• Black Philanthropy Month, Far Beyond August, Rolls Year-Round at #BPM365

    Last August was the ninth year running of Black Philanthropy Month, a designated stretch of observance that both amplifies and compresses a lot of history, justice, injustice, and joy. That month’s haul was the largest ever. More than 18 million people from 60 countries have participated since its inception, and it continues year-round at #BPM365. I spoke with the movement’s founder, Jackie Copeland, by Zoom shortly after Donald Trump’s defeat in the presidential election.

    Copeland told me she’d launched the campaign less as a finite financial pitch than as a movement to cultivate acts of giving and reframe philanthropy as a practice instead of a one-off gesture. “The intent of Black Philanthropy Month 2020 was to move from mobilizing and talking to taking action,” she said.

    Less than 1.3 percent of global assets are managed by people of color, and “denial of equal access to private capital has been an instrument of economic oppression since the founding of many countries,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we see wealth levels in African American and Black Brazilian communities are so much smaller than in others, because we’ve had histories of laws that prevent us from capital and wealth. In the case of women it wasn’t long ago that you couldn’t get a loan unless your husband signed for you.”

    Women are the core driver of another movement she founded, the WISE Fund (Women Invested to Save Earth). Her new WISE You Community is a virtual network to fund Black and Indigenous climate change organizations in partnership with the tech startup Flerish. Her program’s members get live and AI-based coaching, “something sorely needed by donors disrupted by COVID,” she said. “There’s a degree of health and economic carnage because of COVID and it coincides with a range of uprisings around human rights abuses in Brazil and political injustices in Nigeria,” the two most-populous Black countries in the world.

    Brazil features heavily in the WISE Fund. It’s a partner of Brazil Foundation, whose president and CEO, Rebecca Tavares, joined us on the call. Tavares told me she’s “gathering solidarity and support for the access of women of African descent to digital technology for addressing climate change.” She wants to “formalize the rights of domestic workers in Brazil because the great majority are Black women whose rights have been violated on every standard, including sexual violence and abuse, labor rights completely ignored, way overtime working. As informal workers they haven’t had recourse.”

    Also joining our Zoom were co-architects of Black Philanthropy Month Tracey Webb and Valaida Fullwood, who is the founding member of New Generation of African American Philanthropists. Fullwood said she wants to “engage funders particularly in the South to sign a pledge like Brazil Foundation and WISE Fund. I got into some of this work through Tracey. She’d founded a blog that featured Black philanthropy stories, a first of its kind. Working as a writer for her introduced me to Jackie and gave me a line of sight on all the things happening in the US and globally around Black giving.”

    Even the definitions of philanthropy are changing: “The word was hijacked and used in ways that focused solely on money and dollars and not as much on impact and relationships,” Fullwood said. “Part of my work is making it more accessible not just to high-net-worth people but as commitments of time, talent, treasure, truth. Those can be as powerful as any grant. I define and break down philanthropy as love of what it means to be human.”

    “‘Philanthropy,’ the actual term, has always been a culturally specific Western way of organizing acts of giving and mutual support,” Copeland told me. “But if we look at the term more broadly, it’s about community impact and helping someone else. That’s an overlay on ancient giving structures, principles, and philosophies. A lot of successful movements across the Black world—abolition, underground railroad, civil rights movement, anti-apartheid movement—were supported first by Black people giving each other what they had.”

    I asked Copeland what she makes of certain corporate billionaires who donate as acts of reputational self-laundering, a public-relations move to purchase the appearance of caring instead of changing structurally. “It’s a legitimate critique,” she said. “That’s certainly a dimension of some institutional philanthropy. Philanthropy has been a way to ‘clean’ money and wealth that may have been accumulated through dubious means. That’s an undeniable factual part of the history that continues. Sometimes philanthropy has been overcommercialized and lost that essential human-rights heart of giving—the whole notion of love for humanity. I think there’s a countermovement now.”

    Copeland’s team is looking ahead to the month’s 10th anniversary this year, whose theme is TENacity: Making Equity Real, with an ever-growing focus across countries, communities, and sectors.

    Copeland joined me from Flagstaff, Arizona; Fullwood from Charlotte, North Carolina; Webb from Washington, DC; and Tavares from New York City. Share more good news at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • “In Honor of Rush Limbaugh,” $425,000 in Donations to Planned Parenthood

    Mirroring the effort to drive donations to Planned Parenthood on Mike Pence’s birthday a few years ago, scores of people not-quite-mourning Rush Limbaugh’s death are rallying to mobilize similarly and donate in his name. “It’s what Rush would have wanted,” reads the Instagram pitch.

    The goal of donating $10,000 to reproductive health care has been far exceeded. More than $425,000 and counting has already been raised by 17,000 donors in Limbaugh’s memory. Read more about his legacy here.


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    —Cathy Asmus is Mother Jones membership initiatives manager. Daniel King is Mother Jones Recharge editor and copy editor. Share good news at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • From Our Archives, a Reminder of How Conservatives, Contractors, and Developers Cashed In on Katrina

    Each Friday, we bring you an article from our archive to propel you into the weekend.

    Fifteen years ago, almost to the day, the White House released a report titled “The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina: Lessons Learned.” Frances Fragos Townsend, assistant to the president for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, wrote in a letter to President George W. Bush a tale playing out again today in Texas. It was a disaster that could, if studied, be prevented from happening again. Yes, Katrina was “a deadly reminder that we can and must do better,” Townsend wrote. But he was confident: “We will.”

    We have not. And we never did.

    As James Ridgeway (who recently passed away) and Jean Casella documented in a timeline of events published for this magazine in 2007, the lessons of Katrina fell short. What is occurring in Texas now, what has been occurring in California, what is still every day visible in a New Orleans refurbished but certainly not fixed, is that whatever lessons the massive state failure of Katrina offered did not stick. Bush was blamed (rightly) for a bumbling response. But the aspirational redefinition of the political landscape to address problems of poverty and racist policies was cast aside.

    As they wrote in 2007 of this switch:

    Within just a few weeks of the hurricane, something had changed in the press coverage and the public response: As the floodwaters receded, so, too, did the powerful images—the portraits of racially segregated suffering, of death by poverty. America’s—even liberal America’s—focus appeared to be moving away from the experiences of Katrina victims and the deep, systemic problems they revealed. In the end, the leap from pathos to policy was never made. Instead, a narrower lens was focused on the foibles of the Bush administration—for instance, its hiring of a political crony, Michael Brown, to head FEMA (and, later, Brown’s infamous emails about wardrobe choices and dinner plans as New Orleans residents were literally drowning in their homes). Democrats were quick to attack President Bush, but when it came to advancing meaningful policy changes, they came up short on momentum.

    The timeline is a damning indictment of what could come next for us. Our coverage on Katrina is all worth a read to understand how the unnatural is spun as “natural” disaster. We’ve also reported on the horrific statistics making clear that there was no end for victims of Katrina—and we’ve shown that this was clear for anyone who visited New Orleans, no matter the “happy face” some attempted to put on the new New Orleans.

  • A Day After Our Reporting, a Georgia Town Gets Its Vaccines Back

    Kiera Butler

    Less than a day after I’d reported about a Georgia town where the state took away the largest medical provider’s vaccines as punishment for vaccinating teachers, my story’s main source, Dr. Jonathan Poon, emailed with encouraging news: He’d received word from the state that the sanctions will be lifted. His clinic will be allowed to order vaccines and resume vaccinating shortly.

    “I believe your piece was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he wrote me. “We did hear from the state [Department of Public Health] today and they have eased our sanction to be 6 weeks rather than 6 months. We’ll be able to reorder…and start vaccinating” again soon. 

    I’d written about his county’s ordeal:

    In late December, the county had finished vaccinating health care professionals and first responders, so the Elberton Medical Center opened up appointments to what they’d thought was the next tier: people over age 65 along with essential workers, including teachers. Most people in town cheered this development. The schools had been open since August, since remote learning was impossible for the community’s many children who lacked internet access. But the doctors at the medical center didn’t realize that the Georgia Department of Health had changed the guidelines in January, and teachers were not eligible after all. When the Georgia DPH found out that the Medical Center of Elberton had vaccinated 177 school workers with Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, state health officials meted out a harsh punishment. They suspended all vaccine shipments until July and seized most of the remaining doses in the clinic’s freezer, leaving only enough for those who had already gotten their first dose to receive a second.

    During my visit to Elberton, I got to know the town a bit, and I spent time with Dr. Poon, whose clinic had its vaccines taken away:

    Elbert County is in the far northeastern corner of Georgia, close to the South Carolina border. Many of its 20,000 residents are employed making tombstones and memorial statues out of stone—a mural downtown in Elberton, the county seat, boasts the town is “the monument capital of the world.” Trucks bearing slabs of granite rumble through the modest downtown, a square of municipal buildings and a few storefronts still open for business: Stan’s Music World, say, and Tena’s Fine Jewelry & Gifts. On Friday nights, people go to see the the Blue Devils football team from the high school play at the Granite Bowl stadium, which is carved out of 100,000 tons of blue granite. The people here live modestly: In 2018, the median household income was about $44,000, and nearly 20 percent lived below the poverty line.

    On the day that I visited, I watched as residents stopped to greet each other around town. The older ladies had names like Sarabelle and Shelly Anne. “How’s your mama?” They asked neighbors at the pharmacy. “She managing okay?” 

    Almost everyone in this county knows Dr. Poon because he’s lived here almost his whole life. His family, originally from Hong Kong, moved to Elberton when Poon was 3 months old so his father could practice family medicine. Poon decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, and after medical school and residency, he moved back home to practice family medicine. Today, he sees patients down the hall from his father.

    Poon, who has an unflappable air about him and speaks in a slow Southern drawl, isn’t used to being in the spotlight. He spends his days at the clinic, seeing local patients at all phases of life: children with sore throats, pregnant women, elderly people who need medication for diabetes. But in the last few weeks, Poon has appeared on TV news shows, talking about how much the people of Elbert County need the vaccines that the state took away. As he and I walked from the parking lot of the medical center to the pharmacy, neighbors greeted him like a conquering hero. “Thank you so much for what you’re doing for our town,” a man in a pickup truck said through his window. “I really mean it.”

  • Texas Is Still Powerless, Heatless, Waterless. But a Growing Group of Chefs Are Freely Distributing Food and Cash.

    The situation in Texas is so grim—millions without power, heat, water, food—that any act of community support needs amplifying and multiplying. Against the storm’s backdrop are volunteer efforts by chef José Andrés, whose World Central Kitchen has partnered with local eateries to freely feed people affected by outages. His nonprofit has distributed 2,000 meals to residents of senior living homes without power. And it’s not enough.

    As we continue to learn what’s disastrously wrong at the level of emergency management and systems of accountability (much of it well-aired), mobilization continues, including in this related story of giveaways by Boombox Taco Truck. The truck is feeding nearly 1,000 families. Truck owners had no power themselves for days before opening to hand out 2,400 tacos at eight apartment complexes. Learn more about Boombox. Or about restaurant owner Max Bozeman II of Greasy Spoon Soulfood Bistro, who’s giving away $10,000 to families needing food and shelter all while battling medical challenges of his own. Follow his giveaways on Instagram.

    If you live in storm-battered states or have friends and family who do—and there’s good news—reach us at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • 5-Time US Chess Champion Hikaru Nakamura Reaches 1 Million Stream Followers. Magnus Who?

    No, I don’t have sources telling me that world chess champion Magnus Carlsen is seething with jealousy of his rival Hikaru Nakamura, who topped 1 million stream followers yesterday. But Carlsen ought to be impressed and, if he’s human, a bit jealous. Nakamura has a growing fandom for a reason: The five-time US champion is adventurously risk-taking, blazingly fast, and creatively resourceful, and whoever produces his video thumbnails is twitchingly funny and deserves awards.

    Congratulations on 1 million followers. He’s also a generous steward of charitable giving, having used his platform and power to drive donations to good causes. Also on the rise to chess stardom are the Botez sisters, Alexandra and Andrea, standout players with a growing audience. Each is a sharply instructive commentator who, as the game’s popularity surges, offers some of the best video creation and narration. They get supportive boosts from US Chess Women’s program director and two-time champion Jennifer Shahade.

    Today is also the birthday of the first women’s world chess champion, Vera Menchik, born 115 years ago. She defeated the sharpest players of her era, from Samuel Reshevsky to Max Euwe. And yesterday marked a defining political anniversary: Garry Kasparov’s open rebellion against the Soviet chess authorities. The game’s governing body arbitrarily and corruptly terminated his championship match—he was winning—against Soviet-friendly Anatoly Karpov, in 1985. The termination set off “widespread speculation that the unprecedented action was designed to save defending champion Anatoly Karpov from defeat,” the Washington Post reported that year.

    A salute to Kasparov, then and now. What’s all the popularity about? In addition to The Queen’s Gambit, a revealing article about the game’s pandemic appeal is headlined “Pawn Addiction Helps Me Beat the Lockdown Blues.” And yes, there are more possible chess games than the number of atoms in the known universe: 10^120 possible games, and 10^81 atoms in the universe (plus or minus). No word yet on whether Barack Obama will accept Nakamura’s chess challenge for charity.

  • From Our Archives, Adrienne Rich and Annie Gottlieb on Motherhood

    Each Friday, we bring you an article from our archive to propel you into the weekend.

    In 1976, Annie Gottlieb reviewed a trio of books asking how “feminists look at motherhood.” In response to her sister’s deep physical attachment to her newborn (“I can feel my stomach knot when he cries”), Gottlieb sends along a quotation from Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born.

    Rich writes:

    No one ever mentions the psychic crisis of bearing a first child…the sense of confused power and powerlessness, of being taken over on the one hand and of touching new physical and psychic potentialities on the other, a heightened sensibility which can be exhilarating, bewildering, and exhausting. No one mentions the strangeness of attraction—which can be as single-minded and overwhelming as the early days of a love affair—to a being so tiny, so dependent, so folded-in to itself—who is, and yet is not, part of oneself.

    The passage has stuck with me. The sense of “being taken over” is double-edged. Love can isolate. In an even more patriarchal society, Gottlieb writes, motherhood would “have divided us irrevocably from each other—and from ourselves.” How to reckon with this? What do some of the women Gottlieb writes about do in a society or pandemic in which love for another—in maternal relationships, yes, but also in relationships to partners—can drive them away from community and from other women; can drive them away from the support of their (literal) sisters?

    The COVID-19 pandemic, which has particularly hurt women, brings up even more complex questions here in reconsidering Gottlieb’s work. And it is why I’ve found the Rich quotation so vexingly topical. Patriarchy and sexism mean love is sometimes used against women. A mother does not have a patent on love for child, yet it is a mother’s love that must be more—versatile, adaptive—and chillingly all-encompassing.

    Even the usually casual or happy Valentine’s Day, this Sunday, brings a bit of dread on this front—more hurrahing of the loved ones we can’t escape. Haven’t we all done a good amount of sacrificing and loving for those close to us (those always in the room next to us)? Rich, and other writers, argue for a larger conception of love. One that admits a mother’s needs beyond motherhood. The mass communal love that stretches beyond family is hard to come by at any time, and it seems almost impossible right now. Feminists in 1976, as many have now, called for more, both from institutions and from men. It’s worth collectively remembering that on this Hallmark-propped holiday. The cliche is an intimate love, the outside world shut out. But feminists ask for—insist on—more: love that doesn’t isolate, but expands.

  • Draining an Actual Swamp: Volunteers Remove 9,000 Pounds of Trash From a River in 3 Days. Can the Senate?

    Although 9,000 pounds of trash might sound like the equivalent of the Senate impeachment trial’s subject, removing one is easier than convicting the other. I don’t want to give river trash a bad name, and the analogy ends where it begins: Yesterday’s garbage is today’s challenge, environmentally and politically. And like the kind evicted by voters, 9,000 pounds was also removed from the Tennessee River by volunteers over three days last month.

    A team of volunteers from Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful joined state park workers to clean the river. The group’s goal is to remove 100,000 pounds by the end of the year. Progress is underway; the river floor is improving. Will the Senate floor? Or my kitchen floor, currently an abject nightmare? No and yes, respectively. The ocean floor gets 14 billion pounds of new trash every year. And any volunteers collaborating selflessly to clean rivers of environmental or political pollution deserve a full salute.

    Is impeachment over yet? No, and neither am I; one more thing. Happy Valentine’s Day on Sunday (behold, third-century Saint Valentine of Rome, worshipped by sweethearts everywhere or nowhere) and Presidents Day on Monday (behold, the 1968 Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which ensured many holidays were Mondays providing three-day weekends). Your good news is welcome at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Chef Anita Lo Rings in the Lunar New Year With a Live Tutorial: Unimpeachably Good Homemade Dumplings

    The Year of the Ox starts Friday. In celebration, chef and author Anita Lo—winner of Eater’s Cookbook of the Year award, Michelin-star winner, Iron Chef winner, and Top Chef master—is streaming a tutorial on how to make some of the world’s best dumplings. On the virtual menu are shrimp-and-pork pockets of goodness with vegetarian options easily swapped. The class requires registration. Yes there’s a fee, but it unlocks top techniques and live time with Lo, who describes her ethos in Cooking Without Borders as a view of food as a form of memory: “In every mouthful of food lie hints of history—personal and global.”

    Dumplings are also constitutionally expansive, with all shapes, sizes, fillings, wrappers, pleats, prices, histories, and methods, from xiaolongbao to pierogies to gnocchi. Are ravioli dumplings? Yes. If it’s a small mass of dough rolled to encase a filling (or none) and gone in a bite (or two), you’ve got one, a glimpse of regional tradition. Lo ran Annisa in the West Village for 17 years after growing up near Detroit with a mother from Malaysia and father from Shanghai.

    “When [my mother] arrived in the United States, her first stop was Tennessee, where she received her pre-med degree. My parents met in San Francisco—she was interning at the same hospital where my father was a doctor,” she says.

    A steady stream of day care workers from several countries introduced her to new histories of food. “True hospitality extends to others and to yourself,” she writes in Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One. “Too often we forget about the latter.”

    Register here. If you can’t make the tutorial, a free printed version is here.

    P.S. Are knishes dumplings? Many sources say yes. I say no. Senator, I served with knishes. I knew knishes. Knishes were a friend of mine. Senator, knishes are no dumplings. Unless they’re dumplings? Wait, are knishes dumplings? I guess so. Share your recipes, definitions of dumpling, memories of food and family, and photos of your homemade best at recharge@motherjones.com. (Here’s a long list of dumplings.)

  • 6 Indigenous Artists Win $50,000 Prizes for Creative Visions of Justice

    Indian Country Today correspondent Joaqlin Estus first reported this news: Six Indigenous artists have won $50,000 prizes for their “bold artistic vision,” and each is honored for “inspir[ing] curiosity, empathy, and action toward building a more honest and just world.”

    Cannupa Hanska Luger—who installs ceramics, video, sound, fiber, steel, and repurposed materials for “political action to communicate stories about 21st-century Indigeneity”—joins Nathan P. Jackson, Kawika Lum-Nelmida, Geo Soctomah Neptune, Delina White, and Emily Johnson.

    As Luger notes, it’s important to see the awards in context with the outsize impact of the pandemic on Native communities: “I’ve returned to my studio practice and taken active steps to protect the health of my loved ones and our Indigenous communities who are being affected by this pandemic disproportionately.”

    COVID-19 is killing one in 475 Native Americans, a higher and faster death rate than in any other community, according to new analysis by APM Research Lab published by the Guardian and posted by Mother Jones as part of our Climate Desk partnership. The pandemic’s grip makes it both harder and more urgent to surface stories of strength right now. While creative funding is by no stretch a substitute for immediate pandemic fixes, it’s an all-of-the-above effort—art as amplifier, and material medical solutions as demand—that tells the fuller picture.

    See all the prize-winning artists’ work and read their stories. Share your own at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • A Striking Ballad by 23-Year-Old Saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins in Tribute to James Weldon Johnson

    Immanuel Wilkins Quartet: bassist Daryl Johns, drummer Kweku Sumbry, saxophonist Wilkins, and pianist Micah ThomasRog Walter/Blue Note Records

    Take just four minutes to start the week with “Dreamer,” an impressionistic ballad honoring civil rights activist and artist James Weldon Johnson, born 150 years ago. The song is by 23-year-old saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, nominated days ago for an NAACP award for outstanding jazz album. It’s an instrumental, monumental tribute punctuated by the rhythms of stanzas and syllables in Johnson’s 1910s poem “A Mid-Day Dreamer.”

    The livestream was released last week, and on Saturday he won the LetterOne Rising Stars Jazz Award, with a fast-growing footprint. Wilkins is a New School professor, a Juilliard jazz graduate, and a Blue Note bandleader with Jason Moran producing him. Watch as the piano, bass, and drums create a wash of harmony and rhythm before Wilkins, minutes later, floats in. The song, like the poem, applies small strokes to paint a big picture, with each pause mirrored in the saxophone: “I love to sit alone, and dream, and dream, and dream / In fancy’s boat to softly glide / Along some stream.”

    The song is anchored by bassist Daryl Johns, pianist Micah Thomas, and drummer Kweku Sumbry. And while Wilkins leads it, the sheer subtlety and alchemy of each are stunning on their own. The video is here. The studio version is loopable. Recharge is at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • From Our Archives, Billy Bragg Is “Redder Than Ever”

    Each Friday, we bring you a piece from our archives to help propel you into the weekend.

    One of Billy Bragg’s most overtly socialist albums is The Internationale, from 1990. It includes the title song as well as “Nicaragua Nicaraguita,” “The Red Flag,” and covers of Sam Cooke, Woody Guthrie, and Phil Ochs. Bragg stuffed in live material from playing in the Soviet Union, too.

    This is the kind of “redder than ever” material that gets you a Mother Jones interview in 1990.

    Bragg would bristle at his obvious MoJo-fodder reputation in 2004, in another interview with us: “I am a writer of songs, and a lot of them are love songs and a few of them are political. But because so few people write political songs, I find myself being interviewed by Mother Jones.”

    Well, sorry! Yeah, Billy Bragg is the kind of musician we like to interview. Check out the full one from 1990 here. And the one from 2004 here. Bragg also recommends an album from Smithsonian Folkways that I think deserves a shoutout as well: Don’t Mourn—Organize!

  • A 7-Year-Old’s Art Raises Thousands of Dollars in Donations for Doctors and Nurses

    The 7-year-old whose homemade bracelets raised $30,000 and counting for a hospital has been on a roll. Her fundraising is growing worldwide. While all hospitals should be fully funded without any kindhearted kid’s efforts, in the world as it is and misaligned structures as they stand, this really is a moving story. Leave it to a second grader’s artistic thinking to shore up adults’ and institutions’ insufficiencies. Join me, one and all, near and far, Rechargers and retweeters, for a round of raised apple juice in honor of 7-year-old Hayley in Chicago.

    Proceeds from her bracelets, created from colorful rubber bands, are supplying a children’s hospital with PPE and supporting telehealth services, diagnostic test development, and coronavirus research. She’s teaching bracelet making to friends over Zoom and FaceTime. The bracelets, she says in a video with her mom at her side, “represent hope during a really hard time.”

    If you have childhood art of your own stashed away in drawers or cabinets, or know a kid whose art never sees the light of media attention, drop a line to recharge@motherjones.com if you’d like it shared in a future Recharge.

  • How a Drive-Thru Manager Rescued a COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic

    What’s so moving about this story—a Chick-fil-A worker volunteering to reroute a vaccination clinic’s long lines, shortening them by hours—isn’t just the collaboration. It’s not just the ingenuity. It’s what the volunteer reveals about how “good news” is calibrated in 2021. It shouldn’t have come to this. No drive-thru worker should have to spring into action to rescue a preventably slow, mismanaged medical distribution at the national level. Yet here we are.

    “The computer system handling registrations went down, causing hundreds of people to wait in heavy traffic. That’s when Jerry Walkowiak, the manager of a nearby Chick-fil-A, stepped in to save the day,” reported Alaa Elassar of CNN. A Recharge salute to the South Carolina worker. But this story asks us to take cheer in the surprise that vaccination lines were not excessively long. As if the rollout’s missteps are so normalized and business as usual that delays are the metric against which good is measured. And so it is.

    Yes, we can celebrate this story and still have enough bitter aftertaste to keep criticizing the rollout and Chick-fil-A at the same time. Are the sandwiches even good? They’re fine. Don’t get me started on the chain’s long-documented executive opposition to human rights. Recall the story of its founding family’s record against marriage equality?

    Back to our cheery Recharge selves tomorrow. If you haven’t yet, drop a line to my colleague Inae Oh at recharge@motherjones.com and tell her what’s been keeping you afloat. “I’ll basically try anything to keep the cynicism at bay,” she wrote in last week’s callout. Your emails, readers, are giving us strength.

  • NPR’s “Tiny Desk” Gets an Actual Tiny Desk, Courtesy Pharoahe Monch

    We interrupt your pandemic programming with a breaking news bulletin from our Recharge desk at Mother Jones: Down the hall, on your left, past the deranged conspiracy babble of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, around the corner from the tepid sycophantism of Sen. Mitch McConnell, and through the door marked “Some Good News” is creative fire for your cold February. Hip-hop luminary and rock star Pharoahe Monch, featured here before, has a new band that’s created its very own tiny desk for NPR’s Tiny Desk concert series. Enjoy the desk. It’s emblazoned with the group’s logo in celebration of its new album, livestreamed on the show.

    Speculation is growing over what’s inside the desk and whether, in fact, the drawers aren’t glued shut. Sources with knowledge of the desk’s build tell me it may contain blueprints to solve climate change, rescue the United States from political peril, and drive economic growth. It may also contain promo codes for rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon, autographed copies of every New York Mets rookie card from the 1980s and ’90s, and Monch’s own license to ill.

    This is a developing story. Tune in again, same time same place, for the next installment of our multipart series, What’s Inside the Tiny Desk? And get to know the new band. Monch, its leader, enjoys long walks for cardio. The guitarist, Marcus Machado, is gearing up for Aquarius Purple. And drummer Daru Jones takes percussion of only the highest order.

    Elsewhere in good news, Chuck D got the Monch memo and played Th1rt3en’s new record, A Magnificent Day for an Exorcism, on his show to mark its 12th year and 100,000th song. And yes, there’s merch.

  • From Our Archives, the Dangers of High-Speed Day Trading

    Each Friday, we bring you a piece from our archives to help propel you into the weekend.

    Hi, you may have learned about the stock market this week. Why? Because hedge funds held short positions on GameStop, and retail traders noticed it, organized online, boosted the stock, then short-squeezed it. (Still confused? Go here.) In the aftermath—not that it’s really over!—a few discussions have bubbled up beyond this GameStop-infused moment. One idea floating around is to tax financial transactions as we used to do in the United States from 1914 to 1965.

    That tax was also mentioned in the pages of Mother Jones—as our own CEO, Monika Bauerlein, pointed me to—back in 2013, in a piece on the post–Lehman Brothers economy and the growth of high-frequency trading. You can read the piece here. It chronicles the increase of trades made within seconds through algorithms.

    There is an eerie post-recession feel to the fears of mass financialization in this one. Wall Street then, as now, was remote from real value unless it is crashing—then it could ruin your life. The potential of “quants” and math wizards making something so complex that it ends up being stupid is, it seems, high; greed reigns supreme. I’ll leave the analogies to you for our current moment. Take old data with a grain of salt. Here is the actual proposal for a tax on financial transactions from the piece so you know it really is possible to, at the very least, conceive of: 

    In a more far-reaching proposal, Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have proposed levying a financial-transactions tax—they suggest 0.03 percent—on each trade, as a way of discouraging churn and raising revenue. (The United States had such a tax until 1966.) Economists, activists, and even some finance big shots—Warren Buffett among them—have endorsed the idea. “Even at the modest level we’ve proposed, [the tax] would raise $35 billion a year, which would either be used to defray the deficit or be used for job-creating investments by the government,” DeFazio told me. Eleven European Union countries (though not the United Kingdom) are pressing ahead with the idea—and they’ve talked about a tax as high as 0.1 percent. Wall Street lobbyists have pushed back against both speed limits and bringing back the transaction tax.

  • They Walked 1,500 Miles for a Life of Freedom. Revisiting a Book That Chronicles Young American Immigrants.

    Tomorrow marks the third anniversary of a book’s publication that became a major milestone in the chronicling of immigrants’ rights in the United States, and it’s a gripping narrative read with enduring lessons for the Biden era. The Making of a Dream pairs hopeful stories of young undocumented immigrants with historical research that frames immigration as what it increasingly is: one of the paramount movements of civil rights in this country.

    The themes resonate across administrations, from deportation to family separation, DACA, the DREAM Act’s many iterations, and the resilience of those who mobilize to resist. It’s told through the experiences of five immigrants and written by Laura Wides-Muñoz, the former AP immigration reporter who is now an executive editor for news practices at ABC News. It became a PEN Award semifinalist and Library Journal Book of the Year, inspired in part by the commencement of a march to Washington from Miami that reinvigorated the movement. Find a copy here.

    Double celebration to start the weekend: Tomorrow is also the 75th birthday of Bettye LaVette, the Detroit singer whose life and lyrics are another portrait of American freedom. Happy birthday to LaVette. Brace, if you can, for her historic live performance of “Talking Old Soldiers.”

  • Dr. Lonnie Smith Will See You Now: A Crowdfunded Documentary on the Musician’s Sound of Celebration

    Ebet Roberts/Redferns via Getty

    Last month’s uproar over who’s a doctor and who isn’t, and who takes the honorific “Dr.” and who doesn’t—a news cycle cut with sexism by an overtly bad-faith instigator in a Wall Street Journal op-ed—called for a lot of things. It called for rethinking how op-eds get vetted and how naming conventions take shape; how the dynamics of gender, class, education, and public life manifest; and where on the continuum of credentials a degree can land you. It also got me thinking beyond the margins of the news and turning for a recharge to the musical healing of Dr. Lonnie Smith, one of the legendary practitioners of the Hammond B3 organ.

    At 78, Dr. Lonnie is the focus of the forthcoming documentary Dr. B3: The Soul of the Music. If you’re new to his joyful music—a pillar in the Blue Note canon of swing, funk, and East Coast jazz—start with “Seven Steps to Heaven” from 1970. There’s a particular moment of textural beauty when his palette of rhythms and colors goes from walking to trotting, then sprinting. Seconds later, the band switches from loose to tight, charging hard after a three-note horn riff that clears the way for an organ high note.

    But formalism isn’t what he’s about. Dr. Lonnie is up to something greater. “What I do with the Hammond B3 is truly a gift from the creator, and I am very grateful,” he told me. “He really seems to be up to something bigger than music…deeper,” wrote a New York Times reviewer, moved by a live performance. That moment is here; the liftoff is 20 seconds later. (And the crowdfunded trailer is here.)

  • “Coffee Break”: A New Video Call for People With Disabilities Throughout the Pandemic

    A growing number of headlines focus on Zoom fatigue as the pandemic continues, but video’s vast benefits are also expanding as a tool of greater equality and support for some of the 61 million Americans with disabilities. “Coffee Break” is the latest open call that’s a vital source of social, emotional, and professional connection.

    Hosted each Friday by Tia Nelis, policy and advocacy director of the disability rights group TASH, “Coffee Break” started “as a COVID-19 response,” she tells WXXI News reporter Noelle Evans. It arose for “people with disabilities [who] were feeling” isolated “and not having anybody to talk to in some cases. We thought it was important that people could get connected.”

    “People unfortunately are losing family members and friends…and they tend to support each other” on the call. “One week we talked about employment and what employment was, and one [person] was talking about the things he wanted to do. It just so happened that another person was on the phone and said, ‘Well, that’s interesting. Maybe we should talk about that after the call.’ And it ended up that he got a job.'”

    “There’s a variety of different people, different disabilities,” Nelis says. “Some people don’t speak English all the way, but they participate and feel welcome…Some people use iPads to speak, and we use the chat a lot if we can’t really understand, and they type their question in…[Participants] help each other.”

    “Coffee Break” meets every Friday at 3 p.m. ET. Register for the free link. An extra shoutout to WXXI NewsEvans and Jason Harris of Jason’s Connections for the story. Keep tips coming to recharge@motherjones.com.

  • From Our Archives, a Celebrity Goes, Uh, “Political”

    Each Friday, we bring you a piece from our archives to help propel you into the weekend.

    In 1989, Bono graced our cover in a cowboy hat—and without the sunglasses. After the critical (if not financial) bomb of U2’s Rattle and Hum, the bandleader came to Mother Jones to talk about “capitalists, communists, and critics.” For a few years, U2 had been told they were the biggest rock band in the world. Foolishly, they believed it and started to act like it. Bono talked about the band being “on a mission,” as we wrote.

    This got him dubbed a “thin-skinned egoist” (the Village Voice); it meant U2 was showing “self-importance” (the New York Times). “Bono and his songs take on some very big issues: violence and redemption, God and politics, love and death,” Adam Block wrote for this magazine. “That makes him prime game for skeptics, critics, and acolytes.”

    Bono here is that wayward figure: a political celebrity. This is nothing new—and, of course, even those blithely sliding by as “apolitical” figures are still doing their fair share of shoveling out a certain kind of propaganda in playing a neutral game. But it is interesting to think just how long this game has been going for him. Remember that other cover, from Time: “Can Bono Save the World?” (“Don’t laugh,” the subtitle begins.) That article has a lot of, um, questionable politics now. As does Newsweek’s, for its Bono profile from 2000—even the title is terrible: “Can Bono Save the Third World?

    In 1989, Bono is just beginning his transformation into how we know him. (I did a spot-check with some youths on staff, and they do know him, by the way—mostly for dropping an album onto their iPods without asking and being played by their parents/the radio.) You can read his many thoughts here

    I highly recommend the long diatribe on sex and Christianity, which is as cringey as it gets.