vgfi2
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
I met with Valerie Graves before her interview with Paula Marantz Cohen on The Drexel Interview. She exuded a calm and poised excitement about having so many people discussing her new book. Her memoir, Pressure Makes Diamonds: Becoming the Woman I Pretended to Be, takes a new approach to the average rags-to-riches story — mostly because Graves doesn’t come from rags at all. She starts off in a middle-class, loving family that supported her intelligence and her journey to becoming the woman she is now. Her story isn’t just about gaining success, but about how to reach back and create spaces for other women of color in advertising. Our interview was conducted in two parts, both before and after her interview with Dean Cohen. This interview was edited for length and clarity.

More… “Pressure Makes Perfect”

Byshera Williams is a Pre-Junior English Major at Drexel University and the current Assistant Editor for The Smart Set.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
pn_mautner_blackpanther_bf_001
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Was there any announcement in recent comics history that was met with more fanfare and excitement than the news last year that acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates would be writing the adventures of Marvel superhero Black Panther?

It’s hard for me to think of anything comparable. Coates, of course, is perhaps the preeminent writer on race and American society today. His columns for The Atlantic have deservedly won him widespread praise and a MacArthur Genius grant. His second book, Between the World and Me, garnered him a National Book Award. He is one of the most prominent literary figures in the country. The news that someone of his stature would be writing the adventures of one of the most recognizable black superheroes (though perhaps Storm, Luke Cage, or Cyborg could argue for more cultural cachet) is worth a bit of hullabaloo. More… “Ta-Nehisi’s Take”

By day, Chris Mautner is the mild-mannered social media producer for PennLive.com. By night, he writes about really nerdy things for The Comics Journal … and this site. He is ¼ of the podcast Comic Books Are Burning in Hell.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
SL_FREREJONES_N0_FI_001
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

It was right there, a bit of boilerplate I had slugged in, due to be cut in the next draft: “In light of recent events . . .” I was hundreds of words into sifting the issues that arise when white rap fans use the N-word, knowing that whatever I came up with would be read during one of the most publicly race-conscious moments of recent history. But after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were shot and killed by cops, many of those words I’d written wanted to twist, or invert entirely. By revising the first sentence, I found a twist.
More… “An N of 0”

Sasha Frere-Jones is a musician and writer from Brooklyn. He lives in Los Angeles.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
FP_WITHERS_CUFFS_BF_001
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

The handcuffs are too tight and I don’t know the safety word. This is no Fifty Shades of Grey gone wrong (or right). I’m standing on a city street, hands behind my back, surrounded by NYPD undercover officers.

How I became the center of a cop circle is easily told. After a day of imperfectly freelancing, the workday ends with a walk. A friend calls it a “daily constitutional” and teases I should wear a bowler, accompanied with a dog called Mr. Muggles. He insists this imagined pet be a Jack Russell. More… “Brown and Blue”

James Withers is a freelance writer living in New York City. His work has appeared in Gay Star News, Genre, the Gay & Lesbian Review, and New York Post. Between 2007 and 2011, he was a contributing editor to 365Gay.com. He can be followed on Twitter at @JamesWithers3.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
AC_WALDM_LYNDON_BF_001
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

All The Way, HBO’s new movie about the passage and aftermath of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is a messy and curiously double-minded affair. Like Selma, it wants to show that the shopworn narrative of white men grappling with fate in smoky rooms was never the whole story. But All The Way doesn’t give Martin Luther King’s movement enough screen time to live again as the complex entity it was. Instead it’s portrayed as one of the many blocks Johnson has to shift around to secure passage of the bill.

But if All the Way reduces itself to the story of Johnson’s break with Southern whites then, however unintentionally, it does succeed in making one point very clearly: Nostalgia for the Johnson presidency is misplaced, thanks to forces set in motion by the man himself. More… “They’re Not Coming Back”

Greg Waldmann is a native New Yorker living in Boston with a degree in international affairs. He writes at Open Letters Monthly, where he is Editor-in-Chief.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
Moving away from the melting pot? Maybe.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

We live in an era of identity wars. On both sides of the Atlantic, old partisan loyalties are being reshuffled as a new national populist right battles over immigration with an open-borders, multicultural left. Beyond the West, the most dynamic leaders are seeking to root their legitimacy in historic national and religious traditions — Russian Orthodoxy and Eurasianism in Putin’s Russia, Hindu nationalism in Modi’s India, Chinese nationalism in Xi’s China, and post-secular Islamic Turkish nationalism in Erdoğan’s Turkey. The most extreme form of identity politics is that of the Islamic State that has risen from the wreckage of Iraq and Syria. Its adherents seek to recreate a version of the early Muslim caliphate.
More… “The Age of Identity Wars”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
WITHOUT THE SOUTH
If the South successfully seceded, would we be better off? In Part I, exploring the international ramifications.
BY MICHAEL LIND
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+

Would the United States be better off without the South? It is a question that is often asked by white progressives and centrists in other parts of the country, now that the Democrats have become a largely-Northern party while the former Confederacy has become the heartland of what was once Lincoln’s party. If the Confederacy had been allowed to secede, would what remained — let us call it the Rump USA — be a socially-liberal, civil libertarian, social-democratic paradise today?

Let us ignore, for a moment, the indifference by the white Americans who muse about this scenario to the fate of black Americans, who disproportionately reside in the South to this day, as well as to their fellow victims and sometime victimizers, the white Southern poor. Had they been permanently stranded outside the United States after 1861, neither group would have benefited from federal abolition of slavery, federal civil rights and voting rights legislation, or federally-subsidized economic development in the South.
More… “Without the South”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
EmailTwitterFacebookDiggStumbleUponGoogle+
attachment-258

Six weeks after Kari and I sat together in the surgi­cal clinic, I drove to Hyde Park to meet him at his grand­mother’s house. The house sat on a narrow two-way street not far off American Legion Highway, which lies just off Blue Hill Avenue, the main road that cuts through Roxbury, Dorchester, and finally Mattapan before coursing out of the city into the suburb of Milton. The house sat midway down a long row of attached two-story houses, a noticeable contrast from the cen­tury-old triple-deckers that lined Blue Hill Avenue standing di­rectly opposite these more modern and modest homes.

Wrong Place, Wrong Time: Trauma and Violence in the Lives of Young Black Men by John A. Rich, M.D., M.P.H. 232 pages. The Johns Hopkins University Press. $24.95.

Kari met me at the door and motioned me to come… More…

attachment-1697

Popular culture seems to have two general depictions of small towns. The first is a naive, sleepy, hamlet where nothing ever happens, populated with lovable eccentrics and warm-hearted folk (always folk, never people). Generally this setup sees the return of the prodigal son or arrival of an outsider, almost always from the “big city,” of which the townies speak with disdain. The protagonist will eventually fall in love with a more wholesome type of woman and realize what he’s needed all along is a simpler kind of life. See television shows like Northern Exposure and Ed, for example. The other stereotype involves a placid calm that masks a swirling tempest of murder (Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt), violence, racism (Pudd’nhead Wilson), small mindedness, and cowfucking (that would be Faulkner). The most accurate depiction of life in a small town I have ever seen, the TV show Friday Night Lights, is… More…