America has a new look to it these days. OZY has dedicated its editorial mission this year to the idea that it’s time to Reset America, and we haven’t yet seen the kind of wholesale change this movement would require. If you take another look — or even employ augmented reality, as one of our profile subjects does this week — you can see a new country starting to emerge. Perhaps it’s the advancing conversation on police reform or the changing of administrations, with the new White House set to work with a Congress that’s more diverse than ever on both sides of the aisle. It’s been a trying year. But today’s Sunday Magazine invites you to take a glance from a new angle at the positive change we’re already seeing.
The first Black lieutenant governor in North Carolina history was a factory worker just a couple of years ago, until his impassioned speech against gun control at a Greensboro City Council meeting went viral. Now he’s a certified Republican star, with an unlikely triumph in his first-ever run for office positioning him for a place on the national stage.
Poet to politician is not the usual path, but neither is rising from the rough neighborhoods of East Palo Alto to earning a Ph.D. from Stanford. López is an unusual sort, and his quest to fight gentrification will continue after winning a tight race to get on the East Palo Alto City Council. At just 26, the sky’s the limit.
Rising superstar Saweetie wants to be more than just a musician: She’s out to build a billion-dollar multi-industry global brand as the next Rihanna. In a revealing chat on The Carlos Watson Show, the artist behind “Icy Grl,” “My Type” and “Tap In” shares the story behind her love affair with fellow rapper Quavo, how her relationship with her grandmother continues to shape her career — and her politics — and why sports is her true first love, over music.
Overton cuts an unlikely figure when he performs with the Boston Symphony Orchestra or Boston Pops: Only 1.8 percent of musicians in American orchestras are Black, and only 6 percent of harpists are men. Plus, he’s a harpist who not only regularly performs classical masterpieces but also excels in jazz, from gentle to almost avant garde. You’re going to want to hear his harp take on Notorious BIG’s “Big Poppa,” and read how the 26-year-old launched a classical response to George Floyd’s death.
The 21-year-old college student and fashion creator sued Donald Trump … and won. Rinab, who boasts more than 2.3 million followers on TikTok (and partnerships with Dolce & Gabbana and Levi’s), was one of the lead plaintiffs in a challenge to the Trump administration’s ban of the platform as a national security threat. She and other major influencers leveraged their followings to wage a legal and PR campaign against the pending ban on TikTok downloads, which they argued was an attack on free speech and their livelihoods. The influencers won their case in Pennsylvania, and the Trump administration has delayed its still-pending TikTok ban.
The questions started coming as soon as it was revealed that Damon Wayans Jr. would rejoin the New Girl cast: Was Morris out? “We can have two Black dudes on a show. We can. Watch. It'll be fun,” Morris would say, as he recounts on The Carlos Watson Show. Now he’s breaking more ground on the Hulu hit Woke, a comedic yet meaty examination of what happens when someone who just wants to be left out of the political-racial debates of the day suddenly can’t ignore them anymore.
OZY and Chevrolet are teaming up for an innovative discussion, taking on the toughest questions in our society today. Hosted by Carlos Watson, OZY’s co-founder and winner of multiple Emmy Awards, and joined by key leaders from across the country, we’re having pointed conversations to identify problems and equip you with solutions. Put aside the shouting matches and talking heads, and be an ally: Join us Tuesday, Dec. 8, on YouTube for a conversation you won’t want to miss.
The Biden administration has signaled a reversal from the Trump years on climate change, from rejoining the Paris climate accords to appointing former Secretary of State John Kerry as climate czar. But a closely divided Congress will likely stymie major climate legislation. In any case, the real innovation these days is happening in cities like New York, Copenhagen and China’s Xiong’an New Area, as our special report reveals.
Right now, nearly every school in America can hand out meals for free, thanks to the emergency extension of a federal school food program meant to provide no-cost meals to kids during the summer. The program is set to expire at the end of the school year, but perhaps the initiative that’s helping fight the rising scourge of child hunger should become permanent.
Another pandemic innovation that could become permanent: The halting of federal student loan payments. Advocates say President-elect Joe Biden could simply cancel $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower with the stroke of a pen. The decision would be hugely consequential — and controversial — for millions. But aside from the political fight, it could also come with huge tax liability for the recipients if the IRS follows existing policy that counts loan forgiveness as income.
A political alignment that’s seen GOP gains among working class voters of color, coupled with college-educated white voters moving toward Democrats, means conservative populism is here to stay — with or without Trump. For GOP senators with evident presidential dreams like Josh Hawley and Marco Rubio, that means an end to “free market fundamentalism” and a new willingness to benefit working-class earners at the expense of the wealthy when cutting taxes. For conservative thinkers like Oren Cass, it also means an embrace of labor unions and collective bargaining rights, long an area where Democrats dominated. It’s already sparking heated debate within the party.
Election Day saw several criminal justice reform measures pass at the state and local level in response to this year’s racial reckoning. Perhaps the most intriguing came in Portland, Oregon, one of America’s most liberal cities and the scene of many a clash involving antifa and far-right rivals. The city overwhelmingly voted to dissolve its police oversight board and put in place a new more independent system with teeth — including subpoena power and the ability to fire officers.
From February to April of this year alone, 440,000 Black-owned businesses closed their doors permanently, with the pandemic hitting Black-owned firms harder than white-owned ones. But initiatives are sprouting up like #BuyBlackFriday, encouraging shoppers to support Black-owned businesses. And JPMorgan Chase is helping businesses weather the crisis with free instruction on everything from supply chain management to cash flow, via its Advancing Black Pathways program.
Given all that’s gone on this year, it’s worth asking whether police officers and the communities they serve might be better off if cops had something other than guns to subdue unruly suspects. Enter Brazilian jiu jitsu training, which has been advocated by former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang and others.
What if every American got $1,000 in an account managed by the government on the day they were born that they could access when they turn 18? The notion floated by Sen. Cory Booker during the presidential primaries is gaining more steam as a way to close the racial wealth gap. While such an expense is unlikely to go far in Congress, New Jersey is proposing a state level baby bond and others could follow.
The debate over statues and monuments has roiled America in recent years, so Glenn Cantave carved out a new vision. The social entrepreneur and activist has created an app via his nonprofit, Movers & Shakers, that uses augmented reality to create new digital monuments. For example, you can see Shirley Chisholm on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial or Jackie Robinson hitting a home run at the site of the old Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and students can even take selfies with their chosen monuments. It’s all part of his effort to revamp how students learn history.
The extermination of Native Americans is a subject often glossed over in school, but one vitally important to the story of America. A visit to the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre can be poignant and valuable, and as one OZY author finds out, carries a twist when one pulls out a $20 bill featuring “Indian killer” Andrew Jackson.
You probably didn’t hear about this in school, and even many residents of Ocoee, Florida, didn’t know their own troubled history. But a century ago this small town was the scene of the worst incident of election violence in American history, when white men attacked hundreds of Black residents, killing dozens, because they had the audacity to vote.
For the first time next year, the Ocoee massacre will be a required lesson in Florida schools. It’s the result of a new state law beefing up instruction about Black history and anti-Semitism — and a nationwide trend of states and districts taking a new look at long-whitewashed curricula. That includes New Jersey, where oversight will be tightened and education about social justice movements will be required under a bill that awaits the governor’s signature. Meanwhile, many schools are starting to teach The 1619 Project, based on the New York Times initiative showing how the founding, development and even modern timeline of the U.S. is entwined with its enslavement of Africans. A conservative group is countering with a Black history curriculum called 1776 Unites that rejects “victimhood culture.”
Before she lit the spark of the Montgomery bus boycott, Rosa Parks protested Jim Crow in another way: Attending underground communist meetings. This long untold aspect of the world famous civil rights leader’s identity — she was also a sexual assault investigator — helped shape her activism, along with many of her cohorts in Alabama.
An Oakland homeowner has launched a project to create a massive mural on the side of her house depicting the women of the Black Panther Party, often overshadowed by their male comrades. One of the women on the front lines was Cheryl Dawson, who has stories to share about the FBI watching her every move.
We don’t know yet what kind of policy portfolio or West Wing influence Kamala Harris will have, though Biden has indicated that his vice president will be a governing partner. But we do know that the barrier-breaking daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants will be a cultural phenomenon: Harris is already an inspiration to Black girls, and it’s hard to imagine Biden inspiring viral images like this portrait or her casting a shadow of a young Ruby Bridges.
Biden rolled out his top national security Cabinet and White House picks last week — including veteran diplomats Antony Blinken as secretary of state and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations ambassador — to reinforce the message to the world that “America’s Back.” They’re steady hands and experienced minds expected to collectively work at undoing Trump’s “America first” policy choices.
An office in the West Wing is nice, but political power often derives from forces beyond the White House. Whether it’s defeated congressional candidates like Jaime Harrison, economic policy wonks like Heather Boushey, key senators like Susan Collins or intel veterans like Carrie Cordero, it’s time to get to know the power centers of the Biden era.
Valerie Jarrett has been in the room. The close adviser to President Barack Obama who ran the Bush-Obama transition reveals how Obama and Biden operated, and how the White House responded to crises. Check out what she has to say on The Carlos Watson Show about what would surprise you about Obama and what to expect from the new administration.