About Liz Schmitt

Liz Schmitt is a twentysomething who calls DC home and loves it here. She's really into environmental politics and Jesus, which means she's terrible at polite dinner conversation. When she isn't tricking her friends into binge-watching Doctor Who, she loves being outdoors, reading 10 books at once, and fostering rescue dogs. Liz tries to remain upbeat while worrying about climate change, and doesn't take herself too seriously, which is why you can find her on Twitter at @awkdturtle.

Race to the Finish: The Final Entry

It’s the final entry……… (doo da doo doo)

Wow, I can’t believe it’s all done. The past few months were really something. I went to Cleveland this weekend and I want to give you all a recap.

I hit the road with my DC teammates, Blaine and Suzy, at 6:30 AM on Saturday. We started our 6 hour drive early, and basically we drove the entire width of Pennsylvania, and got into Cleveland Heights (the adjoining city where I’d be staying with friends that night) early afternoon. I met up with Alycia, a friend from DC who has relocated to Cleveland, and then we met a few of the steering committee members from Puncture the Silence for lunch at a local cafe.

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The Ghetto Monk from Baltimore

This past weekend I went up to Baltimore with friends. We went on Saturday, May 2 which on social media was being called #BlackSpring, for a big gathering and protest at Baltimore City Hall. When we arrived, we went down to the Inner Harbor to relax a bit before the afternoon. But standing around the touristy part of the city were dozens of National Guard members and police in military gear, holding assault rifles, hopping in and out of armored cars, and generally acting like they were in a war zone.

We went because our friend Ryan Herring, who I worked with for a year at Sojourners, was coming home to Baltimore for the weekend and he invited us to join the protest and march. Ryan grew up in Baltimore, and since his year at Sojourners ended he’s been (from my perspective) all over the country, in the thick of the #BlackLivesMatter movement – in Ferguson, in Louisville, and on occasion, he graces us with his presence in DC. The last time he was in the District a dozen of us met at a friend’s house to get updates from the road and ask him about the movement.

Ryan has taught me two basic takeaways from what’s going on these days (well, other things too but I’ll start off simple): one, there is a movement, and it’s being led by young black Americans like Ryan. Two, Twitter is, in Ryan’s words, integral. Continue reading

Cornel West and Van Jones

Last week I really lucked out. Not only was it a low mileage week – my longest run was only 4 miles – but I got to see Cornel West speak one day and Van Jones the next!

Photo of Dr. Cornel West from his twitter account

Photo of Van Jones from vanjones.net

For those who aren’t familiar with one or both men, here are their brief bios. Dr. Cornel West is a scholar and professor of philosophy and Christian practice, as well as a prophetic voice on black America and race in America. He currently teaches at Union Theological Seminary, and he’s been at multiple Ivy League schools as both a graduate and a professor. Here’s his full bio, including his debut in The Matrix. Van Jones is an activist and policy wonk on environmentalism, civil rights, and mass incarceration. The highlights of his career include running the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in LA, where they shut down multiple youth prison projects; being appointed as President Obama’s green jobs advisor; and his current gig on CNN, where for some time he hosted Crossfire with Newt Gingrich. Both of them are authors; right now I’m reading West’s best-known book, Race Matters, although he’s written about 20. Van Jones’ first publication was the first “black and green” book – The Green Collar Economy.

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Race to the Finish: Lady Sings the Truth

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Courtesy of the Gottlieb Collection. Portrait of Billie Holiday, Downbeat, New York, N.Y., ca. Feb. 1947

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the premiere of the locally made documentary, Being Billie.  The film looks at Billie Holiday’s life, her musical career, the outside forces imposing on her life, and how unique and important an artist she was and is.

I’ve loved Billie Holiday since I was younger, when I listened to a lot of jazz. I remember knowing vaguely that she was a “junkie” and died young. I can’t tell you much about the personal lives of the other women on the CD I had of jazz and blues women – Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington and Ella Fitzgerald. But Billie’s drug use was something that just went naturally with hearing her name.

And that’s precisely how the government figures in the early War on Drugs planned it – though they probably didn’t know how lasting their branding of Billie would be. The film Being Billie only touches briefly on this, but Billie Holiday was targeted mercilessly and made into an example by Harry Anslinger, the head of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. I’ll talk more about the War on Drugs in the weeks to come, but when I came across this Politico article, I was astonished to see the seeds of the War on Drugs even as early as the 1930s. It’s reminiscent of J. Edgar Hoover’s targeting of Martin Luther King Jr, but Anslinger’s overt racism and relentless pursuit of Billie essentially killed her. Continue reading

Race to the Finish: The Color of Comics

Greetings, faithful readers! This week I want to tell you all about some material that, at first glance, might seem light and breezy: comics.

My friend Abby loaned me her copy of Ms. Marvel, Marvel Comics’ increasingly popular new superheroine – I’ve read Weeks 001-005 and I’m really into it. I did not grow up reading them, but in the past year I’ve been dipping my toes into the world of comics and graphic novels. One of the best graphic novels I read this year was Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese, about a boy who just wants to fit in in white-bread America.

Ms Marvel GeneYang-AmericanBornChinese-cover

Ms. Marvel is really unique – its main character, Kamala Khan, is a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager who is given superpowers with a twist from Captain Marvel herself. So this is pretty remarkable.

It’s also really good. Continue reading