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At Liberty

Podcast At Liberty
Podcast At Liberty

At Liberty


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  • Bars Behind Bars: The Use of Rap Lyrics in Court
    When Ice-T and his band, Body Count, released the song “Cop Killer” in 1992, it spurred outrage. At the time, Bill Clinton and George Bush were running for president, and condemning “Cop Killer” was among the handful of stances where they found common ground. Officials and police departments called for a complete boycott of Time Warner Inc. for refusing to halt the sales of the song. In response, Time Warner publicly stated its unshakable commitment to stand by freedom of expression and argued that “Cop Killer” is an "artist's rap on how a person in the street feels." "It's a shout of pain and protest," and "raw with rage and resentment." Professor Carrie Fried of Winona State University conducted a long study that year in an attempt to contextualize this dialogue in research; she found that participants exhibited several implicit biases. they were more likely to find one of two songs with the same lyrical content more threatening and offensive if they thought it came from a Black artist or fell under the genre of rap. She also found that participants were quick to pin violent lyrics on the rap genre, even when they came from folk songs. So what happens when these implicit biases sit on the jury in a real criminal case? Across the country, rap lyrics are on trial as prosecutors pull from the expressive words of artists, and judges deem these songs to be admissible evidence in court. Joining us today to discuss this evolution of this practice is Erik Nielson, professor at the University of Richmond and co-author of the book Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America. We are also joined by New Orleans rapper, songwriter, and former member of the 504boyz Mac Phipps, who experienced firsthand how the use of lyrics on trial can lead to a wrongful conviction.
  • It's Time to Tell Accurate Indigenous Stories
    This week as we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we want to challenge our listeners to acknowledge and honor the day as a National Day of Mourning for indigenous people. The truth of this holiday isn’t that white people from Europe and the Wampanoag people in Plymouth, Massachusetts sat down to eat a nice meal together, celebrating a fall harvest. The true story of Thanksgiving is one of brutal genocide, theft of land, and the beginning of a relentless assault on native people and culture. This is a hard truth, but it is one we must acknowledge in order to reconcile our past and do better in the future. As we gather with family and friends, we encourage you to bring this conversation to bear. Today we’re running a conversation from our archive featuring indigenous artist and educator Josué Rivas in conversation with Molly Kaplan, one of At Liberty’s old hosts. Josué is a visual storyteller, educator, creative director, and self-described “Indigenous futurist.” He descended from the Mexica Otomi peoples. He aims to challenge the “mainstream narrative about Indigenous peoples,” and to “be a visual messenger for those in the shadows of our society.” His work has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, and National Geographic — to name a few publications. He is also the founder of the 2018 Standing Strong Project, a tribute to the Water Protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota, and co-founder of Natives Photograph, a database for photo editors looking to hire indigenous photographers in North America.
  • Alok Vaid-Menon on the Fight for Gender Freedom
    This week, we are re-airing a conversation we had with Alok Vaid-Menon in early June, before we had the final Dobbs decision. Alok’s work is always salient but with the recent midterm election results showing an overwhelming affirmation of reproductive access, we believe their call for transformative thinking around gender essentialism and bodily autonomy is a way both to celebrate the wins at the polls and drive us towards a more expansive and imaginative vision of what’s possible from here. Alok Vaid-Menon is a nonbinary writer, performer, public speaker, activist and artist exploring the themes of trauma, belonging, and the human condition. They are the author of Femme in Public, Beyond the Gender Binary, and Your Wound/My Garden. Alok has done a lot of work to interrogate their history, our collective history, and to probe beneath the surface of what we’ve come to accept as the norm. They challenge us all to use our imagination to re-wire what we believe is possible for ourselves and society around us. This is a really special conversation and our team, quite honestly, all felt gob-smacked by Alok’s perspective. We let this conversation run long because we wanted you all to experience it and take it in as we did.
  • Abortion Rights Won the Midterms, Now What?
    This week, voters went to the polls to elect their representatives at every level of government. Most notably for us at the ACLU, the midterms are the first opportunity to get a national sense of where voters are sitting on abortion access since the June overturn of Roe v. Wade. We are also on guard watching for voting rights violations and are eager to make sure every ballot is counted. So far we are cautiously optimistic and hopeful about the positive progress for civil rights and civil liberties and so today we are checking in with the experts, the morning after election day, to see how they’re feeling about the future of our reproductive freedom and voting rights work. Joining us are J.J. Straight, the ACLU’s Liberty Division Deputy Director and Zara Haq, a Senior Campaign Strategist, both J.J. and Zara sit in our National Political Advocacy Department. Text ACT to 82623 to sign up for ongoing, automated text alerts from ACLU and its affiliates about ways to take action and support the ACLU Organizations. Msg & Data Rates May Apply. Text STOP to cancel or HELP for info.
  • What's on Your Midterm Ballot?
    The midterm elections are just around the corner. On Tuesday, November 8th, all across the country will vote for our representatives in Congress and in our state government. On the ballot, we have 435 House seats, 35 Senate seats, 27 secretary of state seats, and many more positions to vote for. We know that midterms can be hard to piece through. There's so much information. Down ballot races don't get a lot of airtime, and many states have important ballot initiatives to consider. The ACLU is a nonpartisan organization, so we don't tell voters who to vote for, but we do inform voters about what's at stake in an election. So here is what's at stake. Abortion access is on the ballot, and so are LGBTQ rights, voting rights, immigrant rights, and criminal, legal and criminal legal reform. To help break it all down. We have a special episode today that will arm you with all that you need to know in order to vote your values at the polls. Joining as our resident guide is Kary Moss, the ACLU's Acting National Political Director and the Director of Affiliate Support and Nationwide Initiatives. Additional Resources:

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