Editor's Note

Read and reflect on “Let America Be America Again” by Langston Hughes

A strident reminder of our country’s long argument with itself, this poem hits home after a day that began with Cory Booker’s presidential announcement and ended with Ralph Northam’s apology. His surely upcoming resignation may gratify our anger and disbelief, but we must not pretend it solves anything. Structural racism still plagues our country, a birth wound that never heals because we pretend all that blood, the scraped flesh and unrelenting pain is normal, inevitable, acceptable.

I was shocked when I moved to Virginia and learned that the rebel flag flew over a local city hall until the mid-1990s. Learning how segregation affected every part of life here from the schools to the churches during my own lifetime made me realize that it’s horrid legacy still lives. It compelled me to dedicate time to introspection, education and action.

I’ve always admired Langston Highly and his work inspired me to write poetry. His poems sing with clarity through their imagery, but they are not enough. Words can point us toward our shared dreams, but only hard work will lead us through the darkness to that great, shining land of liberty and justice for all.

Editor's Note Reflections

Writing and Responding to the Boston Bombings

Photo by Greg Wake, via flickr CC 2.0
Photo by Greg Wake, via flickr CC 2.0

It’s been quite a week. Much has been written about the tragedy of the Boston Marathon and the drama of pursuing the suspects, with great reporting and commentary by fine writers such as Amy Davidson, Emily Bazelon and Megan Garber. Boston College grad Amy Poehler turned her advice vlog post into a reflection that sometimes it’s ok not to follow the media storm; sometimes we have to find the balance between following current events and giving our eyes and hearts a rest.

There is wisdom in that advice. We can choose what we read and watch, our sources and our depth of engagement. But it’s almost impossible not to stumble into this story right now and not be moved by the heroism and the tragedy. I’d like to take a moment and highlight some perhaps lesser known voices who brought their unique perspectives to us:

Last Wednesday, Boston Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham wrote a piece entitled In grieving city, one can’t help but think ‘what if?’ in which she traces the near misses of marathon participants as well as Boston residents and concludes with this:

Terrorism is only effective if we let it freight everyday choices with debilitating significance. And so, the best way for those preserved by luck to honor the deaths and injuries of those whose choices led them to that one cruel spot is to keep living as if there is nothing to fear.

But in a grieving city, a city full of second thoughts, that seems like too much to ask right now.

In later columns, Abraham explores the grief, fear, and civic pride of Boston’s Muslim community, and makes the connection between the victims’ families from Monday’s bombing and a family still quietly grieving for a victim of 9/11. Her work will slide back behind the Globe paywall tomorrow, so check it out now or sign up for subscription to support more great writing.

Today is Sunday, so it seems very appropriate to mention Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, who examined the role of belief and tragedy in her On Faith articles for the Washington Post. She encouraged us to look for the helpers, seek peace with the eyes of a child, and recognize that a state of grace is not triumphant but grateful.

And finally, on a much lighter note, there’s Boston’s own Annie Cardi, who paid tribute to writers from the Boston area in her weekly feature Friday Fifteen. Every week I’m astounded by her book reviews in fifteen words or less. They are concise and witty and marvelous. This week she posted while under municipal lock down. While her reviews aren’t specific to current events, her humor and commitment are a fine example of Boston Strong.

Kudos to Ms. Cardi and all these fine writers. Thank you for your words.

Editor's Note

She Named Names… Let’s Not Forget Them When We Dance

Goddard BroadsideThere was not a single female signer of the Declaration of Independence, but a woman printed the names of the signers for the first time in January, 1777. Emboldened by the progress of the war for independence, Congress ordered ‘an authenticated copy complete with the names of the signers‘ distributed to the states. Thus Baltimore printer Mary Kate Goddard produced a beautiful broadside using the more familiar engrossed copy we’ve all seen. Before that, the public was not aware of exactly who had signed the document.

There was good reason for secrecy. Though today we call the 56 signers ‘heroes’ and founding fathers, at the time they were known as revolutionaries and traitors who would have been hanged if caught by the British. They staked all they possessed on this radical idea:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Today, most of us only remember the most famous of the signers – John Adams, his second cousin Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and of course the bold John Hancock. The Society of the Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence is trying to change that by placing bronze plaques at the gravesites or homes of these founding fathers.  Their efforts might be paying off – it was impossible to log on to’s Index of Signers today.

Many of us will be celebrating today with fireworks, barbecues and parties. Maybe that’s why when I was a kid, I thought the end of the word independence was spelled ‘dance.’ It is a great thing to be so free. Let us not forget the price.

Weekend Whirl

Weekend Whirl, June 25

Though I wasn’t writing much this week, I was reading a lot, which is what got me into the mess of becoming a writer. Here’s some of what I plowed through that you might enjoy. I’m finding lots of amazing writing by and about women, and that’s inspiring me. News events are also compelling me to keep my head down and work… there’s so much to be done. After we dance, of course.

Online Gems

Supreme Court rules in Wal-Mart’s favor: How the sides are reacting

by Warren Richey for the Christian Science Monitor. A nice summary, though no surprises. Impressive law professor, check. Nancy Pelosi, check. Chamber of Commerce spokesperson, check. Wal-Mart shoppers, oops. I guess they don’t matter in this particular story. Or do they?

Jill Abramson: Built Truck Tough

by Jack Schafer, Slate’s media critic, who thinks she’s the right person for the job of executive editor at the New York Times. His colleague Ron Rosenbaum turned cartwheels and called for the return of the ERA campaign. Which approach do you like better?

Senior Year is Supposed to be a Transformative Time, but not like this

by Sandy Banks, one of the many great LA Times columnists I now follow from afar. Sandy has a gift for making the quotidian sublime, and for illuminating a person’s story with infectious compassion. I hope this short piece about a young woman tragically orphaned grows into a compelling book with a happy ending.

Feminism in the 21st Century

by Zoe Williams, columnist for the Guardian UK. Yes, it was nice of her to review such interesting books just as I started a blog about women in the 21st century. No, I’m not going to steal her homework and gist it – read it yourself!

Offline Jewel

Across a Hundred Mountains

There’s a lot of fuss about Jose Antonio Vargas and the DREAM Act this weekend. Testimonials about immigration are essential in the public discourse, but sometimes fiction illuminates even more than a true story.  I recommend Reyna Grande’s masterful debut novel which explores the forces that lure people across the border through the quest of two young women – one American-born, one Mexican-born – searching for their loved ones. Grande is also writing a memoir about her experience as a child brought to the United States illegally. I can’t wait to read that, but there’s a reason her novel has been chosen by multiple cities and schools for their community read programs. Check it out…