After Dallas: Hannah-Jones, Brown, Cobb on Recovery & Unity
Another spate of shootings, and we again find ourselves confused, hurt, and outraged. Baton Rouge, Minnesota, and Dallas, formerly places on a map, are now bywords for wider issues of police brutality, civil rights, and gun control. We mourn the lives lost in all three shootings, and brace ourselves for further division: across lines of ethnicity and political leaning, between civilians and police, and even between neighbours and friends. And in such a climate, staying calm and rational, considering multiple perspectives, and maintaining open discourse should be paramount. At the Lavin Agency, our roster of keynote speakers includes many of today’s most prominent voices on race, inequality, and civil rights in America—many of whom have already spoken out on last week’s tragic events, and are capable of assessing the cultural moment with keen, levelheaded insight.
Writing alongside Jack Healy for The New York Times, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones interviews Americans on all sides of the aisle—a black teacher who counsels her sons to mute their personalities and always capitulate to the police; a retired Vegas cop, angered by growing anti-police sentiment; a New York activist who has dedicated her life to ending police brutality, now finally overwhelmed. “Even as political leaders, protesters, and law enforcement officials struggled to find common ground and lit candles of shared grief, there was an inescapable fear that the United States was being pulled further apart in its anger and anguish,” says Hannah-Jones. Her New York Times Magazine articles on school and housing segregation, and systemic racial inequality, are widely read. She was a finalist for the National Magazine Award, and in 2016, received the George Polk Award for radio reporting for her This American Life story “The Problem We All Live With.”
In The Boston Globe, Rev. Jeffrey Brown takes a direct approach. “There is a large and growing disparity in our city that separates us by race and class,” he says. “Although ordinary people express concern and even dismay over this disparity, the gnawing apathy and complacency that follows is galling to those of us who struggle to live every day.” To Brown, a noted community leader and anti-violence activist, faith without action is meaningless. Social reform takes real, concerted effort, and police violence, gun control, and civil rights are not just issues for those affected—they’re issues for all Americans. And Brown’s resumé speaks volumes: he’s one of the key architects of the Boston Miracle, a 79% drop in youth violent crime in the city between 1990 and 1999.
Jelani Cobb is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and is always on the forefront of race, politics, history, and culture. His latest work is Policing the Police, a PBS Frontline documentary that follows the Newark police force, a department noted for its brutality despite being one of the country’s most diverse units. And in recent New Yorker articles, he examines the week’s tragedies—what they mean for national unity, for discussions of excessive force and gun control, and for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement. “This week has become a grotesque object lesson in gun culture, one that points to a conclusion that we could have and should have drawn long ago—that the surfeit of weapons at our disposal and the corresponding fears that they induce create new hazards,” Cobb says. “There is no telling how any of these specific horrors will be resolved.” Cobb is the director of the Africana Studies Institute at the University of Connecticut, and the winner of the 2015 Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.