We Insist: A Timeline Of Protest Music In 2020

Originally published for NPR on September 2, 2020

From Despondent To Defiant, Dua Saleh’s ‘body cast’ Stomps On Everyday Injustice

May 30, 2020

Dua Saleh — Black, nonbinary, Sudanese and Minnesotan — is driven by the generative work within their communities. They released “body cast” at the close of May, stating that they “intended to save it for a project in the future, but I can’t wait that long with what is happening in my city of Minneapolis.” Over sparse production, they pack in dense couplets, wailing, “Lately I’ve had plaster on my mind / County ain’t on s*** they got bodies on the line / Lately I’ve been analyzing time / Y’all been dodging cameras like they bullets over crime.” In the course of two and half minutes, they veer from despondent to defiant, sinking into angst only to rise back up in rage. The final moments include audio from a viral video of Angela Whitehead asserting her right to refuse the police entry into her property — a vignette that is breathtaking for its utter recalcitrance and almost mythic in its seeming implausibility.

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Black Loiterers, White Lingerers, and Starbucks Coffee

Originally published for the Intelligencer at NYMag.

There is a well-known stereotype of a particular kind of coffee-shop patron — an aspiring screenwriter or freelancer, scrupulously cobbling together their pitches or book proposals, courtesy of their favorite local haunt’s free Wi-Fi, electrical outlets, and comfortable furniture, paying for their mobile home office with just a $2 cup of bottomless coffee. This patron, of course, is usually white. The trope has been both parodied and celebrated, and it’s easy to find lists ranking coffee places by how easily they can be transformed into work spaces. Since this lifehack only works by shifting costs from the patron to the coffee-shop owner, some coffee shops have responded by either eliminating Wi-Fi services or furniture — but I’ve never heard of an earnest novelist being carted away in handcuffs for spending several hours after their last order writing character sketches. Continue reading

The Death and Afterlife of Stephon Clark

Originally published for the Daily Intelligencer at NYMag.

On March 18, Stephon Clark’s life was brutally taken by police officers in his grandmother’s backyard. Body-cam footage shows police, who were responding to a report of break-ins in the neighborhood, opening fire seconds after one of the officers yells, “gun!” All that was found on Clark’s lifeless body, however, was an iPhone.

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