Last night, I joined an energetic and attentive crowd at the Logan Auditorium (2539 N. Kedzie Blvd.) to watch journalist Jeremy Scahill record a live taping of his podcast “Intercepted,” The Intercept’s weekly podcast. The event was part of The Fest, put on by Third Coast International Audio Festival, bringing you
Yesterday’s episode was all about Chicago and had a stellar lineup of local guests every Chicagoan should know: Eve Ewing, professor, writer, poet and lovely human; Charlene Carruthers, founder of BYP100 (Black Youth Project 100), community organizer and author; investigative journalist Jamie Kalven who founded the Invisible Institute (his reporting first brought the police shooting of Laquan McDonald to public attention); and educator and activist Bill, who has written a lot about democracy, education and social justice and was the Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago. It’s almost crazy that all of these people are my role models in some capacity (I’ve interviewed Kalven before and met Scahill after this event) and they were all on one podcast. Together. But maybe that’s not crazy at all; that’s just Chicago.
So, in an auditorium with all of this talent spewing from the stage—and an equally engaging audience and musical acts by Malcolm London—there were several topics and beautiful moments worth noting. It was a finely tuned and highly anticipated lineup that encompassed the best of Chicago—and not Chicago as a “disaster” or “worse than Afghanistan,” as were the opening remarks of the podcast from a recording of President Trump (to which everyone laughed at because who wouldn’t?)
‘A drop of justice in an ocean of injustice’
The discussion focused on the recent news of Jason Van Dyke’s trial and how each guest was influential in bringing the issue to light in Chicago and nationally. For Kalven, who has been eating and breathing this case for years, the narrative of police brutality finally shifted. From the beginning of his reporting on the case, he watched the narrative go from false to questionable to transcending truth.
“It’s the first conviction in half a century,” Kalven said about Van Dyke. And Carruthers, who was on the front lines organizing #BlackLivesMatter movements and representing the Chicago model of organizing, said this small victory is just a blimp.
“It’s a drop of justice in an ocean of injustice,” Carruthers said. “We’ve had a victory but they deserve so much more.” Who’s they? The black and brown communities that continue to be attacked by police, she said.
Education was Ewing’s topic of the night, though everyone chimed in and added their own expertise. Her and Ayers had a strong discussion about Betsy DeVos and her distraction from the neoliberalism of education damage coming from both political parties. Ewing spoke about her new book, “Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side” as “kind of a downer” but pivotal to understanding the education crisis here. Is it a book about how racism affected CPS closures or how education highlighted racism in Chicago? You pick, but probably a bit of both.
All of the guests have an ocean of knowledge on these topics and have been on the right side of history throughout their careers; sharing their concrete ideas about ways to improve education, policing, mental health resources and the prison system received much love and support from the audience.
Feeling the energy of these individuals and the conscious people murmuring in agreement alongside me was both inspiring and intimidating because it reminded me how strong of a city we are, and what we can accomplish together. Ayers said something similar about this: that our local government, policies and officials are things we can tangibly grasp and ones we, as Chicagoans, fight to make right. Things like the Supreme Court, Congress and the guy in the White House are further away and not as conducive to organizing for change.
My favorite Ayers quote of the night was the advice he shared with the audience: “Be astonished. Act. Organize. Doubt. Continue.”
Carruthers, whose book “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements” was recently published (I bought a copy right after the event), got the feels going with this ending message:
Photos: Ariel Parrella-Aureli
Hopefully, I’ve enticed you to check out the podcast for yourself. It’s out today and can be streamed here.