Our cover this month was born the night after Fighting Bob Fest—the great gathering of progressive speakers we co-host every year in Madison, Wisconsin. Publisher Norm Stockwell and I were sitting around with Dave Zirin and Kevin Alexander Gray at a local diner after the day’s events.
Kevin and Dave had been talking with young activists and athletes across the country who were galvanized by Colin Kaepernick’s protest of police violence against African Americans, and his refusal to stand for the national anthem.
Black and white, men and women, boys and girls—players in all different sports across the nation have been joining the protest and taking a knee during the anthem. Some of those athletes wanted more information about the history of the struggle for racial justice, and Dave was getting them copies of Kevin’s book, Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence.
The Progressive should capture the iconic image of these historic protests on the cover of the magazine, Kevin and Dave urged.
But we had already been working on a cover package based on another inspiring wave of activism. Thousands of people were joining the Native nations gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota to block the construction of a pipeline, the bulldozing of sacred sites, and the pollution of a precious water supply. Which stories could we hold?
We decided to publish them all. The rebellion against the forces of repression on Native American lands in North Dakota and African American citizens and their allies standing up to police violence are closely related. We could cover both movements in one issue.
Dave Zirin put us in touch with former NBA star Etan Thomas, who writes about the movement Kaepernick started, and how it is related to the protests of other athletes, including his own pioneering rejection of the Iraq War.
Our art director Kerstin Vogdes Diehn reached out to Taylor Callery to create our cover art. The image he drew resonates beyond any one moment, encompassing the refusal of American citizens to accept repression and bullying in all its forms.
As Kevin Alexander Gray writes in our editorial Comment this month, quoting Martin Luther King Jr., “The problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together.” The resistance to these “triple evils” is what binds together our progressive movement for peace and social justice.
Who better to speak to our theme, Truth to Power, than Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, who received an arrest warrant for her coverage of Standing Rock? Norm, who has worked with Amy for many years, interviews her about covering liberation movements and her belief that “independent media is the hope” for the future.
Our On the Line section and our profile of attorney Jeff Haas also deal with the crisis at Standing Rock. More broadly, Suez Taylor and Sadie Luetmer cover the insidious efforts of Enbridge, Inc., to construct a massive network of crude oil pipelines through the Midwest—a plan that far surpasses TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline in scope. Taylor and Luetmer document the pushback against Enbridge in Minnesota and the threat in neighboring Wisconsin, where The Progressive is based.
And Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch tells the shattering tale of a tribe that got pulled into a risky financial venture.
One of our favorite writers, Mark Anthony Rolo, describes the successful resistance of Native American people in this state to a mine owner who donated money to Republican Governor Scott Walker.
My colleague Bill Lueders, whose deft editing and high standards are indispensable to this magazine, happens to be our home state’s leading advocate for open records. In his Smoking Gun column this month, Bill reveals some of the lesser-known documents from the trove of emails leaked to The Guardian detailing Scott Walker’s prodigious fundraising efforts and what his donors received in return for their cash.
If we are to forge a more progressive future, it is essential that we know what we are up against.
Power to the people.
Ruth Conniff is editor-in-chief of The Progressive.