I'm Senior Associate Web Editor for Sojourners, where I look for voices to contribute to conversations on faith, spirituality, justice, policy, culture, innovation, and daily life.
My favorite postures are ethnographer and producer — reporting on the spread of subcultures, ideas, objects, and beliefs through time and place; and creating the conditions for others' voices and talents to thrive.
In that capacity, I also co-founded a service design consultancy for creative businesses in emerging economies, and co-launched a DIY house show network to bring top local talent into supportive local living rooms. I was a speaker on collaborative solutions and the "Do It Together" culture at SXSW in 2014, and an ebook collection of my reporting for Sojourners on abuse and intimate partner violence in Christian congregations, 'I Believe You: Sexual Violence and the Church,' was published the same year.
My nonofficial, not-so-subtle goal is to "make DC weird." Hold me to it.
Posts By This Author
New Orleans, 10 Years Later
President Obama is visting New Orleans today, the site of catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, to honor 10 years of rebuilding and growth since the storm.
The President is expected to comment on the pain, trauma, and destruction still evident, even while offering words of hope and admiration for the regrowth evident in the city over the last decade.
According to the prepared remarks, reports The Times-Picayune, Obama will comment on the failure of government to "look out for its own citizens."
Below are some of the challenges facing New Orleans today, as well as points of rebuilding and hope in the city ten years after Hurricane Katrina.
8 Things About Pope Francis’ Upcoming Visit That Would Make Him Facepalm
Look, we all know it — Pope Francis is a pretty unflappable guy. Anyone who earned a diploma in chemical technology, worked as a nightclub bouncer, and then emerged blinking into the sunlight as the world’s foremost religious leader only to politely ask the world to “pray for me” has got to be cool. (Seriously cool. In January he held an outdoor mass during a typhoon.)
But one thing Pope Francis won’t suffer is treating God’s commandments lightly. He is deeply serious about religion — its immense power to heal, shelter, and reconcile; and its limitless power, if abused, to degrade, divide, and injure.
So we’re willing to bet he’s got mixed feelings about coming to the U.S. in September. His visit will take him from a school in Harlem and interfaith services near the site of the September 11 attacks, to visiting Catholic Charities in Washington, D.C., and a prison in Philadelphia — a trip with, as TIME writes, a “liturgy” of a schedule.
Naturally, we in the U.S. have gone all out to show just how excited we are for his visit. But that’s where things are getting a little screwy.
Here are eight things happening right now in the lead up to the papal visit that we’re betting would make #FrancisFacepalm.
The Voting Rights Act Turns 50 Today
Today is the 50th anniversary of the landmark Voting Rights Act, passed Aug, 6, 1965. The act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, created key provisions to prevent racial discrimination in voting laws.
The Voting Rights Act has been called "the single most effective piece of civil rights legislation ever passed by Congress."
Today's anniversary is a bittersweet commemoration. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4, which had required Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia to seek federal approval before imposing changes to voter laws.
Netflix Announces 'Unlimited' Parental Leave for Employees
This is a major policy for a leading company, given that our country remains one of three countries in the world with no guaranteed paid parental leave. In fact, only 12 percent of Americans — those at Sojourners included — have access to paid parental leave (this drops to 5 percent for low-wage workers), and only four states — California, Massachusettes, New Jersey, and Rhode Island — currently have publicly-funded parental leave.
With its announcement, Netflix joins other tech companies, including YouTube, Yahoo, Reddit, and Twitter, as one of the most generous workplaces for parental leave. As TechCrunch notes, this responsive shift in part reflects changing priorities of Silicon Valley's talent, as the workforce shifts from wanting perks that "make work fun" (unlimited soft drinks, ping-pong tables, bean bag chairs) to wanting real work-life balance.
"The talent is growing up," says TechCrunch. Netflix is listening ... it remains to be seen whether national policymakers will.
Report: Lead #BlackLivesMatter Organizers Singled Out As 'Threat Actors' By Cybersecurity Firm
A "crisis management" report shows that a Baltimore cybersecurity startup, ZeroFox, singled out members of the Black Lives Matter movement as "threat actors" during the protests and rioting around Freddie Gray's death in April, Mother Jones reports. The report highlights two Black Lives Matter organizers, DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, terming their threat level "high" and "physical," urging "continuous monitoring." It also identifies Baltimore officials and law enforcement agencies for "asset protection."
This follows on reports in late July that the Department of Homeland Security has been comprehensively monitoring Black Lives Matter activities in Ferguson, Mo., Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C., and New York, N.Y since August 2014.
INFOGRAPHIC: Sandra Bland's Death Is Not an Anomaly
At least five black women have died in jail in the month of July alone, ThinkProgress reports. What is going on?
Lowland Hum, comprised of married folk duo Daniel and Lauren Goans, have emerged with their eponymous second album a stronger, more versatile, and possibly even more intimate musical pairing than their first album, Native Air. It's this sudden sense of fragility and uncertainty in the face of the next layer of intimacy — and the corresponding joy when the leap taken finds solid ground — that Lowland Hum brought to Sojourners' Summit.
Watch the full Sojo Session here.
Rob Bell Talks Spirituality, Science, Oprah, and 'Pure Joy'
Rob Bell is on the move. In his “Everything is Spiritual” tour, which makes its way through the Washington, D.C., metro this evening, he is focusing on the connections between science and spirituality and how we can sit within the reality of our ever-expanding universe. Sojourners’ Catherine Woodiwiss spoke with the author and speaker to talk spirituality, the “nones,” Oprah, science, and surfing.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
'Trainwreck:' Amy Schumer Goes Longform
Amy Schumer and Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck promises rude, clever fun. Does it deliver? Abby Olcese and Catherine Woodiwiss discuss. (Light spoilers in parentheses.)
Catherine Woodiwiss: Okay, so I was a little concerned that Trainwreck was just going to be an exact inversion of "the guy’s a mess, the girl’s uptight" Judd Apatow comedy set-up. And it’s not just that! But I am a little surprised how conventional it felt ultimately.
Abby Olcese: I enjoyed it. I enjoyed her getting to be a mess. Right up until the point where she breaks up with Jon Cena — which is an absurd sentence that I just said — up until that point, she’s really awful. But(Spoiler) when her dad died, and when Aaron visited for the first time and took care of him, those were very conventional story beats (End spoiler). I’m curious about that.
In her show, the Aaron Sorkin parody, the 12 Angry Men parody are really pointed, specific things and she’s using those tropes for a reason. So I wondered if that had a larger purpose in the long form. And I’m not entirely sure it did.
Woodiwiss: Amy’s style of comedy has always been a blend of pointed commentary and "do what the guys do but be a girl doing it." I thought it very subtle and clever that any on-screen nudity was male. And really, there was a significant range of interpretation of masculinity in the film — the impossibly muscular bro who was gay, the intern who was possibly transgender. Bill Hader, who is not the stereotypical leading man. And LeBron James, who is basically the Platonic form of male athlete.
But the women didn’t have the same diversity — they were all pretty stock characters.
And her dig at cheerleaders (derisively comparing them to strippers) was odd. Was that a subtle skewering of the "girl gets boyfriend and gets protective and starts denigrating other women" trope? Maybe, but it just sounded like a cheap shot.
Olcese: The last thing I wrote down was, was that really just all over the place?
Woodiwiss: Say more.
War, Peace, and the Stories We Tell
“THE IDEA THAT peace is inevitable is as dangerous as the idea that war is inevitable,” says author and peace educator Paul K. Chappell. We’ve been discussing peace in practice for the better part of an hour, and he’s warming to the theme. He puts forward an unlikely premise—that violence is not intrinsic to human nature.
Paul Chappell isn’t what you would expect in a peace champion. A graduate of West Point and a member of the U.S. military for seven years, including as a captain in Iraq, he first honed his fighting skills on school playgrounds, getting expelled for fighting in grade school and suspended in high school. He was bullied as a child for his skin color (his father, a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, was biracial—black and white—and his mother is Korean). Because of his father’s war trauma, Chappell describes his childhood as “unpredictably violent.”
It’s hard now to imagine this former troubled youth, both perpetrator and victim of violence, as the articulate Chappell thoughtfully winds his way through classical theory and national myth. But Chappell’s learned taste for creed over instinct is clear. The army provided the closest thing to family that a young Chappell had ever encountered, he tells me, but despite that deep affection—or perhaps because of it—he began paying attention to the lasting effects of war and trauma on his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.
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