By Matthew Rothschild on November 16, 2009

The progressive movement in America has lost a beautiful voice.

Andrea Lewis, radio host at KPFA and a contributing writer for The Progressive magazine and Progressive Media Project, died this weekend of a massive heart attack. She was only 52.

She could write quickly and well on a whole range of subjects, but she was especially interested in combating racism, sexism, and homophobia.

The last Progressive Media Project piece she wrote was about Billie Jean King receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“King’s most memorable battles were not fought on the tennis court,” she wrote. “She lived as an out lesbian before it was remotely fashionable to do so. She fought for equal pay for women athletes, and by extension, women in general.” (For a compendium of her Progressive Media Project columns, click here.)

Andrea also applauded Billie Jean King for being “fluid and graceful.”

Those adjectives apply to Andrea, as well.

She was a natural at radio. Her voice was smooth, her manner conversational. And she knew how to listen. And she knew how to laugh. I always loved talking with her on the air. It was breezy and fun, even when the news was bleak.

I last saw Andrea this May when she helped co-host The Progressive’s 100th anniversary celebration in Madison, Wis.

She did so with her usual aplomb (and for no money, I might add).

She and I would do tag-team introductions, and her impromptu intro for Dolores Huerta was especially moving.

During the conference, she also participated on a panel entitled “Defending Civil Rights for All.” She talked about the various oppressions she’d had to deal with her whole life: being black, being female, being a lesbian, being a woman of size, and becoming disabled. She stressed how important it was for all of us to call out bigotry of every stripe—and not to let it slide.

She reiterated that point in the last thing she wrote for The Progressive: her picks for “Favorite Books of 2009.” One book that she chose was Tim Wise’s “Between Barack and a Hard Place: Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama.”

“Wise’s analysis is centered on, but not limited to, black/white race relations in the United States,” she wrote. “Ultimately, however, his message is to whites, whom he challenges to speak out against racism wherever and whenever it occurs.”

She was proud of what she’d achieved in journalism, including being selected as a member of the Stanford University Knight Journalism Fellowship Class of 2008. And she was proud to have a quotation from her 2005 interview with Barbara Lee included in The Progressive’s 100th anniversary edition in April. The quote was: “Congress gave the President a blank check to wage an undefined war against an undefined enemy for an undefined period of time. We shouldn’t have given him that authority.” (To read that interview in its entirety, click here.)

Andrea Lewis was a woman with many talents. She sang in a S.F. choir, she knew music backwards and forwards, she read widely, she was a lifelong golfer, and she was an avid sports fan.

But beyond her accomplishments, she was just a lovely woman.

I will miss her passion for justice.

I will miss her fluid voice.

I will miss her belly laugh.

And I’ll miss the human touch of her notes.

In one of her last e-mails to me, knowing I’m a Shaquille O’Neal fan, she wrote a P.S. that said: “Shaq and LeBron. What do you think? Will this be Cleveland’s year?”

Now I won’t be able to kibitz with her about small things like that or large things like Obama anymore.

None of us will.

Not in person.

Not in print.

Not by e-mail.

Not on radio.

Such a loss.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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