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The Internet Is Exploding: 10 Must-Read Articles This Week 10/18

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The internet had me in my feels this week. Highlights: Letters to the future, Solange, Megan Thee Stallion, Sohla, Dolly Parton, Chase Strangio, Ice Cube’s working for Trump, the best journalism of the past decade, Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, and presidential town halls. 

1. Ssense: Letters to the Future

I haven’t read all of these letters yet. I’ve only been reading one a day, and even then I have to stop partway through to take a break. These letters to the future by Jenna Wortham, McKenzie Wark, Alok Vaid-Menon, Cactus Store, Kelsey Lu, Lynn Yaeger, Julia Fox, David Zilber, Mona Chalabi, Tavi Gevinson, and Antwaun Sargent reflect on how “as 2020—in all of its destabilizing, mournful, and mobilizing ways—comes to a close, we find ourselves suspended in the chaos of now. While we collectively organize and attempt to make sense of where to go from here, our imminent destinies feel at once predictable and unfathomable, impossible to picture though certain to happen. Yet we continue.” Some of these messages are tragic, others are hopeful, and they are all deeply personal and intimate. 

 

2. Harper’s Bazaar: Solange Knowles: Reflections on Stillness, Joy, and the Year That Changed Everything

Solange is difficult. She is difficult in the way Toni Morrison is difficult. Of Morrison’s difficulty, Namwali Serpell writes that “she’s difficult to read. She’s difficult to teach. She’s difficult to interview. Notwithstanding the voluminous train of profiles, reviews, and scholarly analysis that she drags behind her, she’s difficult to write about. But more to the point, she is our only truly canonical black, female writer—and her work is complex. This, it seems, is difficult to swallow.” It is not only Morrison’s writing, which “is neither coy nor glibly aspirational” but which makes “an ethos,” or how her “language has to have holes and spaces so that the reader can come into it,” as Morrison has said about her own writing, but her position as a Black woman who created the freedom “to feel at ease to be difficult” that makes Morrison difficult for some people. 

In some parallel ways, this piece by Solange is difficult to read. It forces self-reflection. In this collection of essays and poems for Harper’s Bazaar, Solange asks herself and us, “When we are living on survival, why would we reach for that beauty?/When we live in such an uncertain world, how do we reach for that beauty?” On full display here is the multilayered way in which Solange creates and lives. She reminds us that “stillness is goodness,” and that sometimes it is necessary to have “a lot of nerve chasing joy and freedom when you already have so much.” This piece is difficult as Solange shows us a glimpse of her world of ideas without ever yielding to our gaze—here, we yield to hers. 

 

3. New York Times: Megan Thee Stallion: Why I Speak Up for Black Women

Megan Thee Stallion, as with all Black women, has been disrespected and disregarded. For Megan, this came to a head this summer when she claimed she was shot by rapper Tory Lanez who has since been charged for the crime. Initially, Megan did not speak on the incident, in an attempt to protect Lanez and over fear of police brutality. As she writes here, “the way people have publicly questioned and debated whether I played a role in my own violent assault proves that my fears about discussing what happened were, unfortunately, warranted.”

In this op-ed, Megan reflects on the shooting as well as how women are objectified. This objectification “is even more intense for Black women, who struggle against stereotypes and are seen as angry or threatening when we try to stand up for ourselves and our sisters. There’s not much room for passionate advocacy if you are a Black woman.” Megan frames the piece using the upcoming election, explaining how “Black women are expected once again to deliver victory for Democratic candidates. We have gone from being unable to vote legally to a highly courted voting bloc — all in little more than a century” although we are “still constantly disrespected and disregarded in so many areas of life.” She also urges the importance of voting in spite of the fact “we know that after the last ballot is cast and the vote is tallied, we are likely to go back to fighting for ourselves. Because at least for now, that’s all we have.”

 

4. Vulture: Going Sohla

One of my highlights from this week was Sohla El-Waylly liking a comment I left on an Instagram post, poking fun at how she is holding a cast-iron skillet that is supposed to be holding hot food.

Like many fans, I first learned of Sohla from her appearances on Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen YouTube series. Sohla was “like their own human Alexa: Sohla, how do you temper chocolate? Sohla, how do you pronounce turmeric? Sohla, what’s a dosa? El-Waylly appears on command — busy, patient, with a neatly cut bob — to answer.” Hired at BA as an assistant culinary editor, Sohla worked under (white) people with far less experience than her, and wasn’t paid for her video appearances while some of her (white) colleagues were. All of this came out this summer when issues of racism at Bon Appétit and its Test Kitchen became public. Never one to keep silent on injustices, Sohla commented on the controversy on social media, sharing her experiences at BA, and became “a symbol for the overqualified and underpaid.”

Since then, Sohla and many other members of the Test Kitchen have left. Now, Sohla is living her best life “writing a cookbook as well as a column with Food 52 called ‘Off-Script With Sohla,’ guest-judging on cooking shows, and, on this October morning, filming an episode of the web series she now stars in, Stump Sohla,” a part of the Babish Culinary Universe on YouTube. These opportunities offer her more creative control, but initially, when leaving BA in the middle of a pandemic, she didn’t know what she would do. Always an advocate, she says, “I feel like I’m supposed to be grateful that I got that job. But it’s not enough for me to just be here anymore. I want more, and I don’t care that that upsets people.”

 

5. Slate: Outta That Holler

I’ve never much listened to Dolly Parton and I rarely have the urge to, but I love reading about her and how much she has meant to so many people. In this excerpt from She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs, author Sarah Smarsh focused more on Parton’s upbringing and biography than the personal essays I’ve previously read on the singer. I knew that Parton grew up in poverty, but had never taken the time to learn, apart from a surface level understanding, how it infused in her music—how she oscillates between her upbringing and fame. 

The more I learn about Parton the more I understand why people love her so, because “She reminds her audiences that, no matter where they came from, everyone can identify with being shamed one way or another, and no one deserves it. 

 

6. New Yorker: Chase Strangio’s Victories for Transgender Rights

This summer, Chase Strangio, the deputy director for transgender justice at the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBT & HIV Project, and his team won a landmark victory in “Bostock v. Clayton County, which took up the question of whether an employer who fires a worker for being gay or transgender is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The court decided 6-3 that “an employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender violates Title VII’s terms.” Previously, Strangio had never thought he would work at the ACLU as it “focusses on impact litigation; it doesn’t provide direct services to clients,” but through his work as lead counsel for Chelsea Manning, he became “one of her most visible public advocates, and the only trans person with whom she could communicate in person.” Since then, his profile as an LBGT advocate has risen. 

I first found out about his work on Twitter, and really enjoyed learning more about Strangio’s work in this profile. 

 

7. The Root: Ice Cube Working With the Trump Administration Was Dumb and Naive. Here’s Why

Trump campaign advisor Katrina Pierson and Ice Cube revealed this week that the NWA rapper “had input on Trump’s Platinum Plan for negroes who love platinum—which was conveniently announced a little over a month before the election.” People were quick to condemn the rapper and point out that “3 weeks ago Ice Cube acted as if he was still vacillating between Biden and Trump while quietly working with Trump. I called it manipulation of the Black Male Vote and I was right,” as Twitter user @shOoObz wrote. 

Ice Cube responded to the backlash by tweeting, “Facts: I put out the CWBA (Contract With Black Americans). Both parties contacted me. Dems said we’ll address the CWBA after the election. Trump campaign made some adjustments to their plan after talking to us about the CWBA,” which he has been working on for a while, and posting a video explaining that “‘the system is fucked up’ and he’s just trying to figure out why Black people ‘keep floundering at the bottom.’” As Zack Linly points out, why would you consult with Trump when he is “the guy who wanted the Central Park 5 executed even after they were exonerated, thinks critical race theory and diversity training are the Devil’s work, wants to replace the 1619 Project with an even whiter version of American history than what’s currently being taught and hates all things Black Lives Matter”? Also, we know why Black people keep floundering at the bottom. I don’t understand why he is upset with the backlash??? Did he really think he could work with the Trump 2020 campaign without starting a controversy? 

 

8. Lit Hub: Are these the best 10 works of journalism published in the last decade?

I’m always searching for lists of writing and journalism compiled by other people and websites. This week, faculty from NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute shared their picks of the best ten journalistic works published from 2010 to 2019. These selections encompass articles, books, and databases. Some of them I was very familiar with, and others I wasn’t—but they are all worth reading, along with all of the nominees

 

9. Rewire News Group: Boom! Lawyered: Amy Coney Barrett Hearings, Day Three—Make Birth Control Illegal Again

Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings started this week and, expectedly, are infuriating to read about. I haven’t watched any of them but have been following them via Imani Gandy’s live tweets. Gandy is the Senior Editor of Law and Policy at Rewire News Group and also hosts this podcast with Jessica Mason Pieklo on the hearing.

While this podcast specifically covers the third day of the ACB hearing, I highly recommend reading all of Rewire’s coverage

 

10. YouTube: Watch ABC News Joe Biden Town Hall in Philadelphia Moderated by George Stephanopoulos

Joe Biden took part in a town hall Thursday night in lieu of a debate as Trump tested positive for COVID-19. Trump also held a town hall on NBC at the same time, which was also broadcast on MSNBC and CNBC. Across all three channels, Trump’s total viewership was 13 million, nearly 1 million less than Biden’s 13.9 on one channel

Again, I did not watch either of these town halls as I already know who I’m voting for, but a friend did and said it wasn’t actually that bad, all things considered. 

 

 

Images taken from referenced articles. Have a suggestion for next week? Email afoehmke@bmoreart.com with the subject line “The Internet is Exploding.”

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