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WesRecs

Vol. #33 - June 19, 2020

I have had more white people (and corporations) wish me a happy Juneteenth this year than I've had wish me a Happy Kwanzaa in the last 4 years combined. I don't know if this is progress but it is entertaining and you know what? I'm not mad at it. 2020 is ever more weird...and surprising...and infuriating...and depressing...and weirdly hopeful.

Look, I had planned on dropping a mammoth Juneteenth edition of WesRecs on ya today but all 3.5 of my different jobs beat me up pretty bad this week (in a tiring but lucrative way) so I'm going to have to table a lot of that until next week. Know that I am EXTREMELY excited about what the next few weeks (and beyond) of WesRecs will bring due to both some incredible new sources that I'm just getting acquainted with AND due to some new tech and workflows that I can already tell have changed the game for me completely. I cannot wait and I think you'll dig it when you see it. In the meantime, as always: be kind to each other, I love you all.


WesRecs is the weekly newsletter where I (comedian/storyteller/TV Host) Wes Hazard recommend a bunch of cool content (recs) to YOU (the person reading this). There's no particular reason for this other than the fact that I love curating stuff and I'm always excited to share items that I personally have found worthwhile, exciting, or necessary. If you like what you see please be sure to subscribe to get each week's edition delivered straight to your inbox and if you know someone else who might be into it definitely share with them. You can check out all past issues HERE.
Black To The Land
I've never really been an outdoors guy, or a plants guy, or a "let's get excited about healthy eating!" guy, but I'm settling far more comfortably into early-middle-age than I ever would have anticipated and well: you learn and grow and develop new interests as you go, so here we are. I've been thinking a lot lately about food & food security, land ownership, ecology, the climate crisis, and...because this is America and it permeates everything I have of course been thinking about all of things in relation to race. Here are some things related to all of that:
  • Chef Dan Barber is the force behind Blue Hill (a Manhattan fine dining establishment) & Blue Hill At Stone Barns (a farm in upstate NY which also has a fine dining establishment attached). He's got an expansive philosophy about agriculture, quality food, ecological balance, empowering farmers, and educating thee American public about how the food they eat gets to their table and how all of the processes involved can and should be reworked in order to make it all more green, more humane, more local, more delicious, and less wasteful. My first introduction Barber was years ago when I heard him tell a farm story on The Moth Radio Hour. And since then I've read a number of his interviews and watched some of his talks. He has a lot to say and I've really enjoyed them (I'd also recommend checking out his episode of Chef's Table on Netflix, it's great). Like all restaurants and restaurant staffs Barber and his crew were rocked by the COVID shutdowns, but he never stopped working and striving in the face of it all and he's endeavored to keep his employees working and producing food for communities at Stone Barns during all of this with his Kitchen Farming Project. Three weeks ago on his Instagram Barber announced a improvised plan to use space in the Battery Conservancy for his farming project. Because he's very famous and has a lot of NYC pull and many connections he basically just had to pick up a phone to start planting beets on some of the most valuable and high profile real estate in the city. Not bad right? No. But it could be a lot better. And two weeks later it indeed got a lot better. Barber followed up by owning and recognizing the massive privilege that he (a 50 year old famous white man) had in being allowed to start such an ambitious urban farming program with basically a phone and then he used that privilege to turn the plot he'd been given over to Amber Tamm, a black woman who had been advocating for just such urban farming opportunities for years. It's a solid start and an excellent example of using your power and privilege for good as well as getting out of the way when the moment calls for it.
The Story A Burnout Fuelled By Climate Grief And Food Injustice – An interview With Amber Tamm
 
"Farming allows me to process what's in my head, what's in my blood ancestrally, while facilitating healing for other people."

...

"I would say farming for me facilitates me healing myself, healing my ancestry, healing the earth, and healing my peers and my community"
You can DONATE HERE to Amber Tamm's Future Farm Fund to help her in the process of acquiring land that will be used to build community and food for that community. A very worthy cause indeed.

---------------------

Speaking of worthy causes one near and dear to my heart (and my house) is the Good Life Garden, a community garden in Bushwick, Brooklyn where my friend and fellow former-Boston-comic-now-New York-Comic Kofi Thomas works to help bring food security and agricultural knowledge to the neighborhood. I've visited Good Life a few times and I'm consistently struck by both how beautiful it is and how much it brings to the area. There's a video about Good Life Garden and the incredible transformation it's undergone since Kofi became involved a few years ago. I would most definitely encourage you to make a donation either to the garden itself or to the food delivery program that Kofi is initiating in conjunction with it (or better yet...both!)
“Danger lies in the face and narrative of urban agriculture being co-opted by White liberals and academics. It is presented as something new, trendy, and without sociopolitical and historical ties or influences.

This limited perspective views White community gardens and urban farming alone as acts of social justice, which is problematic because it inadvertently attempts to erase the decades of urban agricultural practices, resistance, and activism that Black communities have engaged in.

White-led urban agriculture projects receive the majority of grant and institutional funding. This further replicates the cycle of narrative dominance, White land ownership, and the physical exclusion of Black and Brown folks from access to land, wealth, and resources and we must use our tools, resources, and privileges as researchers to stop this cycle.”

...

“Today there are about 45,000 Black farmers in the U.S., making up only 1 percent of the farming population, and owning far fewer acres of land compared to 1920. This happened through a series of USDA discriminatory policies and procedures such as Heirs Property, unjustified loan and crop insurance denials, and blatant prejudice like forcing Black farmers off their land.”
Speaking of growing things! If you've been reading some of the recent editions of WesRecs you'll know that I've become incredibly fascinated and excited by fungi and everything they can potentially do for humanity from providing food to curing disease to cleaning up industrial disasters to showing us how to arrange various systems. Fungi are rad and I'm sorry I haven't been into them until now and I mean to correct that!

I just wanted to let you know though: if you have ever wondered if there are people out there willing to send you 3.5lbs of fungi and wood chips in plain cardboard box the answer is YES. This is my first ever mushroom grow kit, I'm starting it up tomorrow and in about 3 weeks I hope to present to you my first batch of blue oyster mushrooms which I have already researched several recipes for. Exciting!
Things Read
City of Solitude - The California Sunday Magazine

China months into the horrors of COVID before most of America even began to register that it would eventually arrive here.
 
"For the next two and a half months, millions stayed indoors. Many of them lived in apartment compounds — walled, maze-like complexes of high-rise buildings that house tens of thousands of residents and that, starting in February, helped enforce the quarantine. Only one person per household could leave every three days for necessities, their name and registration and temperature taken at the gate. Yellow 6-foot-tall barricades segmented the streets outside, blocking entrances to shops and separating neighbors."

...

"YI: My father and I went to the funeral parlor in Hankou district to retrieve my mother’s ashes. When we were standing in line, we saw a man about the same age as my father, who was likely also retrieving his wife’s remains.

I remember watching a movie about a girl who died, and when her family went to mourn her, they didn’t seem that devastated. At the time, I thought, Why aren’t you crying? Why is there still a smile on your face? The scene at the funeral home was similar. People seemed relaxed. Nobody appeared very sad. It was as though people had already been drained of their tears.

I was handed a small silver bag containing my mother’s ashes. I was shocked at how, when a body is cremated, it amounts to so little. I had chosen a wooden urn, and a staff member of the funeral home put the ashes inside and wrapped it in a red and gold cloth. After, another staff member escorted us out with a black umbrella. It was barely raining, so I asked him why he was holding it. He said he didn’t know."
 
 

Why We Need a Working-Class Media - Dissent

Hell yes to this article! It says things which are so true and so obvious about America's relationship to class but which are so rarely said in mainstream media (whether news or popular entertainment).
 
"I’ve learned that it’s anachronistic to believe that a person can climb out of the working class by getting a good job or becoming a professional. Set aside my generation’s downgraded definition of a “good job.” Mobility requires intergenerational wealth or assets that allow you to recover the high costs of striving in the first place. These high costs include: student loans; healthcare; years doing unpaid or poorly paid internships; lifestyle and rent expenses to fit into upper-middle-class networks; and elder or other family or community care responsibilities."

...

"Just as black media did with “black” in the 1960s, I want a cultural and political space for the actual “working class.” I like economist Michael Zweig’s definition in his 2000 book, The Working Class Majority. It is “made up of people who, when they go to work or when they act as citizens, have comparatively little power or authority.” By his broad measure, based on an analysis of Department of Labor occupations, the working class constitutes 62 percent of the U.S. labor force. I want a prominent media home that reflects our size and heterogeneity. I want stories about wealth as opposed to income inequality and its effect on intergenerational and social mobility. I want stories that aren’t just about our problems, but that are also told by, for, and with us. We are civic participants who matter. I want us to set the terms of debate."
 

The Unpresident and the Unredeemed Promise - New York Review of Books

Excellent analysis of how 3 wars (among the seemingly infinite constellation of conflicts we have started, participated in, or funded) have truly shaped the America that we live in today because in many ways...they have never ended. The Civil War never resolved the issue of equality for Black Americans, the Vietnam War opened up an era where the American president could openly lie to and deceive the country, and the War on Terror introduced an category of people/Americans whose rights and personhood could be summarily suspended as long as they were affixed with the label "terrorist". Fascinating and saddening.
 
"The US has engaged in many armed conflicts, but three of them have never ended: the Civil War, the Vietnam War, and the so-called war on terror. Their toxic residues flow from different directions into the current breakdown of the American polity.

The unfinished business of the Civil War is the most obvious, shaping as it does both George Floyd’s death and the reaction to it. His killing is just one more episode in the unending consequence of the shredding, in the aftermath of the Civil War, of the promise of equality for black Americans. It is still, all too recognizably, an act of counterrevolutionary violence. It can be understood only as an outcome of the way, after the abolition of slavery, “dominance” was transferred from the plantations to black rural communities and urban neighborhoods. It signifies a fact that has not fundamentally changed since the defeat of Reconstruction: black people can be subjected, usually with impunity, to arbitrary aggression. George Floyd does not, like the man who was his president, have imaginary historical heroes—Lincoln, Churchill—behind him. He has unarmed men, women, and children shot by police and white civilians, lynched, incarcerated en masse, reminded by purposeful terror of their physical and social “place.”"

...

"The Vietnam War was conducted through a fog of lies. That sustained campaign of deception—of Congress and of citizens—broke something in the presidency itself. One of the most gifted politicians of the twentieth century, Lyndon Johnson, was shattered by it. Nixon, a formidable operator with a substantial domestic program and a wide popular base, ended up as a political racketeer, authorizing and covering up illegal dirty tricks against his opponents. Watergate was a side-effect of Vietnam."

...

"Nixon was forced out because Republican-appointed judges and Republican members of Congress joined with Democrats to reassert constitutional checks on the abuse of presidential power. Now the Republican Party is a wholly owned subsidiary of Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc. Trump’s wild response to the coronavirus disaster and to the Black Lives Matter protests must be seen in connection with the refusal of the Republican-controlled Senate even to go through the motions of a trial after his impeachment by the House. “Unshackled,” like he wished the cops to be, from any notion of accountability, Trump has also become unmoored from any relationship to reality."

...

"Trump was right in one sense: the war on terror has always been a war of definition, and for every US administration since September 11, that power of definition is arbitrary. You can call “whatever you want” terrorism—or not. The semantics are the keys that unlock a vast array of state capacities, up to and including the right to kidnap and imprison people indefinitely without trial, to conduct summary executions, and to invade foreign countries and overthrow their governments. Authoritarian regimes abroad grasped this quickly—once you define your critics as “terrorists,” there is no need for even the pretense of due process. Conversely, if you refrain from using the word, those you approve of—for example, armed white men invading the Michigan state capitol—enjoy complete impunity."


Cops Don't Care About Violence Against Women - Jezebel

TW: Rape/Sexual Assault

When you propose the very idea of prison abolition or even the defending of the police to an American who has not encountered them before you are almost sure to receive a response of apoplectic disbelief and rejection that will almost surely include something to the effect of "That's crazy! what would we we do with all of the rapists and murderers?!" It's a natural reaction given the world we've grown up in. It was my my reaction when I was first introduced to these ideas a few years ago. I get it.

Almost all of us want safety, and the freedom from violence, and the ability to walk around in our communities at night without worry, and the knowledge that our personal property isn't just going to be strong-armed away from as on someone's random whim. That's everybody -  black, white, urban, rural, Republican, Democrat. What abolitionists are saying is that the police don't generally provide that in the way that we've been conditioned to believe by decades of TV & movies - and they actually tend to impede that for communities of color. This is especially true with regard to violence against women where police not only frequently don't meet even the barest standards of investigation and follow through, but are also responsible for a fair amount of themselves. We can do better, we must do better.
 
“But what about rapists?” is, as the prison abolitionist and activist Mariame Kaba said in a 2017 interview, “the question that always gets thrown at anybody who identifies as abolitionist.” The question isn’t just posed as a bad-faith response by conservatives eager to defend the police, but by feminists who have embraced what the sociologist Elizabeth Bernstein termed “carceral feminism”—punitive policing, criminalization, and incarceration—as the solution to problems of violence against women. But as Kaba pointed out, “The vast majority of rapists never see the inside of a courtroom, let alone get convicted and end up in prison.” She continued: “So the system you feel so attached to and that you seem invested in preserving is not delivering what you say you want, which is presumably safety and an end to violence. Worse than that it is causing inordinate additional harm. The logics of policing and prisons are not actually addressing the systemic causes and roots of violence.” As the researcher and activist Andrea Ritchie put it to me, “They’re not actually doing what their public relations say they’re doing about sexual assault.” Ritchie continued: “And they’re certainly not preventing it.”

...

To argue that we need police in order to address violence against women disregards their failure and unwillingness to do so in practice. And it ignores another reality—that far too often, it is police officers themselves who commit sexual and physical violence, both against the people they are supposedly sworn to protect as well as their own partners. Stories of police officers raping and sexually assaulting people while on the job are common. As Ritchie and her co-author Delores Jones-Brown noted in their 2017 report “Policing Race, Gender, and Sex,” news reports along with a limited number of studies “indicates that police officers sexually harass and assault women with alarming frequency.” In 2010, the libertarian Cato Institute released a report that, as Ritchie and Jones-Brown noted, “concluded that sexual assault and misconduct was the second most frequently reported form of police misconduct after excessive force.” (According to the Cato Institute, more than half of the sexual misconduct complaints lodged against officers were from minors.)

...

This culture of violence, unsurprisingly, extends into officers’ homes as well. While the few studies that exist are limited and dated, it’s clear even from the limited data that partners of police officers face far higher levels of domestic violence than the broader public. According to the National Center for Women and Policing, domestic violence is “two to four times more common among police families than American families in general.”
Things Made
Wes Hazard -- The "All Black Club" -- 20 Years of Stefan Urquelle - This is till one of the weirdest and most fun shows I've ever done. I think about it often.
Recs that WesRecs Recs
I will say this about the turmoil of 2020: it has really upped the profile of curation. I get several emails a day and pass by several more tweets and links "in the bio" on various other platforms that are essentially just groups of links to donate to and learn about various causes. I'm kind of loving it. If you somehow can't quite tell 33 issues into this newsletter, I really really love curation (both as a practitioner and a devourer). Sometimes it manifests in a utilitarian way ("here's a link to every single bail fund I could possibly find!") and sometimes it's a bit more considered ("these are the 6 best articles about sports history that I've found this month")  - I love it all. To that end I wanted to share, with pretty much no commentary, some of the most interesting/useful link lists I've seen as of late. Some of these are about educating yourself, some of them are about giving to others, some are neither, enjoy!

Learning
Giving
 
Levity
I think it's important to be aware, informed, engaged, vocal, and vigilant with regard to politics, world affairs, your community, & the injustices that you observe every day - and not just the ones that directly affect you. BUT we're human beings, and dammit we GOTTA laugh, and often. Sometimes you can do all of these things at the same time and sometimes you just need to chill out, kick back, and be entertained. Lord knows the problems will still be there when you're done. Here's some random stuff I've found funny and want to share.
Word of the Week
afternoon farmer
[ af-ter-NOON FAHR-mer, n. ]

Meaning: a farmer who begins work late; a procrastinating or lazy farmer; (in extended use) a lazy person.

Origin: originally English regional (midlands and southern)
Somebody Said This
Why Juneteenth is true Independence Day to Black Americans
Check me out on social media with the links below. And if you like what you've just read please be sure to subscribe and share it with a friend you think will dig it too, thanks!
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Copyright © 2020 Wes Hazard -- Comic. Poet. Performer., All rights reserved.


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