Across the Margin: The Podcast


Episode 156: The First Step with Louis L. Reed & Brandon Kramer

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Louis L. Reed who organized a national grassroots network of reform activists after serving fourteen years in federal prison, and Brandon Kramer, a Washington, DC-based filmmaker and co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Brandon directed City of Trees. and the Webby Award-winning independent documentary series The Messy Truth. Brandon won Best Director at the 2016 Chesapeake Film Festival and Indie Capital Awards, received the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 American Conservation Film Festival and was a 2015 DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Individual Arts Fellow. He has directed over 30 short documentaries commissioned by public agencies and nonprofits including AARP and US Institute of Peace. Before starting Meridian Hill Pictures, Brandon served as a teaching artist for the John F. Kennedy Center’s national media education program. Brandon’s latest documentary, The First Step, finds activist and famed CNN correspondent Van Jones, in a divided American, controversially working across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to America's addiction crisis. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of frontline activists fighting for their communities. Facing fierce opposition from both political parties in a climate where bipartisanship has become a dirty word, Jones and his team enlist the support of justice-impacted individuals, faith leaders, grassroots activists and cultural figures — including Kim Kardashian — to pass legislation that would fix some broken aspects of the justice system and bring thousands of incarcerated people home early. The bill’s champions immediately find themselves navigating a high-stakes game of political chess in Washington, D.C. Their quest brings them face-to-face with progressive champions like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, as well as conservative figures like U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner — and ultimately, Donald Trump himself. While trying to pass a bipartisan bill through a deeply polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. The film reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles, what it takes to make change in a divided nation, and everyday people in both political parties drawn into a historic fight for freedom and justice.

The First Step is screening this weekend (2.17.23) at The Justice Film Festival. The Justice Film Festival is the premier showcase for films that shine a light on social justice and affirm the dignity of all people. Learn more about the Justice Film Festival here, including showtimes and schedule of all events.

More Episodes

Monday, April 24, 2023

Episode 162: Madvillain's Madvillainy with Will Hagle

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Los Angeles-based writer Will Hagle. Will is a co-host of the Connecting The Classics podcast and a great deal of his work can be found on the webzine Passion of The Weiss. He is also the author of the excellent 33 ⅓ book dedicated to MF DOOM and Madlib’s album Madvillainy. The book — which is the focus of this episode — celebrates Madvillainy as a representation of two genius musical minds melding to form one revered supervillain. A product of circumstance, the album came together soon after MF DOOM's resurgence and Madlib's reluctant return from avant-garde jazz to hip-hop. Written from the alternating perspectives of three fake music journalist superheroes — and featuring interviews with Wildchild, Cut Chemist, M.E.D, Walasia, Stones Throw execs, and many other individuals involved with the album's creation — Will’s book blends fiction and non-fiction to celebrate Madvillainy not just as an album, but as a folkloric artifact. It is one specific retelling of a story which, like Madvillain's music, continues to spawn infinite legends. In this episode host Michael Shields and Will Hagle discuss both Madlib and MF DOOM’s origin story while expounding at length what makes Madvillainy such a special and enduring piece of art. They explore the somewhat disputed stories on how MF DOOM and Madlib connected for the project, and dig into how unique it was that Madvillainy existed as an album that straddled the analog and digital eras. They celebrate the song “Accordion,” as one of the most unparalleled songs in hip-hop history, remark on Madvillainy's profound influence in modern music, and so much more.Grab a copy of Will Hagle’s Madvillainy 33⅓ here — and learn more about Will’s projects at his subtack. 
Thursday, April 13, 2023

Episode 161: Shielded with Joanna Schwartz

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Joanna Schwartz, a professor of law at UCLA, where she teaches civil procedure and courses on police accountability and public interest lawyering. Her writing, commentary, and research about police misconduct, qualified immunity, indemnification, and local government budgeting have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, CNN, NPR, and elsewhere. Her latest book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable, is the focus of this episode. In recent years, the high-profile murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have brought much-needed attention to the pervasiveness of police misconduct. Yet it remains nearly impossible to hold police accountable for abuses of power. The decisions of the Supreme Court, state and local governments, and policy makers have, over decades, made the police all but untouchable. In Shielded, Joanna exposes the myriad ways in which our legal system protects police at all costs, with insightful analyses about subjects ranging from qualified immunity to no-knock warrants. The product of more than two decades of advocacy and research, Shielded is a timely and necessary investigation into why civil rights litigation so rarely leads to justice or prevents future police misconduct. Weaving powerful true stories of people seeking restitution for violated rights, cutting across race, gender, criminal history, tax bracket, and zip code, Schwartz paints a compelling picture of the human cost of our failing criminal justice system, bringing clarity to a problem that is widely known but little understood. Shielded is a masterful work of immediate and enduring consequence, revealing what tragically familiar calls for “justice” truly entail. In this episode host Michael Shields and Joanna examine the legal principle of Qualified Immunity as well as Section 1983 of The Civil Rights Act which has been methodically made less powerful by the Supreme Court over the last five decades. They discuss the varying barriers to accountability that exist within the legal system and the myths that act as the backbone of justifying the protection of police misconduct. They explore changes that are occurring that might hint at a days ahead with more robust civil rights enforcement, and so much more.Grab a copy of Shielded: How The Police Became Untouchable here!
Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Episode 160: Future Sea with Deborah Rowan Wright

This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Deborah Rowan Wright, an independent researcher, ocean advocate, and marine-policy researcher who writes about marine conservation. She has worked with the UK NGOs Whale & Dolphin Conservation, Friends of the Earth, and Marinet. Her work on marine renewable energy, ocean governance reform, and public-trust law has been published by the International Whaling Commission and the Ecologist, among others. In 2010, her policy document The Ocean Planet formed an integral part of Marinet’s Common Fisheries Policy reform campaign, and it won her Friends of the Earth’s Communication of the Year Award. The world’s oceans face multiple threats: the effects of Climate Change, pollution, overfishing, plastic waste, and more. Confronted with the immensity of these challenges and of the oceans themselves, we might wonder what more can be done to stop their decline and better protect the sea and marine life. Such widespread environmental threats call for a simple but significant shift in reasoning to bring about long-overdue, elemental change in the way we use ocean resources. In Deborah’s book, Future Sea, she provides the tools for that shift. Questioning the underlying philosophy of established ocean conservation approaches, Rowan Wright lays out a radical alternative — a bold and far-reaching strategy of 100 percent ocean protection that would put an end to destructive industrial activities, better safeguard marine biodiversity, and enable ocean wildlife to return and thrive along coasts and in seas around the globe. Future Sea is essentially concerned with the solutions and not the problems and it shines a light on existing international laws intended to keep marine environments safe that could underpin this new strategy. Deborah gathers inspiring stories of communities and countries using ocean resources wisely, as well as of successful conservation projects, to build up a cautiously optimistic picture of the future for our oceans. A passionate, sweeping, and personal account, Future Sea not only argues for systemic change in how we manage what we do in the sea but also describes steps that anyone, from children to political leaders (or indeed, any reader of the book), can take toward safeguarding the oceans and their extraordinary wildlife. In this episode host Michael Shields and Deborah Rowan Wright discuss the bevy of threats facing the ocean and the countless reasons why protecting the oceans is so crucial. They consider how the oceans aid in fighting Climate Change, how the Public Trust Doctrine might be employed to help protect our oceans, small solutions we can all do to safeguard our seas, the magnificent sea creatures who call the oceans home that need our protection, and much, much more.