Here is a letter written in support of leniency for Marc Henry Johnson, a fellow producer on “The Deuce” who was involved in the tragic overdose death of a woman in New York last year. The letter was written to the sentencing judge and is part of the court record, and I post it here out of concern that certain news outlets, including the New York tabloids — which did a poor and imprecise job of covering the original incident — are now quoting it piecemeal. As it is addressed to a presiding court, it would be inappropriate to comment beyond the letter itself, but I am going to link to it here so that a full, contextualized argument is available to those concerned or curious about my reasoning:
Forty years ago this week, my father was taken hostage when the Hanafi Muslims, a breakaway sect from the Nation of Islam, took over the District Building, the Islamic Center and the B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington D.C. As the 56-year-old public relations director for B’nai B’rith, a Jewish service organization, my father was selected by the Hanafi sect’s leader as one of eight older men who would be the first killed if police stormed the building. A young radio reporter was killed at the District Building and a D.C. protective services officer fatally wounded. There were others harmed as well, largely in the initial moments of the siege.
Eventually, through the brave intercession of the ambassadors from Egypt, Pakistan and Iran who negotiated by citing the Koran to the Hanafis, all of the hostages were released. My father emerged from his offices and embraced his family after 38 hours, his shirt streaked with the blood of a younger worker who had been cut during the initial takeover. As a 16-year-old high school student, it is an image and moment I will never forget.
I had the distinct honor of being asked to give my union’s award for lifetime achievement to fellow Baltimorean and film legend John Waters. These were my remarks, or those that were in the teleprompter, anyway. I may have veered at points:
John Waters, who began an improbable career of deep cultural relevance with the equally improbable notion that people from Baltimore should be allowed to put stories on film, is perhaps one of the most influential voices we have.
He is laughing at this. I know he is. I am going to look over there to where he is sitting now and see that he is laughing — yes, there he is — laughing at what I just claimed for him.
I know that he is laughing because John is perhaps the great modern master of self-effacement and self-mockery. He has gone to lengths to characterize his entire career as a storyteller and filmmaker in terms that purport to show him standing on the outside of the joke, looking in: “Pink Flamingos,” he writes in his wondrous autobiography, “was billed as ‘an exercise in poor taste.’ And I like the understatement.”
That right there is a man who
One. Knows exactly what he is doing and why.
Two. Knows how to write.
The event is sold out.
There will NOT be tickets available at the door. A ticket is required for entry.
Not attending? Please consider making a donation to the organizations we are supporting:
ACLU of MD, National Immigration Law Center, Tahirih Justice Center, International Rescue Committee.
Click here to make a donation through our online page. Donations made online and at the event will be matched up to $100,000 by Blown Deadline Productions.
The event will be livestreamed by the Washington Post.
Blown Deadline Productions & Tech Solidarity
Date & Time:
Monday February 13th, 2017
7:00 – 8:30pm
Doors open at 6:15pm
Tickets are required for entry. Please bring your printed ticket with you or be prepared to show it on your phone. A reminder that a very small number of tickets will be released at 4pm tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon.
About the event:
Baltimoreans united against fear, nativism and the immigration ban will gather on Monday, February 13 at Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill to hear speakers as varied as Beau Willimon, Deray McKesson, David Simon, Taylor Branch, and others urging religious and racial inclusivity. The program will conclude with singer-songwriter Steve Earle adding his voice and guitar.
Admission is free with a ticket and donation to groups assisting visa holders and refugees: ACLU of MD, National Immigration Law Center, Tahirih Justice Center, and International Rescue Committee.
Donations made through the event’s donation page and at the event will be matched up to $100,000 by Blown Deadline Productions, the Baltimore-based television production company that created The Wire, Treme and Show Me A Hero.
Tech Solidarity works to better connect tech workers with the communities they live in. Our emphasis is on regular in-person meetings, volunteer assistance to organizations serving the vulnerable, and the creative use of labor law in pursuit of an ethical agenda.
- Leana S. Wen, M.D., MSc., FAAEM – Health Commissioner, Baltimore City
- Nancy Kass, ScD – the Phoebe R. Berman Professor of Bioethics and Public Health, in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Deputy Director for Public Health in the Berman Institute of Bioethics.
- Marielena Hincapié – Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center
- Ruben Chandrasekar – Executive Director, International Rescue Committee, Maryland
- Kristen Strain – Executive Director, Tahirih Justice Center Baltimore
- Sonia Kumar – Staff Attorney, ACLU of MD
I was asked by the BBC to write and read an essay about a book that changed me — a request that offered an opportunity to bring more readers to one of the more epic and honorable acts of American journalism. Acquiring “Famous Men” was seminal for me as a twentysomething reporter, and provided both tactical and ethical ballast for the journeys in narrative non-fiction I would soon undertake in a homicide unit and on a drug corner. Have a listen and maybe pick up a copy of Agee & Walker’s masterpiece:
David Simon describes how “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” by James Agee and Walker Evans changed his work as a journalist. The celebrated work capturing the lives of ordinary people during The Depression made him realise the importance of sharing “the simple, raw vulnerability” of lived experience. “Page after page was fully ripe with the delicate work of a thinking journalist who knows with all moral certitude that he is approaching and attempting to capture the love, fear and sadness of real lives.” Produced by Smita Patel.