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Friday, June 24, 2022
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 What We're Talking About

Photo: Charles Ellison, Executive Producer and Host, Reality Check, WURD Radio

An Unspoken Truth and the Jan. 6 Hearings

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection wrapped up its fifth hearing of the month this week with a focus on former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to help overturn the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden. Yesterday’s hearing was the final hearing this month by the committee, but the panel is planning hearings in July as it weighs voluminous evidence still coming in, according to panel members. 

We turned to Charles Ellison, executive producer and host of “Reality Check” on WURD Radio to walk us through some of the unspoken racial dynamics that have emerged over the last several weeks and give us context for what to expect during next month’s hearings.  

URL Media: How would you summarize the last few weeks of the Jan. 6 hearings?

Charles Ellison, EP/Host of “Reality Check,” WURD RadioFirst: The Jan. 6 Committee itself and these public hearings are an essential exercise. We need to have them. It’s absolutely crucial Congress investigate and hold those who attacked it accountable because this is about governance, confidence, and stability. If Congress fails at this function, public confidence in government (which is barely at 25%, according to Gallup polling) will erode further.

These hearings have been, on one hand, very revealing as they present information and gripping visuals we’ve never seen or were never aware of until now. As a former Capitol Hill staffer (who once worked in an office directly under the Dome), it was both angering and jarring to watch a video of coup attackers storming through rooms and hallways in the Capitol that I know, personally, are some of the most secure, off-limits and unknown parts of the Congressional campus. We need to keep asking: how did they know about these spaces? Who told them where to go? That’s useful in not only educating the American public about the truth of what happened on January 6 but also in creating a sense of urgency around this event as most Americans have lost interest or forgotten. These hearings also prove to us that this was not a “riot” or a “mob” — it was a highly organized and well-organized coup attempt. These people were dressed for an attack.

That said: this committee is being very disingenuous in its equivocation on the topic of whether they should push for Trump’s prosecution. That’s dangerous. 

URL: What are some of the unspoken racial dynamics of the insurrection and the efforts by Trump and his team to discredit the election (one thing noted by Linn Washington today on WURD is that many of the cities targeted as fraudulent were majority Black and Brown — Philadelphia, Detroit, Atlanta, Milwaukee, etc.). 

Ellison: Make no mistake about it: the coup on Jan. 6, 2021 was organized and carried out in direct response to the effective electoral performance of the Black vote in key presidential battleground states, including Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In essence, the Black vote dominated the Electoral College — the Electoral College is, indeed, an HBCU because of the strategic placement of Black voters in key states. Trump’s political ecosystem, including the Republican Party and aligned white nationalist groups, were strategically outmaneuvered by the Black vote and it triggered them into coordinated violence. Black voters should not underestimate our power at the polls.

The Jan. 6 Committee hearings are showing, in a meticulous fashion, how the Jan. 6 coup was a violent “whitelash” against Black electoral mobilization. Republicans & Trump’s team — in disbelief that they were defeated by Black voters — appeared obsessed with discounting those votes, even if it meant engaging in criminal conspiracy and fraud.

In other racial dynamics, it was very clever how the committee’s first key testimony on day one was from a young white female Capitol Hill police officer who had been critically wounded on Jan. 6. She was previously unknown by the public. Optically, that move was designed to draw in more white viewers, change white voter sentiment around the coup, and embarrass white Republicans in an effort to show the type of people the attack on the Capitol had hurt.

URL: Who are Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss? And what is the significance of their testimony?

Ellison: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, mother and daughter respectively, were two committed average Georgia election workers simply doing their job administering the 2020 election in their state. They were not only falsely accused of stealing votes, but their names were slandered publicly by Republican operatives, they became the target of President Trump, and they were actively harassed and had their lives ruined by an extensive network of white terrorist operatives.

The Moss and Freeman testimonies were the most gripping and heartbreaking. It is one more reason why all Black people in America should be watching the Jan. 6 Committee hearings. No self-respecting Black person in America can walk away from watching the Moss and Freeman testimonies without being: 1) angry and 2) driven to mobilize and vote against the people responsible for their distress, the Republican Party, in 2022. Clearly, based on the public response, most Black people were not aware of these two Black Georgia election workers and their struggles. Bringing their stories to light was both a necessary move for public information and also a very shrewd political move by Democrats on the committee who desperately need to activate Black voters in 2022 by showing them how real these threats are. Moss and Freeman’s experiences illustrate that threat.

URL: The committee is pressing pause on hearings scheduled for next week citing “mountains of new evidence.”  Why is there a deluge of new evidence at this stage of the hearings?

Ellison: The American public isn’t the only audience for the hearings. It’s also designed for the participants in this coup. New and very damaging information is being revealed, and information that incriminates people is being disclosed daily. People who either participated directly in the coup, planned it, or have relevant information regarding its leaders of it are now scared. Meanwhile, we are seeing slow movement from the Justice Department as FBI raids are increasing. The committee is clearly sending a signal that it is giving those who have information a “last chance” to come forward. This delay is really a necessary move to ensure the door is open ... but, it will close at some point.

URL: What’s next?

Ellison:  Still: both the House Jan. 6 Committee and the Justice Department must keep public opinion in mind and move swiftly. It is insane that voters are putting more focus on inflation and higher gas prices, items that will always stabilize at some point, over the fate of democracy — which will never return once destroyed. Trump must be held criminally responsible. At the very least, we should not be having any conversation about him running for president again in 2024 because the evidence clearly shows he staged a coup — and the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, Section 3, is very explicit that individuals who commit treason against the nation’s government must be disqualified and barred from running for office again. The role of the Republican Party in staging a coup and still attempting to overthrow the legitimate government must be revealed to voters. They must be held accountable by this committee, by the law and by voters.


Uplift. Respect. Love.

 Uplifting our Communities 

An Unfinished Symphony:  “In the strictest sense, music is the soundtrack of the historic journey of Black America,” writes Black Voice News columnist S.E. Williams reflecting on the power and meaning of Juneteenth – Freedom Day. Williams evokes the power and memory of music “to continue to create and hear the messages in the music and lift every voice in the struggle because the story of Black people in America is an unfinished symphony.”  Read Williams’ full essay on Juneteenth in Black Voice News.

Indigenous Language Interpreters Wanted: New York City is home to a panoply of indigenous languages — and their countless variants — with origins in Latin America: K’iche’ and Mam from Guatemala; Garifuna from Honduras, Belize, and also Guatemala; Kichwa from Ecuador; and Mixtec and Nahuatl from Mexico, among various others. Many of their speakers aren’t fluent in English or Spanish and their need for interpretation services has gone largely unnoticed. Many immigrants who speak indigenous languages have a right to ask for interpretation services so they can communicate at courts and hospitals. But there isn’t enough support for these voices to be heard. Documented details their plight and the advocates trying to solve the issue.

Vicarious First Responders: Journalist Nicole Chavez found herself in a disturbingly familiar circumstance when she rushed to report on the murders of 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. This latest shooting triggered memories from an assignment three years ago when Chavez was covering the murders of 23 people in her hometown of El Paso, Texas. In this latest report, palabra. details how journalists can recognize and seek support for PTSD after covering repeated tragedies.

Reevaluating School Routines: In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, many parents are re-examining school routines and Gina Desir counts herself among those. “I was devastated. I feel like school is supposed to be a safe place for children,” says Desir, a nurse in Harlem. “Nowhere is safe, but I figured school would be the last place they [shooters] would go. So I felt like I wanted to take my kids home.”  Desir is one of many parents in the tight-knit Haitian diaspora in New York rethinking school routines to help keep their children safe. Read more in The Haitian Times.

Politics and Pride: Our Body Politic spotlights politics and pride, featuring a past interview between host Farai Chideya and the late intersectional activist, lawyer, educator, and author Urvashi Vaid who led movements for a range of progressive issues, including AIDS advocacy, LGBT rights, and prison reform. The pair discuss Vaid’s legacy as a leading figure in social change and what it truly takes to change the lived experience of everyone — to achieve lived equality. And in the series, “Our Body Politics Presents…”  the podcast Truth Be Told with host Tonya Mosley is featured. Mosley interviews minister and writer Danté Stewart about how to cultivate “little experiments of liberation” while experiencing and navigating repetitive acts of American violence. Listen to the full episode here.


 Respecting & Honoring Arts & Culture

Conquering Pro-Cycling: Cycling is a predominantly white sport but now the highest-ranking American in pro-cycling hails from Indian Country. Meet Neilson Powless, Oneida, currently the highest-ranked American in the pro-cycling world rankings, after finishing 4th in the Tour de Suisse on Sunday. It was his career-best at a World Tour stage race. The Tour de Suisse was held earlier this month and is cycling’s build-up to the Tour de France, in which he will likely race next month. Tour de Suisse is notable for its rigorous climbing and high altitudes in the Swiss Alps. In 2020, Powless made headlines by becoming the first Native American to ride in the Tour de France. Native News Online has the full story.

Masala Mixtape: Longtime friends Pankti Doshi, Raghav Mehrish, and Ramya Baratam are forever bonded by their love of music — South Asian music in particular. Meet Masala Mixtape: borne out of this shared love of South Asian music, the three friends have designed a space to showcase musicians and talent with South Asian roots. Masala Mixtape is also an opportunity to combat the misconceptions people may have about South Asian music. Epicenter-NYC has all the details and info on the July debut. 

 Centering Love 

Birders Unite: Latina Monica Bryand yearned for a safe space to meet and build community with other people of color and people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the Twin Cities. In 2018, she founded the Urban Bird Collective to provide a safe place to enjoy birdwatching and the outdoors. The Minnesota group now has hundreds of members from diverse backgrounds. Sahan Journal details how Bryand built a thriving community centered on acceptance, love and shared interest.

 What We're Loving This Week From Our Partners 

Abolition Week and Pop Justice: Music is transcendental, and for many of us, a song has the power to take us back in time or propel us forward. Scalawag magazine’s profile on the life and impact of rapper Young Dolph, whose life was cut short at 36, is an ode to pursuing your dreams in spite of the naysayers. Read on for more inspiration from the lyrics of a South Memphis hero.

June is Black Month Music Month and WURD Radio is celebrating all month long by honoring the history and impact of gospel music! Listen to this well-curated playlist here!

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If interested, please email a cover letter outlining your interest in either position and a CV to

URL Media Inclusive Recruiting: Are you looking for your next challenge? Or simply want to explore what could be next? Review our open jobs and find out how to join URL Media's inclusive talent pipeline. We work with many newsrooms, media adjacent nonprofits, and other national organizations to find and source talent at every level. Read and subscribe to our latest newsletter.

URL Media Events 

The Laura Flanders Show: This Sunday, June 26, at 11:30 a.m. (ET), join our co-founders S. Mitra Kalita and Sara Lomax-Reese for “Meet the BIPOC Press” on the Laura Flanders Show. They will be joined by Michelle García, journalist and contributor, palabra. to discuss Militarization & Uvalde: The Context Media Coverage Omits. Check your local listings and subscribe to the Laura Flanders YouTube channel: 

Scalawag’s Abolition Week:

As part of Scalawag’s 3rd annual Abolition Week, pop justice will exclusively feature perspectives from currently and formerly incarcerated folks. Tune in now through June 25 for a rollout of essays, videos, podcasts, and letters from the inside that:

  • Bust myths you’ve seen on prison TV shows

  • Break down copaganda from Family Matters to The Simpsons

  • Examine the role of journalism in spreading police lies

  • Shed light on the history of abolition and how media downplays it in the present day

Hosted by Scalawag’s race and place editor Ko Bragg and Scalawag editor-at-large Da’Shaun Harrison, this event is an invitation for us all to imagine what a mediascape less infiltrated by copaganda might look like. 


 Our Founders 

Sara Lomax-Reese, CEO of WURD Radio, media entrepreneur for almost 30 years, served as Program Lead for the inaugural Facebook BIPOC Sustainability Accelerator and is currently a JSK Fellow.
S. Mitra Kalita, former SVP at CNN Digital, current CEO & Publisher at Kalita Mukul Creative Inc., which publishes Epicenter-NYC, The Unmuted and The Escape Home, has worked at The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The LA Times, and has launched brands like Mint and Quartz.

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