Author of First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar and Junk: Digging Through America’s Love Affair with Stuff
“Absorbing and enjoyably compelling research on the packrat conundrum in our society.”—Kirkus Reviews on Junk
Alison Stewart is the author of First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School, a Mother Jones and Essence Magazine Best Book of 2013. “Stewart’s history of a single school also manages to tell the story of black DC, of school desegregation, and of education reform. One need not be a Washington native or a Dunbar grad to appreciate this thought-provoking and thoroughly pleasant history” (Library Journal, starred review). Her new book Junk: Digging Through America's Love Affair with Stuff investigates consumer culture and our obsession with “stuff”: a delightful journey through 250-mile-long yard sales and packrat dens, both human and rodent, that for most readers will look surprisingly familiar.
Over the years, Alison has reported from the floor of six presidential conventions. She anchored major news events from Hurricane Katrina to the shootings at Virginia Tech. She has reported from Africa, Cuba, and Jordan, and reported live from the winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. She has interviewed newsmakers including President Bill Clinton, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Bono, Newt Gingrich, and Steven Spielberg. She was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of Brown University, her Alma Mater, and received an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Bloomfield College for her work on the frontlines of some of the world’s top news stories of the past two decades.
Junk Obsessed: The Pleasures and Pains of Consumer Culture
Why do smart, successful people hold on to old Christmas bows, chipped knick-knacks, and books they will likely never re-read? In this fascinating keynote—based on her new book, Junk—journalist Alison Stewart offers audiences an inside look at America’s basements, closets, and garages, helping audiences understand the root cause (and consequences) of our ongoing obsession with ‘stuff.’
When it comes to excess, there’s plenty to worry about. As such, Stewart describes the problems of an out-of-control consumer culture, relating the plight of hoarders, the growing problem of ‘space junk’ (the 23,000 pieces of debris orbiting our planet and threatening human exploration!), and how excessive waste is an environmental nightmare. But ‘junk’ isn’t all about gloom—it’s also a lucrative industry. Junk removal teams, professional organizers, container stores, and junk-based TV (think Pawn Stars) have all tapped-in to our culture’s strange love affair, and turned it into big business. Additionally, the messy problems of over-consumption have also bred some good old fashioned American innovation. Talking solutions, Stewart describes online communities that give, rather than hoard (or throw away); volunteer groups that repair broken-down items; and more and more people who are learning to live with less—for the good of everyone, and the planet. Ultimately, Stewart offers audiences a captivating journey through 250-mile-long yard sales, resale shops, and packrat dens, both human and rodent, that for most listeners will sound surprisingly familiar.
Dunbar’s Legacy: The Story of America’s First Black Public High School
What can we learn from the extraordinary history of America’s first black public high school? Alison Stewart’s talk starts in 1870 Washington DC with the opening of the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth. At its peak in the 1900s–1950s, the school, which was later renamed Dunbar High, sent 80% of its students to college. Today, like in too many failing urban public schools, the majority of Dunbar students are barely proficient in reading and math. What happened? Stewart, whose parents are both Dunbar graduates, talks about the history of black DC, school desegregation, and education reform, all within the lens of the story of Dunbar High. She explores the importance of grit, perseverance, and conscientiousness in a student’s success. And, she shares important lessons from Dunbar’s history and its story of opportunity, tenacity, and access. Stewart’s optimistic keynotes inspire audiences to look to our history to drive change in America’s education system.
Alison Stewart: Host & Moderator Extraordinaire
Lively, energetic, and engaged, Alison Stewart is one of the most professional, polished hosts and moderators out there. From politics to pop culture, she has guided countless conversations throughout her diverse career—everywhere from MTV to The Today Show to PBS. She has moderated panels that have included all types of newsmakers: from the venerable Ben Bradlee to Lt. Uhura from Star Trek. She knows how to ask questions and listen for content. She has a knack for transforming any forum or panel into a conversation. And, she’s a great conduit for the audience to the panelists. A truly great host or moderator has the power to take an event to the next level. Stewart has the experience, the know-how, and the moxie to do just that.
Junk: Digging Through America's Love Affair with Stuff
When journalist and author Alison Stewart was confronted with emptying her late parents’ overloaded basement, a job that dragged on for months, it got her thinking: How did it come to this? Why do smart, successful people hold on to old Christmas bows, chipped knick-knacks, and books they will likely never reread? Junk details Stewart’s three-year investigation into America’s stuff. Stewart rides along with junk removal teams like Trash Daddy, Annie Haul, and Junk Vets. She goes backstage at Antiques Roadshow, and learns what makes for compelling junk-based television with the executive producer of Pawn Stars. And she even investigates the growing problem of space junk—23,000 pieces of manmade debris orbiting the planet at 17,500 mph, threatening both satellites and human space exploration.
But it’s not all dire. Readers will also learn that there are creative solutions to America’s crushing consumer culture. The author visits with Deron Beal, founder of FreeCyle, an online community of people who would rather give away than throw away their no-longer-needed possessions. She spends a day at a Repair Café, where volunteer tinkerers bring new life to broken appliances, toys, and just about anything. Stewart also visits communities of “tiny houses” without attics and basements in which to stash the owners’ trash. Junk is a delightful journey through 250-mile-long yard sales, resale shops, and packrat dens, both human and rodent, that for most readers will look surprisingly familiar.
First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America's First Black Public High School
In 1870, citizens of Washington, DC, opened the Preparatory High School for Colored Youth, the first black public high school in the United States. It would later be renamed Dunbar High, and would flourish despite Jim Crow laws and segregation. Dunbar attracted an extraordinary faculty. Its early principal was the first black graduate of Harvard. Over the school’s first 80 years these teachers would develop generations of highly educated African Americans, groundbreakers that included the first black member of the presidential cabinet, the first black graduate of the US Naval Academy, the first black army general, the legal mastermind behind school desegregation, the creator of the modern blood bank, and hundreds of educators.
At its height in the 1900s–1950s, Dunbar High School sent 80% of its students to college. Today, like in too many failing urban public schools, the majority of Dunbar students are barely proficient in reading and math. What happened? Journalist and author Alison Stewart, whose parents were both Dunbar graduates, tells the story of the school’s rise, fall, and possible resurgence as it looks to reopen its new, state-of-the-art campus in the fall of 2013.
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