Vol. 1, Issue 1
On My Mind
I encourage everyone to get the vaccine when they’re able to. Though even once vaccinated, we can’t go straight back to normal right away. We still have to wear masks and social distance until we reach herd immunity. While you won’t get sick and die, you could potentially still catch the virus and pass it on to someone else who’s not yet vaccinated (the science on that is still out, though the risk seems low). The CDC just released guidelines for fully vaccinated people. It provides a glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. Those guidelines will be updated as they learn more.
It’s been a year since the original lockdowns went into effect. The saddest part of all this is how differently it could have gone. Is anyone else feeling a little anxiety about the impending moment when society is fully back open? No more excuses, no more hiding…
Mercedes Blackehart is now taking orders for Easter-themed sustainable handmade toys via her Etsy store.
What’s Up With Me
Season 2 of my TV show, “Well Read with Justin Chapman,” has launched. The new episode features an interview with newly elected mayor of Pasadena, Victor Gordo. We talk building back the local economy after the pandemic, restoring police-community trust, and more. Watch it here.
Read my latest articles in Pasadena Now: I interviewed Dr. Danielle Wiggins, professor of history at Caltech, about her research on Black politics in the post-civil rights era, and Dr. Terrence Roberts, a member of the Little Rock Nine who integrated a whites-only school in Arkansas in 1957, ahead of their talks during the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee’s virtual speaker series.
This is an actual image of my toddler learning how to open doors:
Mercedes and I revisited the site of Mad Mike’s third and final rocket launch and crash near Barstow, California, on the one-year anniversary, February 22, to pay our respects. Pieces of the rocket were still scattered around the desert. Then we got chased off the property by the proprietor of the local meth lab concern, driving an ATV. Read about Mad Mike’s story here and here.
RIP Mad Mike.
Here are some recommendations for great books I’ve read recently:
Desert Oracle (Volume 1): Strange True Tales from the American Southwest - By Ken Layne
A pocket-size field guide to the strange and intriguing secrets of the Mojave Desert―its myths and legends, outcasts and oddballs, flora, fauna, and UFOs, a truly fascinating look at an utterly and delightfully bizarre place.
A Secret History of the IRA - By Ed Moloney
An in-depth look behind the scenes of the Irish Republican Army during the height of the Troubles—literally a war fought between republicans in Northern Ireland and the British/union loyalists.
Bag Man: The Wild Crimes, Audacious Cover-up, and Spectacular Downfall of a Brazen Crook in the White House - By Rachel Maddow and Michael Yarvitz
Based on her hit podcast, Maddow and Yarvitz write about the investigation into the crimes and corruption of Richard Nixon’s vice president, Spiro Agnew. This case was the source of the infamous Justice Department opinion that sitting presidents can’t be indicted.
Mortality - By Christopher Hitchens
The controversial writer and atheist described his thought process and what he was going through during the final months of his life as he was dying from esophageal cancer.
Stories to Keep an Eye On
International: Loyalist paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland (the ones who want the north to stay in the United Kingdom) recently withdrew their support for the Good Friday Agreement, the peace deal that ended the decades-long war between the IRA/republicans and the British/unionists. Why? Because the recently (painfully) negotiated Brexit deal—which ensures the Ireland-Northern Ireland border remains a soft, open one—means there will be some restrictions on trade between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. A sure sign that they are not interested in compromise. It’s either that or a hard border, guys, which everyone knows means a highly likely return to war.
National: Now that the COVID relief bill has been passed (a direct result of Democrats winning those two Senate seats in Georgia), what is the Biden administration’s next major legislative priority? Infrastructure? Climate change? There are so many messes to clean up and looming crises to thwart.
California: The recall campaign for Governor Gavin Newsom is gathering steam. Of course he’s not perfect, but governors who locked down their states are not the root cause of the economic suffering—the virus is (and the initial federal response, or lack thereof). If anything, governors of red states who didn’t lock down their states are the ones who should be held accountable.
Local: The Pasadena City Council is accepting applications for the newly created Civilian Police Oversight Commission. This body has been a long time coming. Will it have the teeth it needs to restore the community’s trust in the police?
Something You May Not Know About Me
I’m practically blind in one eye, ever since the sixth grade when a medical malpractice incident involving contact lenses led to a scratch on my cornea, through which a rare parasite from tap water called Acanthamoeba keratitis entered, causing severe, permanent damage. That’s why I wear glasses (which only improve the vision of my one good eye).
Spotlight on One of My Past Stories
One of the highlights of my journalism career was a story I wrote in the Pasadena Weekly about Joan Williams, a Pasadena resident who in 1958 at 26 years old was selected to be Miss Crown City, a Rose Queen-like honor at the time who represented the city of Pasadena in the Rose Parade. After city officials found out she was not white, but a fair-complexioned African American, they canceled the float she was to ride in, the mayor at the time and her co-workers at City Hall snubbed her, and she was denied other benefits. Nearly 60 years later, in 2013, she told me her story for a cover story I wrote for the Pasadena Weekly. My article led city officials including Mayor Bill Bogaard to officially apologize to her and Tournament of Roses officials to offer her a spot on the lead theme banner float in the 2015 Rose Parade, which she accepted. My follow-up story a week before the parade highlighting this story of racial reconciliation was nominated for an LA Press Club award. Here’s my story following her death in 2019 which tells the full story.