Da'Shawn Mosley is assistant editor and culture 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 recognized by President Obama as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts 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. Da'Shawn's fiction earned him the 2019 A Suite of One's Own: A Writer's Residency, awarded by Kiese Laymon. 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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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.
We Have to Hold President Obama — and Ourselves — Accountable for Naive Rhetoric
America rests on a foundation of sin. Its body is strong but its soul is dead. Yes, America provides so much freedom and benefits so many lives. But woe to us if we look at this country’s glass as half full when so many of our fellow citizens barely have water at all. Woe to us if we praise the calm in our lives while failing to give the distress of others’ lives the full attention it needs.
Any speech about America that fails to look at this nation’s current state with the realism and gravity it deserves is speech about a country that doesn’t exist. The America that President Obama spoke of, in his farewell address, is an America I barely recognize.
To Resist Trump's Rhetoric, Hollywood Must Diversify
Let us not forget the impact that D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation had on America when it was released in 1915. An adaptation of the novel The Clansman: A Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan, there’s little doubt in my mind that the film’s racist depictions of African Americans and affirming depictions of Klansmen formed and hardened the discriminatory beliefs of many white people in the U.S., making them further believe that black people were undeserving of fairness, respect, and freedom. The Birth of a Nation is a prime example of why we need new stories, told from the perspective of identities that are generally ignored and denigrated.
Don't Let Christian Morals Get In the Way of Christian Love
It’s safe to say that no Christian community I've been a part of has ever brought up the U.S. domestic crisis of HIV/AIDS. In fact, I can’t recall ever hearing an American Christian even utter the words.
And in conversation with others, I know that too many have only heard about it from pastors who preach that homosexuality is an unforgiveable sin and that HIV/AIDS is God’s wrath at work — despite the fact that HIV/AIDS affects people of many ethnicities and sexual orientations, and that the infection is often transmitted in ways other than sexual intercourse. Hearing Christians speak seriously and nonjudgmentally about HIV/AIDS, with the intent of acting to help eradicate the illness and protect the lives of those whom the illness has affected, is too rare.
Stop Telling Me to Fight
Stop telling me to fight. Stop saying on your social media platforms, and in your blogs and your op-eds, that everyone should dust themselves off and get up and fix this. Stop saying that addressing this issue is everyone’s duty, because I can’t even begin to explain to you how far from the truth such a statement is.
But I’ll try. I will overcome my exhaustion and explain this to you as clearly as I can, and you can thank me later, if you’re so inclined. Let it be known that I like Edible Arrangements.
Debbie Allen's New Musical 'Freeze Frame' Addresses Gun Violence in America
The project which Allen spoke of, titled Freeze Frame…Stop the Madness, is a work of theatre written, choreographed, and directed by Allen that combines cinema, dance, and music into a stage performance inspired by the issues of race and gun violence in America. Freeze Frame opened at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 27 and, on Oct. 24, Allen visited the Center for American Progress, in the nation’s capital, to discuss Freeze Frame’s creation and the impact she hopes the show will have on the U.S.
'Moonlight' Is the Best Film I Have Ever Seen
There are some works of art that become landmarks in a person’s life. The person knows who they were before they encountered the art, but not who they are afterward, and among the pieces of themselves that have scattered to the floor they find new elements, new additions to their identity. Moonlight is undoubtedly one of my landmarks. It is my Washington Monument, my Statue of Liberty. It is all of that and more.
'The Birth of a Nation' Doesn't Deserve Your Attention
I equate financially supporting The Birth of a Nation with ticket sales or a DVD purchase "because it's important" with supporting Brock Turner’s release from prison "because he’s a great swimmer and has potential." Both send a message to rape victims worldwide: They will always be ranked as lesser than their accuser, and lesser than something intangible.
A Brand New Day: Inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture
So there was a gloom and reverence with which I walked through the first three levels of the museum, and with which many of the people around me also seemed to travel. We were in the presence of ruins from days when black bodies were treated like cattle and felled like sugar cane crops. We were staring at the adornments of Ku Klux Klan members, at shards of glass from the 16th Street Baptist Church, and we were doing so only days after yet another police shooting of yet another unarmed black man. Death was in the air, and we were the bereaved.
Dear Police: We Have a Right to Know
In the U.S. the Freedom of Information Act is a law designed to enable Americans to access government information. But, often, the Freedom of Information Act fails to ensure this basic right. For example, in the case of the Laquan McDonald shooting, the Chicago Police Department denied fifteen Freedom of Information Act requests for the video of the shooting to be released. It wasn’t until many members of the community expressed their concern about the video not being shown to the public, and a city judge ruled in their favor, that the video was finally released. It shouldn’t have taken so much effort to get access to what’s rightfully ours.
What Terence Crutcher's Death Reminds Me Of
I don’t need to remind you, but I will, that this is the mentality of slave owners — the muscle memory of oppression that beats in American hearts still, in quiet and loud ways, and leads the systems of this nation to marginalize those who look different than the most privileged.
Another Child With a BB Gun Killed by Ohio Police
A 13-year-old boy was shot and killed by an officer in Columbus, Ohio, on Sept. 15, after he allegedly brandished a BB gun as police attempted to arrest him, the Columbus Division of Police announced this morning.
The officers were responding to a report of an armed robbery in the area. Tyree King, the 13-year-old, was thought to be one of multiple suspects.
The name of the police officer who shot and killed King has not been released, however it was revealed that he has been a police officer for nine years.
3 Things 'Queen Sugar' Proves About the Value of Diverse TV
Ultimately, as audience members, we have the power to control what we see. TV execs need our eyes watching the programming they select, and if we say we want diversity — if we purposefully watch more shows that are inclusive and that introduce us to narratives and cultures that are simultaneously new to us and reminiscent of our own lives — we can change the television landscape. We can change what we see and thus make sure that everyone is seen.
Amid Calls for Gun Violence Legislation, Chicago Sees Deadliest Month in 20 Years
August 2016 was Chicago’s deadliest month since August 1996, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. In Aug. 2016 384 shootings occurred in the city, resulting in 472 shooting victims and 90 fatalities.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the city's police superintendent Eddie Johnson believes the mass distribution of guns in the city shoulders some of the blame for the new startling statistics.
5 Pivotal SCOTUS Decisions We Can Thank Thurgood Marshall For
On Aug. 30, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed by the United States Senate as the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Throughout his tenure as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and even prior to his nomination to the court by President Johnson, Marshall left his mark on various cases that have proved pivotal to pushing America closer toward being a fair and just society for all.
Here are five Supreme Court cases in which Marshall fought for justice—often while he was on the other side of the bench—and won.