Monday, May 19th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We’ve got a big week coming up: Becca Stevens, an expert on human trafficking and general superstar, is going to speak on Thursday at St. David’s to cap off our all-day Elephant in the Room event. This is a pretty big deal, so please help us make this happen by going here and donating. If you give $200 or more, you can even join us on Wednesday evening for dinner with Becca and some of our team members.

letterfrombirminghamjailIt was fifty-one years ago today that the New York Post Sunday Magazine published Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” As we gear up for Elephant in the Room and a close look at the horrors of sex trafficking, one of the lines in that letter jumped out at me: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

The Civil Rights movement in this country, while past its heyday, is still ongoing. Indeed, it’s bigger than it ever has been. In the past, racial desegregation was a central, unifying goal. Its import has not declined, but now, we know that we don’t just face a single evil, but a whole array of evil: racism has been joined by sexism, homophobia, classism, and a great host of others. But the leader of this collection of specters is apathy. It’s so easy to see evil and ignore it, or just say to yourself, “That’s terrible,” and then put it from your mind. With this event, we’re going to shine a light on something foul and wrong and attack it until it’s gone. Don’t do the easy thing, which is to click like or nod to yourself, then let it fade from your thoughts as you go about your day. Acknowledge your place in this network of mutuality. Accept the responsibility you hold, by virtue of being a person, to your fellow people. Remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Monday, May 12th

elephant in room logo

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers. We hope you’re ready for a pretty sweet couple of weeks. First, Terri Hendrix will close down this season of Unplugged on the Front Porch with Lloyd Maines this Thursday (the 15th), at 7:30 in All Saints’ Episcopal Church. Then, on Thursday the 22nd, we’re going to roll out our revamped series Elephant in the Room with the help of Becca Stevens, one of the brightest and best in her field. This all-day event at St. David’s will culminate with Becca’s keynote address “Giving Voice to Hope: Looking at the universal issues of sexual violence and how we can be a part of a movement for women’s freedom.” Help us make this happen by donating. We’ll cap our May with Parable at Opal Divine’s Penn Field. Join Steve, John Burnett, and Tom Spencer–Executive Director of I Live Here, I Give Here and host of KRLU’s Central Texas Gardener–at 5:30 on Sunday the 25th for sacrament and fellowship.

Today is the eighty-eighth anniversary of a combined Norwegian-Italian-American expedition making the first verified trip to the North Pole. The nine-day zeppelin cruise resulted in significant tensions among the 16-man, one-dog expedition, but was still humanity’s first look at the northernmost point on the planet. Previous expeditions, notably those led by Frederick Cook, Robert Peary, and Richard Byrd, had claimed to reach the Pole, but are now dismissed as incorrect, if not fraudulent. The first expedition on the ground to reach the North Pole was led by Wally Herbert in 1969. That such great journeys and discoveries occurred so recently is a strong reminder of just how huge and mysterious our world really is.

Monday, May 5th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers. Buckle up, because we’ve got a pretty crazy May planned out for you. Unplugged on the Front Porch’s final iteration of the season is Thursday the 15th, starring Terri Hendrix with Lloyd Maines. Then, Parable returns on Sunday the 25th with Tom Spencer, who is both the director of I Live Here, I Give Here and a gardener extraordinaire.

But our biggest news is that we’re bringing back our Elephant in the Room series, which is dedicated to inspiring ongoing conversation about underreported or taboo topics. To address the horrific problem of human trafficking and sex slavery, we’ve enlisted the help of Becca Stevens, an internationally recognized expert in the field and founder of Thistle Farms. Help us bring her to Austin by donating here, and join our team by using the social media hashtag #eitr.

We’d also like to wish two hundred and second happy birthday to Søren Kierkegaard. The Dane is an obvious influence on the Front Porch’s ethos. As one of the nineteenth century’s preeminent humanist philosophers, he helped inform our beliefs about the importance of the individual and how that individual related to God on a personal level. His writing style, in which he often created various personas and had them engage each other in conversation, is also near and dear to our dialogical hearts. So, in the spirit of old philosopher’s daily exercise, we’d suggest that everyone take a walk around town today, interacting with whomever appears in an echo of Søren’s efforts to “lead a completely human life.”

Monday, April 21st

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy one hundred and seventy-eighth anniversary of the Battle of San Jacinto. In celebration of such a landmark in the history of Texas, we’re featuring one of the landmarks of the Texas music scene this week at Unplugged on the Front Porch: Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore will play Thursday at All Saints’ Episcopal Church.

It’s also the traditional date of the founding of Rome by Romulus and Remus. Of course, it was calculated by counting backwards through various mythological histories and is probably rather unreliable, considering that there is evidence of a walled human settlement on the site in the ninth century BC, but hey, it’s still pretty cool to think about tracing a civilization that dominated its world for three thousand years to a specific day. No? No one else thinks that’s really really cool? Dang. Well, it’s Patriot Day, too. Or the anniversary of the discovery of exoplanets. Or John Muir’s birthday. Or another day that the earth didn’t spin off its axis into the frigid void of space. Odds are you can find a good reason for this day to be pretty special one for you; want to share it?

Matthew Dow: Why I Front Porch

Here’s Front Porch Board member Matthew Dow on why he does the Front Porch:

The Front Porch is about listening to others.  It’s about dialogue.  It’s about having a conversation, even with different folks from different backgrounds.  It’s about learning from one another.  It’s about community.  Without being religious, it’s about gathering with a group of people and searching and being surprised.  That’s why I am committed to the Front Porch.

Monday, April 14th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthday to David G. Burnet, the first (albeit interim) president of the Republic of Texas. Speaking of Burnet(t)s, we’d like to thank John for once again MCing Parable with Austin jazz heavyweights Rabbi Neil Blumofe and Michael Mordecai. We’d like to thank all of you who came out, too. Also a big shout-out to Angie Cross for wrapping up our Lenten series Autobiographies of Redemption on Friday; if you didn’t hear her, you should check out her book The Butterfly Knight, which is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting. Looking ahead, Unplugged on the Front Porch is next Thursday, starring Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Colin Gilmore. It’s not like they need an introduction, but holy cow are they talented.

On a more sober note, our Executive Director/fearless leader Rev. Dr. Steve Kinney’s father is in ill health, so Steve will be in Houston for the next couple of days. If you could keep the Kinneys in your thoughts and/or prayers, we’d sure appreciate it.

Monday, April 7th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy feast day of the Blessed Notker the Stammerer. (Sorry, but how often am I going to get a chance to type “the Blessed Notker the Stammerer” into my computer?) Thanks to everyone who came out to hear Bill Wigmore’s powerful story this past Friday. Next, consider this your official invitation to the last of our Autobiographies of Redemption. Our final speaker is Angie Cross, who is the author of The Butterfly Knight, a chronicle of her journey with her son, who has Goldenhar syndrome. Don’t miss her account of joy, despair, and love. Then, the brilliant jazz historian, singer, and scholar Rabbi Neil Blumofe will join us for Parable to discuss sacred music, the Pesach, and jazz. He’s not the only guest of note, though; trombonist Michael Mordecai, a founding member of Beto and the Fairlanes, will  share some of his talent with us as well.

On this day ninety-two years ago, US Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall illegally leased federal oil lands near Teapot Dome, Wyoming, to private companies. Besides making him wealthier to the tune of $500,000 (or roughly $6.6 million in today), the deal allowed Pan American Oil and Sinclair Oil to access to the untouched oil reserves for almost nothing and without any competitive bidding. The subsequent investigation lasted for seven years and finished with the oil companies evicted from the lands and Fall imprisoned for a year. The heads of the two oil companies served a combined six months in prison. Fortunately, such high-dollar white-collar crime has since been stamped out in this country and around the world.

Monday, March 31st

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthdays to Renée Descartes, JS Bach, Joseph Haydn, Nikolai Gogol, Octavio Paz, Cesar Chavez, and Al Gore. We’d like to give a big “thank you” to Jesse Sublett for sharing his story last Friday, and to everyone who came to listen. This week, we’ve got the Rev. Bill Wigmore, who is a priest and addiction expert, speaking at Autobiographies of Redemption. If you liked Jesse, you should definitely check out Bill.

In lieu of any writing, here’s a video of Selena, who was killed on this day in 1995. Go ahead and dance along. We’re not here to judge.

 

Monday, March 24th

Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and thank you all so much. We raised $8,390 through Amplify Austin, which will be matched by an anonymous donor. Every one of you who gave is our hero. To celebrate, we’re going to continue with our scheduled programming. Hooray! On Friday, our series Autobiographies of Redemption continues with Jesse Sublett. Maybe you know him as the bassist for the Skunks, who helped found the Austin punk scene in the seventies. Maybe you know him as a rock-and-roll mystery novelist. But however you know him, you don’t want to miss his story.

Speaking of major stories, it was thirty-four years ago today that Archbishop Óscar Romero was assassinated while celebrating Mass in a hospital chapel in San Salvador. Archbishop Romero was an outspoken critic of the political violence and corruption of El Salvador during the 1970s. Although he began his ecclesiastic career as a moderate conservative, he adapted his views to better fit his setting, breaking decades of the Church’s silent approbation of the strong-arm tactics used by El Salvador’s government and allying himself with (but never joining) the liberation theology movement. While his extraordinary courage in the face of institutional menace made him famous, his courage in the face of change is just as commendable: when faced with an appalling situation, he did not simply do as his predecessors had done and withdraw from the arena. He investigated the repression, thought about it, and changed himself to better meet the challenge with which he was presented. The Vatican has begun the process of canonizing him, but a more fitting remembrance would be to face the facts and change oneself, as he did, to better serve the good and the true.

Very Important Things

Howdy, Front Porchers. We’re posting here even though it’s not Monday because we’ve got some important news. We’ve been selected as one of I Live Here I Give Here’s featured organizations for their Amplify Austin fundraising event. Starting at 6 PM on Thursday, March 20th, and ending at 6 PM on Friday, March 21st, Amplify Austin opens for online giving. You can donate here and check out our Amplify Austin page for more information. We’ve also just gotten the word that a donor has pledged to match the amount the Front Porch raises during this drive, so you can really stretch your dollar.

Though Amplify Austin Day begins March 20th, help us create the buzz for the Front Porch and Amplify Austin by going online and giving today. Amplify Austin’s goal is to raise a total of $4 million for Austin non-profits this year. Help us build some momentum for the Front Porch on their page by pledging now and hitting the “Create a Fundraising Campaign” button, which will create a URL you can share with your friends, family, and social media contacts. Share it on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Tweet it. Email it. Heck, send some carrier pigeons.

 
The Front Porch is, at its core, a community organization. Our purpose is to bring people together for conversation. This is one way for us to find out if we’ve succeeded. If you’ve seen Sam Baker or Nelo or Ruby Jane at Actually Unplugged, or if you’ve listened to John Burnett and Ray Benson or Nelson Guda at Parable, or if you talked with Ben Philpott and Dr. Sam Wilson at Parable, this is a great opportunity to help us continue doing what we do.