Nonfiction, podcasts, politics

Highway of Tears

I’m listening to another CBC podcast: “Missing and Murdered: Who Killed Alberta Williams?” Reporter Connie Walker investigates the 1989 unsolved murder of a young indigenous woman. Alberta Williams was found along Highway 16 in British Columbia, now known as the Highway of Tears because of the number of women (mainly indigenous) who have been murdered or went missing along the highway.

As she interviews people who knew Alberta, Connie Walker peels back the layers of a terrible past that may be unknown to many non-Canadians.

From the 1880s until as late as 1996 (!!!), the Canadian government operated “residential schools,” or boarding schools for indigenous people. Children as young as 6 were forcibly removed from their homes and taken from their families to spend years in cruel institutions where they faced sexual abuse, forced starvation, and even death. Their hair was cut, and they were not allowed to speak their ancestral languages.

The legacy of residential schools continues today, passed down by grandparents and parents who were treated less than human. Alcoholism, PTSD, poverty, domestic violence, and feelings of worthlessness are remnants of the residential school system.

I just finished listening to Episode 3, where Connie Walkers begins to connect the past with the present — why are indigenous women  3 to 4 times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous Canadian women? Unlike all the other podcasts I’ve listened to, Walkers draws from her own childhood experiences and links the culture to the crime.

Walker’s approach underlines how no crime stands by itself. We are all products of our upbringing, history, and society. And it reminds me how every country has its shameful past — the U.S. being no different — that affects its citizens for generations.

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Book Reviews, Nonfiction, politics

Born a Crime…

This is a re-post of a re-post! Looks very interesting!

Originally posted on What’s Nonfiction?: Book review: Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah Where most children are proof of their parents’ love, I was the proof of their criminality. Apartheid is one of those subjects that I know embarrassingly little about beyond the basics. If you’re in the same position, I highly recommend comedian…

via South African Roots and Apartheid’s Influence, with a Sense of Humor — Memoir Notes

Nonfiction, podcasts

Open your ears!

For the past few months, I’ve been on a podcast binge. It started with S-Town, then went to Dear John, then Someone Knows Something, and from there it’s kept going until today. I just finished Missing Richard Simmons, so now I have to find a new series to listen to while I walk the dog, wash dishes, brave the exercise machine, or fold laundry. There’s nothing like a good podcast to make excruciatingly boring tasks enjoyable!

So, here’s a rundown of my top three favorites, and if you have any suggestions of great podcasts, please share them in the comments section!

S-Town: Produced by Serial and This American Life, S-Town feels to me a little like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil but with a lot more cursing. The main “character” is John, who hounded journalist Brian Reed for months and months, wanting Reed to come down to Alabama to investigate a murder. At least, what John thinks is a murder. From there, the story unravels like a prickly spool of mohair yarn, itchy and bright colored. I have mixed feelings about S-Town. Part of me feels like it exploits the quirks of the deep South — but what saves it, I think, is Reed’s affection for the eccentric and troubled John.

Someone Knows Something: This series is by far my favorite. Produced by CBC Radio (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) and hosted by David Ridgen, Someone Knows Something covers cold cases — murders and missing persons — compassionately and extremely thoroughly. Its first season delves into the case of a missing five-year-old boy from 1972. The second season looks into the disappearance of Sheryl Sheppard in 1998, and the third season helps solve a 1960s murder by the KKK. I can’t wait for Season 4!

Sheryl Pic
Sheryl Sheppard went missing in 1998 from Hamilton, Ontario. If you know anything about the case, email sks@cbc.ca

Unconcluded: I just listened to the latest episode of Unconcluded last night. Friends Shaun and Scott are currently investigating the 2006 disappearance of Jennifer Kesse from Orlando, Florida. To me, this podcast feels the most urgent because it deals with a somewhat recent case, and as Scott and Shaun find out information about the case, they share it with listeners. We are on the journey, too. This podcast, like Someone Knows Something, feels compassionate and honest, with real hope of helping the Kesse family find answers to a horrible crime.

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Unconcluded
Jennifer Kesse went missing in January of 2006 from Orlando. If you know anything about the case, contact the Orlando Police at Orlando Police: 321-235-5300
Uncategorized

A Southern Writer’s Network

A quick update… I received a comment the other day on my old blog, A Southern Writer’s Network, which made me want to go back and update it! On that blog, I listed writing events in the South and wrote posts about Southern authors. I limited it to the Southeastern United States, mainly because it was easier for me to keep track of just one area! Anyway, stay posted for more updates…

FYI, I’ve also been listening to some great podcasts by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company). Someone Knows Something is a series concerning cold cases. It’s really well done and worth a listen! Season 1 investigates the disappearance of 5-year-old Adrien McNaughton in 1972 (see his photo below and an artist’s rendering of what he might look like today).

Education

What history?

education-1959551_960_720What a difference a few sentences can make. I just finished listening to one of Malcolm Gladwell’s podcasts for his series “Revisionist History.” In this episode, “Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment,” Gladwell explores the fallout from the 1954 Supreme Court Case Brown v. Board of Education.

The Supreme Court found that “separate but equal” was unhealthy for Black children, that being segregated was fundamentally “bad” for their psyche and self-esteem. But that was not what the NAACP had been fighting for.

From the mouths of two Black parents who took part in the court case, Leola and Oliver Brown, they had no complaints with their daughter’s school (Monroe School, shown below). They loved the teachers, thought the education was “fantastic.” They just wanted all Black parents to have a choice of where to send their children to school.

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From Gladwell’s podcast:

So what does the US Supreme Court do in 1954 in the Brown decision? It buys into the southern way of thinking about race. Leola Brown and the other plaintiffs say, “We have a structural problem. We don’t have the power to send Linda to the school down the street.” The court says, “No, no, no, it’s a psychological problem. Little Linda has been damaged in her heart.” That may seem like a small distinction, believe me it’s not. We’re still dealing with the consequences.

Those few sentences by the Supreme Court made a huge difference to children across the segregated South. What do you think happens when Black schools and Black teachers are ruled to be inferior? What happens to teachers and students deemed “deficient”? The fallout is huge. Listen to Gladwell’s podcast, or you can find a transcript of it here.

The New York Times published an excellent, related article earlier this year: “Where Did All the Black Teachers Go?”

Embracing Creativity

Create space for something else…

Editor’s note: The police officers who were shot trying to protect the public should not be forgotten. I didn’t mean to exclude them by focusing on the journalists who were also murdered.

The attack on the Paris newspaper office Charlie Hebdo this week left me with conflicted feelings. The first, of course, was outrage at the murder of editors and journalists, who’s primary job is to communicate. As a former reporter and current writer, I felt the horrific sting of bullying — “Don’t write what we don’t want you to, or else you’ll die!” Can there be any more extreme form of bullying than threatening someone’s life if he/she doesn’t act the way you want them to?

And murdering journalists, for crying out loud! Yes, they often write what you don’t want to hear, but they don’t use bombs or Kalashnikovs to get their points across. And, yes, words are powerful. Words can hurt deeply, in ways that weapons can’t. But we have a choice in how we respond to those words. We can ignore them, refute them, or even agree with them. Bombs and guns leave no room for argument. That’s why they are the weapon of choice for terrorists, who have no true words to back themselves up.

My second thought was that if people respond to these attacks with more hatred, the attackers will have succeeded. I’ve noticed that when you are up against someone filled with hate and disgust, sometimes the only way to “deflate” them is to do the complete opposite of what they’d expect.

I’m not saying we don’t condemn these horrible attacks or not defend ourselves. I’m saying rather than let terrorists infect us with their abominable ideas, we respond with the antidote. What’s the antidote to hate? Loving each other. What’s the antidote to malicious violence? Defending ourselves wisely and with purpose, rather than responding in fear and vengeance. Opposite of disgust? Pride — at how far we’ve come in spreading rights like freedom of speech and equal rights for all people, regardless of their beliefs and backgrounds.

Maybe we can all do something to counter-attack terrorism. If you’re in a country where you are able to speak freely, spread the word about what you’re grateful for in an open society. If you’re not able to speak freely, perhaps you can share what brings people you know closer together — love? Telling stories? Good food? Nature? Beautiful art?

Instead of newspapers and news websites republishing the controversial cartoons — an understandable reaction to being threatened – I believe they should fill their pages with the opposite of terror. The ideals that the terrorists are fighting against — community, love, and freedom from oppression.

It’s easy to strike back against something hard and sharp. It’s a lot harder to fight something that’s moving and fluid and filled with an energy that can’t be harnessed.