Da'Shawn Mosley became an editor of Sojourners magazine in 2017, after he served as Sojourners' online assistant from 2016-2017. He earned a B.A. in English Language and Literature from the University of Chicago and graduated from the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, where he studied and briefly taught creative writing. Da'Shawn is passionate about the arts and social justice; he is interested in stories about class, gender, politics, pop culture, race, religion, and sexuality. In 2012, he was named a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts by the White House and the Department of Education for his works of creative nonfiction.
Da'Shawn was a researcher for two documentaries by the Oscar and Emmy-winning filmmaker Kirk Simon (The Pulitzer at 100, Where Has All the Play Gone?) and was featured in the PBS documentary Becoming an Artist. His poem "I Don't Know" was published in the anthology The Best Teen Writing of 2011 and received a Scholastic Art & Writing Award from former poetry editor of The New Yorker Alice Quinn, NAACP Image Award winner Nikki Giovanni, Pulitzer Prize winner Vijay Seshadri, and other luminaries. An excerpt of his essay "Dark Matter" was exhibited in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. Da'Shawn is a native son of South Carolina.
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In the Mourning
This mourning begins with eyes:
ours which open
and the eyes a gun closed,
the barrel a chamber in which there is found no heart,
for every latch and mechanism of the machine moves with menace
and every finger entangled and wound around its trigger
draws closed the stage curtains of peace.
This mourning begins with flesh—
our stance under a persistent sun
as a body stretches across a coroner’s table like the hide of a deer.
In such an occasion, a body’s bullet holes
become mouths. They speak of the perils our muscles
hope not to know. They reveal what it’s like
to be whole and come undone
and linger like litter.
For you, we combine this mourning
with the mournings that have become before it.
How to be a Bystander
Bio: Gail Hyder Wiley is the organizer of Charlottesville Gathers, a group in Charlottesville, Va., that has taught hundreds of people nonviolent active bystander tactics and encourages resistance against racism, especially resistance led by people of color.
What inspired Charlottesville Gathers to organize nonviolent active bystander training? I saw what was happening after the election—that people were getting assaulted and demeaned, and it was just turning into a dangerous place for people who are outside of the spectrum of white privilege. There were a lot of people in December 2016 talking about the resistance, but there didn’t seem to be much training going on. I was impressed by the stories of people who used church basements, during the civil rights movement, to teach people nonviolent civil disobedience. I thought, “Okay, I belong to a church that has this big library, and it sits idle some nights, so why don’t we use that and bring in people who can help the community learn how to grapple with what we’re dealing with.”
What acts of racism have occurred in Charlottesville since last summer? There has been a string of incidents of white supremacists targeting our community that hasn’t made the news: white supremacist stickers placed over the new road sign for “Heather Heyer Way,” an activist’s tires getting slashed, and countless more insults and threats. Our immigrant neighbors have been fearful as the policies of our current president have become apparent, and the violence of the white supremacists in our area has amplified that fear.
A Flood of Wonder
TO BE A FATHER is to be an example, and the writer Silas House knows this well. His latest novel, Southernmost, is the story of a father and pastor named Asher who strives to do what’s right, while his young son, Justin—who is distrustful of the church—watches.
But Asher’s quest for morality places him on a path of unwanted attention and threatens to separate him from Justin, until Asher makes the questionable decision to take his son with him on a journey for which neither of them are prepared.
Rarely have the church’s tensions about homosexuality—and how deeply those tensions can fracture a family—been explored in fiction. But with this, his sixth novel, House explores how Asher’s relationship with his wife, Lydia, disintegrates when, to Asher’s disgust, she turns away a gay couple in need of shelter after a flood. House examines Asher’s heart, which is broken over his failure to defend his brother Luke when they were young, forcing Luke to go it alone in dealing with societal hatred over his sexual orientation. In Asher’s heart, House finds hope and desire for a faith that welcomes more than it excludes.
Our 2018 Movement Honorees
MANY PEOPLE TALK about the injustices in the world but do nothing to rectify them. This can’t be said about the following five leaders—pastors, activists, lawyers, businesspeople, and artists—who Sojourners will recognize as “movement honorees” at the June 13-15 Summit 2018. These innovators are doing what Jesus did: taking God’s vision of the world and spurring others toward that ideal. Rev. Brittany Caine-Conley
Rev. Brittany Caine-Conley
“I learned pretty early about myself,” Caine-Conley told Sojourners, “that the concepts of justice and righteousness were really important concepts to me.”
Cue Aug. 12, 2017. While much of the nation watched from afar the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Caine-Conley encountered the physical threats in person as she protested the white nationalist rally in her city. Caine-Conley and other protesters were shoved by supporters of the Unite the Right rally. And the car that a Nazi sympathizer plowed—apparently on purpose—into a crowd of protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer, also injured an affiliate of Congregate Charlottesville, the local faith-based social justice network Caine-Conley, United Church of Christ minister, helped organize.
“It was the most horrible thing I’ve ever experienced,” Caine-Conley said to Vox about seeing the wounded, who were lying in the street in the car’s wake.
And yet Caine-Conley believes it is her duty to be wherever tragedies like this happen—to put herself in harm’s way.
Love on Wheels
Bio: Bruce Schoup was pastor of Peace Congregational United Church of Christ in Clemson, S.C., when the church started a new outreach project. The goal: Build a mobile “tiny house” to serve as temporary residence for LGBTQ people kicked out of their homes due to their gender and sexual identities. Nationally, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.
#WomenCrushWednesday: Toni Morrison, A Champion of Black Literature
Morrison’s wisdom and her immense love for blackness — a heritage, but also a color often used to describe evil and evoke disgust — have been blessings to the world for almost half a century. She has written and published eleven novels, numerous children’s books and nonfiction books, two plays, a libretto for an opera, and despite being 87-years-old, she shows no signs of stopping.
The 'Prestige' of the Grammys Denies Great Art
In a world that’s all about the Benjamins, in which art is endlessly asked to compromise to rake in the dough, artists need as much support as they can get to create art that questions the status quos of their medium and our society. Great art depicts us as who we are, while it also shows us who we can be. If we don’t give it the attention it deserves, and reward it accordingly, fewer artists will be brave enough to give us work like Kendrick Lamar’s sonically raw Christian social justice commentary To Pimp a Butterfly; Lorde’s boundary-testing, lyrically complex Melodrama; or Beyoncé’s soul-bearing, historically sweeping musical project Lemonade.
Can This Country Be Saved?
TA-NEHISI COATES is an atheist, but in We Were Eight Years in Power he atones for sin. In a 2008 article about Bill Cosby for The Atlantic, Coates failed to thoroughly report on the sexual assault allegations brought against the comedian, only mentioning them briefly. On page 12 of We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates repents. “That was my shame,” he writes. “That was my failure. And that was how this story began.”
By “this story,” Coates means his ongoing career as a correspondent for The Atlantic, during which he has received a MacArthur genius grant, a National Magazine Award, and several other honors for his writings on race in America. Coates is one of the nation’s most popular living chroniclers of the plight of African Americans. But despite that, he is acutely aware of his failings.
We Were Eight Years in Power is both a collection of Coates’ best articles published by The Atlantic and criticism of those pieces. Prefacing most of the articles are short essays by Coates about the stage of life he was in when he wrote each article, the pieces’ triumphs, and their flaws. With sometimes savage specificity, the essays map the evolution of Coates’ writing skills as well as his personal foibles. At the same time, the articles themselves document the flaws of the United States and how the country consistently does wrong by its African-American citizens in favor of doing more than right by its white citizens.
Coates’ writing process is a metaphor for the social corrective he pursues: the abolishment of white supremacy.
A Different Kind of Healing Ministry
Ruby Garner is a health educator for Health People, an organization in New York’s South Bronx that provides services to people in need. She is an adviser to the AIDS Institute of the New York State Department of Health and partners with her church, First Corinthian Baptist in Manhattan, to provide medical care to its lower-income neighbors.
1. What inspired you to partner with your church? Being able to give to my community, which has a lot of disparities, and deliver information and resources to people who need them is my passion. Working at Health People, I do presentations on behalf of the state of New York on diabetes prevention, health care for women, HIV, how to establish and maintain healthy relationships, and other topics. It made sense to take what I already do and bring it to my church.
The Horror of 'I, Tonya'
From rural, residential life to news cameras to FBI investigations, I, Tonya is a sweeping view of an America that has barely changed since 1994, and certainly hasn’t improved much. It’s a film about how, in the words of screenwriter Steven Rogers, “America wants someone to love, but they also want someone to hate.”
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