“Under the Tree” is a new podcast that focuses on freedom—a complex, layered, dynamic, and often contradictory idea—and takes you on a journey each week to fundamentally reimagine how we can bring freedom and liberation to life in relation to schools and schooling, equality and justice, and learning to live together in peace.
Our podcast opens a crawl-space, a fugitive field and firmament where we can both explore our wildest freedom dreams, and organize for a liberating insurgency. "Under the Tree" is a seminar, and it runs the gamut from current events to the arts, from history lessons to scientific inquiries, and from essential readings to frequent guest speakers.
We’re in the midst of the largest social uprising in US history—and what better time to dive headfirst into the wreckage, figuring out as we go how to support the rebellion, name it, and work together to realize its most radical possibilities—and to reach its farthest horizons?
Love and imagination, potentially the most powerful weapons in the arsenal of the oppressed, the marginalized, and the exploited, are frequently unappreciated, too often underutilized—and yet still within reach and entirely available. Robin D.G. Kelley foregrounds love, imagination, and generosity in all of his work, including the groundbreaking https://bookshop.org/books/freedom-dreams-twentieth-anniversary-edition-the-black-radical-imagination-9780807007037/9780807007037?gclid=Cj0KCQjw7KqZBhCBARIsAI-fTKJegtoNeXn1PgHQVxweACej2F2xa9y_ISp-_ylFjukdI_IE-DgnBRsaAtcTEALw_wcB (Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination,) an original history of Black radicalism and a powerful vision of a revolutionary future. Kelley describes himself as a "Marxist surrealist feminist who is not just anti something, but pro-emancipation, pro-liberation.” We met up with Robin Kelley recently at the Socialism 2022 conference in Chicago where we released our radical imaginations in a generative and wide-ranging conversation.
Portraits of Freedom
What history do you stand on? What future do you stand for? Robert Shetterly’s dazzling series of portraits—“Americans Who Tell the Truth”—cuts through the cotton wool that entangles us, shakes us awake from the deep American sleep of denial, and invites us to move beyond the United States of Amnesia. Here are the peace-makers and the freedom fighters, the dissidents and dissenters, the loving rebels and the justice-seeking radicals—a gathering of citizens from a country that does not yet exist. These are our people, this is a powerful legacy we can all hope to build on. Robert Shetterly joins us to discuss the brilliant work and steady activism of Americans Who Tell the Truth.
With Love at the Center
More than a destination, freedom is a constant struggle, a verb as well as a noun. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous assertion that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice may be true, but only if, as he demonstrated with his entire being, we organize and fight to make it so. We’re honored to be joined in conversation with Heather Booth, a Civil Rights pioneer, peace and justice activist, feminist icon, and legendary community organizer. She was an early leader of Students for a Democratic Society, participated in Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964, and was one of the founders of the pioneering clandestine abortion network, the Janes. We talk about Organizing 101, what it takes to commit to the Freedom Struggle for the long haul, and why our organizing has to be built on a moral vision—“with love at the center.”
Mother Country Radicals
We are impatient with radicals who summon up the imagined “good old days” when every campaign was inspired and every action a success—all of it wrapped in the gauzy glow of nostalgia. What could be more depressing than longing for a ship that’s already left the shore. But there are occasions when a long and deep look backward can give us courage and vision to face forward, perhaps most productively when our guide is a talented artist. Zayd Ayers Dohrn is the creator and host of one of the most listened to podcasts of 2022, Mother Country Radicals, a 10-episode series from Crooked Media that won the award for Best Audio Storytelling at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival in New York. He is a playwright, professor, and director of the MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University.
The Threads of Abolition (part 2)
Picking up where we left off in our last episode, we visit with the incomparable Dorothy Burge, activist, story-teller, educator, art-maker, quilter extraordinaire—and a pillar of the abolitionist movement. Mama Dorothy sat down with us at the DePaul Art Museum in Chicago a few days before she gave the key-note address at the Stitch-by-Stitch Conference. Our conversation included a journey through the current exhibition, Remaking the Exceptional: Tea, Torture, and Reparations/ Chicago to Guantánamo, which features several pieces by Ms. Burge. Visit our our website: http://underthetreepod.com/ (underthetreepod.com) for Mama Dorothy's audio/video tour of some of the exhibit.
Music by Tom Morello.
Stitch by Stitch: The Threads of Abolition
Stitch by Stitch is a gathering of artists and activists, quilters and abolitionists to be held in Chicago on July 15, 16, and 17. We’re honored to sit down with two of the Stitch organizers—Dr. Sharbreon Plummer, author of Diasporic Threads: Black Women, Fiber, and Textiles, and Rachel Wallis, an instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago—for a wide-ranging conversation about craftivism, building communities of resistance, and creating spaces to release the radical imagination. Contact them at http://stitchingabolition.com/ (stitchingabolition.com) or email@example.com.
Transition music from Dr. Sparkles’ song https://freemusicarchive.org/music/Dr_Sparkles/the-war-on-shrugs/great-bus-journeys-of-the-west-midlands-pt-2 (Great Bus Journeys of the West Midlands Pt 2) from the album “The War on Drugs.” © https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/legalcode (License). https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ (Disclaimer). Additional music from Gus O'Connor. And check out our website https://underthetreepod.com/
Listener engagement and collaboration modeled
I love how the producers engage the Listeners right from the opening and do it routinely every episode. I also appreciate the collaboration modeled by the producers. A good selection of quality voices are heard.
Props to Malik and Bill.
-listener and educator
This podcast is something to be proud of! Very timely and engaging conversations. Keep keeping us engaged!
I have been reading and following Bill’s work all my teaching life, over thirty years now. This podcast puts us to work and lets us become a student in his classroom about FREEDOM, the subject of every sentient being’s soul. I feel deep gratitude for being able , late in my game, to come to bat and swing. Thanks everyone for this gift.