Across the Margin: The Podcast
Episode 184: Holy American Burnout! with Sean Enfield56:22This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Sean Enfield, an essayist, poet, bassist, and educator from Dallas, TX. Currently, he resides in Milwaukee, WI where he is a PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks where he served as the Editor-in-Chief of Permafrost Magazine. Now, he serves as an Assistant Nonfiction Editor at Terrain.org. His essays have been nominated for three Pushcarts and he was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered as a finalist for their Three Minute Fiction contest. His debut essay collection, Holy American Burnout!, — the focus of this episode — was the runner-up for the Ann Petry Award, a finalist for The Megaphone Prize, a finalist for River Teeth’s Literary Nonfiction Book Prize, and is available now. Threading his experiences both as a Texan student and later as a first-year teacher of predominantly Muslim students at a Texas middle school, Holy American Burnout! weaves personal essay and cultural critique into the historic fabric of Black and biracial identity. In it, Enfield intersects examinations of which voices are granted legitimacy by virtue of school curriculum, the complex relationship between basketball and education for Black and brown students, his students’ burgeoning political consciousness during the 2016 presidential campaign, and cultural figures ranging from Kendrick Lamar to Hamlet. These classroom narratives abounding in Holy American Burnout! weave around Enfield’s own formative experiences contending with a conflicted biracial family lineage, reenacting the Middle Passage as the only Black student in his 7th grade history class, and moshing in both Christian and secular hardcore pits. As Enfield wrestles with the physical, mental, and emotional burdens that American society places on educators, students, and all relatively conscious minorities in this country, he reaches for an education that better navigates our burnt-out empire.
Episode 183: The Last Repair Shop with Ben Proudfoot25:03This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with Ben Proudfoot, a Los Angeles-based filmmaker most noted as the director of The Queen of Basketball, winner of the 2021 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. With co-director Kris Bowers he also brought to life the short documentary film A Concerto Is a Conversation, which was an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Short Subject at the 93rd Academy Awards in 2021. His latest documentary, The Last Repair Shop — the focus of this episode — is nominated at this year's Academy Awards for Best Documentary Short Subject. Once commonplace in the United States, today Los Angeles is by far the largest and one of the last American cities to provide free and freely repaired musical instruments to its public schoolchildren, a continuous service since 1959. The Last Repair Shop grants an all access pass to the nondescript downtown warehouse where a dwindling handful of devoted craftspeople keep over 80,000 student instruments in good repair and in it the film blends the unexpectedly intimate personal histories of the repair people with emotional, firsthand accounts from the actual student musicians for whom their instruments made all the difference. In this episode host Michael Shields and Ben Proudfoot expound upon what music and access to instruments means to the lives of the children in Los Angeles while considering how the power of music has changed the lives of those who passionately labor in the repair shop. They talk about how the promise of the American Dream manifests itself within the documentary, the message of hope that is abounding in the film, and so much more. Ultimately this episode celebrates an inspiring documentary that serves as a passionate love letter to Los Angeles and to those unsung heroes who gave countless others the gift of music. This is an episode that pays tribute to a truly unique program that has produced countless legends from John Williams to Kendrick Lamar.Watch The Last Repair Shop here!
Episode 182: A Father's Promise with Rick Korn45:59This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Rick Korn, the founder of In Plain View Entertainment who is a film and TV producer, writer, and director that works with entertainment companies on creating socially conscious documentaries. He was co-founder of Television Production Partners, an award-winning branded entertainment company that was nominated for an Oscar, Emmy and won a Peabody Award for Hank Aaron Chasing The Dream. Rick has produced benefit concerts with Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, and Joan Jett. He executive produced the documentary My Old Friend with Paul McCartney and Carl Perkins and Rick and Perkins collaborated on several documentary concerts, benefits, and an album called Go Cat Go which included Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, John Fogerty, and Paul Simon. Recently, Rick directed and wrote the docu-concert Do Something and Vote which included performances from Bruce Springsteen, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Black Puma’s, Nathaniel Rateliff and Alabama Shakes, and featured many prominent activists fighting for a safer and healthier world. The film A Father’s Promise — Rick’s latest documentary — tells the inspirational story of one man’s journey from devastating tragedy to personal triumph. When his young son Daniel is murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a grief-stricken Mark Barden, a world class guitarist, loses all joy in the music that had defined much of his life. But, in time, Mark rewires himself to become a powerful voice for change, becoming the co-founder of Sandy Hook Promise and a tireless advocate for gun violence prevention. Mark is a father on a mission, and, with the help of his many famous music artist friends, he slowly rediscovers himself, eventually playing and performing the music that had always meant so much to him and his family. In A Father’s Promise Rick takes you on Mark’s powerful 10-year journey as he gradually finds his way back to music with the help of friends Sheryl Crow, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Bernie Williams, Jimmy Vivino, the Alternate Routes, and many others. The film impactfully mixes live music performances into the storyline, underlining powerful emotions, as Mark continues to find ways to empower his music with his activism, and vice versa. A Father’s Promise finds Mark honoring his son by working for change, playing his music, and building hope for a better tomorrow. In this episode host Michael Shields and Rock Korn discuss the intriguing story of how Rick came to know Mark Barden and began to work with him to tell his inspirational story.. They dig deeply into what A Father’s Promise says about the power of music to heal and unite and fight for change in the world while also celebrating Mark’s daughter Natalie’s journey into activism. They highlight what Mark’s work with Sandy Hook Promise aims to accomplish, the inspiring work of the Where Angels Play Project and the Artist For Action movement, and so much more.
Episode 181: Brother Outsider with Nancy Kates42:56This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Nancy Kates, the acclaimed filmmaker behind the groundbreaking documentary, Brother Outsider: The Life Of Bayard Rustin. This pivotal work was instrumental in introducing a broader audience to the life of Rustin — an openly gay Black civil rights leader and a driving force behind the March on Washington. Nancy also produced and directed the feature-length HBO documentary Regarding Susan Sontag, about the late essayist, novelist, director and activist. Her other film credits include Castro Cowboy, a short film about the late Marlboro model Christen Haren who died of AIDS in 1996, Joining the Tribe, Married People, and Going to Extremes. During his 60-year career as an activist, organizer, and an angelic "troublemaker," Bayard Rustin formulated many of the strategies that propelled the American Civil Rights Movement. His passionate belief in Gandhi's philosophy of nonviolence drew Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders to him in the 1940s and 50s. In 1963, Rustin brought his unique skills to the crowning glory of his civil rights career: his work organizing the March on Washington, the biggest protest America had ever seen. But his open homosexuality forced him to remain in the background, marking him again and again as a "Brother Outsider." Brother Outsider: the Life of Bayard Rustin combines rare archival footage — some of it never before broadcast in the U.S. — with provocative interviews to illuminate the life and work of a forgotten prophet of social change. Rustin's monumental role as a central strategist in the Civil Rights Movement and his unwavering stand for peace and justice casts him as a towering figure in U.S. history. His narrative, particularly as an openly gay advocate in perilous times, has found a renewed resonance in our current socio-political environment. And Nancy’s documentary brings back to life a man who profoundly influenced the course of the civil rights and peace movements. In this episode host Michael Shields and Nancy Kates dig deeply into just how pivotal a figure Bayard Rustin was in the Civil Rights Movement while questioning why he often remained outside the scope of notoriety as a “Brother Outsider.” They discuss what it was like for Rustin to be openly gay in America in the 1960s, his on-and-off relationship with Martin Luther King, how he brought the March on Washington to life, and so much more.
Episode 180: Distant Sons with Tim Johnston58:09This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with author Tim Johnston, author of the novels Descent, The Current, the story collection Irish Girl, and the young adult novel Never So Green. He is the recipient of the 2015 Iowa Author Award and his latest novel — Distant Sons — is the focus of this episode.What if Sean Courtland’s old Chevy truck had broken down somewhere else? What if he’d never met Denise Givens, a waitress at a local tavern, and gotten into a bar fight defending her honor? Or offered a ride to Dan Young, another young man like Sean, burdened by secrets and just drifting through the small Wisconsin town?Instead, Sean enlists Dan’s help with a construction job in the basement of a local—the elderly, reclusive Marion Devereaux — and gradually the two men come to realize that they’ve washed up in a place haunted by the disappearance of three young boys decades earlier. As Sean and Dan’s friendship deepens, and as Sean gets closer to Denise and her father, they come to the attention of a savvy local detective, Corrine Viegas, who has her own reasons for digging into Dan’s past — and for being unable to resist the pull of the town’s unsolved mystery. And with each chance connection, an irreversible chain of events is set in motion that culminates in shattering violence and the revelation of long-buried truths.Gripping and immersive, this crime novel by bestselling author Tim Johnston becomes so much more: a book about friendship and love and good hard work — and a masterful read about how the most random intersection of lives can have consequences both devastating and beautiful.This episode is hosted by educator and author Douglas Grant, author of the novels Preemptive and Imaginary Lines.Grab a copy of Tim Johnson’s Distant Sons here!
Episode 179: The Black Angels with Maria Smilios37:21This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Maria Smilios, a New York City native who has a Master of Arts in religion and literature from Boston University, where she was a Luce Scholar and a Presidential Scholar. Smilios spent five years at Springer Science & Business Media as development editor in the biomedical sciences, and has written for The Guardian, American Nurse, The Forward, Narratively, The Rumpus, and DAME Magazine. Her book, The Black Angels — the focus of this episode — tells the untold story of the nurses who helped cure tuberculosis. Nearly a century before the COVID-19 pandemic upended life as we know it, a devastating tuberculosis epidemic was ravaging hospitals across the country. In those dark, pre-antibiotic days, the disease claimed the lives of 1 in 7 Americans. In the United States alone, it killed over 5.6 million people in the first half of the twentieth century. Nowhere was TB more rampant than in New York City, where it spread like wildfire through the tenements, decimating the city’s poorest residents and communities of color. The city’s hospital system was already overwhelmed when, in 1929, the white nurses at Staten Island’s Sea View Hospital began quitting en masse. Pushed to the brink of a major labor crisis and fearing a public health catastrophe, city health officials made a call for Black female nurses seeking to work on the frontlines, promising them good pay, education, housing, and employment free from the constraints of Jim Crow. Spanning the Great Depression and moving through World War II and beyond, The Black Angels puts these women back at the center of this riveting story by spotlighting the twenty-plus years they spent battling the disease at Sea View. Using first-hand interviews and never-before-accessed archives, Smilios details how they labored under inconceivable conditions, putting in 14-hour days caring for people who lay waiting to die or, worse, become “guinea pigs” to test experimental (and often deadly) drugs at a facility that was understaffed, unregulated, and marred by rampant racism. Their narrative is interspersed with the parallel story of the tuberculosis cure, a miracle of public health policy that couldn’t have happened without the work of the nurses at Sea View. In this episode host Michael Shields and Maria Smilios explore just how terribly tuberculous was riddling the United States (and particularly New York City) and the birth of the Sea View treatment center in Staten Island where a cure was eventually brought into being. They celebrate the Black Angels, Black nurses who worked at the hospital who answered a call to help, and eventually changed the world. They discuss how racial discrimination affected the nurses, both in the deep South also upon their landing in New York. They also discuss the drug trials that led to the cure, the patent wars that followed, and so much more.
Episode 178: The Power Worshippers with Katherine Stewart48:58This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Katherine Stewart, an investigative reporter and author who has covered religious liberty, politics, policy, and education for over a decade. Her latest book, The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism, — the focus of this episode — is a rare look inside the machinery of the movement that brought Donald Trump to power. Stewart’s journalism appears in the New York Times op ed, NBC, the New Republic, and the New York Review of Books. For too long the Religious Right has masqueraded as a social movement preoccupied with a number of cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. But in her deeply reported investigation that is The Power Worshippers, Stewart reveals a disturbing truth: America’s Religious Right has evolved into a Christian Nationalist movement. It seeks to gain political power and to impose its vision on all of society. It isn’t fighting a culture war, it is waging a political war on the norms and institutions of American democracy. Stewart shows that the real power of the movement lies in a dense network of think tanks, advocacy groups, and pastoral organizations, embedded in a rapidly expanding community of international alliances with like minded, anti-democratic religious nationalists around the world, including Russia. She follows the money behind the movement and traces much of it to a group of super-wealthy, ultraconservative donors, and family foundations. The Christian Nationalist movement is far more organized and better funded than most people realize. It seeks to control all aspects of government and society. Its successes have been stunning, and its influence now extends to every aspect of American life, from the White House to state capitols, from our schools to our hospitals. The Power Worshippers is a brilliantly reported book of warning and a wake-up call. Stewart’s probing examination demands that Christian Nationalism be taken seriously as a significant threat to the American republic and our democratic freedoms. In this episode host Michael Shields and Katherine Stewart discuss the distressing vision the Christian Nationalist movement has for Americans while considering the very real and important rights at stake. They talk about the lies about the history of the United States the movement are employing to further their cause (mostly from a man named David Barton), how the Christian Nationalist movement is going global, how Christian Nationalist are intent on stacking the courts throughout the country, and so much more.
Episode 177: Failure To Protect with Jeremy Pion-Berlin32:46This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with innovative film and documentary Director and Producer Jeremy Pion-Berlin. Jeremy’s diverse skill set is reflected in the projects that he created: branded content for Samsung and Folgers, a docu-series Heartlandia (CarbonTV), and documentary chronicling professional football player, Derek Carr. His latest documentary — Failure to Protect — is the focus of this episode. Failure To Protect follows five parents -— Anna, Trish, Rheta, Ernst, and Rosa — as they fight desperately to reunify with their children taken by Child Protective Services (CPS). It’s an unwavering and nuanced look at the child welfare system where criminals have more rights than parents. Through these highly personal stories, Failure To Protect explores many tough questions, such as do parents whose personal struggles compromised their children’s safety deserve a second chance? Is the CPS system biased against minorities, LGBTQIA+ couples, and the economically disadvantaged? To avoid leaving a child in an abusive or dangerous environment, do social workers remove children first and ask questions later? The film offers an unprecedented, in-depth window into the grim realities of the child welfare system through the often ignored perspective of parents. In this episode host Michael Shields and Jeremy Jeremy Pion-Berlin discuss the surprising truth that a person has more rights as a criminal in the criminal justice system than as a parent in the child welfare system. They consider the amount of power social workers have while also acknowledging the immense challenges of their work. They talk about the profound trauma that affects both the parents and children in dealing with the foster system, potential changes that could make the child welfare system more just, and much more.
Episode 176: The Moth Project with Peter Kiesewalter30:54This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with Peter Kiesewalter, who is the NYC-based composer and producer behind the new multimedia show “The Moth Project,” the GRAMMY nominated and Emmy Award winning East Village Opera Company, and Brooklyn Rundfunk Orkestrata’s song for song adaptation of the iconic musical “The Sound of Music” (titled “the Hills Are Alive”) — a project for which he received the much publicized blessing and support of the notoriously protective Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization. His prolific composition and arranging work (Film, TV, Theater, and commissions) balances formal classical and jazz studies with decades worth of experience performing and writing in many popular music idioms. "The Moth Project" is a multi-media production, music album, and book that marries art, science, and an innate connection to the environment. The Moth Project showcases how artists and musicians are stepping into the spotlight, collaborating with scientists to amplify the call of climate change in a captivating manner, filling the gaps where scientific data falls short. At the heart of "The Moth Project" lies two brothers. One, a passionate artist; the other, a dedicated botanist engrossed in our ecosystem. Amidst the 2020 quarantine in upstate New York, they, along with their six children, bonded over evening campfires, insightful dialogues, and the fascinating biodiversity around them. Inspired by the life cycle of the underappreciated moth, they crafted a narrative intertwining moth migrations with the immigration journey of Peter's family. In a world where millions are in constant movement, seeking new beginnings, it emphasizes the resilience of both nature and the human spirit, and highlights the interconnectedness between the two. In this episode host Michael Shields and Peter Kiesewalter discuss how the Moth Project began amid the depths of the pandemic, when Peter and his family left New York City for his family's cottage in Canada where his connection to nature deepened. The converse upon how esteemed botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer, the author behind Braiding Sweetgrass, lent her voice to the project's central piece (entitled “Reciprocity”). They talk about violinist Whitney La Grange’s unforgettable contributions to the project, the incredible diversity of moths and the common themes humans share with them, how learning about moth migration had Peter thinking about his family history, and much, much more.