Feb 4, 2021 4 min read

#279: The Black Art Of Escape

#279: The Black Art Of Escape

Is it already February? Indeed it is, so says the calendar . Loyal readers, thank you for opening up today’s issue of The Highlighter, and I hope that your Thursday has begun well. Here’s a fun fact about how I compile this newsletter: For the most part, I do not save articles for future weeks or tr

Is it already February? Indeed it is, so says the calendar. Loyal readers, thank you for opening up today’s issue of The Highlighter, and I hope that your Thursday has begun well.

Here’s a fun fact about how I compile this newsletter: For the most part, I do not save articles for future weeks or try to organize them around a common theme. That means that what gets featured here represents my favorite articles I’ve read over the past week, and usually, you get a wide range of pieces on different topics that seemingly have no relationship with each other. But sometimes, like this week, the articles talk to each other.

Today you’ll read four perspectives on resistance and resilience. The lead article, “The Black Art of Escape,” explores one man’s approach to contending with 400 years of racism, while the other three pieces discuss resistance to capitalism, the pandemic, and climate change. I hope you enjoy them. Please hit reply and tell me what you think.

The Art Of Escape: A Vision For Black Americans

The Art Of Escape: A Vision For Black Americans

Casey Gerald: “We — if you are who I hope you are — still find ourselves, 400 years later, in a bind, or a country. Our country. We have learned and taught so many tactics to survive in it. To assimilate, best we can. To fight for our rights, even to the death. Yet here we are, shit in fan, wondering (at least, I wonder) what may be our next best move. I have come back to offer a way — one that saved me, just as it once saved our flying forebears: the Black art of escape. No one, in these 400 years, has discovered the sure path to freedom. All I’m trying to say is this: Any freedom manual without flight instructions is not worth reading.

“As we stand, you and I, at the shoreline of destruction, seeing, in the distance, the end of this American empire, there is but one way forward, old and true: Be not conformed to this society — nor kill yourself to make it love you — but be transformed in it, against it, by the renewal of your mind, body, and spirit. No matter the cost. Claim your inheritance. Miss the moment. Go mad, go missing, take a nap, take the day, drop a tab. You’re free! Kum baba yali. The kingdom is nigh. Send a postcard, won’t you? Wink at me on the subway, in our dreams.” (35 min)

On Vibing

One way to combat capitalism is to do absolutely nothing. Tricia Hersey knows how. So does Jenny Odell. In this piece, Mary Retta champions the practice of “vibing,” which she defines as “refusing a schedule” yet “filling days with intention.” It’s simultaneously doing nothing and doing something. Because Ms. Retta considers linear time as a white colonial construct that protects the status quo, vibing is an act of resistance that “shapes time into pleasure” and “molds it into something that feels soft and sweet.” (9 min)

+ Are you advanced at vibing? If so, please share.

Sid, who belongs to VIP Abby, and who likes his toys, especially Squirrel, is on the mend.

“I Can’t Do This Anymore.” Middle Schoolers Struggling In The Pandemic

This well-written portrait of four middle schoolers in Philadelphia captures the despair and resilience of young people as they struggle with distance learning. Seventh grader Anuar began the year optimistic: dressing up for class, fixing his hair, keeping his camera on. But by November, the slog of eight hours a day on screens had drained him. “I can’t do this anymore,” he said. “I need to see people. I need to see the teacher. I can’t learn without seeing them.” (25 min)

The Climate Crisis Is Worse Than You Can Imagine. What If You Try?

The problem with climate change is that it’s easier to pretend it doesn’t exist than to try to do something about it. If you actually care, like climate scientist Peter Kalmus, who has spent years calling for collective action to protect the planet, you might alienate your family, insist on dumpster diving, avoid all travel, and suffer a mental breakdown. After all, your wife doesn’t want to use the outdoor toilet, and your kids don’t want to listen to you all day warning of imminent doom. (15 min)

+ What’s your strategy to deal with climate change?


Reader Annotations

: Loyal reader


, an English teacher, appreciated last week’s podcast episode featuring Isabel Wilkerson. She wrote, “I am very excited to have my AP students read or listen to the Wilkerson interview as a companion piece to Brave New World and a discussion of caste systems.” That’s a great idea, Lisa, and would love to hear more about what your students thought.

On a different note, the bucatini article (#276) continued its momentum this week, evoking strong views from loyal reader


, who declared that “walnuts are perfectly fine in pesto.” She added, “They are cheaper.” Chef Lisa concurred, offering this pesto recipe that combines walnuts with pistachios and pine nuts. “It is absolutely delicious,” Lisa wrote.

Thank you, Lisa and Beth, for your enthusiastic reader annotations. Loyal readers, please do not hesitate to share your perspectives. For example: Is it time that this newsletter rebrand and feature exclusively food-related content?

Look at you! You’re an expert reader

. I hope you enjoyed this week’s issue of The Highlighter. Let me know what you thought by hitting reply or by clicking on the thumbs below.

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