is building a powerful new consensus around the need for bottom-up change.

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This isn’t an “either-or” situation. We need to excel in the politics of the system—Steyer’s approach—but we also need the grassroots strategies that create alternative structures. We need complementary strategies. As we create this new vision of what our world can be, it’s important to understand what’s broken in the existing systems so that we don’t perpetuate the same abuses and corruption.

If we’re going to challenge the influence of money in politics and reinstate the voice of the American people, then it’s high time that we start acting like it. We must learn to act in ways that align with the kind of world that we want to create. Voting is just one of many tools in our kit.


Read Next: “Students Walk Out for Native Justice, ‘Un-Koch’ Twenty Eight Campuses and ‘Carry That Weight’ Everywhere”

Students Walk Out for Native Justice, ‘Un-Koch’ 28 Campuses and ‘Carry That Weight’ Everywhere


Students assemble at Syracuse before taking over Crouse-Hinds Hall. (Photo: Frankie Prijatel, The Daily Orange)

Last spring, The Nation launched its biweekly student movement dispatch. As part of the StudentNation blog, each dispatch hosts first-person updates on youth organizing. For recent dispatches, check out October 14 and October 24. For an archive of earlier editions, see the New Year’s dispatch. Contact studentmovement@thenation.com with tips. Edited by James Cersonsky (@cersonsky).

1. The Youth Vote

For the past three months, youth from Californians for Justice organized statewide for passage of Proposition 47, aimed at reclassifying six nonviolent crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and reallocating money saved into K-12 programs and mental health and drug treatment. Currently, California spends $62,300 per prisoner versus $9,100 per student. Through phone-banking, door-knocking, outreach and social media, we reached thousands of voters. Prop 47 was not only about putting an end to the school-to-prison pipeline but about giving our communities a second chance at life. Family members of mine suffer from hopelessness because of felony charges for petty crimes. Now that 47 has passed, black, brown and low-income families have opportunities to lead better lives, attain housing and financial aid and access good jobs, bringing us one step closer to justice and an end to institutional racism.

—Raul Montellano

2. The Ferguson Repeal

On October 27, Miami’s Power U Center for Social Change joined Dream Defenders, the Ohio Student Association and the Organization for Black Struggle for #Ferguson2Orlando to demand a fundamental shift in the way police relate to our community away from programs like Department of Defense program 1033, which provides police departments surplus military weapons to govern our community and schools. Together, we demonstrated outside the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s annual convening demanding the demilitarization of police departments and repeal of the 1033 program. Moving forward, alongside the Miami Committee on State Violence, we seek restorative solutions for justice.

—Keno Walker

3. The Takeover

Under new chancellor Kent Syverud and “Fast Forward Syracuse,” Syracuse University has rushed to change the structure and vision of the university—including defunding scholarships for working-class students and students of color, removing the notion of the university as a public good from its mission statement and shutting students out of decision-making bodies. In response, for the past week, students at Syracuse have been occupying Crouse-Hinds Hall, the central administration building. Hundreds of activists have participated throughout the day, with forty students camping out at night. THE General Body, a broad-based coalition of students, has been raised concerns over a series of undemocratic decisions, racist and homophobic incidents, and cuts to essential student programs and services. Despite three previous rallies, the administration remained unresponsive—prompting a fourth rally and our current sit-in. In a move by administration to diminish support, students at the sit-in were forbidden re-entry over the weekend. Meanwhile, designated food drop-off times have not been fully honored. On Saturday at noon, fifty supporters staged a solidarity rally. We will sit until our demands—centered on issues of diversity, democracy, transparency and social justice—lead to action.

—Yanira Rodriguez, Ben Kuebrich and Derek Ford

4. At Humboldt State, Students Mass for Native Justice

Since October 8, students at Humboldt State University have been protesting the administration’s mismanagement of diversity programs on campus—escalating a decades-long struggle in a region with the state’s largest population of indigenous peoples. The action, which has included walkouts, round dance, drumming and community-wide protests, sparked from the firing of Dr. Jacquelyn Bolman, a Lakota and director of Indian Natural Resources Sciences and Engineering Program, and a raid of the INRSEP house right before Indigenous Peoples Week. Dr. Bolman was fired after speaking out against the administration’s lack of perceived “value” in underrepresented students as stated in a CSU-LSAMP report. The ensuing demonstrations have grown to include all programs and clubs on campus that include students of color and our allies as well as HSU faculty and staff, challenging HSU to re-evaluate its conduct toward us all. On November 7, we have secured a meeting with the HSU president and provost. We demand the reinstatement of Dr. Bolman, additional fulltime faculty of color, a transparent hiring process involving students and the removal of administrators who have mismanaged HSU’s programs for students of color.

—Sarah Caligiuri and Peter Mueller

5. At TCF Bank Stadium, It’s Time

At 9:30 AM on Sunday, November 2, students from the American Indian Student Cultural Center at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities walked to TCF Bank Stadium, where we protested with 3,500 people of different ages, ethnicities and places against the racial slur of the Washington football team. This spring, we agreed to help plan the action, as the name perpetuates an unsafe environment for students, especially Native students, on campus. In English and Dakota, the language of the land, we told the crowd that we are not honored by the team’s name, which is degrading and dehumanizing and carries a terrible history—from bounty postings in 1863 during the genocide of Dakota people to today. We wanted Washington owner Dan Snyder to know that he is not welcome in our home because our home requires respect. We urged others to Cante T’insya Nazinpi—have a brave heart and stand up for what you believe in, because our efforts go further than this day in educating people about who we are and making others feel like they are not alone in the journey as educators. For our allies, our message was Wanna Iyehantu—it’s time.

—Vanessa Goodthunder

6. Ringing the Bell for Sexual Assault

CalArts students, faculty, staff and administrators were dismayed to learn of a sexual assault that took place on campus last spring, brought to light by an Al Jazeera article and now part of a federal Title IX investigation. On October 23, students held a campus-wide walkout and sat quietly in the executive administration offices while ringing small bells and jingling keys. Then, graduate students in the Art Program held an open community meeting in the main hall followed by a town hall by the offices of the provost and president. A large number of graduate students dedicated their mid-residency show to addressing sexual assault on campus, exhibiting artworks and text calling for changes in how rape and sexual assault cases are handled. CalArts students, staff and faculty are continuing to organize and hold weekly meetings. The allegations come amid ongoing calls from student organizers for fiscal transparency and accountability from school administrators.

—Olga Cosme, Lydia Hicks, Megan Lewicki, Hannah Plotke, Cori Redstone and Anna Knecht Schwarzer

7. Carrying That Weight, Everywhere

On Wednesday, October 29, students at more than 130 campuses across more than thirty states and five countries participated in Carrying The Weight Together’s National Day of Action in solidarity with survivors of sexual and domestic violence. The day was inspired by the activism and art of Emma Sulkowicz, who is boldly carrying a dorm mattress around campus as long as her rapist continues to attend Columbia University. Emma’s story reflects not only Columbia’s failure to end violence, but the epidemic of institutional and community unaccountability in universities and colleges across the country and the world. As thousands hosted events and carried mattresses, at Columbia, Carry That Weight collaborated with student collective No Red Tape Columbia to organize a rally and speakout with New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, student survivors and city activists. Twenty-eight mattresses, sponsored by twenty-eight student groups, represented Columbia’s twenty-eight Title IX complainants. After the speakout, we delivered these mattresses to President Bollinger’s home, publicly presenting ten demands.

—Becca Breslaw

8. How Many Campuses Can Koch Money Buy?

On November 3, students at Florida State University marched to Florida’s capitol protesting the dramatic influence that corrupt corporate donors have on our public education system, from contracts between FSU’s Department of Economics and the Charles Koch Foundation to the recent decision by a Koch-influenced Board of Trustees to appoint a three-time Koch-funded politician as president of FSU. FSU’s fight has inspired students across the country to #UnKoch their campuses. On Monday, we were joined by twenty-seven other campuses, from George Mason to Temple to Oregon, where students are raising their voices and passing resolutions to demand transparency and integrity. Together, we stand against “strings attached” funding that violates academic freedom by placing limitations and expectations on research outcomes and instruction.

—Kimberly Tate Anderson and Lakey

9. How Much Does College Pay?

After four years of campaigning by students and union members, the University of Memphis is raising base pay for more than 100 campus workers making poverty wages. Effective January 2015, pay will be raised from $8.75 to $10.10. Since 2010, as the nationwide push to raise the minimum wage has grown, members of the Progressive Student Alliance, United Students Against Sweatshops Local 68 and the United Campus Workers have engaged in direct action, diplomacy and lobbying. Now, we will continue to fight until all workers—including adjuncts and Aramark workers, who are not covered by the raise—are paid a living wage. The victory comes in tandem with USAS’s Campus Worker Justice Campaigns Halloween national week of action. Across Tennessee, students and workers are running a statewide living wage campaign demanding that the governor reinstate $40 million cut from public higher education; in Knoxville, students read a horror story at the University of Tennessee’s president’s office calling on him to advocate for reinstated funding.

—Michelle Nyberg

10. Now That Elections Are Over

On Thursday, October 29, immigrant youth and mothers from Connecticut Students for a DREAM confronted first lady Michelle Obama as she campaigned for Governor Dan Malloy and other Connecticut Democrats in New Haven. Two activists interrupted the speech with pleas for the first lady to acknowledge parents of undocumented youth and their need for administrative immigration relief and stop the separation of families. The first lady acknowledged both activists, telling them, “I hear you sweetie” and “I’m going to let you finish.” Although both were escorted out of the event, the first lady’s speech took on a different tone after the interruption. Three days later, President Obama, who has continually promised and delayed taking action through administrative relief, visited Bridgeport to campaign for Malloy and was similarly interrupted repeatedly. Groups like C4D are committed to fighting for our communities and continuing to demand that the president act boldly and inclusively on immigration.

—Danilo Machado and Tashi Sanchez-Llaury

What Are ‘Nation’ Interns Reading the Week of 11/6/14?


A voter inserts his paper ballot at the Belvedere Park polling booth in East Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Talal Ansari focuses on foreign policy and affairs, international conflict and human rights issues abroad.

Hindu Right Rewriting Indian Textbooks,” by Raksha Kumar. Al Jazeera, November 4, 2014.

It is a case of history being written by the victors. Textbooks in the newly elected Prime Minister’s home state of Gujarat rely heavily on Hindu mythology, confusing religious teachings and stories with scientific facts. The inclusion of only Hindu teachings—by omission of other faiths—“equates India to Hindus,” leaving India’s substantial religious minorities even more marginalized than they already are.

Aaron Braun focuses on the psychology and politics of work, histories of socialism, and critiques of Israeli exceptionalism.

Boom and Rust,” by Meagan Day. The New Inquiry, November 5, 2014.

This piece is paywalled for now, but either buy a subscription or wait to check out Meagan Day’s piece for the New Inquiry. I mean, the piece itself is beautifully laid out, but more important is the way that Day gives lyrical content to diminishing returns. It’s a refreshingly readable (and historical) analysis of the aesthetics of decay in California. Love it.

Naomi Gordon-Loebl focuses on queer and trans politics, youth and education, and the criminal justice system.

Bait-and-Switch for America,” by Gary Rubinstein. November 5, 2014.

Teach for America alum Gary Rubinstein is one of the country’s most outspoken, and well-spoken, TFA critics. He was also my high school math teacher, and I’m embarrassed to say that despite his best efforts, I was not the most engaged of precalculus students. That’s why it gives me great pleasure to engage with his work in a different way now: by sharing his latest blog post, which is an attempt to dissuade 2015 TFA recruits from joining the Corps. The stories he tells are both absurd and disturbing, and the post serves as a great gateway to his blog, which is one of the most meticulously researched archives of TFA’s track record that I have ever encountered.

Edward Hart focuses on criminal justice, arts journalism and media ethics.

The Obama Brief,” by Jeffrey Toobin. The New Yorker, October 27, 2014.

Jeffrey Toobin is one of the sharpest legal analysts writing today, and his interview with Barack Obama, published in The New Yorker, is revelatory in its careful consideration of Obama’s impact on the American courts. About a third of the federal judiciary is now made up of Obama appointees, but, Toobin notes, his judicial appointments are less notable for their ideological purity than for the diversity he has brought to the bench. The interview is wide-ranging, thorough and, as Obama enters the lame duck stage of his presidency, a preview of what will be an important pillar of Obama’s legacy.

Yazmin Khan focuses on intersectionality, feminism, race, foreign affairs, politics and pop culture.

Jim Crow Returns: Millions of Minority Voters Threatened by Electoral Purge,” by Greg Palast. Al Jazeera America, October 29, 2014.

This is a long read, but it’s worth it. I have not seen enough coverage of this fantastic investigation that Al Jazeera America did with Greg Palast. They uncovered a massive purge of voters from voter rolls across the country. On a mission to prevent non-existent voter fraud, this secret list was compiled by largely Republican statewide election officials, adding the names of felons who are unable to vote. The list was then checked against millions of names in multiple states, targeting people of color. If someone’s name broadly matched a felon’s, their right to vote was stripped from them, and they were unable to reinstate it. The project is called the Interstate Crosscheck Program, and up until now, the lists of who is on it has been secret. Al Jazeera America was able to get the lists and bring this nefarious plan to light.

Pablo Mayo Cerqueiro focuses on world politics, social justice and technology.

Hackers Could Decided Who Controls Congress Thanks to Alaska’s Terrible Internet Ballots,” by Steve Friess. The Intercept, November 3, 2014.

I think this article is relevant because it underscores the paradoxical nature of technology: it can strengthen democracy, but it can also threaten it. For example, technology has enabled people to spread messages across borders and organize grassroots movements. It has facilitated the media’s watchdog role. But it has also enabled government surveillance.

In the case of this article, technology has given Alaskans the option to cast their votes electronically—but at the risk of having their choice changed without anybody noticing. The Internet was conceived as a realm of freedom and as a vehicle for free speech. If the Internet can be used to distort voter’s voices, maybe it’s not time yet to use online voting.

Jessica McKenzie focuses on technology and politics, transparency and accountability.

The $9 Billion Witness,” by Matt Taibbi. Rolling Stone. November 6, 2014.

In the tradition of hawking articles based on how they will make you feel: this piece will make you so mind-numbingly angry that you can’t even begin to articulate it. An insider look at the non-prosecution of Wall Street criminals, and the extent to which both sides, prosecution and defense, went to silence one whistleblower named Alayne Fleischmann.

Muna Mire focuses on race, politics, criminal justice and social movements.

No, We Don’t Need A Law Against Catcalling,” by Liliana Segura. The Intercept, November 3, 2014.

By now you’ve heard about and maybe even seen Hollaback’s latest viral video campaign, produced in collaboration with the marketing team at Rob Bliss Creative. The video in question has been viewed over 33 million times on Youtube, sparking a firestorm of cultural commentary. Catcalling is a violent act no matter who does it. But highlighting women of color who have affirmed this fundamental truth while bringing valid criticisms to bear is important. The danger of the dynamics in the video is that white supremacy has already rendered it so public spaces allow us to read black and brown bodies as deviant. In the video, there are next to no white men catcalling, as many have pointed out. By contrast, the woman walking through the city is white. There is a specific and storied history around violent carcerality justified by racialized interactions in public space. Historically, white women’s protection has been used as the justification for many brutal lynchings, including, famously, Emmett Till’s murder.

In the wake of the video’s debut, some have called for a law against catcalling. Segura eloquently sums up why this would never work and how it would, in fact, inevitably echo the racial disparities that have come to characterize the prison industrial complex as we know it: “While men are certainly responsible for their personal behavior, a law against street harassment would, in practice, randomly punish a select few individuals in the name of redressing a vast and systemic problem.”

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N’Kosi Oates focuses on race and politics, social justice, black identity, pop culture.

“#TurnedAway: the truth about US voting rights on election day, according to you.” The Guardian, November 4, 2014

Millions of Americans attempted to go to the polls this past Tuesday. Many casted their vote. But many others did not and were prohibited from exercising their right. In “#TurnedAway” The Guardian compiled a collection of voter disenfranchisement stories from Tuesday’s midterm election. From the disappearances of names on the voter roll call, to arriving at incorrect precinct (due to gerrymandering), to utilizing malfunctioning voting machines, this article featured many insidious experiences. While this was perhaps not intended, the piece displayed narratives that heavily highlighted black and poor/working-class voter narratives, demonstrating that although voting is a right, it must be earned. Americans’ path to the polls are littered with many obstacles, that in our political moment just voting—regardless of the outcome—is a victory.

Allison Pohle focuses on feminism, labor and income inequality, education and health.

The Secret Dual Lives of People Living With Mental Illness,” by David Roseberg. Slate, October 28, 2014.

I recently published an article about my struggle with depression. I received responses from acquaintances who “had no idea” I have a mental illness because I “hide it so well.” Living a double life, one where we exude positivity in public and shrink into a depressive solitude in private, is common for many people with mental illnesses. Liz Obert, the subject of Rosenberg’s article, doesn’t think we should be ashamed of this. She photographs people with major depressive disorders to show the dualities that exist in their everyday lives. So far, only ten people have agreed to participate, which she thinks is due to the stigma against mental illness. Growing up, I heard that I shouldn’t trust people who are “two-faced.” But, for some of us, being two-faced is a way to survive.


Read Next: “My Generation: The Change You Can Really Believe In”

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