“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?
Ep. 22 - What history do you stand on? What future do you stand for? ft. Flint Taylor
Life can only be lived leaning forward, of course, even as its shifting and dynamic meanings can only be sorted out looking backward. Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, in effect, that you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you—and so it is with history. With no impulse toward nostalgia, we struggle to understand this moment more clearly by glancing back: First, Malik Alim brings us up-to-date on a victory for justice that we mentioned earlier, the unprecedented and many-sided struggle against money bail; we’re then joined by Flint Taylor, a human rights lawyer whose dogged pursuit of justice takes us from the 1969 state murders of Black Panther Party chairman Fred Hampton and Panther Mark Clark, through the widespread use of torture by the Chicago Police Department against young Black men over decades, on to the ultimately successful campaign to end the death penalty in Illinois and to obtain reparations for torture survivors. His book The Torture Machine Racism and Police Violence in Chicago was recently published by Haymarket Books in Chicago.
Ep. 21 - Insurrection for Whom, and Toward What Social Order? ft. Daphne Muse
I’m no tactician, but I know that tactics are neutral in themselves—Nazi soldiers blowing up a bridge in occupied France to stop an Allied advance is despicable; partisans blowing up the bridge to prevent the Nazis from overwhelming a village and slaughtering its inhabitants is both defensible and righteous. So it is with insurrections: the goals and purposes matter. January 6, 2021 was a white supremacist insurrection against state power—part of a long American tradition that includes the secessionist insurrection of 1861, the uprising by the White League seeking to overthrow the biracial Reconstruction government of Louisiana in 1894, the violent toppling of the government in Wilmington North Carolina in 1898, and more. Each of these insurrections was in naked defense of white power. By contrast, the Haitian and Cuban revolutions, for example, were emancipatory insurrections designed to move human society forward. We’re joined today by legendary freedom fighter Daphne Muse whose life in struggle—from the Civil Rights, Black Power, and Pan-Africanist Movements to the fights for women’s liberation and disability rights— illuminates while it inspires.
Ep. 20 - Goodbye to All That!
A new year provides a formal opportunity for a practice we ought to engage in every day: looking backward and leaping forward. Rather than make hollow resolutions that we will likely break soon enough, we encourage sustained reflection as we walk on two legs toward a new multi-racial and participatory democracy. We’re reminded of the words of the Italian revolutionary Antonio Gramsci: “The old world is dying and the new world struggles to be born. Now is the time of monsters.” Malik Alim and Bill Ayers begin the new year in dialogue about learning, growing, and dreaming big.
Ep. 19 - A Word on Statistics ft. Kari Kokka
The idea of a “seminar” provides us a vast metaphor, offering infinite roads to travel and pathways to pursue: Poems and Free-writes, Language Arts and Current Events, History and Geography, and much much more. Today, we’ll get to something we’ve been missing up until now: the wide and wonderful world of Mathematics. Of course, everything we humans produce is created in context, and the stuttering cliche that math is just the objective truth neither explains nor justifies the manipulation, deception, damage, and fraud as well as the beauty and power that flies at us from every direction in the name of facts and figures—the mantle of math. Numbers don’t express the gospel—they can easily hide injustices and conceal reality. We’re joined in conversation today with Kari Kakko, an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Pittsburgh, and one of the most thoughtful people working today to rescue math from the many myths and misunderstandings that seem to cling to it like a tangle of ugly barnacles.
Ep. 18 - Violence is as American as Cherry Pie
America’s hyper-violent history of generational slavery based on African ancestry, of genocide, ethnic cleansing and land theft rolls seamlessly into the ongoing crisis of white supremacy, militarism and militarized police forces, the massive prison-industrial complex, and more. Bullets and bombs aren't the only ways to kill people—bad hospitals and a predatory health care system kill people; government sponsored enclosures kill people; decomposing schools and brainwashing curriculums kill people. In this episode Bill meditates on the word “violence,” and pays attention, not only to the violence that’s visible and overt, but also to the violence that’s cloaked and hidden, and the accompanying feigned innocence—the hypocrisy—which can compound and intensify the original crimes.
Ep. 17 - Aligning our Practices with our Values ft. Eve Ewing
Martin Luther King, Jr famously said that “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” From the Birmingham jail he exhorted us to open our eyes, link arms, and get firmly on the freedom side: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” We explore an expanding vision of justice and freedom—and responsibility—with Eve Ewing, poet, playwright, academic researcher and teacher, institution builder, and Marvel Comics creator.
Customer ReviewsSee All
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.