paper trail

Columbia launches public database for COVID-19 coverage; Josie Duffy Rice on national narratives and local organizing

Josie Duffy Rice

Namwali Serpell looks at photographer Ming Smith’s portraits of Afrofuturist poet and musician Sun Ra, and the challenges of their work. “These two artists dare us to reimagine black identity—that is, human identity—from the groundless ground up, as an order of being that stutters in and out of nonbeing, that dissolves and gathers itself and others, in turn, in time. Did Sun Ra truly believe he had once been transmolecularized to Saturn? Did he really want to save black people by sending them to outer space? Was he some kind of intergalactic Marcus Garvey, who sold tickets back to Africa but never set sail? Was he pulling an elaborate prank? Does it matter?”

Nieman Lab shares a resource that may be useful for smaller newsrooms reporting on COVID-19 in their communities: Columbia’s Brown Institute for Media Innovation has launched a database, Documenting Covid-19, compiling documents related to the pandemic on federal, state, and local levels.

Ben Smith surveys a new generation of independent digital journalists, who are increasingly under attack by repressive governments across the globe: “The American media is now convulsing over questions of speech, important fights with real stakes, particularly when it comes to the decisions made by and for the giant tech platforms. But the overriding lesson from President Trump’s admirers around the world is obvious: that the ultimate, most severe threats to a free press come from governments.”

A round table talk with Mychal Denzel Smith, Josie Duffy Rice, and Alex Vitale on the national conversation around police abolition, local organizing, and the role of the media. “National narratives do have salience,” Duffy Rice, a journalist and criminal justice lawyer, notes, “and it’s critical that national politics at least be aware of the conversation. But policing, again, is local. Criminal justice is local. And what the community needs in West Virginia is not going to be what the community needs in Baltimore or Atlanta or Oakland.”

Tomorrow night, Greenlight Bookstore is hosting a conversation between Kelli Jo Ford and Paris Review editor Emily Nemens. Ford, the winner of the 2019 Plimpton Prize, is the author of Crooked Hallelujah, a new novel about four generations of Cherokee women.

Verso is starting a book club, which allows subscribers to get all new Verso e-books every month, plus books by mail.

At Literary Hub, an excerpt from #HashtagActivism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice: “Hashtag activism is repeated resistance. Black Twitter tapped into our shared history of resistance and used the technology available to us to reach further and faster. We continue to draw national attention to local problems, to underscore the fact that these injustices are happening everywhere.”