Here are five things worth paying attention to this week. These are designed to expose you to a perspective you may not normally come across in your daily lives.
1. When They See Us. Ava DuVernay’s series on the Central Park Five—the randomly seized young black and Hispanic teen and pre-teen boys from Harlem who were tried with contrived “justice” and wrongly imprisoned for their young lives—opens a window on the many levels and multiple motivations in American racism and its ensuing injustices. The performances are astonishing, the urgent retelling compelling. If you have access to Netflix, you will find it a devastatingly truthful account of a blind leap, not a rush to judgment by a system fueled by either self promotion or hate of others.
2. Maida Heatter, the “Queen of Cake.” We lost one of our favorite guides to baking and serving the most astounding desserts when she died last week at 102. Our family has its list of favorites from Maida Heatter’s Great Book of Great Chocolate Desserts (1978), the best selling of her eight or more books (there are seven on the shelf behind me). Her careful attention to detail was unmatched, and exactly what you want in a baking cookbook author. The sour cherry chocolate torte is the one most often demanded in our family. When almost 40 years ago David made it for his parents, Clarence and Stella Augsburger, they reminisced about her father, Gabriel, their favorite newcaster and World War II. We will bake a memorable cake at our reunion next month.
3. “My Next Guest Needs no Introduction.” David Letterman confesses his anxiety about conversations with people who hide so little, then his dialogue sparkles with integrity. Mental health awareness grows more deep as one appreciates the sensitivity of Letterman’s interview with a rap star with fragile ego boundaries, or share his awe at the healthy responses to prejudice mounted against a famous talk show host. His new series of one-on-one’s with unusual personalities is revelatory.
4. “Stories of Hope” at Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference. Our conversations return to the wide-ranging narratives of hope from our wide spread of congregations in Arizona and California that were shared in our summer assembly held May 31 to June 2 in San Francisco. Clear, although humanly smudged, fingerprints of God were visible all over the people who radiated hope. Their hope was just as clear when reflected in the faces of the audience absorbing the healing grace.
5. Trial in Tucson. “It feels like living in To Kill a Mockingbird,” our daughter Kate Wentland texted from the hallway at the trial of Scott Warren. She joined Shalom Mennonite Fellowship, Tucson, Arizona, and the larger interfaith group of over 100 who stood in solidarity with Warren and protested the prosecution of humanitarian aid, “the criminalization of kindness.” Warren faced felony charges for giving water to thirsty migrant brothers and sisters who cross a particular stretch of desert where at least 3,000 others died in the last few years. The words “hung jury” sounded so right.
David and Leann Augsburger are two semi-retired people who co-lead a home base church (Peace Mennonite Church, Claremont, California) and volunteer to welcome, care and connect people in the San Gabriel valley.