“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?
Monsters! with Claire Dederer
These are terrible times—an escalating cold war with China, a proxy war in Europe, racialized police violence unchecked, environmental collapse on full display, fragile and often anemic democratic institutions on life support, religious authoritarianism on the rise, women’s bodily integrity under sustained assault. On the other hand—26 million people poured into the streets in response to the police murder of George Floyd, women across a wide political spectrum have refused to accept a medieval definition of their rights, and broad forces are on the march worldwide to resist plunder and extraction, and to preserve life on earth. Charles Dickens would recognize the contradiction: the winter of despair and the spring of hope; an age of foolishness and an age of wisdom; Darkness locked in combat with Light. Life is never one thing in isolation from every other thing. Yes, there is oppression, but there is also art—and our imaginations, nourished and unleashed—which has the capacity to “light the slow fuse of possibility.” With Lisa Yun Lee, my comrade and friend for many years and co-host for this episode, I’m in conversation with Claire Dederer about her smart and important new book, Monsters: A Fan’s Dilemma.
From the River to the Sea- Journeys in Solidarity
We’re bombarded with relentless and punishing propaganda that places the US at the epicenter of the whole wide world. We are the exceptional nation, it says, the indispensable nation, the most remarkable people who ever lived, a shining beacon on a hill to the lesser nations. The propaganda is so unremitting that it can take on the color of common sense—and there’s nothing more dogmatic and insistent than common sense. Breaking with that dogma requires a conscious effort to open your eyes, to see the world large, and to reach out in solidarity. We’re joined by Destine Phillips, Beth Awano, and Eliza Gonring, three comrades from Chicago who journeyed to Palestine to study, learn, and join hands in our common struggle against settler colonialism.
Help This Garden Grow with Damon Williams and Daniel Kisslinger of AirGo
We were at the Winter Garden of the Harold Washington Library this month for the launch of “Help This Garden Grow,” a new docuseries that tells the story of Hazel Johnson, a visionary of the Environmental Justice movement and a resident of the Altgeld Gardens community on the far South Side of Chicago.
“Help This Garden Grow” is a project of Respair, a liberatory ecosystem hub brought to life by an entire community, and spearheaded by my mentors in media, the visionaries Damon Williams and Daniel Kisslinger. Respair Production and Media (RPM) creates and builds media projects in partnership with social justice movement-makers, visionaries, and creatives who are taking stock of the world as it is, and working relentlessly to create a world that could be or should be, but is not yet. Over the past few years AirGo has made its mark as a unique space of movement-building, opening critical conversations, deepening our understanding of fundamental questions, connecting people and linking issues. Respair represents a qualitative leap forward, spinning off new media projects in all directions. One example is the podcast “Guaranteed” with the incomparable Eve Ewing. Another is “Help This Garden Grow,” and I’m honored to have been asked to help launch this docuseries by broadcasting Episode One. Here it is.
Subscribe to listen to the entire docuseries by searching “Help This Garden Grow” wherever you get your podcasts, and you can find out much more about the project at respairmedia.com.
Fire and Freedom with Will Harling and Leif Carlson
For millennia and all over the world fire was a powerful tool in the hands of Indigenous peoples. As they stewarded the land generation after generation, fire was understood to be a natural and necessary element for an abundant world—fire was regeneration and revitalization. But fire was taken away from Native people and handed over to agencies and bureaus who never grasped the positive power of fire. With typical arrogance and ignorance the powerful and the policy makers made fire an enemy to be destroyed—they developed the policy of 100% fire suppression which created the monster we live with today: a towering accumulation of fuels, and recurring catastrophic fires of earth-shaking proportions. In California, state and federal agencies are beginning to work with Tribes to shift how fires (and fuels) are managed, but public understanding of the fire paradox and pressure is needed to change long-standing failed policies. We’re joined today by Will Harling and Leif Carlson for a discussion of fire and freedom.
The Ghost Forest with Greg King
The forest is disappearing—it’s becoming a ghost—and along with its entire ecosystems. This is not something distant from us; it is us—the power of a tree is the air we breathe. Two and a half billion years ago enough oxygen had built up on earth to support multicellular life, and the first trees evolved about 400,000,000 years ago. The first primates appeared fifty-five million years ago, living in trees in the rain forests. In the past 10,000 years, the earth lost one-third of its forest—almost all of it in the last few hundred years. And the recent loss is caused, not by ice and fire and ice or earthquakes and volcanoes, but by the deliberate acts of human beings. We’re talking in his Arcata home with an extraordinary writer/activist named Greg King, author most recently of The Ghost Forest: Racists, Radicals, and Real Estate in the California Redwoods.
Stranger in My Own Land with Fida Jiryis
The Palestinian people’s ongoing struggle for self-determination and basic human rights has appropriately drawn the attention and support of freedom lovers the world around. Invasion and occupation, ethnic cleansing and segregation as both policy and law are all part of the continuing and everyday catastrophe. Rick Ayers co-hosts this episode, and we’re both grateful to be joined from her home in the Galilee by an inspiring writer, Fida Jiryis, as she tells the story of Palestine through a beautiful and haunting memoir of her family's journey—Stranger in my own Land.
Always learn something!
Under The Tree always a good nuances story and I always learn something.
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!