Writing: Opinions, essays, interviews and live events

The Secret to South LA's Success is That It Loves Itself

It’s one thing to put in the hard work to improve a community, but when do you declare success?

That was the topic up for discussion at a packed event at Mercado La Paloma, where the consensus was that in long-maligned South Los Angeles, that time is now. A newly released study on Latino engagement in the historically African-American area demonstrates both the tremendous progress of the entire community and that, “there’s no single story of South L.A.”

Death Row's IQ Divide - LA Times

In this op-ed I argued against a U.S. Supreme Court decision that led to wildly varied application of the death penalty in different states for inmates with mental impairment. Seven years later the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down.

If TV Wants to Bring America Together, It Needs to Show Bipartisan Empathy

Who knew showrunners were so damn interesting? Maybe everyone but me, until I had the chance to hear from them at this live event, where the conversation focused on the role of television in bridging cultural divides. Jennie Snyder Urman, showrunner for Jane the Virgin, said it’s important to understand every character, “from the most evil villain to the family unit at home.” Empathy, she said, is “the catchphrase in the writer’s room,” with scripts given a painstaking review from every character’s point of view.

A is for Afro - Mother Jones

The essay that led to my forthcoming book. Here's a taste: At school assemblies, we joined hands and sang “We Shall Overcome.” No one wished for this more than I, though the verse in our version declaring “black and white together, someday,” with its resolution fixed on some eternally future date, was cold comfort to a child compelled to confront it now.

Women Are (Still) Underrepresented in Newsrooms and It's Worst for Women of Color Here are 5 Reasons Why - Poynter

What's it going to take for us to get this right? Harassment and burnout are among the explanations for journalism's pernicious race and gender gaps.

People Are Still Arguing About Robert Mapplethorpe, And It's Not About Porn

Nearly three decades after the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe escalated the culture wars and made him an embattled hero in the art world, his work continues to provoke and inspire. Arty types break it down at this live event. 

From Working Poor to Working More

If you compare how many hours Americans are working with Canada and Europe, Americans are working the most. This flies in the face of the myth that poor people are poor because they are lazy.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? No U.S. Journalists of Color Speak at Conference on Future of Media

The title pretty much speaks for itself...

What’s Wrong With This Picture, Part II

...and here's the followup.







Calvin Washington at the 

C&E Motel, Room No. 24, Waco, Texas, where an informant claimed to have heard him confess. Washington served 13 years of a life sentence for murder he did not commit. Photo: Taryn Simon, The Innocents. (Click on image for link to Simon's website.)



Injustice for All

This interview with renowned photographer Taryn Simon explores her work over three years crisscrossing the country, interviewing and photographing 45 men and one woman who had been freed from prison with the help of the Innocence Project. The wrongful convictions occurred in 18 states, from California to Kentucky, Texas to Indiana. The result, in The Innocents, is something far removed from classic photojournalism, or even traditional photo portraiture. In many instances, especially those shot at the scene of the crime, the combination of light and posture suggests that the subject is superimposed on the background, an effect Simon consciously sought.

Hurts So Good

That time I ran a marathon to raise money for Aids Project Los Angeles, and blogged about it.

An Editor Like Bernard

Editors like Bernard are as rare as Los Angeles rain. An appreciation for a great editor and teacher.

A Deeper Purpose -LA Times

In which I suggest some alternative uses for the land now occupied by the Silver Lake Reservoir.

Globalization Doesn't Have to Be a Winner-Take-All Deal

California has benefitted greatly from globalization—from cheap T-shirts, to leaps in technology, to proximity to Asia, to its agricultural exports. Why, then, is it disparaged by political leaders—as dissimilar as President Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders—as a boon to very few, at the expense of most? This live event brought together some sharp minds to explore the question. I was especially drawn to the insights of Katherine Stone, an expert in labor law at UCLA School of Law, who observed that no matter how you measure it, it’s clear that in globalization, “there are winners and losers, and the losers haven’t been adequately compensated or supported.” That could change, she said, with a shift in social policies and economic programs “that might make them winners as well.”

Can Hawaii Be America's Bridge to Asia—And the World?

As Asia continues its rapid advance in the global economy, the resources of Hawaii—as well as its strategic geography—uniquely position it as a portal into the future of relations between the U.S., Asia, and the world. Or as Admiral Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, put it: “Location, location, location.”

Families, Devalued - LA Observed

Concern over the rising number of homeless families in Los Angeles isn't a new problem--as this piece demonstrates the numbers were growing even before Barack Obama took office.