The Top 5 Longreads of the Week

This week, we’re sharing stories from Kerry Howley, Suzanne Cope, Micheli Oliver, Jeff Mao, and Rob Brunner.

Here are five stories that moved us this week, and the reasons why.

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1. The Woman Who Killed Roe

Kerry Howley | New York Magazine | May 9th, 2022 | 7,800 words

When I was 13, sex education was part of religion class — this is what happens when you attend a Catholic middle school. We were given a lot of atrocious advice, such as, if you have gay feelings, you should talk to your priest about it. When we learned about abortion, a guest speaker — a classmate’s mom who worked at a “crisis pregnancy center” — told us the procedure was a sin and passed out silver pins supposedly the size and shape of a fetus’s feet at some number of weeks of gestation. I believe we were encouraged to wear them on the lapels of our uniforms. This experience has been top of mind since I read Kerry Howley’s chilling profile of Marjorie Dannenfelser, the most powerful anti-abortion activist in America. Dannenfelser is from my hometown, she went to the same university I did, and she was married in the Catholic church attached to my middle school. Reading Howley’s piece was like going through the looking glass. Dannenfelser is a terrifying, single-minded, vengeful extremist whose (anti-)life’s work relies on images of “murdered” embryos and fetuses, stripped of the physical bodies, the well-being, and the humanity of the people who carry them. Howley’s piece made me cry. It made me rage. I’ll never be able to shake it. —SD

2. Breakfast with the Panthers

Suzanne Cope | Aeon | May 10th, 2022 | 2,790 words

The Black Panther Party’s social and public health work across the U.S. after its founding in 1966 and into the early ’70s was far-reaching, even pioneering. I’d no idea that the Panthers paved the way for lead paint legislation and sickle cell anemia research, among other issues, so I appreciate Suzanne Cope’s glimpse into their community work. With as many as 45 local chapters, the Panthers developed safe housing and addiction treatment programs, door-to-door healthcare, and food justice initiatives like the Free Breakfast for Children Program which, at one point, fed more kids across the country each day than the state of California did. I also didn’t know that the majority of the party’s members by the end of the ’60s were women, and that they held many of its leadership roles. To this day, the more common image of a Black Panther is not of an activist mother but instead one that’s masculine and militant, complete with beret and gun — an “inaccurate and enduring perception” of the Panthers due to biased reporting, misinformation from the FBI, and “an all-out war” waged against them by J. Edgar Hoover. Thanks to Cope for this piece that acknowledges the Panthers’ community activism, which has always been “under-recognized” and “uncelebrated.” As she writes, “Imagine what they could have accomplished if their efforts were supported and not destroyed.” —CLR

3. Rematriating Our Lives: Indigeneity and What it Means to Climb

Micheli Oliver | The Alpinist | May 5th 2022 | 3,955 words

I am not a climber. The mere thought of precariously hanging from a rock face by my fingertips makes me feel faintly nauseous. I am, however, fascinated by people who choose to scale mountains, and I loved the climbing descriptions in Micheli Oliver’s essay for The Alpinist: “A glorious act of raising my bones up, of holding my own body, of celebrating my humanness in a dance of strength and breath.” Oliver, a person of Piikani Blackfeet heritage, muses not just on climbing but what it means to her as a Native adventurer. Indigenous people often do not have access to such activities, leaving adventure narratives to be dominated by tales of conquering the landscape and elements. Indigenous stories tend to depict “harmonious interactions with the land.” Reverence certainly fills Oliver’s words: “Snow shimmered gold across a blue, green and black sea of spruces, firs and pines. To my conscious mind, this was an unfamiliar vista, and yet my bones seemed to know the landscape intimately.” But there is also a darker story she wants to tell. Oliver climbs despite a fear of the outside world instilled in her by her parents, who taught her that “there are those who don’t see me as the human I am but as an object, exoticized for my looks.” When white people disappear in the mountains, news articles “proliferate across national media … When Native people vanish, however, their fates have frequently generated little response…” This is an adventure story that makes you think. —CW

4. In Search of Chad Hugo

Jeff Mao | GQ | May 12th, 2022 | 2,598 words

Pharrell Williams may be the household-name half of legendary production duo The Neptunes, but the upbeat sound that defined commercial hip-hop for more than a decade wouldn’t have existed without his Skateboard P’s partner, Chad Hugo. When Williams transitioned into a solo career, Hugo receded quite willingly into a relative obscurity of his own making. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t still live and breathe music, however, as Jeff Mao found while spending time with him in his native Virginia Beach. This isn’t a profile built on emotional reckonings or outlandish sound bites; it’s a quiet portrait of a quiet man who seems profoundly satisfied with what he’s accomplished, and freed from the expectation of what comes next. Mao’s byline doesn’t pop up too much in magazines these days — the ego trip cofounder and rap-mag stalwart has been doing more work on the exhibit-curation and liner-note side of things — and when it does, it’s worth your time. Especially this time. —PR

5. The Untold Story of the White House’s Weirdly Hip Record Collection

Rob Brunner | Washingtonian | May 3rd, 2022 | 2,022 words

Did you know that the White House has an official record collection? Can you imagine Ronald and Nancy Reagan doing the Electric Slide on music night? (Apparently that never happened as the records were put in storage not long after Reagan took office. Sorry for creating that image / nightmare in your mind.) Although the collection includes everything from Perry Como to the Clash, the vast majority of the albums have never been played and the last time it was expanded was in 1981. If you had the chance to update the collection with records from the previous 40 years, what would you choose? What would you want to put into the ears of the sitting president, their administration, and all the administrations to come? John Chuldenko, President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, once shot footage for a documentary about the White House’s record collection and is keen to add to it. “…it would be a blast to bring the collection into the 21st century. The White House record library ‘is a treasure, and people need to know about it,’ Chuldenko says. ‘We need to update this. We’ve got a lot of catching up to do.’” “And there, finally, was the collection: record-filled boxes stacked up in front of the movie screen. The LPs had been kept in their original sleeves, which were inserted into color-coded binders (light blue for pop, yellow for classical, etc.). Each was adorned with the presidential seal and a foil stamp that read WHITE HOUSE RECORD LIBRARY. The whole thing reeked of gravitas and respectability—except that inside a binder, rather than some speech delivered by FDR in the ’40s, you might find a mint-condition copy of Macho Man by the Village People.” —KS