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Join us December 13 & 14

For this year’s Ideas We Should Steal Festival, the Citizen looked across the country for the ideas, leaders, change-makers and innovations that are transforming cities in America to optimize Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Prosperity.

We’re bringing them to Philadelphia on Monday, December 13 and Tuesday, December 14, to share with our audience of passionate citizens a way to create a city that meets this particular moment, full of challenges and opportunities, so that all Philadelphians can flourish and grow.

Here’s who you’ll see at the festival (so far).

Tickets to whole Festival: $30 (includes refreshments on December 13; breakfast, lunch and snacks on December 14)

Tickets to “What Would Jimmy Do?” on December 13: Free

Ticket plus 1-year Citizen membership: $50

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Who else is at IWSS?

Here's the lineup (so far)

What Would Jimmy Do? (Monday December 13)
Princeton Professor and bestselling author Eddie Glaude, Jr. of Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own will explore lessons for today from the legendary writer and public intellectual in conversation with the Tony-winning and Obie-winning musician and playwright Stew, who, with his band The Negro Problem, wrote and performed Notes of a Native Song, a tribute to Baldwin. Moderated by MSNBC’s Ali Velshi. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres from Philabundance Community Kitchen will be served. 

Fixing The Prison Industrial ComplexPiper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, in conversation with REFORM Alliance CEO Robert Rooks. Moderated by New York Times Magazine journalist Emily Bazelon, author of Charged: The Movement to Transform American Prosecution and End Mass Incarceration.

Feeling Their Pain: Listening to the Trump voter: UC-Berkeley professor Arlie Hochschild, author of Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on The American Right, on the five years she spent seeking to understand Tea Party members in Louisiana—and the lessons we can learn on how to move forward as citizens together. In conversation with Ali Velshi.

Brokering PeaceAqeela Sherrills, who brokered the historic peace between LA’s Bloods and Crips, and is now leading the Newark Community Street Team’s successful efforts to reduce gun violence in New Jersey’s biggest city.

Stakeholder Capitalism and the ESG revolution: Former CEO Young & Rubicam CEO Peter Georgescu, author of Capitalists Arise!, End Economic Inequality, Grow the Middle Class, Heal the Nation in conversation with MSNBC’s Ali Velshi.

The Long Game To Ending Generational Poverty. Terri Sorenson, executive director of Friends of the Children, a 12-year mentorship program for young people that has shown incredible results and Omolara Fatiregun, CEO of Thrive!, an anti-poverty tech company. In conversation with Bill Golderer.

There’s No Conservative or Progressive Way To Change A Pothole. Mayors are their own political party in America—problem solvers. Former Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed with former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. Moderated by Larry Platt.

Get a taste

What we saw at the 2020 fest

Ideas We Should Steal Festival 2021: What Would Jimmy Do?

On our Festival eve, bestselling author Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. and Tony-winning playwright and singer/songwriter Stew will disturb some peace by sharing lessons in song and prose from the moral vision of James Baldwin

Ideas We Should Steal Festival 2021: What Would Jimmy Do?

On our Festival eve, bestselling author Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. and Tony-winning playwright and singer/songwriter Stew will disturb some peace by sharing lessons in song and prose from the moral vision of James Baldwin

“It is, alas, the truth that to be an American writer today means mounting an unending attack on all that Americans believe themselves to hold sacred,” James Baldwin—arguably the GOAT of American Letters—wrote nearly 60 years ago. “It means fighting an astute and agile guerrilla warfare with that American complacency which so inadequately masks the American panic.”

In his bestselling consideration of the great author and public intellectual, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own, Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. gives us Baldwin, the writer as righteous beacon whose fiery wisdom can redeem a nation—if only we’d listen. “Baldwin’s view of the writer was a decidedly moral one,” Glaude writes. “The writer puts aside America’s myths and legends and forces a kind of confrontation with the society as it is, becoming a disturber of the peace in doing so.”

Well, get ready for peace disturbances, Philly, ‘cause both Glaude and Tony-winning playwright and singer/songwriter Stew, who represent the Baldwin creed in all their captivating, in-yo’-face work, will be the highlight of our pre-event before this year’s Ideas We Should Steal Festival presented by Comcast NBCUniversal.Get Tickets Button

Glaude’s tearful commentaries on cable TV during the darkest moments of the Trump years were a kind of balm, outrage carefully leavened with a faith in a brighter tomorrow. And Stew? Have you seen Passing Strange, the story in rollicking song of Stew’s own search for identity, racial and otherwise? It’s a celebration of Baldwin-like intellectual iconoclasm, as was his tribute to Baldwin, Notes of a Native Song, five years ago. Like Baldwin, both Glaude and Stew take seriously the role of the artist in society: To speak the hard truths others won’t or can’t say.

Baldwin was impossible to categorize, once telling The Paris Review, “On one side of town, I was an Uncle Tom, and on the other the Angry Young Man.” Black Panthers considered him a traitor, Martin Luther King, Jr. prohibited him from speaking a the March on Washington, and J. Edgar Hoover considered him a threat to the nation. “A real writer is always shifting and changing and searching,” he once wrote. He rejected labels of all kinds; to him, race was first and foremost a social construct. “Color is not a human or a personal reality,” he wrote. “It is a political reality.”

Baldwin was the freest of free thinkers; no idea was unworthy of inspection. What a contrast to today, when what passes for public debate consists of dueling talking points, polarized sides always in their respective corners. On race, Baldwin went beyond chronicling grievance and instead wrote empathetically but unsparingly about Whites, and focused on the deeper meanings of racism: “Whatever white people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves,” he wrote in The Fire Next Time.

Glaude and Stew—moderated by MSNBC host Ali Velshi—will channel for us Baldwin’s moral instructions for these perilous times, Glaude in lyrical oration and Stew in acoustic song. It will be love-laden, uplifting, and, hopefully, at times a little uncomfortable. Jimmy would have had it no other way.

Check out Glaude here, on Baldwin’s impact on his own life:

And here’s Stew, doing the same:

Finally, if we’re lucky, maybe we can get Stew to play my favorite song from his oeuvre, Black Men Ski:

(L-R) Stew, James Baldwin (Allan warren, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons) and Eddie Glaude Jr.

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