Episode 56: Illuminating the activism of Black women

Jeanne Theoharis (Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Brooklyn College) and Yoruba Richen (Directory of the Documentary Program at Newmark Graduate School of Journalism) share a deep knowledge of the civil rights movement and a keen interest in reinterpreting and promoting the “fables” that often get flattened or distorted or abbreviated in the collective retelling. They accomplish this in their work as a historian and as a filmmaker. Yoruba is the director, most recently, of How it Feels to Be Free, a documentary that gives literal voice to Ruth Feldstein’s 2013 book. The film presents the stories of six iconic African American women entertainers – Lena Horne, Pam Grier, Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, and Cicely Tyson – who champion civil rights and challenge racists stereotypes. HIFTBF is available to watch as part of the PBS American Masters series and is being screened at the Athena Film Festival through the end of March. Jeanne and Yoruba discuss the making of the film, including the perennial challenges of finding/accessing archival footage as well as funding. They also consider other recent screen narratives of Black lives, both historical – Ma Rainey, Fred Hampton, Billie Holliday – and contemporary, including Yoruba’s recent film The Killing of Breonna Taylor.

Jeanne is the author of the award-winning The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks (Beacon Press, 2013) and has recently published a new edition for young people. In this episode, Jeanne describes the origins of her activism and of her focus on African American history, which includes time spent as a student of civil rights leader Julian Bond.

We can look forward to a continuing dialogue between Yoruba and Jeanne who are collaborating on an upcoming project about Rosa Parks.

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Episode 55: Amy Adamczyk on parents and religion

Amy Adamczyk is Professor of Sociology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Her latest book, Handing Down the Faith: How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, is co-authored with Christian Smith, Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, and is soon to be released by Oxford University Press. I talked with Amy about the new book and about some of her other work. She’s incredibly productive and is always in the midst of a fascinating and socially relevant research project.

For Handing Down the Faith, she and her team interviewed more than 230 parents in the U.S. – diverse in numerous ways – who shared their thoughts and feelings about how they’re raising their children with (or in some cases without) their faith. This excerpt from the book’s introduction provides a teaser for what the researchers aimed to do: “We know a lot about the importance of parents in faith transmission and factors that influence its effectiveness. But we know much less about the actual beliefs, feelings, and activities of the parents themselves when it comes to the intergenerational transmission of religious faith and practice… What do American religious parents actually assume, desire, and say they do to try to pass on religion to their children?”

Amy also tells us about her recent article (co-authored with Jacob Felson) in the American Sociological Association journal Socius, titled “Online or In-Person?  Examining College Decisions to Reopen during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Fall 2020,” which delivered some surprising results.

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Episode 54: Kathleen Collins on coming of age with TV

I was honored to talk about my new book, From Rabbit Ears to the Rabbit Hole, with our wonderful guest host extraordinaire, Beth Harpaz. She happens to be the Platonic Ideal of my target reader, and to illustrate this, she speaks in Ubbi Dubbi and sings a snippet of the Oscar Mayer Wiener jingle and the theme song to Hodge Podge Lodge. But as you’ll hear Beth attest, there’s something in Rabbit Ears for people of all stripes. (As editor of CUNY SUM, Beth also wrote this summary. What a great image she found!)

It may come across as easy breezy, but I wrestled with being a “guest” on my own podcast. I wish that weren’t the case. For anyone who has ever produced a creative work only to watch it disappear into a black hole shortly after its unveiling, you know that unless you are already famous, dogged self-promotion is an absolute necessity. I was emboldened by Amanda Hirsch’s piece about this.  She recently reminded her Twitter followers that for women, “self-promotion is actually a social justice issue.” So for anyone out there making something, especially if you’re a woman, it’s your civic duty to put yourself out there, for yourself and for all of us.

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Episode 53: A beach community ethnography

We seem to have a penchant for gentrification scholarship here at Indoor Voices. It shouldn’t be that surprising, since we are a large public university in a vast metropolis, and CUNY boasts a wealth of accomplished urban studies scholars. In previous episodes we’ve heard from Richard Ocejo, Sharon Zukin, and David Puglia about the urban economy, identity and cultural shifts and schisms in New York and in Baltimore. Ed Snadr and Shonna Trinch, John Jay College faculty and authors of What the Signs Say: Language, Gentrification, and Place-Making in Brooklyn, our guests from the summer of 2020, visit us again in this episode to talk with two more colleagues about the topic, adding Asbury Park, New Jersey to the list of places that have undergone significant change in recent years. Ed and Shonna’s guests are Mary Gatta and Molly Vollman Makris, faculty members at Guttman Community College and authors of the new book, Gentrification Down the Shore, published by Rutgers University Press. See their recent Progressive column addressing actions that can be taken to alleviate the struggles faced by places like Asbury Park.

For those interested in continuing to explore Brooklyn, there is an upcoming free two-part event “What the Signs Say” offered by the Brooklyn Public Library’s Center for Brooklyn History. Ed and Shonna will talk about streetscapes, race, making place, aesthetics, nostalgia and activism with other Brooklyn and urban studies experts on February 23 and March 25. More info and registration can be found here.

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Episode 52: David Pearson on punk rock in the 1990s U.S.

This is Punk & Politics Part II. In Episode 35, David Pearson (Lehman College) interviewed Raymond Patton (John Jay) about Ray’s book, Punk Crisis: The Global Punk Rock Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2018)

In this episode, the two punk scholars reunite and switch seats. This time, it’s David who’s just had a book released, Rebel Music in the Triumphant Empire: Punk Rock in the 1990s United States (Oxford University Press 2020) and Ray asks the questions.

It’s a pleasure to listen to these two talk about their shared interest. You don’t need to be familiar with the nuances of crust punk, drunk punk and straight edge or to know the music of Los Crudos or Spitboy in order to get something out of this episode (though if you do, you are going to be all over this!). It’s largely about how punk operates and frames itself in different contexts. Even the meaning of diversity and multiculturalism within punk can change, perhaps even depending on who is in the White House. Ray and David discuss the experiences and participation of immigrants, women, people of color, and the continuum or rejection of politics and commercialism vis à vis punk.

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Episode 51: Experiential learning & Sopa de Albóndigas

In Spring 2020, Cathy Davidson and Eduardo Vianna were co-teaching a course at the Graduate Center, an offering of The Futures Initiative titled “Introduction to Engaged Teaching and Transformative Learning in the Humanities and Social Sciences.” Like millions around the world, they and their students were forced to make the move to remote teaching and learning in the middle of the semester due to the COVID-19 shutdown. This group made the best of a fraught and traumatic situation.  I can’t help but say they almost literally made lemonade from lemons, because what came out of the class was a surprise to all of them – a cookbook. You’ll hear how that happened in this episode. The ambassadors are Cathy Davidson, Dree-el Simmons and Tatiana Ades.

The course website is freely available at hastac, an online network cofounded by Cathy Davidson in 2002 and the world’s first and oldest academic social network.

During their conversation, they mention several people and programs that you’ll undoubtedly want to know more about:

Thanks go to Beth Harpaz (CUNY SUM) and Lauren Melendez (The Futures Initiative) for their help in bringing this conversation to fruition.

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Episode 50: J Journal presents

Almost a year ago, I talked with the editors of the nationally recognized, Pushcart Prize ranked J Journal: New Writing on Justice, the literary journal edited by John Jay English department faculty members Jeffrey Heiman and Adam Berlin (see Episode 38). In this – our 50th! – episode, they are back and in conversation with J Journal contributor, poet Estha Weiner. The three have a rich discussion about her work, and she reads three of her poems. I’m grateful and honored to partner with Adam and Jeffrey in this way, and I hope this is the first of several J Journal discussions and readings to come.

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Episode 49: Victoria Bond and The Summoner

Over the last decade, Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon published the award-winning trilogy, Zora and Me, a fictional series based on the life and work of anthropologist and writer (and as Vicky says, “dynamite cultural critic”), Zora Neale Hurston. The third and final volume, Zora and Me: The Summoner, has just been published this month, and she talks about it with her colleague from the John Jay College English department, Allison Pease. They discuss the joys and challenges of writing solo and co-writing, Kipling, and – my favorite part – an imagined conversation with Zora. Allison is a thoughtful and appreciative reader and their conversation will make you want to read the entire trilogy, as it did me. The book touches on a number of issues – racism, death, lynching, colonialism, threats of violence – that would be compelling reading for the middle-grade reader it targets as well as anyone who goes in for historical fiction, ZNH, fantasy, and a little horror. For background on where we are in the trilogy before you listen to the conversation, this will help.

Victoria Bond teaches first-year writing at John Jay. You can follow the Zora & Me series on Twitter.

Allison Pease is Professor of English and Associate Provost for Institutional Effectiveness at John Jay. You can follow her on Twitter. Her new podcast Creating a Framework for a Culturally Affirming, Inclusive and Anti-Racist Curriculum which she co-hosts with Dara Byrne, Associate Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies, can be found here.

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Episode 48: Frederick Wasser on Twentieth Century Fox

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is book-cover.jpg
(Routledge, 2020)

In chronicling the sweeping account of the Twentieth Century Fox film studio – the first scholarly history of the empire – Frederick Wasser, Professor in the Department of Television, Radio and Emerging Media at Brooklyn college, shines a light on the history of business and entertainment in 20th century America. In fact, as he shares tales about the movies from each decade, it serves as a survey of not only American film history but, as he writes in the book’s introduction, “at times it becomes a history of the century itself.” In describing the story of the studio and its major players, Wasser uses analogies of the “Fall of Rome” and a “Greek tragedy.” The volume is one of eight that will eventually come into being as part of the Routledge Hollywood Centenary series, celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the major Hollywood studios.

Our friends at CUNY SUM have summarized Frederick’s book here. A couple of other random teasers I’ll add: William Fox once asked Upton Sinclair to document his story. And Fox TV was an exemplary purveyor of the phenomenon known as “tele-rudeness.”

You can read more about Frederick and his teaching and scholarship at Brooklyn College and find his full CV here.

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Episode 47: Char Adams on amplifying COVID stories

You’ve seen Char Adams’ work already if you are a reader of CUNY SUM, because she is the site’s digital editor. She is also a race and identity journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, Teen Vogue, People, and more. And as of quite recently she is also the co-creator and host of a new podcast, COVID University New York which releases its third episode on Sept. 16. I recommend listening to this conversation with Char, then following it up with one or more COVID University New York episodes – they are all informative, engaging and moving.

Check out some of Char’s work:

Where Do Black Journalists Go From Here? 

The Political Resilience of the Black-Owned Bookstore

It’s OK to Feel OK Right Now 

These Women Survived Abuse and Assault. Now They’re Behind Bars. Should They Be?  

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