What does a Black agenda look like?

“The glaring omission of Black experts is so commonplace across Western society that it has become normalized,” writes Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman in the opening pages of The Black Agenda: Bold Solutions for a Broken System. A graduate student at the Harvard Kennedy School, Gifty Opoku-Agyeman, wants to raise her hand and ask one monumental question: “why public discourse about a global pandemic, which disproportionately impacted Black communities, was largely absent of Black perspectives.” The collection of essays she compiles explores the "convergence of at least three pandemics: Covid-19, racism, and state-sanctioned police violence," and how each of those things affects sectors like climate change, tech, and healthcare in Black communities. (In one expansive section about the climate crisis, Dr. Marshall Shepherd writes, "Ultimately, however, the weather-climate gap will not disappear until racial wealth inequality disappears.”) 

So what does a Black agenda look like? Let's talk to the editor!

Shannon Melero: The Black Agenda kicks off by noting that historically, Black experts are only ever called upon for things specifically about the Black community—or when someone is trying to get their DEI initiative up and running. There was a slight shift in this during the summer of 2020, which you write about. Have you noticed any change in the academic or research community moving toward no longer pigeonholing Black experts two years into the pandemic?

Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman: No. No. (Laughing) And it’s really because at the end of the day, as Doctor Tressie McMillan Cottom said recently, institutions can’t love you. Right? They’re things. And it’s no surprise. What I always tell people to keep in mind, with academic institutions, in particular, is that they were never built with Black and Brown people in mind. Harvard was founded in the 1600s. Where were Black people in the 1600s? So the way I really look at it is that, yes, institutions can’t love me. They won’t serve me. But that being said, I’m still going to push these institutions to at least see me, to hear me. Because at the end of the day, even if they aren’t hearing me, someone is listening, right? 

One thing I noticed as a thread joining all of the essays was the argument for reparations. But what would you say is that one thing that brings all these experts’ concepts together? 

Oh, reparations. I hadn’t even thought about it from that perspective, but you’re right, it does come up a lot. But I actually think the more salient or more obvious trend between the essays is criminal justice. 

Just to be clear, nobody talked to each other before writing their essay. But as you see, criminal justice comes up again and again and again. Because at the end of the day, that is the root of a lot of the problems. If you already don’t see Black life as life, we have a problem. We can’t talk about voting rights. We can’t talk about health care reparations; we can’t talk about diversity in the workforce; we can’t talk about the future of work in the U.S. if you don’t think Black people are people. 

And so the way that manifests is criminalizing Black people for existing. I can’t just be Black and exist because that is illegal. As I talk about this, I’m just thinking about what happened with Kim Potter recently. She basically got a slap on the wrist and the judge cried! 

The statistic that shook me, and it still shocks me, is that out of 17,500 police killings between 2005 and 2021, only 140 officers were indicted in murder or manslaughter charges. That’s less than one percent! That’s actually 0.8 percent, to be precise. And the question becomes, well, when it’s fundamentally criminal to be Black in America, how does that spill over into every other sector of society? It’s illegal to be Black in America, and for some reason, that’s not top of mind for everybody. 

So I guess the next logical question is, what’s the plan? It feels like this has been an ongoing battle for hundreds of years. How can we change this perspective, and is it even something that’s going to be accomplished in our lifetime? 

I think it can. And I think it will be led by young people, I think we are going to be the ones to push against this idea in a very real way. That’s why you’re seeing such a visceral reaction. There are a lot of people who are trying to get rid of Black voting rights—I mean, it’s a coordinated effort that is giving Battleship precision, right?

There are entire generations of people who are sick of it. You’re seeing this [anger] in millennials, Gen Z, Gen X, and all of the people coming up after them. This is why you have this entire fight around what’s going to be taught in schools, however, because people [in power] understand that once young people find the truth, it changes everything. We saw that with Gen Z. 

And what does implementing that level of change look like according to The Black Agenda?

It looks like putting Black people at the helm of conversation and having them lead the way. And that’s not at the expense of any other group. I think a lot of times people argue that if you’re centering one group of people, it means you don’t like anybody else. But who said that? What we’re saying is, what groups have it worse off? The group that is worse off should probably be leading the conversation around solutions because if a solution works for them, it’ll probably work for everyone else. 

I can't just be Black and exist because that is illegal.

Now when we talk about agenda items in the book, what we’re saying is that with the way that things are going, Black lives have to be fully realized first and foremost. The fact that Black lives do matter is not something that should be up for debate, but right now it is up for debate. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Like, what do you mean? This isn’t debatable. The Black Agenda basically feeds off of the idea that if we know that Black life matters, we can address how the climate crisis is affecting Black lives, we can address health inequities, we can address how climate crises are affecting Black lives. 

But you have to agree that Black life matters first. If you can’t agree with that fact then all of the other solutions proposed in the book are moot. The first step is you agreeing that Black people are people.

Shannon Melero is a Bronx-born writer on a mission to establish borough supremacy. She covers pop culture, religion, and sports as one of feminism's final frontiers.

"I didn't want to be curated into whiteness"

One year after Rebecca Carroll's memoir, the white gaze lingers

A year ago, I published the work I am more proud of than anything I’ve ever written—Surviving the White Gaze, my memoir about growing up as a Black child adopted into a white family, and raised in an all white, rural New Hampshire town. Every memoir writer knows that mining the truth can be a fraught and risky endeavor, and I certainly anticipated some fallout, hurt feelings, differences in remembrance. I could not have imagined, though, how keenly the response from my family would reflect not merely the truth in the book’s pages, but also the truth of America. 

My mom called it a gift, until my dad called it an injustice, and then she agreed with him that they should consider hiring a lawyer to sue me. Their accusation: defamation of character. Their issues were not with me writing about the racism I endured during my youth, which went almost entirely unacknowledged within my family, but rather, with how I wrote about them; their unconventional marriage, my father’s ego. (He was upset that I’d included the fact that earlier in my life, I had misguidedly suggested there had been some blurred lines between us; I was wrong and said so in the book, but he still felt it was damaging to his reputation.)

I had invited my dad to read the book when it was still in manuscript form, when changes could still be made, but he had declined, which I can’t deny hurt my feelings deeply. We were very close when I was growing up—made countless mixtapes for each other, stayed up watching Late Night with David Letterman together, and shared a love for gallows humor, Swiss-German expressionist artist Paul Klee, the swoony crooning of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music, romance languages, and romance in general. I absolutely worshiped him. 

When I left for college, we maintained a fiercely dedicated written correspondence, dad’s letters characteristically endless in page count, handwritten in his tiny, exquisite penmanship, detailing his findings in the local swamps and wetlands, his sanctuary, where he still spends hours finding and tracking painted and spotted turtles. But as I got older and grew more into myself as a Black woman, the more it became clear that I no longer fit within the narrative he had created for our relationship, and more broadly speaking, for our entire family. 

Like many white male artists with outsized egos, my dad affected a microcosm wherein he, the infallible genius and hopeless romantic, existed at its center, buoyed by the near constant presence and adoration of women. It was a racially segregated space, into which I had been placed through careful, well-intentioned curation. But I didn’t want to be curated into whiteness, idyllic as it may have seemed to my parents and siblings. I wanted to be Black among Blackness. How was this never made available to me? I stopped worshiping and started questioning. And then I started to get angry. Why hadn’t my father tried to connect me with my community? 

And, of course, it wasn’t just my dad. My mom sewed me a Black doll and found me a Black dance teacher. But still—my dance teacher was the first Black person I had ever seen in real life. I was six years old. I didn’t go to a Black hair salon until I was 12 years old. My first real Black friend wasn’t until college. My book grappled with those realities—it expressed my love for my parents, but also my anger. It expressed my reality, as lived and experienced by me. And they were outraged. 

Twitter was making it clear: White parents get to decide how a family is made

It’s an outrage I’ve come to know too well. In December 2021, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments from state attorneys seeking to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. In her remarks, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, herself the white mother of two Black adopted children from Haiti, suggested that abortion isn’t really even necessary when adoption is right there. I found her remarks hideously cavalier, a callous trivialization of the complexities surrounding adoption, particularly transracial adoption, and the responsibility white parents take when they adopt Black children. I launched a thread on Twitter (as one does) saying so. The thread outlined the ways in which I believe transracial adoption can be seen as representative of the foundational dynamic between Black people and white people in America, which is inherently traumatic. It was retweeted thousands of times, but the backlash was swift.

My comments were full of endless fury. One (based on her avi) white woman tweeted: “TRAUMA???? What would the trauma had been if you were still with your birth mother? How the fuck UNGRATEFUL can one person be. Disgusting.” A white guy whose Twitter bio includes “just a dude” wrote: “So the argument is... it's better for black children to be aborted than adopted by white people? I'm not sure a lot of black children would agree, but, I'm no expert.” 

Perhaps the most egregious responses came from right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza, who tweeted: “If it’s ‘enduring trauma’ for you to be adopted by a white family, you might consider that 1. The black patents [sic] that gave birth to you didn’t want you 2. There were evidently no black couples that chose to adopt you. Aren’t you grateful someone did?” 

Twitter was making it clear: White parents get to decide how a family is made. It’s the very essence of America, where white parents, both figurative (the forefathers) and literal (adoptive parents), have set the standard of everything. And if you are a Black child who is lucky enough to be part of that construct—taken in either from foster care or, in my case, by a handshake agreement between your parents and the white teenage girl who was pregnant with you—well, you had better feel grateful. 

Imagine presenting what you consider to be your career-best work, an impassioned plea to be seen, only to have your parents condemn it because of bruised egos. 

Now try to think of one moment throughout history when this same dynamic hasn’t played out similarly, if not exactly, between Black and white America.    

My parents did not sue me—there were no grounds—but ironically, their threat made me feel more Black than I’d ever felt before. It felt like a reminder that in America, if you are white, you can arbitrarily decide what constitutes an injustice, while threatening to bring law and order down upon anyone who says otherwise—in this case, a Black woman who wrote her story into existence. 

If not for the support of the family I made and chose, generous reviews, and the overwhelmingly positive response from readers—of all different backgrounds, but in particular Black and biracial transracial adoptees, and other transracial adoptees of color—I might have thought it was all for naught. But they wrote me, in droves.

“I feel a little taller, less broken, less angry and grateful to be in this black skin,” wrote one of the adoptee DMs and emails I received. “Thank you for this book...from the whole entireness of my heart. I have to go cry now.”

Hard same.



Rebecca Carroll is a writer, cultural critic, and podcast creator/host. She is the author of several books, including her recent memoir, Surviving the White Gaze. Rebecca is Editor at Large for The Meteor.

Six months of the Taliban

Two Afghan journalists on what life is like for women there now, as told to Mariane Pearl

Six months ago next Tuesday, Kabul fell to the Taliban, plunging Afghanistan’s citizens, but especially girls and women, into panic and despair. Rukhshana Media is one of the very few woman-run media outlets in the country; its two founders, Zahra Joya (shown above) and Zahra Nader, now live in exile, working 18 hours a day to ensure coverage of the systematic oppression of women at the hands of the Taliban. I spoke with these extraordinary journalists in late January over Zoom.

MP: Rukhshana Media, the news agency you created, is named after a victim of Taliban oppression. Can you tell us about her, and why you started the agency? 

Zahra Joya: For nine years, prior to creating Rukhshana, I sat in newsrooms, most often the only female to be seen, and saw how much women and girls’ lives were ignored by the media. We had no space, no opportunities to show our worth. Men genuinely believed we couldn’t do the job. So, I founded Rukhshana in 2020 with my own savings to tell our stories, drive change and foster a national dialogue about and with all women in Afghanistan, regardless of ethnicity or religious beliefs. Rukhshana herself was a 19-year-old girl from central Afghanistan who, in 2015, tried to flee an arranged marriage to be with the boy she loved. The Taliban accused her of adultery, dug a hole in the ground, leaving her upper body out, and stoned her to death. I chose her name so that each time we pronounce it we honor her—and fight against the risk of oblivion.

Zahra Nader: My biggest fear is that young women who are taught history in the future will say, “I can’t believe there were once female journalists in our country.”

There are only 100 female journalists left in Afghanistan (out of 700 before last August). You have reporters working inside Afghanistan and rely on volunteers. Can you explain how people bring stories to you? And are they in danger?

ZN: They are not quite volunteers because we insist on paying our collaborators. Women have lost their jobs [since the Taliban took over], so this is also a way of encouraging them to join us and speak out. Some of the women now working with us are not journalists; they were students or teachers, so we train them on the job.

ZJ: Right now, we have four female journalists and two men inside Afghanistan. We are looking for someone to cover the Eastern region, but the situation there is beyond control. Despite the danger, our reporters are doing remarkable work. In February alone, they wrote about two abducted women’s rights activists, the ban on women’s voices and music, and how former security forces fear being hunted down when applying for passports, among other critical reporting. We are constantly tracking our collaborators, making sure they are okay, but we don’t want them to take risks. Journalists themselves need to decide. No story is worth a human life, but the cost of an untold story is also very high.

ZN:  If we need to contact Taliban officials for comment, we do it exclusively from abroad. One time, I made such a call, and the next day, two women contacted me, pretending they needed help; these calls came from the Taliban trying to measure my vulnerabilities.

“No story is worth a human life, but the cost of an untold story is also very high.”

Afghanistan has one of the youngest populations on earth, with 63% of its people under the age of 25, meaning most Afghans don’t remember what life was like under the Taliban, which held power over roughly three-quarters of the country from 1986 to 2001. Do you have any memories of life under Taliban rule?

ZJ: I was nine when the Taliban left. In order to go to school, I had been dressing up as a boy and called myself Mohammad. The ’90s were particularly harrowing for women. Now at least we have platforms, social media, and networks. They didn’t have any of that then. My mother told me there was no bread on the table. They didn’t even know that there were doctors and clinics that could save their lives.

ZN:  When the Taliban came the first time around, I moved to Iran, where I wasn’t allowed to go to school [because I was a refugee]. The concept of home became a very big deal. The day my parents told me we were going back was the best of my life. I went to school and held my head high. To me, school meant change—the Taliban were in history books, a mere nightmare from the past. We were a generation that was going to change this country for the best.

Where were you last August, when the Taliban took Kabul? 

ZJ: That first day, I went to the office as usual, but my colleagues told me to leave immediately, so I went back home. The only thing I was able to grab was my diary. I was evacuated to London three days after the takeover. I lost everything.

ZN: I was working on a story about women’s reactions to the Taliban. Suddenly on television, I saw one entering the presidential palace in Kabul. I knew they were coming, but that image brought it home. I didn’t think it would happen so fast. I sat there just crying. It wasn’t only the fall of a country I was witnessing; it was the death of the hopes of my generation.

The Hazara community to which you both belong is being specifically persecuted by the Taliban. What do we know about Hazara women and what is happening to them?

ZJ: We have always been discriminated against. Many Afghans believe that we don’t belong there as we are mostly Shia Muslims, and the majority [of Afghans are] from the Sunni sect of Islam. And if you are a Hazara woman, you are buried under several more layers of discrimination between your ethnicity and your gender. 

Yet, as journalists, we are very conscious about not letting labels and nationalism prevent us from representing all women.


The Taliban promised to respect women’s rights “according to Islam.” But “according to Islam” is a vague, and in this case threatening, formulation, as the interpretation of the Quran is complex and varies widely depending on the individual. 

 ZN: In May 2021, I asked the Taliban to define what they considered women’s rights. Every Muslim country has its own interpretation of how women should live. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran—they are all different. The Taliban never answered the question or defined anything. But they are slowly pursuing their agenda and imposing a very narrow interpretation of Islam.

The word “misogyny” lacks the power to represent their ideology towards women. One of the first Taliban decrees stated that “women are human beings.” They actually had to wonder about that.

How at-risk are the women who were most visible during the last 20 years? Journalists, of course, but also women working in the armed forces, as lawyers or activists?

ZN: Rukhshana is doing everything we can to answer that question. We hear about so many stories of women being killed but often we can’t run them because we can’t reach anybody to confirm the facts. When we can talk to the family, friends or relatives, we reach out to the Taliban and they simply deny responsibility: They say these women have died because of family feuds. How is it possible that so many public, visible women are suddenly all dying from family feuds? It’s so easy for Talibans to find and execute these targeted women. All the public data, fingerprints, census and personal information are in their hands now.

“The word 'misogyny' lacks the power to represent [the Taliban's] ideology towards women.”

In January 2022, a delegation of Taliban was hosted in Oslo to speak with world representatives. Officially, the meeting was to address the economic crisis, but activists see that meeting as a first step towards legitimizing the Taliban government. What do you think?

ZN: When we challenge the fact that the Taliban should not be invited to the world table, we are told that Afghanistan has too many problems. That we should resolve the economic crisis first, then we can talk about women. But how do you resolve starvation if half of the country is under house arrest? I was saddened by the lack of protests from the Norwegian people, who ultimately paid for the expenses of that meeting.

How can the international community help Afghan women?

ZJ: The best way is to put pressure on your governments, to tell the world that you disagree with what is happening. Ultimately, this is about all women and the way we can be treated when men are at their worst. Show what you stand for, challenge inertia. Another way is to support Afghan women who are now outside the country. You can help them help us.

Read Rukhshana Media here, and follow them on Twitter here.

Mariane Pearl is an award-winning journalist and writer who works in English, French, and Spanish. She is the author of the books A Mighty Heart and In Search of Hope.

The Great Unionization

Strike! Say it, it feels good. ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

Sara Nelson is the labor leader we need

Journalist Esther Wang speaks to the Flight Attendants Union President about the future of the labor movement

Sara Nelson, the charismatic head of the nation’s largest flight attendants’ union, loves the word “strike.” During our 50-minute conversation recently, Nelson, who’s often described as America’s “most prominent labor leader,” used the term no less than a dozen times. It’s fitting, as it was her invocation of a general strike, uttered in January 2019 during a speech that subsequently went viral, that helped to end Donald Trump’s government shutdown. “Strike, strike, strike, strike, strike, strike, strike. Say it—it feels good,” she once proclaimed in the New York Times. A strike is a reminder of the ultimate power that workers possess—the power to withhold their labor and their time. In embracing it, Nelson is a bit of a throwback, and maybe also a figurehead that the U.S. labor movement needs in this particular moment.

Her industry needs her too. Flight attendants have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, and subject to shocking levels of abuse and at times physical violence from irate passengers. Last year saw a 500 percent increase in the number of violent incidents on airplanes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. In May 2021, to cite just one example, a Southwest Airlines flight attendant was punched by a woman after she asked her to put on her mask and follow other safety procedures. And airline executives have only made the lives of flight attendants more miserable, furloughing and laying off staff disproportionately, and pushing to reinstitute alcohol sales on planes.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA began a union drive at Delta shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it picked up steam in December 2021 after the airline publicly pushed the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to reduce its recommended quarantine period for people with breakthrough infections—a move that Nelson described as “brazenly choosing the economy over workers’ lives.”

She and the AFA-CWA immediately went on a media blitz. “This wasn’t just about being critical of the CDC and Delta,” which had pressed the CDC for the change, Nelson said. “This was about being as loud as we could” to “spread the word to workers everywhere and get it into everyone’s consciousness—do not force people to come back to work.” As for Delta, the company eventually budged, amending its original policy in response to the union’s criticism. “They didn’t give us credit for that, but they changed their policy,” Nelson said, more than a hint of satisfaction in her voice.


Flight attendants aren’t alone in their demands for the safer workplaces and fairer pay that they—and all of us—deserve. Workers across industries are increasingly fed up, fueled by the indignity of being pandered to as “essential workers” even as they were being thrown to the wolves. During the pandemic, “what we saw was a consistent view of workers being disposable,” Nelson said. “And so now workers are like, listen, it’s not just that there’s all this inequality,” she said. “You don’t even give a damn about our lives. You don't care if we live or die.” To Nelson, there is “a recognition that nothing is going to change if we don't change it collectively.” This, she says, explains why support for unions is at its highest point in decades, and the flurry of unionization drives at Starbucks stores and Amazon warehouses. “Workers are saying, ‘Wow, the only way to take on someone who could be a trillionaire—and who leaves the rest of us with a burning Earth as he shoots off to Mars—is to organize in our workplace,’” Nelson said.

That’s the hope, at least. What has been dubbed the “Great Resignation”—a turn of phrase that neatly captures the mood of millions of Americans—is less a mass movement than a whole lot of individuals fed up and finding better jobs. But while workers may have a little more negotiating power now, that can change quickly. (Better pay and benefits, as anyone who has been sexually harassed on the job knows, are not the only markers of a decent workplace.) “The only way these gains are lasting is if we organize in the millions,” Nelson told me.

"And so now workers are like, listen, it's not just that there's all this inequality. You don't even give a damn about our lives. You don't care if we live or die."

I asked Nelson what she would tell someone who wanted to bring that Norma Rae spirit to her own job—a working mom, for example—but was unsure where to begin. “Join unions, run unions. It’s that simple,” she said. If your workplace isn’t unionized? “Figure out how to organize one.” Easier said than done, but Nelson, who began her career as a flight attendant in 1996 before becoming the president of her union in 2014, is keenly aware of how unions can transform the lives of women. She recalled going to the White House in 2012 for a forum on women and the economy, where much of the discussion centered on closing the gender wage gap. At one point, she raised her hand to speak. “And I said, ‘You know, we’ve talked about the wage gap all morning. But why have we not talked about the one thing that would immediately close the wage gap and give women power in their workplace and give women power to actually collectively bargain, and bargain for their worth together? Why have we not talked about making it easier for women to join unions?’” According to Nelson, silence ensued. “And the moderator waited a minute, and then just called on someone else. And that was it.”

A lot has changed in the decade since. Fast-food workers are organizing for a union not just to raise their wages, but to combat pervasive sexual harassment. In June, Nelson may challenge current AFL-CIO president Liz Shuler for the federation’s top job. (“That's something that feels like a real calling and a duty,” she told me when I asked, declining to give a definitive answer.)

And in the meantime, she says she loves the work. “I just have to share with you that my day started off right today, because the first thing that I got was a picture of Delta flight attendants over at the Starbucks in Atlanta, where they’re organizing,” Nelson told me, her voice cracking with emotion. The name one of the flight attendants gave the barista for her order? “Solidarity.”

Esther Wang is a New York City-based writer who covers social movements, immigrant communities, and the intersection of culture and politics.

Who is Black History Month actually for?

January 29, 2022


Cheers to the (first) freakin’ weekend edition of this newsletter. January is coming to a close and with it, the end of all conversation surrounding Dry January or Veganuary, depending on which version of the month your respective social media influencers are paid to celebrate.

In a few short days, corporations will realize it’s February and start rolling out their Black History Month celebrations in an effort to turn a profit by quite literally commercializing a history that certain government officials don’t want taught in grade schools. In anticipation of this onslaught of questionable allyship, Meteor editor-at-large Rebecca Carroll spoke with author and historian Imani Perry about the origins of Black History Month and its current role in American culture. We’ve also got a quick hit on the latest episode of Brittany Packnett Cunningham’s UNDISTRACTED, featuring extremely fashionable guest Elaine Welteroth.

Also, we’re new here and would love to hear from you, so drop us a line over at [email protected] and let us know what you’re absolutely dying to read. – Shannon Melero


“This Changes Everything”

What Imani Perry taught me about Black History Month


Years ago, when I was working at a mainstream media corporation, I was called into a marketing meeting for my ideas on how to best package Black History Month in ways that would boost ad sales and sponsorship on the site. I suggested, in all seriousness, because I genuinely believed what I was saying: “What if we didn’t package Black History Month at all? What if we took a break from selling this idea that Black History is something we should only think about for a month every February?” Well, you can imagine. The marketing folks were shooketh, and I was promptly dismissed from the meeting.

The thing is, I was coming from a place of profound (and uneducated) cynicism, based on the belief that Black History Month was created by white folks. And I know I’m not alone in thinking this. Thank heavens for historian and author Imani Perry, whose new book, South to America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon to Understand the Soul of a Nation, was published this week, and who went ahead and set the record straight for me—because honestly, I simply did not know.

RC: Given that I was adopted into a white family, raised in a white town, and then went on to spend the bulk of my career in white media spaces, Black History Month has always seemed exploitative and commercialized to me—but I was so curious to learn from you that Black History Month actually has its origins in Black culture. Can you explain?

IP: Black History Month was an outgrowth of Negro History Week. In the early 20th century, Black history programs and curricula were organized in segregated Southern Schools. They happened in February because that was the month of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and Frederick Douglass’s chosen birthday (he didn’t know his exact birthdate, having been born in slavery). In 1926, historian and organizer Carter G. Woodson formalized these practices and established Negro History Week.

Negro History Week was an extension of a very deliberate effort that began immediately post-emancipation to document Black history, both domestically and internationally, and resist the false claim that people of African descent had contributed nothing meaningful to human history or civilization. Negro History Week, which became Black History Month in the early 1970s, was focused on young people…and became a robust tradition. There were Negro History Week curricula—books on Black U.S., Caribbean, and African histories and historic figures; essays, documents, plays, pageants, and academic exercises along with the ritual singing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Often these school-based programs invited the entire community to participate and so these were collective celebrations, as well as opportunities for people to learn.

It wasn’t really until the late 1970s that white Americans even began to have any significant awareness of Black History Month, and much of that came through consumer culture. So, like Kwanzaa, a ritual that was developed primarily within Black communities made its way to the larger public through advertising strategies intended to compel Black buyers rather than substantive political transformation. So we get fast food companies celebrating Black History Month in ways that mean close to nothing or at times are even offensive. But despite that, there continue to be institutions in which Black History Month is rooted in a tradition of Black people writing themselves into history in ways that reject the logic of white supremacy and give a more expansive reach to the story of Black life both in this country and globally.

And so what does Black History Month mean to you, both personally and professionally?

IP: Personally, Black History Month is one of those traditions, like Emancipation Day or Juneteenth or Watch Night, that I cherish because it anchors me in tradition and ritual. Professionally…because I’m very invested in ensuring that my students know the history of Black institutional life, I teach the ritual as an outgrowth of one of the most important periods of intellectual development in African American history.

“Black History Month is rooted in a tradition of Black people writing themselves into history in ways that reject the logic of white supremacy.”

Traditionally, historians describe the Jim Crow era as the “nadir” of American race relations, the phrase used by historian Rayford Logan. And by that, he meant the lowest point, that horrifying period when the promises of Reconstruction had been completely denied. What is remarkable about that time is that Black people got to work despite the devastation. There was exceptional growth in African American civic life in this period. People were building organizations and networks, writing books and developing social theory, building schools, and churches at every turn. And so, even when society shut the door to opportunity and treated Black people with horrible brutality, they kept dreaming, doing, and creating. For me, that is not just a key point for understanding African American history but it is an incredible daily inspiration for my own work.

Do you think it’s ever more necessary in this current cultural climate to uphold BHM, and if so, to what end?

IP: I don’t think of Black History Month as more or less important based upon the political moment. I guess I would say it will be important indefinitely because we live in a white supremacist country and world, and counter-narratives that value freedom and dignity and resilience will always be necessary as long as stratifying people on the basis of identity is the norm.

Surely you’ve had experiences where (almost always white) people will say something that is just all kinds of wrong regarding BHM (I’m sorry to say I have had several)—or there is this unspoken sense of “We’re giving you this whole month, can you just be grateful?” Can you recall such an experience, and how you responded/flipped the script for your own sense of sanity?

IP: Thank goodness I’ve never had a white person say to me that they’ve given Black people Black History Month. It would frankly be something that I’d laugh at, for a long time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Black people created it for Black people, and particularly for Black young people, and have been gracious enough to invite others to participate. They should feel fortunate.

Rebecca Carroll is a writer, cultural critic, and podcast creator/host. She is the author of several books, including her recent memoir Surviving the White Gaze. Rebecca is editor at large for The Meteor.


  • The move to ban “controversial” books from schools and libraries is quickly gaining steam. This week a school board in Tennessee banned the use of the graphic novel Maus, supposedly because it included profanity and nudity. The nudity in question, which is a lot tamer than what kids are watching on Euphoria, is a cartoon rendering of naked mice meant to illustrate the indignities forced upon Jewish people during the Holocaust.
  • Speaking of oversized rodents, Florida governor Ron DeSantis is pushing a so-called “parents’ rights” agenda, which includes fast-tracking a bill that will bar discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in grade schools. Slate reporter Christina Carterucci highlights the intentional vagueness of the bill’s language and points out that it’s part of a larger legislative effort to minimize the existence of LGBTQ+ people, which is being referred to in Republican circles as the “Don’t Say Gay” laws.



Why So Many Women of Color Are Leaving Their Jobs


This week, The New York Times published an article about the so-called Great Resignation, the phenomenon in which workers appear to be resigning from their jobs in droves. It identified “turnover contagion,” the idea that if one person leaves, their coworkers will be inclined to reassess their positions as well, and some of the reasons that make workers want to leave, including low pay and lack of work-life balance. (To quote the title of Sarah Jaffe’s excellent book about labor exploitation, “Work won’t love you back.” Say it louder!)

But the Times piece did not directly address one of the more prevailing cultural reasons people are leaving their jobs, and one that’s probably top of mind for a whole lot of us, especially since the summer of 2020: the fact that a lot of work environments are toxic for people of color, women and other marginalized genders, and LGBTQIA+ folks.

“The mindset has shifted to, I’m not fighting to sit at your table anymore.”

Elaine Welteroth identified this factor in the latest edition of Brittany Packnett Cunningham’s UNDISTRACTED podcast. “In the end, if corporations were not really ready to practice what they preach in their press releases or on social media, Black folks and people of color and folks who really were about that change and that progress decided to seek opportunities elsewhere,” said the award-winning journalist, author, TV host and former editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue. “I think that for so long the mantra has been fighting for your seat at the table, and I think that mindset has shifted to, I’m not fighting to sit at your table anymore.

Of course, not everybody is just up and “resigning.” Packnett Cunningham pointed out the fact that many women, particularly women of color, have been “pushed out of the workforce involuntarily, due to childcare and other duties, as well as “refusing to put up with the total bullshit of hostile, racist work environments.” In December, the Center for Public Integrity reported that 181,000 Black women left the workplace between September and December 2021 alone, partly because daycare centers were disproportionately likely to close in Black and Latinx neighborhoods. But the research also suggests that Black women are “refusing to return to certain low-paying jobs, which put them and their families at risk of contracting COVID-19, while not offering any paid sick days or health insurance.” (Time to unionize!)

Bottom line: As Welteroth says, public-facing DEI efforts are simply not enough when women of color and other marginalized folks are being regarded as disposable behind the scenes—even in environments where one would expect better treatment, such as women’s publications and nonprofits. What many employees are responding to is the fact that no matter how many “diverse candidates” a company employs and trots out for clout, the likelihood that white management is treating those workers with the respect they deserve—let alone offering them opportunities for advancement—is criminally slim. No wonder so many workers are simply saying, “I’m out.”

Anyway, it’s a great interview. And she also talks about André Leon Talley, may he rest in fabulousness. Listen to this week’s edition of UNDISTRACTED here.



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The start of something new

January 26, 2022


When I think of my inbox—an abundant wasteland of algorithm-generated ads I didn’t sign up for and celebrity gossip alerts I definitely did—it stresses me out. This is, apparently, a feeling endemic to email at this point—there are studies—and if you imagine your inbox in Second Life terms, it’s like inviting your best friends, your boss, maybe your landlord, advertisers, rando spam dudes, and utility companies (I already paid my gas bill, National Grid!), all to the same 24-7 party, which happens to be inside your brain. I don’t know about you but I’m not really trying to do that!

So with The Meteor newsletter, we are hoping to edify and surprise you and your inbox with engaging, urgent writing that illuminates something about the state of the world and all its dreadful and delightful vagaries.

You can read more about that in our debut essay below, in which Jennifer Finney Boylan writes beautifully about transformation, birth, and rebirth. And after that, Shannon Melero‘s interview with the activist and Columbia student Deja Foxx, who helped organize a dance protest on the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Also, a few of the things we’re thinking about and need to share with the group chat. Settle in, we brought snacks. —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Editor at Large


Something New Is Waiting to Be Born


Wake up, I said to my wife.  You have to see this.

It was the middle of the night, but she hauled her giant, nine-months pregnant self out of bed and followed me to the front porch.

There in the skies was Comet Hyakutake, with a tail as big as a kite.

It was a frozen night in Maine.  Icicles hung down from the gutters; our breath came out in clouds.

Nine years earlier, I had courted Deedie in Washington D.C., where she worked for the Studio Theatre.  I was passing my days then as the dumbest professor ever on the faculty of Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and that, my friends, is saying a lot.  During the drive down the Gladys Noon Spellman parkway,  from my city to hers, I sometimes listened to a then-popular song called “Crazy Fingers.” It contained the line, “Something new is waiting to be born.”

She had been orphaned two years earlier and my own dad had died the year after that.  There we were, in our mid-twenties, bearing all this grief.  I had an additional and private sorrow, too, the burden of being trans and having no language to describe the thing I felt.  It was a hard time.

There are times, even, when I cannot wait for my generation to die off so the young people can finally take over.

But during the year that we found each other, and (eventually) married, our lives were transformed. In a very short span of time, we had gone from two broken souls to what we were now: a couple standing on a porch on a cold, silent night, watching a comet illuminate the skies.

When our son was born—just a few days later—we heard the cries fill the operating room. Deedie, light radiating from her face, tears streaming down her cheeks, looked at me and said, That’s amazing!

Later that night, home again, I walked alone beneath that starry sky and looked up at the comet. From the woods came the clear sound of water rushing over rocks beneath snow.

You hold in your hands (or, more likely, behold in pixels) the debut issue of The Meteor’s newsletter, spearheaded by editors Julianne Escobedo Shepherd and Shannon Melero and sustained by The Meteor, a group of feminist-minded writers, artists, and activists. For the last year, we have been gathering together in hopes of creating something new.

We believe in something as impossible as the power of love to heal grieving souls, or—who knows?—as glorious as the sight of a wild comet in a cold sky. We believe, in short, in the power of words, images, and stories to advance gender and racial justice and equity to transform the world.

We are inspired by the idea of the meteor, of its force and impact. And by Audre Lorde, who wrote, “I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my nose holes—everywhere. Until it’s every breath I breathe. I’m going to go out like a fucking meteor!”

It was a meteor, of course, that killed the dinosaurs. We know that the writers and artists we admire are killing a few dinosaurs, too: the dinosaur of racism. The dinosaur of homophobia. The dinosaur of injustice. The dinosaur of transphobia.

There are times I think of myself as a dinosaur, too: since I came out as trans 20 years ago, the discourse around trans lives has become more nuanced and complex and inclusive, just as the discourse around feminism itself has changed and matured since I first started calling myself one in the 1970s. All of that change is good. Transforming what has come before is exactly what each new generation is supposed to do. There are times, even, when I cannot wait for my generation to die off so the young people can finally take over.

In the meantime, something new is waiting to be born.

There we were, my loved one and me, on a cold night, watching Comet Hyakutake. I stood behind her, my arms resting on her giant belly. Something—someone, in fact—stirred within. I felt that. A few days later, I looked into his eyes for the first time. I said, Hello, Sean.

I hope you’ll enjoy The Meteor Newsletter, and that you’ll find in these pages signs of hope, signs that the hard days we are all living through are not without their joys. I am hoping we can all write fire together and find a way of living in this new world with love.

Wake up. You have to see this.

Jennifer Finney Boylan is the Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence and Professor of English at Barnard College.  She is a Trustee of PEN America and a Contributing Opinion Writer for the New York Times.


Ain’t No Party Like an Act for Abortion Party


On January 22, a group of activists, dancers, and abortion providers convened on the steps of the Supreme Court to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. What might have been a mournful gathering over the current state of abortion access was actually… a great, if very cold, party. “There are doom headlines almost every day, so the energy that we brought was singing, dancing, prayer, and sermon,” says organizer Deja Foxx, a 21-year-old activist, content creator, Columbia student, and founder of  Gen Z Girl Gang.

This week, I spoke with Foxx about The Act for Abortion protest and her dedication to the abortion movement. I also tried my best not to say “back in my day,” but as a geriatric millennial, it was almost impossible to avoid.


SM: Something I’ve seen with the current movement is that there is an urgency to use the word abortion versus “pro-choice,” whereas–and not to date myself, but I’m a little older than you–when I was first getting involved, we called it “shmashmortion” because “abortion” was just one of those words you didn’t use so freely. Why do you think it matters so much to call it what it is?

DF: Some of that progress has come because of bold storytelling. People have found and built community around their experiences and used that to create change. I think we’ve come to a point where there is no sidestepping the issue because the other side isn’t sidestepping; they’re going directly at it. So some of this is a direct response to the pressure being put on this movement and on abortion in particular.

SM: The next evolution of the abortion movement will be dictated by young people like yourself. What’s the next step?

DF: We are at an inflection point. As we sit here today, it seems likely that Roe will be overturned, and I think in this moment, a lot of young people have come to be, rightfully so, distrustful of institutions—whether that be the government or news—and we’re striving to find alternatives. When our government, our elected officials, let us down, when they don’t show up for us, when they target us, when they restrict us, it is on us to be there for one another. Some of the action steps that we can take today are donating to abortion funds, supporting indie clinics, sharing information about the abortion pill, or calling our elected officials and holding them to account, especially around the Women’s Health Protection Act.

SM: How do you think people can overcome the fear that comes with discussing the topic? Because I know some fully grown adults who will not even think the word abortion in front of their family members.

DF: My advice to any storyteller is to do what is uncomfortable but not what is unsafe. There is a difference. But share what is uncomfortable. See what you can excavate from yourself because having those uncomfortable conversations is important. I think if you’re having it with the right person, someone who cares about you, or someone powerful who can create change, that’s really the one-to-one work that makes a difference. Know that abortion is normal, birth control is normal, sex is normal—and if you bring your personal story, you are an expert in it. You are an expert in your experience and you don’t need to do a ton of research or have a fancy degree—your experience is enough.

SM: I would imagine that in the years you’ve been doing this, people have told you that you’re too young to speak with authority on these issues. How do you respond to that?

DF: I have gotten that many times. I question then if I’m too young, what makes someone else not too male or too white or too rich or too privileged or too distant, right? I refuse to be told that I’m not qualified when I’ve lived my experiences. A lot of the work that I do is about shifting the culture around what we mean when we say people are “qualified” or “experienced.” That means inviting young people.




  • Xintian Wang on the culture war in China being waged against so-called “sissy” men and boys
  • Remember that time, girl, at the baaahr in Belgium?” If you missed it: Gabrielle Union and Kaavia James are simply delightful
  • Over in our corner, The Meteor has released a series of videos in which seven people share their abortion stories, making the ever-relevant point that abortion is a) NOT a scary ritual performed by ogres in the dead of night as antis would have you believe, but instead b) a routine medical procedure that betters the lives of those who choose it—patients *and* their families—in ways not commonly reported. As Sriya Sarkar says in her video, “I’m really grateful for that boring-as-hell abortion I got.” Watch them all here.

Roe on the line: An abortion access briefing

On December 1st, the Supreme Court will hear a case in which the state of Mississippi has asked the Court to overrule Roe v. Wade and end the constitutional right to abortion. Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization challenges a state law that bans abortions after 15 weeks; it will be the first time since 1973—the year of Roe v. Wade—that the Court will rule on a pre-viability abortion ban.

Meanwhile, 22 states have laws that could be used to restrict the legal status of abortion if Roe is overturned. And in Texas, Senate Bill 8 went into effect in September, effectively eliminating nearly all abortion care in the state.

Against this dire backdrop, what does the fight for reproductive freedom look like in 2022 and beyond? Join The Meteor and the United State of Women for Roe on the Line: An Abortion Access Briefing on Monday, November 29 at 6 pm ET to find out.


We’ll hear from legal experts and grassroots organizers about the road ahead, including:

Please join us for this informative free briefing and spread the word—everyone is welcome!


The Meteor Fund welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you would like to request accommodations or have questions, please contact [email protected] in advance of your participation. Please note that we will make every effort to secure services, but that services are subject to availability.

This workshop is produced by The Meteor and is supported by The Meteor Fund, an affiliated charitable project of The Meteor. The Meteor Fund is fiscally-sponsored by New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

One year till the midterms: Come learn what’s ahead

After historic voter turnout during the 2020 election, many states retaliated: This year alone, 19 states have enacted 33 laws that make it harder to vote, including those limiting early and mail-in voting, or establishing more stringent ID requirements. Many of these new restrictions are in states where it was already more difficult to vote, and the measures hit communities of color hardest. And while federal legislation like the Freedom to Vote Act could protect voters’ rights, Senate Republicans recently blocked the bill from receiving a floor vote.

With the 2022 midterm elections looming, there is so much at stake. What can we each do to protect voting rights in the year ahead? Please join The Meteor for One Year Till the Midterms: A Voting Rights Briefing on Monday, November 8, 2021 at 6 pm ET to find out.


Advocates and legal experts will give us an overview of the current crisis and share how we can all take action. We’ll hear from Melanie L. Campbell, president and CEO of The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of The Black Women’s Roundtable; election law and voting rights expert Marc Elias, founding partner of Elias Law Group and founder of Democracy Docket; and María Teresa Kumar, founding CEO of Voto Latino, the country’s largest Latinx voter registration and mobilization organization. The conversation will be moderated by filmmaker Dawn Porter, founding member of The Meteor and director of “John Lewis: Good Trouble.”

We’ll learn:

  • The current landscape of the voting rights crisis
  • The issues at stake as we head into the 2022 midterms—and why protecting voter access now is critical
  • Possible solutions to protect voters’ rights—and what’s realistic given our current Congress
  • The most important steps we each can take in the year to come

Please join us for this informative free briefing and spread the word—everyone is welcome!


The Meteor Fund welcomes individuals with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you would like to request accommodations or have questions, please contact [email protected] in advance of your participation. Please note that we will make every effort to secure services, but that services are subject to availability.

This workshop is produced by The Meteor and is supported by The Meteor Fund, an affiliated charitable project of The Meteor. The Meteor Fund is fiscally-sponsored by New Venture Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Join us in Los Angeles October 16 for a special event with Professor Anita Hill

Thirty years after Professor Anita Hill started a national conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace, how far have we come on issues of gender-based violence? If you’re in the Los Angeles area, please join Dr. Salamishah Tillet and Cindi Leive, hosts of our new podcast Because of Anita, for an afternoon exploring these issues—featuring Professor Hill herself.

Because of Anita: Truth, Justice, Race, Gender, and Power—30 Years Later will be held on October 16 from 3 pm to 6 pm PT at the University of Southern California. This special event will feature artists, scholars, and activists in dialogue, along with a special keynote conversation between Professor Hill, author of Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies at Spelman College. Rsvp now for this free event.


Saturday, October 16, 2021 from 3 pm to 6 pm PT

3 to 5 pm: Panels and Conversations

5 to 6 pm: Keynote Interview with Professor Anita Hill

Norris Cinema Theatre and Bing Theatre
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA



Jill Abramson: Senior Lecturer, Harvard University; Co-author, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas

Roxane Gay: Bestselling author; Editor, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Fatima Goss Graves: President and CEO, National Women's Law Center

Thomasina Gross: Former events server, Chateau Marmont; Actor

Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall: Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women's Studies, Spelman College

Professor Anita Hill: Author, Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence

Gabrielle Horton: Audio Storyteller and Adjunct Faculty, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Cindi Leive: Co-host, “Because of Anita;” Co-founder, The Meteor

Senator Connie M. Leyva: Member of the California State Senate

Kim Masters: Editor-at-Large, The Hollywood Reporter; Host, KCRW’s “The Business”

Freida Lee Mock: Director, Writer, and Producer, Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, and Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Words

Tony Porter: Chief Executive Officer, A Call to Men

Nina Shaw: Co-founder and Board Member, The Hollywood Commission

Dr. Salamishah Tillet: Co-host, “Because of Anita;” Contributing Critic-at-Large, The New York Times

Scheherazade Tillet: Co-founder and Executive Director, A Long Walk Home

Mily Treviño-Sauceda: Executive Director and Co-founder, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.

Professor Miki Turner: Associate Professor of Professional Practice, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Jessica Yellin: Peabody, Gracie, and Emmy Award-Winning Political Journalist

The event will also include a performance of “The Scarlet C” by playwright Lynn Nottage, directed by Anita Dashiell-Sparks, professor at the USC School of Dramatic Arts, and featuring USC students Dara Adedara, Kennedy Hill, and Nicole Royster.

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative and The Meteor. Co-sponsored by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, USC School of Cinematic Arts, USC School of Dramatic Arts, and USC Gould School of Law. Special thanks to Audible.


Opening Remarks
-Willow Bay, Dean, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
-Daria Yudacufski, Executive Director, Visions and Voices

Re-Examining Anita Hill’s Testimony
Revisiting the fateful October 1991 weekend when Hill testified before the Supreme Court Judiciary Committee that her boss, Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, had sexually harassed her.
-Jill Abramson, Senior Lecturer, Harvard University, and Co-author, Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas
-Freida Lee Mock, Director, Writer, Producer, Anita: Speaking Truth to Power, and Ruth: Justice Ginsburg in Her Words

Moderated by
-Cindi Leive, Cohost, “Because of Anita,” and Co-founder, The Meteor
-Dr. Salamishah Tillet, Cohost, “Because of Anita,” and Contributing Critic-at-Large, The New York Times

“Not That Bad”
From Hill's testimony to today, how our culture diminishes survivors’ experiences—and what that costs us.
-Roxane Gay, Bestselling author; Editor, Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

Interviewed by
-Professor Miki Turner, Associate Professor of Professional Practice, USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism


What the Law Owes Survivors
Hill’s testimony gave way to a dramatic uptick in people filing sexual harassment complaints. We’ll discuss how legal options fit into our path to eradicating abuse at work now.
-Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO, National Women’s Law Center
-Senator Connie M. Leyva, Member of the California State Senate

Moderated by
-Jessica Yellin, Peabody, Gracie and Emmy Award-Winning Political Journalist

Hotels, Restaurants, and Farms: Report from the Harassment Frontlines
Stories from women who experienced harassment — before and after Hill gave us the language to describe it — and are fighting to make these fields safer.
-Thomasina Gross, Former Events Server, Chateau Marmont, and Actor
-Mily Treviño-Sauceda, Executive Director and Co-founder, Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.

Moderated by
-Gabrielle Horton, Podcast Showrunner and Adjunct Faculty at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Has Hollywood Changed?
Two entertainment leaders who are pushing for accountability take stock and discuss how reporting and data are tools to create progress.
-Kim Masters, Editor-at-Large, The Hollywood Reporter, and Host, KCRW’s “The Business”
-Nina Shaw, Co-founder and Board Member, The Hollywood Commission

Moderated by
-Cindi Leive, Cohost, “Because of Anita,” and Co-founder, The Meteor

In Defense of Ourselves: Demanding Justice for Black Girls and Women
Thirty years after a group of Black feminists showed their solidarity with Hill with “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves,” an ad in The New York Times, what support do Black women and girls critically need from the anti-violence movement?
-Tony Porter, Chief Executive Officer, A Call to Men
-Dr. Salamishah Tillet, Cohost, “Because of Anita,” and Contributing Critic-at-Large, The New York Times
-Scheherazade Tillet, Co-founder and Executive Director, A Long Walk Home


Special Performance: The Scarlet C
A performance of playwright Lynn Nottage’s “The Scarlet C” in honor of Professor Hill.

Directed by
-Anita Dashiell-Sparks, Professor of Theatre Practice in Acting, Associate Dean of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (EDI), and Co-Head of Undergraduate Acting, USC School of Dramatic Arts

Performances by
-Dara Adedara, Student, USC School of Dramatic Arts
-Kennedy Hill, Student, USC School of Dramatic Arts
-Nicole Royster, Student, USC School of Dramatic Arts

Keynote Conversation: Anita Hill on Believing
Anita Hill shares her own personal reflections on the hearing and its aftermath — and takes you inside her 30-year journey to end gender violence.

-Professor Anita Hill, Author, Believing: Our Thirty-Year Journey to End Gender Violence
-Professor Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies, Spelman College