The summer lull is in full swing in the US as July comes to a close, while we grapple with rising temperatures and guard our energies for the 2024 electoral cycle. We’re all going to need that energy, as we are faced with polls that describe the rising acceptance of political violence, and that “gut-level hatred” is consuming our political lives. Horizons is committed to continuing to work with those who are actively trying to prevent violence and acts of hate being fueled by a clear political agenda. And we find inspiration and hope from the myriad organizing efforts throughout the country.
The global nature of the authoritarian threat continues to animate our work. Check out, Chief Organizer Maria Stephan’s article in Ha’aretz about pro-democracy protests in Israel and the relationship between Israeli democracy and Palestinian self-determination. Also, registration is now open for the next Othering & Belonging Conference, taking place in Berlin in October. Please join Horizons and others as we reflect on global strategies for countering the far-right and bolstering democracy.
As you go into August, we hope you find a space for deep rest, and reflect on the role that conflict transformation and listening skills play in all our relational organizing. There are several resources to help, such as this summer survival kit of conflict hacks from Amanda Ripley; and, this summer reading list and overview of the listening arts. If you haven’t checked out our friend Brett Davidson’s writings on how deep narrative work also requires deep listening, don’t miss his recent missive on the meanings of listening.
It’s an exciting month for Horizons as we welcome a new member of the team, Jarvis Williams who just joined us as Director for Applied Research. Read more about Jarvis and hear directly from him why he agrees with the power of listening for transforming relations and building deep partnerships. Welcome Jarvis! We also have openings for Research Assistants to work with Jarvis and the team, as we partner with the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University on research related to the pillars of support for authoritarianism and democracy. Please help us forward the announcement to any students you know who may be interested.
We hope you enjoy the additional resources we’ve been reading, watching and listening to this month:
by Samhita Mukhopadhyay, The Nation
“How can social justice organizations prioritize mental health issues while finding ways for their staff and members to stay in solidarity with each other? As we work to undo the legacies of racism and oppression, we are often facing a history of unresolved trauma—our own, and the histories of those we work with… Incorporating trauma-informed perspectives and general mental health awareness has sprouted up in many different places in an effort to counter narratives that we should ignore or override these feelings… But connecting the dots between social justice work and trauma history doesn’t automatically confer the necessary tools to deal with it.” This article is full of wisdom and resources from many leaders showing that prioritizing mental health while also finding ways to remain in solidarity with each other are not necessarily in opposition.
by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic
Anne Applebaum explores the current context in Tennessee from her perspective of reporting on the decade-long democratic decline and rise of one-party rule in Poland and Hungary. “…the cascade of tiny legal and procedural changes designed to create an unlevel playing field, the ruling party’s inexplicable sense of grievance, the displaced moderates with nowhere to go—this [does] seem familiar from other places. So [is] the sense that institutional politics has become performative, somehow separated from real life…Today, Tennessee is a model of one-party rule… Nor will the situation be easy to change, because gerrymandering is something of a blood sport in the state… [And] Getting people to vote is not so easy, either, because Tennessee has some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws.”
by Tish Harrison Warren, New York Times Opinion
Check out this interview with Eboo Patel, an American Muslim and founder and president of Interfaith America, a nonprofit that aims to promote cooperation across religious differences. Patel discusses his latest book, “We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy” and speaks about religious identity, diversity and institutions in America.
The American Political Science Association (APSA) & Protect Democracy
APSA and Protect Democracy partnered to support the APSA Presidential Task Force on Political Parties to synthesize decades of research on political parties and what they do in democracies. Key insights include: (1) the current campaign environment, from campaign finance regulations to changes in media, have made it harder for political parties to fulfill their roles; (2) American political parties are easy to join, opening them to new voices and interests but also leaving them vulnerable to capture by those with authoritarian objectives; (3) Racial realignment between the major parties has been growing for decades, changing the way the parties see the political landscape and their incentives for action; and (4) political parties are vital to modern democracy and reform efforts should take their essential roles seriously.
Utah Governor Spencer Cox, Braver Angels Convention
Governor Cox is well known for the public service announcement with his rival candidate, Democratic candidate Chris Peterson during the 2020 race for governor. Research has shown that watching the “One Nation” ad reduced viewers support for undemocratic practices, such as forgoing democratic principles for partisan gain or using violence against members of another party. Check out Governor Cox’s keynote address at the recent Braver Angels Convention in Gettysburg.
The Legal Defense Fund
To some, the word “woke” is now a derisive stand-in for diversity, inclusion, empathy and Blackness. When legislators pass a law to “stop woke” in light of the word’s true history as well as its commonly understood meaning, what are they really saying? Check out this recent article by Keecee DeVenny on American Redefined, How Language is Weaponized. “Make no mistake, the linking of discussions of systemic oppression, race, gender expression, and sexual orientation with “anti-American” sentiments is intentional. It’s an attempt to redefine and reclassify who gets to call themselves American, regardless of their relationship to the country.”
Aspen Ideas Festival
“Antisemitic incidents are on the rise in the United States, leaving Jewish communities feeling vulnerable — a sentiment both new and sadly familiar. Among the responses is the first ever U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, released by the White House, advocating a whole-of-society approach because all of us are affected by hate and it takes all of us to fight it.” Moderated by Katie Couric, this Aspen Ideas Festival panel features Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, Eric Ward from Race Forward and Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall from Harvard’s Belfer Center.
Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
“On this episode, Julie Nelson, Senior Vice President of Programs at Race Forward and john a. powell, Director, Othering and Belonging Institute, come together in a conversation inspired by the recent essay they co-authored, “Advancing Just, Multiracial Democracy.” They explore the role local municipalities can play in not only defending against “democratic backsliding,” but also in expanding the very nature of democracy, which is critical with the global rise of authoritarianism and nationalism. Julie and john’s work rests on the idea that local governments are uniquely situated to turn grim situations built on “othering” into a global movement grounded in racial justice and belonging.”
Economist Kelly Shue argues that ESG investing gives more money to firms that are already green while depriving polluting firms of financing that they need to get greener. But she offers a solution, which is to take an engagement strategy with corporations and build power from the inside for change. As the debate about ESG continues to rage, we found this a nuanced conversation in line with our approach to the business pillar within a pro-democracy movement that requires both strategic engagement and pressure tactics.
Let’s Hear It Podcast!
Check out this thought-provoking episode with Trevor Smith, the Director of Narrative Change at Liberation Ventures. Trevor is a writer, researcher, and editor of the newsletter – Reparations Daily (ish). During the interview Trevor discusses the growing movement calling for reparations as a catalyst for true racial repair. He invites reflection on how we can all work toward a new narrative of reparations, and how we can create a democracy that is inclusive, empathetic, and centered on principles of justice.
The 22CI conference came to a close earlier this month with a joyful performance of a brand new song crafted during one of the sessions, “Developing a Collective Poetic Voice to Address Authoritarianism Thru Songwriting,” under the direction of Jane Sapp, a musician and cultural worker at Let’s Make a Better World and Cindy Cohen, Emerita of Brandeis University and former Director of the Program in Peacebuilding and the Arts. Special thanks to the members of the “This is Real Ensemble” – Destiny Williams, Jeralyn Cave, Penny Rosenwasser, and Molly O’Connor. You guys rocked it.