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5 Great Social Justice Podcasts of 2015

5 Great Social Justice Podcasts of 2015

As 2015 winds to a close, we're thinking back on the year through a social justice lens. One way to do a deep dive into a social justice topic, to hear new or conflicting views in conversation with each other, to discover a new way of thinking about a topic is through podcasts. Here are some recommendations from the staff of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism for social justice-centric podcasts that came out in 2015. What are your recommendations?

Podcast: Fresh Air with Terry Gross
Episode: In ‘Bastards of the Reagan Era’ A Poet Says His Generation Was ‘Just Lost’
Air Date: December 8, 2015

Terry Gross interviews poet Reginald Dwayne Betts about his life and his new book of poetry. At 16, Betts was sentenced to eight years in an adult prison for carjacking. Betts describes with vivid detail what it was like to be a juvenile in the adult prison system, and he argues that our overly punitive criminal justice system has failed an entire generation of young people of color. This is an excellent portrayal of the human costs of mass incarceration. (Learn about the RAC’s work on racial justice.)

Podcast: Life of the Law
Episode: Who’s the Criminal?
Air Date: September 22, 2015

Life of the Law tells stories of how “the law,” something we often think of as written down in books and interpreted only by professionals, touches the lives of individuals. “Who’s the Criminal?” reported by journalist Nicole Pasulka, explores the experiences of the between 70 and 100 million people who have criminal records in the United Sates. Pasulka investigates, through the lives of several individuals, how punishment continues long after the end of prison or parole sentences. (Learn about the RAC’s work on criminal justice reform.)

Podcast: On Being
Episode: The Inner Life of Rebellion
Air Date: January 8, 2015

On Being is essential listening for all people of faith struggling with the deep questions of spiritual life. In this episode, Krista Tippet interviews journalist and author Courtney Martin and Quaker leader Parker Palmer about connecting social justice and inner life. Palmer explains that social justice rebellion is “something that can be done on a moment-by-moment basis” as well as in a long term frame. Martin encourages us to “trust our inner outrage” and says that while social problems may be difficult to solve, it is up to each of us to “hold that complexity”, to acknowledge it but to keep moving forward toward progress. (Learn about why advocacy is important to Reform Judaism.)

Podcast: This American Life
Episode: The Problem We All Live With
Air Date: July 31, 2015

Journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones reports on the integration of Normandy School District in Normandy, Missouri, where Michael Brown attended. She uncovers the complex story of racial and economic politics in public education and argues that the main reason integrated school districts has not worked is because we have not really given them a fair chance. This podcast shows the fears and difficulties around creating a racially diverse school system, and highlights the work we all must do to build a more inclusive society. (Learn about the RAC’s work on affirmative action.)

Podcast: We the People
Episode: When Religious Liberty Conflicts with LGBT Rights, Who Wins?
Air Date: September 23, 2015

Ever since the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision in 2014, questions of religious freedom and what kind of appropriate limits to it have occupied an important and growing place in our national conversation. The Obergefell decision in June 2015 further heightened tensions (real and perceived) between religious freedom and civil rights. Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center, moderates an engaging and enlightening conversation between Kristina Arriaga of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty and Greg Lipper of Americans United for Separation of Church and State as they discuss this tension and how their organizations think about these issues. (Learn more about the RAC’s work on religious liberty.)

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