Da'Shawn Mosley is culture editor and review editor of Sojourners magazine. He joined the editorial team in 2017, after he served as Sojourners' online assistant from 2016-2017. Da'Shawn earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago and graduated from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, where he studied and briefly taught creative writing. In 2012, he was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts by the White House and the Department of Education for his works of creative nonfiction.
Da'Shawn was a researcher for two documentaries by the Oscar and Emmy-winning filmmaker Kirk Simon (The Pulitzer at 100, Where Has All the Play Gone?) and was featured in the PBS documentary Becoming an Artist. His poem "I Don't Know" was published in the anthology The Best Teen Writing of 2011 and received a Scholastic Art & Writing Award from former poetry editor of The New Yorker Alice Quinn, NAACP Image Award winner Nikki Giovanni, Pulitzer Prize winner Vijay Seshadri, and other luminaries. An excerpt of his essay "Dark Matter" was exhibited in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Da'Shawn is a native son of South Carolina.
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Can This Country Be Saved?
TA-NEHISI COATES is an atheist, but in We Were Eight Years in Power he atones for sin. In a 2008 article about Bill Cosby for The Atlantic, Coates failed to thoroughly report on the sexual assault allegations brought against the comedian, only mentioning them briefly. On page 12 of We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates repents. “That was my shame,” he writes. “That was my failure. And that was how this story began.”
By “this story,” Coates means his ongoing career as a correspondent for The Atlantic, during which he has received a MacArthur genius grant, a National Magazine Award, and several other honors for his writings on race in America. Coates is one of the nation’s most popular living chroniclers of the plight of African Americans. But despite that, he is acutely aware of his failings.
We Were Eight Years in Power is both a collection of Coates’ best articles published by The Atlantic and criticism of those pieces. Prefacing most of the articles are short essays by Coates about the stage of life he was in when he wrote each article, the pieces’ triumphs, and their flaws. With sometimes savage specificity, the essays map the evolution of Coates’ writing skills as well as his personal foibles. At the same time, the articles themselves document the flaws of the United States and how the country consistently does wrong by its African-American citizens in favor of doing more than right by its white citizens.
Coates’ writing process is a metaphor for the social corrective he pursues: the abolishment of white supremacy.
A Different Kind of Healing Ministry
Ruby Garner is a health educator for Health People, an organization in New York’s South Bronx that provides services to people in need. She is an adviser to the AIDS Institute of the New York State Department of Health and partners with her church, First Corinthian Baptist in Manhattan, to provide medical care to its lower-income neighbors.
1. What inspired you to partner with your church? Being able to give to my community, which has a lot of disparities, and deliver information and resources to people who need them is my passion. Working at Health People, I do presentations on behalf of the state of New York on diabetes prevention, health care for women, HIV, how to establish and maintain healthy relationships, and other topics. It made sense to take what I already do and bring it to my church.
The Horror of 'I, Tonya'
From rural, residential life to news cameras to FBI investigations, I, Tonya is a sweeping view of an America that has barely changed since 1994, and certainly hasn’t improved much. It’s a film about how, in the words of screenwriter Steven Rogers, “America wants someone to love, but they also want someone to hate.”
2017 Is the Year of ‘When Did You Know?’
On 2016, David Axelrod, the chief strategist of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, interviewed Jon Stewart at the University of Chicago, my college campus, for his CNN podcast The Axe Files. I was in an audience of students eager to see the former host of The Daily Show return to the public eye, and I’d wanted to ask him a question during the Q&A portion. I didn’t get to, but I am confident that even if I had, my question would not have been as important as Dan Ackerman’s.
The Personal Is Protest
REV. OSAGYEFO Uhuru Sekou’s album In Times Like These does something I’ve never witnessed any other recorded musical project do: It sings before track one even begins. Printed on the inside of the album’s CD case is one of the most powerful commentaries on the 2016 U.S. presidential election I’ve read. “The Task of the Artist in the Time of Monsters,” written by Rev. Sekou, is simultaneously an artist statement, a poem, and a call to action for the world to engage passionately in “the art of loving and living.”
Sekou’s album is a rousing sermon that may re-energize social justice activists who listen to it, keeping them engaged in “the movement.” At the same time, it’s also an extended prayer of sorts, lamenting the wrongs of the world and asking God to alleviate society’s pains. “In times like these / we need a miracle,” Sekou sings in the chorus of the album’s title track, one of the project’s standouts.
However, despite his call for divine intervention, Sekou doesn’t allow believers in a higher power to sit back and rest assured that God will do the work they should be doing. He completes the chorus of the song “In Times Like These” with the much-appreciated but potentially controversial statement: “Ain’t nobody gonna save us / We the ones we’ve been waiting for.” In a time that calls for bold, social justice-minded commentary from artists, Sekou delivers.
Kendrick Lamar Is a Great American Writer, But There Is Room to Grow
For what the singer/songwriter/music producer Pharrell said two years ago about Kendrick Lamar is absolutely true. Kendrick Lamar is the Bob Dylan of his generation, an American storyteller on the same plane as Toni Morrison, Eugene O’Neill, Pearl S. Buck, and other U.S. Nobel Prize in Literature laureates. Why this statement may seem overblown is because of highbrow bias against hip-hop, which is to say bias against black language, black storytellers, black people. But, to quote Chuck D, the leader of the rap group Public Enemy, hip-hop is “CNN for black people.” And Lamar is the best reporter in the business.
‘The Shack’ Is One More Disappointing Reminder that ‘Christian Art’ Is Often Bad
The Gospel isn’t simplistic, and its representations shouldn’t be, either. If The Shack were created with this creed in mind, perhaps it would be a better work of art. Instead, sadly, it’s nothing more than a religious tract.
“Here at NASA, we all pee the same color,” says Harrison.
But this scene never happened. Harrison never took a crowbar to a “Colored Ladies Room” sign. He never solved Johnson’s dilemma of having limited accessibility to a legal bathroom. Harrison’s action is a fabrication framed as history, one that could easily be recognized as an insidious white savior narrative created and advanced by the white people who made the film.
The Melancholy of Race
The first time I saw Amy León, she was standing in a church that was about to explode. Or had already exploded — I couldn’t tell. I was watching the music video for her song “Burning in Birmingham,” a reenactment of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing that took the lives of four black girls on Sept. 15, 1963 in Birmingham, Ala.
'Religious Freedom Has Never Been Unfettered'
“Religious freedom has never been unfettered. It has always been the case that you are free to exercise your religion — as long as it’s not hurting anyone else,” Bishop Gene Robinson said.