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In comparison to the fast-paced cycle of people-driven action and forced official responses of last summer, the speed at which the American political system does (or does not) enact political change in this country is grinding to a halt. We might have a lot of faith in the folks we know who are determined to protect and push back on regressive policies, but with so much still left to march for and so little progress to show, the disillusionment is strong lately.
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Sometimes we just have to sit back and take stock of where exactly our energy goes once the burden of change is supposedly taken off our shoulders and into federal and state capitols. Today's stories are all about willful ignorance, and ways that the powers that be are failing to walk the walk once they've talked the talk.
Killer Mike's radical lyrics are masking reformist politics
Nicholas Vila Byers, Scalawag

"Run the Jewels built their appeal by walking a tightrope—the same tightrope that ultimately underscores all reformist policies. Their music is designed to sound like uprising, but it mostly simulates the flashy special effects of a plotless superhero movie—emphasizing spectacle while lacking meaningful specificity."

While some artists have made crucial efforts to support abolitionist agendas over the past year, others have remained rather quiet—or even voiced support for police. In Atlanta, one hometown hero's voice has been elevated above the pack, to the near-unanimous applause of moderates and liberals alike: Killer Mike.

In his lyrics, liberation is fought for, corporate interests are smashed, and masters are killed. But when a real uprising came to Atlanta’s door, he told listeners to fill out the census. "History teaches us that, for every tone-deaf company that co-opts resistance, there's a thought-leader with the right credentials and vocabulary playing both sides, too," Byers writes. "That goes for the rap industry as well." [Link]
Akwaeke Emezi: 'A dead thing sentenced to life'
Ko Bragg, Scalawag

Emezi writes from the center of a Venn diagram between death and morbidity, love and opulence. What lingers and challenges me most is the way they write about life and death. No one confronts life like Emezi can, if only because of their proximity to death. "Life is marked by the end of it," they said. "If death didn't exist, we wouldn't be able to define life."

In their new book, Dear Senthuran: A Black Spirit Memoir, Akwaeke Emezi connects the Global South from Aba, Nigeria to New Orleans. Their first foray into nonfiction chronicles their journey to embrace being an ogbanje, which in Igbo ontology references a trickster spirit, an other-than-human child born to a human mother, living only to die unexpectedly before their spirit shows up again in the next child. Breaking gender binaries and norms, they appear human, but as Emezi writes, it's important for their spirits to never reproduce.

While the legacy of colonialism made it difficult for Emezi to view their Igbo spirituality as more than "juju and superstition," fully embracing it helped them understand their gender. [Link]
1. Evictions at a Kentucky trailer park highlight the Ohio Valley’s lack of affordable housing
Katie Myers & Liam Niemeyer, Ohio Valley Resource

Residents were relaxing, talking. Mindy Davenport crouched and smoked a cigarette on the empty lot across the road; 11-year-old Shayna Plank and her 17-year-old sister Faith had gone to bed. Gozzard was inside with her cats, contemplating her next move. “If you’re looking for affordable housing in Morehead,” she’d said earlier, “you’re in the wroooong place.” The cats twined around the legs of residents and they ended the meeting, as usual, in song: “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Some sang quietly, some shouted the words like a war cry. 

Mass eviction can happen everywhere—and it does, frequently. Roughly 80 people were evicted from the North Fork Mobile Home Park in Morehead, Kentucky on April 30 to make way for retail space, given less than two months of notice. The park is convenient, centrally located, on a bus line, right at the entrance to the city of Morehead—the perfect location for a strip mall.

Lot rents ran an unthinkably cheap $125 per month, but the rental options available for former residents to flee to now will cost about five times that on average—if they're even available. Some former North Fork residents live on unemployment or disability income, and despite owning their trailers, many had to leave theirs behind. But they're not going quietly. The city offered $1,000 to each resident in moving costs, but when it takes $3,000 to move a trailer, and often just as much to sign a new lease, residents say that simply won’t be enough.
2. Joe Manchin’s fixation on Republican validation ignores Black West Virginians
Anoa Changa, NewsOne

“There is a new day and renewed energy to break that hold and finally represent the entirety of this state party which has been blessed with the Black vote while continuously dismissing and devaluing that base of voters. The West Virginia Black vote is large enough to impact a Democratic candidacy. They need us no matter how little they value us.”

Centrist West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin doesn’t believe in progress if Republicans won’t support it—or at least that’s what said in an op-ed for his hometown paper last weekend. In his essay, he explains that he doesn't support the For the People Act—a bill that would expand voter registration, reduce the influence of money in politics, set limits on gerrymandering, and create new ethics for politicians—because it isn't enough of a compromise. While the Senate filibuster had effectively already doomed the bill, Manchin’s opposition cuts off activists’ push for Democrats to abolish the filibuster to pass it.

Black organizers in West Virginia see Manchin’s latest move as directly connected to the struggle of the state's Democratic party to come into the 21st century. Manchin doesn’t want to disrupt his own position and power—and his denial of the concerted effort of Republicans to undermine voting rights doesn’t make it any less of a reality, Changa writes. "Manchin taking the easy route in the face of such adversity is also a slap in the face to Black voters in West Virginia. West Virginia's Black population may be small, but it is no less a valuable constituency."
3. Life is about to get even rougher for Mississippi’s unemployed
Frances Madeson, Capital & Main

“That $300 a week is being put to good use and stimulating the economy even when people are buying ice cream. The ice cream man had to buy his ice cream, the maker had to make it, the trucks had to ship it, so everybody’s getting a piece. More groceries for their family, you can take a trip to grandma’s house. You want to get the economy rolling, but if you have no money to spend, how can you get it rolling?”

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves may have set an expectation that change was in the air after the state (finally) abolished the confederate flag at the state capitol, but his recent move to cut off the federal benefits putting cash in the hands of over a hundred thousand working households in Mississippi is walking that back.

Unless Reeves reverses course, June 12 will mark the final day that Mississippians currently receiving state unemployment benefits will also get the federal weekly supplement of $300 under the American Rescue Plan Act, which is scheduled to expire in September. Reeves is among some 25 Republican governors who are betting that unemployed workers will return to work after being forced to make do on the state's maximum weekly benefit, which in Mississippi is $235. But small businesses say the real reason they can't currently fill their open position is due to the fact that workers have abandoned industries with lower wages and more hazardous working conditions, a reality unlikely to be affected by prematurely ending the federal benefit given that the state's minimum wage hasn't changed since 2008.
Cicadas single-handedly delayed the White House press corps flight to the UK—for hours
Biden even had to swat one off of his neck before boarding Air Force One on Wednesday morning. Sidenote, Brood X is a good band name, if nobody's claimed it yet.

As reported by NBC: Journalists set to cover President Joe Biden’s first trip abroad were delayed several hours Tuesday night from taking off for Europe — but not because of bad weather or a late pilot.

Their charter plane suffered mechanical problems due to cicadas.

Billions of these large, noisy insects have overtaken the Washington, D.C., region and other areas along the East Coast after they emerged from underground for the first time in 17 years. They are members of Brood X—the largest group of cicadas that live on 17-year cycles, which includes three species.

It’s unclear how many cicadas were involved in the plane’s malfunction, but they have been flying around the D.C. area for weeks and are being spotted by Doppler radars that are normally used to track weather.
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