Michael Morton, Forgiveness, and Developing Daring Culture

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225_anunrealdreamOn Martin Luther King Day, January 19th, The Front Porch will host the screening of “An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story” at the Alamo Drafthouse Village, as part of its Elephant in the Room symposia. Michael himself will be there to lead a conversation following the film that will take those of us lucky enough to attend into the deep places where we come face to face with our humanity in all its glory and limitation. (NOTE: in addition to the 7pm screening, KUT’s Ben Philpott will interview Michael in Studio 1A at noon on January 19th.) 

In 1986 Michael Morton’s wife Christine is brutally murdered in front of their only child, and Michael is convicted of the crime.  Locked away in Texas prisons for a quarter century, estranged from his son, he has years to ponder questions of justice and innocence, truth and fate.  Though he is virtually invisible to society, the Innocence Project and Michael’s pro bono attorney spend years fighting for the right to test DNA evidence found at the murder scene.  Their discoveries ultimately reveal that the price of a wrongful conviction goes well beyond one man’s loss of freedom.

Director Al Reinert is a two-time Academy Award nominee, as a documentary filmmaker (For All Mankind, which won the documentary Jury and Audience Awards when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989) and as a screenwriter (Apollo 13).

What a privilege it will be to be with Michael, whose story touches on the miscarriage of justice, resentment, prison culture, human rights, and, most of all, forgiveness. His transformative story transforms all who hear it.

There are a very limited number of tickets left for this event. One way to be guaranteed a seat is to make a tax-deductible donation to the Front Porch’s Indiegogo campaign and claim one of the perks that offers tickets. Not only will you be able to join us that night, but you’ll also help us to reach our $30,000 goal. Right now, with 12 days left in the campaign, we’ve raised over $21,000, which is 72%. This money helps The Front Porch continue to offer inspiring events that create daring culture, to coin Brene Brown’s phrase, in which people feel the spiritual connection that comes from being open to and learning from others. 

 

Monday, July 28th

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Happy Monday, Front Porchers, and happy birthday to the Kennewick Man; it’s either his eighteenth or his nine thousand seven hundredth-ish, depending on how you look at it. Anyways, thanks to everyone who came out to Parable last week to hear Evan Smith and John Burnett’s conversation. We sure enjoyed it, and we hope yall did too, even with the crowds. We’re doing it again next month with screenwriter, actor, and generally awesome guy Turk Pipkin.

But what else is happening on the Front Porch? Well might you ask. We’re continuing our evaluation of all of our programs over the past year. We’ve got big changes planned for Unplugged, Parable, and Elephant in the Room. We’re not striking out in an entirely new direction, but we’re adjusting our sails and testing the wind to see where we can go next.

On a more personal note, my time at the Front Porch is nearly spent. After joining on as an intern last August, I became a full-time employee in October. Starting on the first of August, I’ll step down as the Project Manager and instead work for the Porch as a contractor. As the Front Porch tessellates into ever more fascinating iterations, it’s become increasingly clear to Steve and to me that it’s time for me to step back. I’ve really enjoyed building this project and interacting with all you lovely people, and I can’t wait to see how all of our work on the Porch turns out. So thanks, everyone, for helping me over this past year, and here’s to an ever-expanding and improving Front Porch.

Monday, May 26th

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Happy Memorial Day, Front Porchers. Hope yall are enjoying the day off if you have it off, although the weather in Austin may preclude some traditional Memorial Day activities. Our first order of business on this Monday is to thank everyone, particularly Becca Stevens, who made Elephant in the Room possible this past Thursday. If you’re interested in keeping the conversation going, give us a holler.

We’re not really taking our foot off the gas, though: in a couple of weeks, on June 8, we’ll host Parable at Opal Divine’s Penn Field at 5:30. By now, many of you know what to expect: Steve’s earnest and open officiating, John Burnett‘s insightful questions, and Dave Madden‘s wonderful music. Our guest preacher this week is Kirk Watson, state senator of the 14th district. As a father, cancer survivor, former Austin mayor, and–according to the Texas Monthly–one of the state’s best legislators, Kirk’s thoughts on a life of service are not something you want to miss.

Monday, May 19th

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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

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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

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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, October 7th

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Happy Monday, everybody. We’ve got a few things coming up that we’d like you to know about. We’re going to be wrapping up our Elephant in the Room series on Apocalypse at 7:00 on Wednesday in the All Saints’ parish hall with a showing of Fresh, a documentary about the struggles of small agriculture in the modern world, and a discussion afterwards. And don’t forget that next week, Actually Unplugged returns to All Saints’ with Ruby Jane.

On a more somber note, it was twenty-three years ago today that Matthew Shepard was attacked and beaten in Laramie, Wyoming, leading to his death six days later. The growing acceptance of the LGBTQ community in the years since shows that we, as a society, are progressing, but that we have to travel a great distance yet to be a community that humbly accepts all its members, regardless of their differences. As this acceptance is one of the core values of the Front Porch, we ask that you remember the importance of dialogue, especially with people you disagree with, and that you keep on talking with one another and with us; it’s the only way we can make this crazy world work.

APOCALYPSE 2: October 2

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elephant in room logoEvery day, more people claim to see evidence that the end times are upon us. Doomsday preppers readying survival shelters and gear in anticipation of a violent and large-scale overthrow of society; discoveries about the nature of things, on galactic and subatomic scales, only reaffirm our frailty; a surge in interest in zombies and the supernatural indicates that we, as a culture, are anxious. It’s enough to make anyone look for answers.

The Apocalypse series will draw these anxieties into the open and engage them through intelligent discussion with a panel of experts whose areas of knowledge range from the Book of Revelation to the fall of the great empires past to the great environmental uncertainties to come. Join us in listening and talking about what this obsession with the apocalypse means and help us engage it and harness its force into something creative and sustainable. These discussions take place at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 7-9pm

The second event of this series is scheduled this Wednesday, October 2nd, and will feature Dr. Samuel J. Wilson and KUT’s Ben Philpott conversing about the fall of a major civilization, and talking about the conditions and results for that fall pertinent to the contemporary political climate.

Weekly update: September 19

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Hello, Front Porchers, and happy seventy-third birthday to Otis Redding. It’s busy over here on the Porch. Actually Unplugged is next Thursday, featuring Guy Forsyth. The Wednesday after that, we kick off the newest incarnation of our Elephant in the Room series; the opener will star Dr. Jane Patterson and focus on the Book of Revelation. We just had a very productive board meeting, which helped us settle a few questions we’ve been mulling over. We’ve got a lot of other things in the works, so keep checking back.

 

If you’ve read or seen High Fidelity, you’re familiar with the protagonist’s obsession with Top Five lists as a way to organize the chaos of his life. My father, while nowhere near as neurotic, is locally infamous for collecting and archiving his family’s and friends’ Top Tens. For example, I can email him and find out what my favorite albums were twelve years ago, which is an excellent exercise in humility. On that note, and considering the importance of music to the Front Porch’s mission, I’m interested in hearing what everyone’s top five favorite albums are. For the record, mine are Fox Confessor Brings the Flood by Neko Case, Kiko by Los Lobos, Black Eyes by the Black Eyes, Cold Roses by Ryan Adams, and Wiretap Scars by Sparta. Share your top five, or just mock mine.