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Where we stand
When asked about a recent statement by President Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paused for 21 seconds and then said: “We all watch in horror and consternation at what is going on in the United States.”
I can empathize with both halves of this reaction. A pause, because I often feel it’s not yet my place to weigh in on issues in a country I’ve come to only recently. I grew up in Canada and lived there until moving to San Francisco two years ago to focus on Substack. I haven’t lived most of my life in the US and wouldn’t want to imply that my home country is either blameless or comparable. And then, even so, sometimes you need to know where you stand.
Substack is an American company, full of passionate people, and each of us has the obligation to follow our own conscience. But there are a few places where I stand, and where I believe the company should stand.
We stand against unwarranted violence and abuse of power by police, and in particular its unequal impact on Black communities. The murder of George Floyd is an appalling injustice but just one example in a litany of deaths – of Breonna Taylor, of Tony McDade, of Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others – that needs to end.
We stand with the millions of people who are marching and demonstrating, both in their demand for justice, and in their right to show up and make that demand. Attempts to disrupt peaceful protests with violence, especially by the government and law enforcement, are unconscionable, as are attacks on the press covering them.
I believe one of the benefits of Substack is that it can give rise to, and support, voices that might otherwise be silenced. When readers directly support writers they trust, they empower those writers to pursue the work they believe in – independent of gatekeepers, regardless of mass-market appeal, and in spite of prevailing power structures. Through this model, such voices can not only be heard, but also sustained.
Below, we’re featuring a few writers on Substack who’ve recommended works that deserve attention always but are particularly poignant in this moment. We hope people will read and support the writers and works highlighted here, and directly support more Black writers and creatives in general.
— Chris, CEO
Kimberly Rose Drew
Writer, curator, and activist
Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, by Nicole Fleetwood
Beauty IRL, by Darian Symoné Harvin
books/snacks/softcore, by Samantha Irby
Co-founder and CEO of Eternal
No Name In The Street, by James Baldwin
False Alarm, Real Life, by Keli Gabinelli
If Beale Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins (film)
A Seat at the Table, by Solange (album)
Austin Channing Brown
Writer and speaker on racial justice and Black dignity
The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic
The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward Baptist
The 1619 Project, New York Times, led by Nikole Hannah Jones
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States, Edited by Joe Macaré, Maya Schenwar, and Alana Yu-lan Price
Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson
Danyel, most recently of ESPN, is finalizing Shine Bright: A Personal History of Black Women in Pop (One World/Random House, February 2021). Her husband Elliott is chief content officer for Tidal, cohost of the Rap Radar Podcast, and host of the experiential CRWN series. The weekly HRDlist curates news and culture for a diverse world. TheMotto is published daily and covers hip hop and its vibrant culture.
I Put A Spell on You: The Autobiography of Nina Simone, by Nina Simone
It’s Not About A Salary: Rap, Race and Resistance in Los Angeles, by Brian Cross
ego trip’s Big Book of Racism!, by Sacha Jenkins, Elliott Wilson, Chairman Jefferson Mao, Gabriel Alvarez, Brent Rollins
Her Own Space, a profile of Queen & Slim director Melina Matsoukas, by Danyel Smith
The Rap Memory Box, by Ev Boogie
Trapital, by Dan Runcie
Water & Music, by Cherie Hu
The Editorial Board, by John Stoehr
The Create Daily, by Felicia Pride
Beauty IRL, by Darian Symoné Harvin