What We Learned from Watching Doug Jones Beat a Predator

The Nation, December 12, 2017

Tonight in Alabama, Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore in a dramatic race for US Senate. After zigzagging the state in a final rush of campaigning, Jones pulled off a nail-biting victory after a lurid election season that captured national attention. Since 2010, when Alabama Democrats lost the majority in the state legislature, the Democratic Party has struggled to revive itself. Today’s outcome showed Democrats down South have a pulse.

The Purple Tide in Alabama Politics

Scalawag, August 15, 2017

Demetrius Griffin works at a Dollar General in Birmingham, but he wants to be a police officer someday.

During a recent night shift, I watched the 20-year-old behind the neon-lit counter as he held court. He is enviably easy with people. When he flashed an elderly lady a smile while bagging her groceries, she literally shimmied her shoulders with delight.

Meet Randall Woodfin, the Mayoral Challenger Bringing the Political Revolution to Birmingham

In These Times, August 21, 2017

Mike Hamilton opens his door in a sleeveless Harley Davidson shirt. He’s got a shaggy goatee and a big grin. “Randall Woodfin!” the 63-year-old web developer says before any introductions.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon in Glen Iris, a diversely populated historic neighborhood south of downtown Birmingham, and I wonder if I’m being duped. Woodfin is smiling, too. He swears the day’s canvass isn’t staged.

Birmingham’s New Mayor Randall Woodfin on How to Win the Political Revolution Down South

In These Times, October 12, 2017

On Oct. 3, Randall Woodfin beat two-term incumbent William Bell in a combative runoff election to become the next mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.

Woodfin’s platform includes sweeping progressive policies such as debt-free college for high school graduates, a summer jobs program for city teens and a $15 minimum wage.

Woodfin beat Bell by a staggering 17 points, even winning Bell’s own neighborhood precinct. The 36-year-old challenger ran a year-long campaign that combined tech-savvy communication and data techniques with an old-fashioned grassroots ground game. His campaign team claims it knocked on 50,000 doors and made direct contact with 19,000 people. AL.com political reporter Kyle Whitmire said Woodfin’s campaign was the smartest he’d ever seen in Birmingham politics.

The Art of Missionary Mary Proctor

Bitter Southerner, November 2016

I admit it. I thought I’d drive to Tallahassee to visit Mary Proctor as if I were on some spiritual journey, where I’d be graced by her magnetic presence and mystical wisdom, then return home, my infant son glowing on my newly enlightened hip.

Write, wait for publication; wave away compliments with a demure smile.

But expecting a black artist to shine light on a white woman’s life to make for a good essay is stereotypical at best, racist at worst, and it’s as careless as telling Mary’s story as it’s been told before, like a fairytale — “Triumph Over Tragedy in American Folk Art!” I was really setting out to discover some capital-T truth about who Mary is and why her art breeds kindred with her fellow Southerners.

Harper Lee Is Memorialized as She Lived: Quietly and Privately

New York Times, February 20th, 2016

Friends and family from around the corner and across the country gathered here on Saturday to pay final respects to Harper Lee, the author whose Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about racial inequality in the South during the Jim Crow era inspired generations of readers.

A dense fog that had shrouded this small town lifted as mourners filed into the First United Methodist Church, which Ms. Lee attended for many years, for a simple, private service that lasted about an hour.

The relatively small guest list of perhaps 40 people included nephews and other relatives of the publicity-shy author, as well as friends from her hometown and places afar like New York City, where she once lived and had written her celebrated book, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Christians Could Swing Alabama’s Senate Election

Scalawag, November 27, 2017

Last week, someone spray painted the word “rapist” across a big, wooden Roy Moore sign near my house in Birmingham. Someone else ripped Moore’s name from a voter registration flyer posted in the women’s restroom of the coffee shop near my son’s school. Meanwhile, yard signs for Democratic hopeful Doug Jones are popping up across the state—from Huntsville to Gadsden and Montgomery to Mobile.

On December 12, the nation will be watching to see if a homegrown backlash against the Republican candidate will translate into enough votes for a Democrat to win the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.

Jones, whose campaign hasn’t emphasized faith, may be dependent on the very voters Moore believes are in his own pocket: Christians. While some evangelicals are standing with Moore, going so far as to equate the candidate’s taste for young girls to the carpenter Joseph wedding a teenage Mary, not every Christian in the state can wave away recent allegations with a holy wand.

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