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First the fun pictures came in from Texas: My dad making a snow angel; my mom grinning proudly next to her snowman. I wished I could teleport from Brooklyn to San Antonio to be with them.
Next came more unnerving images: My dog inside, wrapped in my old baby blankets; my leftover wedding candles dimly lighting the living room. And even though I wouldn’t really be able to help, and even though the storm hit Black and Hispanic Texans harder than my white, suburban home, I wished I could be there — the strangest of FOMOs. Because it’s hard to be far away when tragedy hits close to home. (Well, maybe it’s not hard for Ted Cruz.)
Instinctually, we know it’s important to bear witness to each other’s pain and injustices — to simply sit in the darkness with each other when the lights won’t come on. Last week, Willie B. Smith III successfully fought for the right to have his pastor present in the execution chambers at the time of injection. In the majority Supreme Court opinion, Justice Elena Kagan wrote: “Smith understands his minister’s presence as ‘integral to [his] faith’ and ‘essential to [his] spiritual search for redemption.’”
Nearly a year into this pandemic, we still can’t be together, but we can read together and give from afar:
1. Supreme Court Rules Pastor Must Be Allowed in Execution Chamber
“The law guarantees Smith the right to practice his faith free from unnecessary interference, including at the moment the State puts him to death,” said Justice Elena Kagan. By Mitchell Atencio via sojo.net.
2. How to Help Texans Recover From the Winter Disaster
These grassroots organizations allow neighbors to support each other based on their individual needs. By Doyin Oyeniyi via Texas Monthly.
3. This Year Is Dark, But We Still Need Lent
How to step into this season even as grief surrounds us. By Adam Russell Taylor via sojo.net.
4. The Vaccine Rollout in My State Is Ableist
“Yes, I want schools to reopen. But not at the expense of disabled people.” By Stephanie Tait via sojo.net.
5. People Over 75 Are First in Line to Be Vaccinated Against COVID-19. The Average Black Person Here Doesn’t Live That Long.
Prioritizing COVID-19 vaccinations for people 75 and up can leave out Black Americans, who tend to die younger than their white counterparts. In majority-Black Shelby County, this gap raises questions of how to make the vaccine rollout equitable. By Wendi C. Thomas and Hannah Grabenstein via ProPublica.
6. A Love Letter to the Black Church
Henry Louis Gates Jr.'s new PBS documentary covers 400 years of the Black church in America. By Gina Ciliberto via sojo.net.
7. ‘Nothing That We Do That Is Worthwhile Is Done Alone’
Author, organizer, and educator Mariame Kaba shows that collective action can be powerful only with community, and provides the next generation of changemakers with critical lessons on abolition and organizing in her new book. By Ariel Parrella-Aureli via the Chicago Reader.
8. In Texas, Too Poor to Escape the Cold
For low-income Texans of color, the power outages added extra pain to an already-hellish year. By Juan Pablo Garnham and Alexa Ura via the Texas Tribune.
9. Should We Accept Our New Sweatpants Reality?
What a polarizing garment says about America. By Julia Longoria, Gabrielle Berbey, and Alvin Melathe via The Atlantic.
10. Portland Police Officers ‘Guarding’ Fred Meyer Dumpsters as Residents Seek Discarded Food
Roughly a dozen Portland police officers faced off with a small group at a Northeast Portland Fred Meyer on Tuesday after people tried to take food that had been thrown away. By Jayati Ramakrishnan and Beth Nakamura via The Oregonian.