• Barack Obama’s Library, the First Digital-Driven Presidential Archives in History, Breaks Ground Today

    Michelle and Barack Obama in May 2016Drew Angerer/Getty

    After a series of starts and stops and a lengthy legal battle over construction clearance, Barack Obama’s presidential library is pressing ahead today. A livestream ceremony is underway at the site of the future archives.

    One catch: The center, as the New York Times reports, “won’t actually be a presidential library. In a break with precedent, there will be no research library on site, and none of Mr. Obama’s official presidential records. Instead, the Obama Foundation will pay to digitize the roughly 30 million pages of unclassified paper records from the administration so they can be made available online.”

    Alongside the center will sit a museum, a sports space, a test kitchen, an art plaza, a kids’ area, and a new branch of the Chicago Public Library. The breaking of ground hits bedrock on levels deeper than just the framing of a foundation. It comes on the heels of four years of Donald Trump’s damage to democracy and a still-going pandemic that’s scrambled all conventions of civic life. Obama’s center is the first in history without a physical archives room, making it a cementing of contrasts; a wager about what transparency looks like.

    Historians are still wrestling with just how transparent any digital archives can be, as Obama himself pondered in his memoir A Promised Land. His library puts to the test the promise of a promise, or as the philosopher Daniel Dennett intones in other contexts, belief in belief: If Obama’s legacy rests on his hypothesis of good governance as a way to broaden civic participation, his library runs that test through.

    Presidential libraries got their start with FDR’s during World War II, when defending democracy against authoritarianism was tested again. Every library since then has busied itself with enshrining a namesake’s legacy by tightly guarding a narrative. See Mother Jones2013 classic “8 Things You Won’t See at the George W. Bush Presidential Library.” But as a culmination of historical firsts, Obama’s center is thoroughly “cause for celebration,” as CNN rightly rejoices.

    Catch the livestream here.

  • “Birthday Under a Canopy”: A Climate Wish From MoJo’s Production Director

    If you’re like me and can’t carry a tune to save your life, so you speak the lyrics of “Happy Birthday” instead of bombing the singalong, there are better ways to celebrate: Ask questions and attend to the person’s answers. Happy birthday to Mother Jones’ production director, Claudia Smukler, who reluctantly agreed to a Q&A:

    Happy birthday, Claudia. What’s in store?

    I’m thinking about trees. Tomorrow I’m headed to the Pacific Northwest and Olympic National Park. After the dry, dusty, smoky summer in the Bay Area, the rainforest seems an inviting landscape to restore my mood. The investigative stories in our just-finished magazine, about carbon capture and agroforestry and climate collapse, bring up a lot for me. As MoJo’s production director, with a long career in magazine manufacturing, I’ve purchased a lot of paper. I have complicated feelings about that.

    We closed the magazine a week ago after a hard sprint, unthinkable without your expert helming of our production and marshaling of pages to the printer. What’s your secret? Caffeine? Music? Throwing darts at our copy editor on the wall?

    I enjoy creating magazines. I know where we need to go and what the endgame is, and guiding the process toward that goal takes energy and skills that I get to refine each time. I’ve been doing this a long time, and while it’s a similar effort every issue, there’s always something new. New staff to train or technical challenges to solve, or a contributor who needs more time. Shit breaks down and the story we thought was in the can at the start ends up being the last to ship—the nature of it. And yet it works. The creative process requires a lot from people, and the core team, each with a specific job, “gets it.” We learn to depend on each other’s skills and professionalism. That’s what gets us through. And the fact that we have a beautiful thing in the end to show for all that struggle.

    Speaking of a beautiful thing to show for struggle, what’s a birthday wish for readers who feel exhausted and drained by the onslaught of corruption at the core of American politics? What can you recommend to stay grounded?

    My birthday wish for Mother Jones readers and readers everywhere is that we make the investment in our species to provide a global standard of care and teach young people to read. Reading requires sustained education for years, community commitment at the highest level, and work to nurture each child’s ability to discover the truth about themselves and the world around them. Reading the news makes me wonder about that commitment. I was reminded recently—while pondering the collapse of Afghanistan and the fate of so many children—of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This treaty defined global standards for young people. Basic rights! The UN General Assembly adopted the convention and opened it for signature in November 1989, the year my own son was born. It was ratified the next year. But as of this month, 196 countries are party to the resolution, including every UN member, except the United States. My birthday wish is that citizens of the United States would raise hell till our government makes that basic commitment to children.

    See more of Claudia’s work in our upcoming magazine; subscribe here and send her birthday wishes at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • The Founders of Stop AAPI Hate’s Anti-Violence App Make Time’s 100 Most Influential List

    A few days ago, Time released its annual list of the 100 “most influential people.” As lists go, Time’s has always been a contingent one—as coveted as it is debated and criticized. But this year’s has some absolute powerhouses. Many deserve amplifying on all channels. Among them are the trailblazing founders of Stop AAPI Hate’s reporting tool that tracks surging violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.

    No coalition has done more to drive community-based tech solutions during the pandemic to combat assaults and advance restorative justice, the list says. Stop AAPI Hate is “an invaluable resource” not just for reporting and reducing harm but, in some cases, remedying it. The founders—Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Russell Jeung, and Cynthia Choi—launched the portal to cast light on a constant of American life that goes underreported by government agencies and major media. The nonprofit has logged more than 9,000 entries.

    Also on Time’s list are anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny, written about by Garry Kasparov; artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, written about by Ai Weiwei; Olympian Simone Biles, written about by Serena Williams; and, because “influential” is the only bar, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump. You’ll want to sit down for the rest. And it bears mentioning that Time’s prism, for all its transparency in methodology, is just one. Let us know about people in your life whose influence improves your day at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • After Shuttering for Almost Two Years, the Village Vanguard Reopens to Live Audiences

    Christopher Bierlein/Redferns/Getty

    The epicenter of jazz history in New York City, and an engine of its future, is up and running again. The Village Vanguard seated a live audience last night for the first time since the pandemic started, welcoming listeners with proof of COVID vaccination.

    The historical meaning of the club’s return was marked on its website in a note pointing out that the venue had bounced back similarly in 1947 after 6 million New Yorkers were vaccinated against smallpox in less than a month. The Vanguard hosted a band that year that played the uptempo “Don’t Wait, Gate—Let’s Vaccinate,” an improvisation that, as Billboard reported that spring, “aided the city’s inoculation drive.”

    As he arrived at the club last night, the pianist Jason Moran said, “It’s the season to wipe the rust away with tears,” before taking the stage with Ron Miles’ band. No pianist is more fitting to inaugurate the reopening. Moran, the artistic director of jazz at the Kennedy Center, is a treasure of historical exploration, evolution, and reference; versatile enough to encompass the styles and registers of blues, bebop, hard bop, modernist modes, and impressionistic palettes, and deliberative enough to see improvisation as a form of personal memory.

    Memory is central to jazz. Some musicians bottle and revere it, others obliterate it. But most jazz confronts memory, rarely so movingly as when Moran plays “Gentle Shifts South.” Give that song a listen below. It’s not a new release, but it is timeless, a breathtaking tribute to his grandparents. Overlaying the piano is a track of Moran’s grandparents reminiscing, their spoken speech recalling his lineage. Of all songs on rotation during the pandemic, few approximate the restorative impact of “Gentle Shifts South.”

    Two versions for you, one with his grandparents’ voices and one without. Let us know what you think at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • A Bright Light in COVID News: Vaccine Approval Could Be Near for 5- to 11-Year-Olds

    It’s not a done deal, but relief is on the horizon for children as young as 5 years old, as Pfizer and BioNTech will soon seek clearance for kids’ COVID vaccine use, Reuters reported this weekend. It’s a crucial line of hope for the millions of parents, teachers, and students waiting and wondering as schools return to in-person classes.

    As encouraging as the prospect is, uncertainty surrounds the timeline. The companies hope for clearance by the end of October, two sources told Reuters. Clearance has not yet been sought and the projection is based on the expectation that Pfizer “will have enough data from clinical trials to seek emergency use authorization.” Officials anticipate “the FDA could make a decision on whether the shot is safe and effective in younger children within three weeks of” submitting the data.

    There you have it. Welcome to the week. If you need a second push to get going, far afield of vaccine news, take a tour of the new Substack you’ve all been waiting for: Popping Tins. It’s a canned seafood newsletter to tide you over, the side hustle of the features editor at Vice. Give it a look. Even if you don’t slurp seafood from a can, you’ll enjoy the archival spelunking, aesthetic mapping, dryly funny asides. There are oysters and mussels and cockles and trout, oh my.

  • Take a Minute for 40 Things That Have Actually Gotten Better

    It’s Friday. I’m gonna wager that you won’t agree with everything on this list of what’s “gotten better” in the past 20 years. So, go ahead, order a la carte: On today’s menu is a seasonal assortment of purportedly good things crowdsourced by University of Virginia postdoctoral fellow David Walsh, who’d asked casually on Twitter: “What has gotten materially better in America in, say, the last twenty years?”

    Answers rang in. So many that Reason magazine editor Elizabeth Nolan Brown compiled top entries, from “HIV care” to “cannabis quality” to “home entertainment” to “information access.” Also in the winner’s circle: “bicycling infrastructure,” “digital reading experience,” “automobile efficiency and safety,” “acceptance of neurodiversity,” “restaurant food variety and quality [including vegetarian and vegan],” “cameras,” “digital video,” “smoking rates,” “getting dressed,” “hygiene products,” “being a nerd,” and, uh, an inappropriate one.

    If you can access each.

    As you were.

  • Artists in Louisiana Mobilize on Instagram for On-the-Ground Hurricane Relief

    In the days after Hurricane Ida made landfall in Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, leaving at least 26 dead and ravaging homes, historical sites, power lines, and cultural spaces, artists began organizing to shore up the staggering holes left by federal and state emergency response. From @IdaSupportNetwork to @IdaSupportNetworkNY, new Instagram accounts reposted requests for aid and material relief.

    The artists connected scores of people with “transportation, housing, and other time-sensitive resources, circulating a spreadsheet of individuals in need and others who can help, as well as running an emergency support hotline,” Valentina Di Liscia reported for Hyperallergic.

    “Our collective experience in the film industry definitely played a part in how we were able to organize ourselves to respond to Hurricane Ida,” New Orleans–based filmmaker Bron Moyi told her about his hand in raising tens of thousands of dollars to donate generators, lanterns, fuel, canned food, and other supplies, along with his colleagues Satie De Gend, Edward Buckles, and Cassandra Rumping. “Assembling a team, delegating tasks, using creativity as a problem-solving tool, and a high tolerance for stress and operating on lack of sleep all to achieve a common goal.”

    A deeper dive here, and share more hurricane-relief recharges at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Indigenous Hip-Hop Star J25 is the First Native Woman Inducted Into the Recording Academy

    In its six decades of presenting the Grammys, the Recording Academy has never inducted a Native American woman to be a judge, until now. Jezelle Childs-Evans, also known as J25, is the first.

    The Wisconsin-based hip-hop star will help judge submissions for the next awards ceremony, in late January, and she’s seeking the creation of an Indigenous category. Of the academy’s 11,000-plus members, women account for just 26 percent. Childs-Evans says her induction “gives me a chance to be a part of the change in the future of music,” she tells Wisconsin Public Radio’s Elizabeth Dohms-Harter.

    The Green Bay Press-Gazette’s Frank Vaisvilas, who covers Native communities, first ran the story—and WPR’s new podcast takes a deeper dive into Childs-Evans’ lyrics and life in an interview that foregrounds her fight for the return of land. Each song—from “Land Back” to “Indigenous”—excoriates state-sanctioned theft and familiar injustices but also affirms how wide-ranging and creatively diverse Native joy is. Her music enlarges and expands Indigenous identities and experiences beyond a single set of bounds.

    “Native American hip-hop / paving the way and it won’t stop / Aboriginal, flow original, got the red game in the gridlock,” she raps. “Indigenous, strong and resilient / 500 years and we’re still here / We weathered the storm like Trail of Tears / Going hard for my res like I’m Ada Deer / The creator help me see it clear.”

    “I’m just speaking facts / Missing Indigenous women all over the world / gotta put an end to that / We gonna need more leaders to lead us.”

    Her music video for “Indigenous” just had its premiere, and this short montage of ripping beats is a strong chaser.

  • “I Want to Make the Company Work for Me”: What Co-op Power Looks Like

    On Labor Day yesterday, we ran a series of photographs from six regions of the country, each answering an underlying question as aspirational as it is achievable: What does it look like when people are their own bosses? You can see the answers here.

    It’s a striking portrait—commissioned by Mother Jones in collaboration with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and Solutions Journalism Network—of how co-ops are returning power to workers in North Carolina, Alabama, Vermont, California, and other areas where labor rights is a paramount movement of civil rights. “It’s no wonder,” writes the author, Alissa Quart, “that people are drawn to a model that gives them back some power” in an era of “epic income inequality” and “corporate consolidation and union-busting” that reliably produce “unstable and episodic” work. The interest in co-ops marks a return to what one worker in the series calls making a “livelihood” rather than just earning a paycheck.

    To sustain a co-op, the portrait shows, is to be freer of the grasping moves of top-down profiteers who’d sooner vacation in space on rank-and-file dime and moonwalk in the media than invest more meaningfully in worker safety, security, and health. Give the photos a look.

  • All Right, Let’s Talk About the Poop in the Pit Thing

    Each Friday, we bring you an article from our archives to propel you into the weekend.

    In Santa Cruz, California, earlier this week, the unthinkable happened: Someone pooped in the pit. At a show for Turnstile—who released a new record, Glow On, this week—someone, um, yeah, they took a literal poop in the mosh pit and within the melee the feces was reportedly flung about!

    Turnstile is known for crazy shows. There’s an old Washington Post article about how they wrecked a new venue; that includes a fantastic two paragraphs about moshing/slam-dancing as juvenilia but also beautiful. My initial reaction was basically in that vein of an adult giddily re-finding a single pulsing emotion in modernity: That’s really funny that someone pooped in the pit because poop is funny! Others have pointed out it is unsanitary. Oh, yes, I shake my head. Yes. I see that, too. Poop is gross.

    Here’s my recommendation for how to get through this crisis of “How to think about poop in the pit”: Read more about feces. There’s a lot of stuff in our archives (kinda weirdly) about it. We’ve got explainers on whether it’s OK to poop in the woods; long pieces on fecal transplants; and an old report about how there is poop in hamburger meat(!). Another you should read about: bidets.

    So, first, everyone listen to the Turnstile album. Former MoJo writer Matt Cohen and I were chatting about it and realized both of us listened to it over a dozen times in less than 48 hours. (As a local DC guy, he sent me the WaPo link.) This record is an unstoppable machine. It’s like I am a 13 years old again and just playing the same music until it’s engraved in one part of my brain instead of a memory of my friends and/or family. A good analysis is over at Pitchfork, about how the album fits into the broader hardcore landscape—and what it means. Or, you know, just watch their live sets, especially the one in Baltimore, filmed for some reason like someone teleported back to the 1990s.

    And read our genuinely interesting and high-impact coverage about poop while you do.

    I hope that helps you out when thinking about the national crisis of Poop in the Pit 2021. I’m sorry I said poop so much.

  • “Rise, Stand Up”: An Indigenous Artist’s Vibrant New Mural in South Dakota

    Oglala artist Micheal Two Bulls' new mural in Rapid City, South Dakota, in a screenshot from Indian Country Today's televised interview with him by anchor Patty TalahongvaIndian Country Today

    Teeming with intensely colorful imagery and rich layers of Indigenous Oglala symbolism, the new mural by Micheal Two Bulls in Rapid City, South Dakota, is a gripping sight. His 40-by-25-foot mural was commissioned by the city’s Racing Magpie arts organization with CARES Act funding.

    In an interview televised yesterday by Indian Country Today reporter Patty Talahongva, he spoke about the mural’s imagery of a spiraling set of DNA strands with interlocking alphabetic letters: “I added the DNA strands to remind Indigenous people that we are from the land, and that’s blood memory. That’s with us regardless of where we are.”

    See the striking mural and hear his conversation here.

  • $7.5 Million in Stolen Wages Is Ordered Back to Hundreds of Ripped-Off Construction Workers

    More than 400 construction workers in New York City are recouping $7.5 million in wages after a city investigation found that dozens of contractors had ripped them off. The office that made the announcement, the Bureau of Labor Law, has also debarred 60 of the contractors.

    “Contractors who cheat workers and cut corners can never be tolerated, and especially not during a global pandemic,” said Kyle Bragg, president of the Service Employees International Union, echoing the statement by City Comptroller Scott Stringer: “During the economic hardship of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever that workers get the wages they are rightfully owed.”

    A city website has been launched with a directory of affected workers for anyone unsure of whether they’re entitled to the millions in wages, and a phone campaign is picking up pace to contact as many of the workers as possible.

    The news lands during Labor Rights Week, which runs through Friday. If you’ve got stories of collective action, accountability, and results beyond the week, let us know at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • A New Website Catalogs More Than 250 Black Films Currently Streaming

    Forget the idea that Black cinema primarily depicts a singular set of storylines and themes centered on shared trauma, says screenwriter Maya Cade, who spent a year cataloging more than 250 currently streaming Black films from between 1915 and 1979. Her effort to make that rich history easily accessible culminated in the launch of the Black Film Archive last week. From silent films to horror flicks to blockbuster comedies and romance, Black cinema spans ever-expanding genres and generations, now archived on her site.

    In her introductory note, Cade writes that the films in the archive “have something significant to say about the Black experience; speak to Black audiences; and/or have a Black star, writer, producer, or director.” The intentionally broad criteria is an attempt to expand the ways Black films are framed. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that the act of making Black film history accessible is the act of transforming collective memory,” Cade told me. “To intentionally preserve is to remember, and to remember is to reimagine what the future can hold. Here, the films can be many things, and among those things are being remembered, treasured, and seen.”

    Beyond archiving, Cade is also one of the vanishingly few people to use Twitter to spread joy, bringing snippets of cultural history—and countless gems from cinema as a whole—to her followers’ feeds every day. She’ll continue updating the archive monthly and maintaining a supplemental newsletter. Explore the rich range of Black film: If you find yourself with an hour to spare, pick a movie and start streaming.

  • The First Afghan Woman in the Paralympics Since 2004 Prepares to Compete

    ND Prashant/International Paralympic Committee

    As Afghanistan starts the week with dire developments, 23-year-old Zakia Khudadadi is forging ahead against a backdrop of unfolding crises at home: The taekwondo athlete is the country’s first woman to compete in the Paralympics in almost two decades. She’s in Tokyo now, set to appear on Thursday after having safely left Kabul on the strength of a videotaped appeal to international officials: “I request from you all that I am an Afghan woman and as a representative of Afghan women ask for you to help me” get to the Paralympics, she said in a recording that galvanized support.

    “That announcement kickstarted a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan…and now their safe arrival in Tokyo,” International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said in reference to Khudadadi and 26-year-old sprinter Hossain Rasouli. Their journey from Kabul to Paris to Tokyo came as officials scrambled to move them through a network of fixers. More from the New York Times this morning:

    Many details of their journey have not been disclosed, and officials have said that the athletes will not be speaking to the news media during the Paralympic Games. Several attempts to evacuate the athletes failed, and Paralympic organizers have said that their eventual arrival in Japan involved multiple steps and the assistance of many organizations and governments.

    As one athlete on the US wheelchair basketball team said, Paralympic Village is “one of the most accepting places on the planet.” For a bigger-picture look at the historical forces and rapidly escalating scenes facing women in Afghanistan right now, our colleague Madison Pauly has a sharp overview. And Mariel Padilla at The 19th has an insightful glimpse with more context.

  • Revisiting Alice Coltrane’s Legacy on the 84th Anniversary of the Pianist and Harpist’s Birth

    Alice Coltrane in 1998Hiroyuki Ito/Getty

    “I remember her coming up in Detroit, where I’m from,” the pianist Geri Allen told me in 2007, one day after Alice Coltrane had made her exit from this world and one year after Allen herself had composed a towering, timeless suite, For the Healing of the Nations.

    Coltrane was—much like Allen—a spiritually searching, universally acclaimed pianist and educator “who musicians would refer to at the time: They would speak of Alice McLeod and how much respect they had for her talent. Her technique was fleet and fierce,” Allen said.

    That legacy, and Coltrane’s devotional drive, continues to expand: Her recordings from 1981 were newly released this summer, and her impact reverberates across countless chords. “What that person with an instrument is doing,” Coltrane told me in 2006, “is portraying, or rendering, what’s in your heart, what’s in your spirit, what’s in your mind—what is in your soul. So do you call that music? If we have to name it, let it be ‘music,’ but it really isn’t music for music’s sake. What is coming out of that person’s heart is your life’s experiences, your life’s tests, your life’s challenges, your life’s hopes, dreams. It’s everything. It is everything.”

    “Being a mother now, I have three children and I saw Alice a number of times with her children,” Allen said. “That had a big impression on me—what she represents,” not just in strides for justice and equality in a field historically framed for and by the reverence and reporting of men in jazz, but also as a pioneer whose impact spans genres, generations, and continents. “I first saw her perform in Europe. It was beautiful watching her daughter Miki make sure she had everything she needed. I saw her in Detroit recently and I needed to connect with her. Ravi and I have played together for years and he graciously took me backstage to meet Alice. She was a spiritual avatar.”

    As singer Abbey Lincoln put it to me that year, “Alice Coltrane now…There’s a song I wrote and I want to say a few of the lines: ‘There are some folks I used to know / who used to smile and say hello / and spin the world and turn the page / entertaining from the stage. Father Time forever true / love its own and me and you / disappear just like the sun / when the day is done.'”

    Coltrane’s legacy, like Lincoln’s and Allen’s, evokes an aspect of American history summed up in the words of Farah Jasmine Griffin, the jazz educator and author who told me, “We always think of Alice in relationship to John but I think of her in relationship to Dorothy Ashby as well—that whole Detroit-woman harp-player scene. I saw her when she and Ravi were in New Jersey. It was like greeting royalty who’d been in exile. From the moment Alice walked onstage, she could do no wrong. The crowd was a range of devotees: Amina and Amiri Baraka were there, Cornel West.”

    “With the exception of Abbey Lincoln, whose audience is always captive, Alice had a palpable love that almost no one else really has.”

    As the bassist Reggie Workman said of Alice, “If you listen to the album we did at UCLA, Transfiguration, it’s hard to hear it without hearing the special way she dealt with harmony. She brought strings into an improvisational trance…Alice was a special spirit.”

    “I first saw Alice when I was with Dizzy Gillespie,” the saxophonist Yusef Lateef recalled. “We were in southwest Detroit at the Westin Hotel after-hours session, and she would come and sit in. Her brother, Ernie Farrow, worked with me too. Sonny Stitt was there. Barry Harris, Paul Chambers, Hugh Lawson. The object is to find your own voice. And Alice did.”

    An essential feature of Coltrane’s framing in the media was distilled vividly by the artist and author Thulani Davis, who told me, “Alice Coltrane is the only person I have ever seen who initially received obituaries that bore the picture of a deceased spouse instead of herself. I suppose that says it all, as far as how this culture was able to perceive her. Alice’s music was sacred music. So the fact that she is seen primarily as John Coltrane’s widow also speaks to the fact that creating sacred music made her somewhat invisible in a culture that does not know what to do with the truly sacred.”

    Alice McLeod Coltrane, also known by her Sanskrit name, Turiyasangitananda, was born 84 years ago today. She grew up in an era when Detroit was the epicenter of spiritually expansive jazz and soul. She wove up-tempo arpeggios with cascading, trancelike ragas and a sweeping use of octaves to build layers of color and harmony. But as her contemporaries and listeners point out, to stop there—to isolate her style—is to overlook the underlying reason her sound endures: Through her music, she gave listeners a revealing look into her character as a boundary-pushing spiritualist.

    If you want more, email recharge@motherjones.com and I’ll share an excerpt of the podcast I recorded with Alice Coltrane—her last—with Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, and Pharoah Sanders, all in one, in honor of Alice.

  • After a 10-Day Strike, a Cleaners Union Wins a Landmark Contract With Pay Raises and Safety Reinforcements

    About 40 cleaners of high-rise windows in Minneapolis saw their demands met after 10 days of striking. Their new contract is the culmination of a yearslong fight for safer working conditions, pay raises, increased sick days and disability support, and a life-saving apprenticeship program. High-rise cleaning is a risky industry made harder and more hazardous by the lagging promises of employers before and during the pandemic. Half of the workers had contracted COVID while working during the pandemic, according to their union.

    Their action was closely reported by In These Times’ Hamilton Nolan, Minnesota Reformer’s Max Nesterak, and a growing group of labor reporters who see in local action a national model for driving results. As our Mother Jones colleague Bryan Schatz wrote two years ago, “Workers strike when they see that strikes work,” an assessment borne out in recent months. Revisit his interview with veteran labor organizer Jane McAlevey in “Why the Labor Strike Is Back.” And send more recharges on labor action to recharge@motherjones.com.

  • Afghanistan’s All-Girls Robotics Team Members Are Safely Relocated, and Their Documentary Is Pressing Ahead

    Pedro Pardo/AFP/Getty

    As evacuation efforts and the safe passage of girls and women in Afghanistan are increasingly imperiled under Taliban control, there was a big note of good news yesterday and this morning. The country’s all-girls robotics team, winner of international awards, has safely relocated. Several members landed in Mexico, where humanitarian visas run for up to 180 days with the option of extension, and others in Qatar, made possible by an extensive international effort and coordination from a volunteer group.

    “We are happy to be here,” team member Fatemah Qaderyan said. The team gained fame last year by developing a low-cost ventilator for coronavirus patients using old car parts. Their story of evading Taliban searches was published yesterday with permission in vivid detail by Variety’s international editor, Manori Ravindran: “On the way from Herat to Kabul, we were very scared. Every hour, the Taliban would enter the car and check the inside of the car,” one of the girls said. “I myself was in a tent in the car so that they would not recognize me. My father is worried about us, because our lives are in danger.”

    The team of girls and women, as young as 14, is also pressing ahead on a documentary. Their forthcoming film—Afghan Dreamers, named after the original team of six girls—is in post-production. Read the full story. Share encouraging updates when you have them, of the team’s or your own, at recharge@motherjones.com.

  • A Two-Song Salute to Wayne Shorter, Jazz’s Foundational Force, Who Turns 88 Today

    Wayne Shorter in 1987Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty

    “You were a champion and still are. You’re always gonna be a champion to me,” the saxophonist Wayne Shorter told the drummer Roy Haynes in our Mother Jones tribute on Haynes’ 96th birthday this year—and the recognition runs both ways. Shorter, who turns 88 today, is, as one listener summed up in a quote highlighted by Michelle Mercer in her biography Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter, “jazz’s all-around genius, matchless in his field as composer, utterly original as an improviser.”

    Shorter is a pillar of the postwar canon and an evolving adventurer, from hard bop to fusion to operatic ballads boundlessly open with space and time. For his 88th birthday, start with the classic “Footprints.” Herbie Hancock, who’s on there, gets straight to the heart of Shorter’s music in the foreword of Mercer’s book: “Wayne has gleaned deeper meaning from a question by using it as a springboard for an answer that will ‘knock your socks off’ and perhaps change your life for the better.”

    For a live listen, spin “Free for All” by Shorter and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. If you’re looking to tussle, email us at recharge@motherjones.com to spar over whether Shorter’s version of “Free for All” is more electrifying than, or equally as jolting as, Bobby Watson’s “Free for All” on Blakey’s own birthday at Bubba’s in Florida on October 11, 1980.

    Also in today’s birthday lineup is Linda May Han Oh, the fast-rising bassist who turns 37 and who was named 2021’s bassist of the year by the Jazz Journalists Association. Her vital, expansive music is extraordinary in settings with pianist Vijay Iyer and drummer Tyshawn Sorey, most recently on Uneasy, an album that traces the contours and connections of jazz, justice, and social change.

  • “Working Class History” Is Preparing to Launch a Labor Rights App. Crowdfunding Is on Pace to Get It Done.

    For the past seven years, Working Class History has been a Twitter feed, podcast, website, and gallery of images and information in labor rights across the world. It’s a trove of multilingual milestones in collective organizing and worker action, mining the archives and not-so-public records. And the project is growing fast. The team at WCH is crowdfunding to launch an app.

    The place to start, if you’re new to @wrkclasshistory, is “On This Day,” a series that in the past few days has commemorated one of the most iconic strikes of the 1970s, when a workforce of predominantly South Asian and East African Asian women in London banded together and walked off the job for nearly two years, and marked the 97th birthday yesterday of Madeleine Riffaud. The French resistance fighter, at 20 years old, in 1944, overtook a Nazi supply train with three other resistance fighters. She also wrote poetry and became a journalist, and Picasso drew her portrait for her poetry collection. Here’s an inspiring interview with Riffaud when she was 92 years old; hat tip to historian Anne Sebba.

    Working Class History’s English-language campaign is here; in Arabic (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), Farsi (Twitter, Instagram, Telegram), French (Instagram, Facebook), Norwegian (Facebook), Portuguese (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter), Romanian (Facebook), Spanish (Instagram, Facebook), Swedish (Facebook). Coming up: Hindi, Italian, Irish, German, Turkish, and several other languages.