Next Selection–The Secrets of Mary Bowser

Secrets of Mary Bowser Bk Cover


Author’s Note

This novel tells the story of a real person, Mary Bowser. Born a slave in Richmond, Virginia, Mary was freed and educated in the North but returned to the South and became a Union spy during the Civil War. Like many ordinary people who choose what is right rather than what is easy, she did extraordinary things.

Few details about Mary Bowser are known today. In the nineteenth century, little effort was made to record the daily lives of most slaves, free blacks, or women of Lois L alternateany race. The scant facts about Mary Bowser that survive cannot tell us what we most want to know: What experiences in freedom would make her risk her life in a war she couldn’t be sure would bring emancipation? How did this educated African American woman feel, subjecting herself to people who regarded her as ignorant and even unhuman? How did living amid the death and destruction of America’s bloodiest war affect her?

The Secrets of Mary Bowser interweaves historical figures, factual events, even actual correspondence and newspaper clippings, with fictional scenes, imagined characters, and invented dialogue, to answer these questions. Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, who lived at the same time as Mary Bowser (and who, in the style of the period, often said man when today we would say person), I believe that the crises of an individual life can shed light on national crises. The novel tells the story of one woman’s life—but it also tells the story of a nation torn apart by slavery, and brought back together by the daily bravery of countless people like Mary Bowser.

—Lois Leveen


Lois will be my guest on the Politics for the People conference call on Sunday, June 3rd at 7 pm EST.  So, get your copy of The Secrets of Mary Bowser and start reading today.

Lois also wanted to invite those P4P members who would like an autographed copy of the book to purchase your book from Broadway Books, an independent bookstore in Portland, OR.  You can order your book  and when you are in the check out, there will be a comment section that says: “Use this area for special instructions or questions regarding your order.” You can request an autographed copy or if you would like a more personal message, you can make that request here as well.   




With Author Lois Leveen

The Secrets of Mary Bowser

SUNDAY, June 3rd @ 7 PM EST




Reader’s Forum: Five Readers Weigh In. Call with Author Tomorrow

Book Image



Greg Orman’s book is absolutely right on and just a great book. This is the best book I have read on Independents. He really is able to put into words how a lot of us Independents feel and why we became Independents.

Page 10 makes an excellent point and it is so true that both parties make us feel more different and divided than we really are.

Page 27: What Government should and shouldn’t do for the poor.IMG_2134

Page 41: We are polarized.

Page 78: Constitution is a quilt of political….

Page 103: Parties certainly have gate keepers, me and Cynthia Carpathios were kinda talking about that the other day. It is tough to get to elected officials as an Independent.

George Trapp describes himself as active voter who has been on both sides of the aisle and chooses to be an independent.  George volunteers with Independent Voice of Ohio.


I really enjoyed Mr. Orman’s book “A Declaration of Independents.” It reminded me of how our political identities can be formed by our parents. My father was a proud union member who truly believed in the legislative process. The Democrats were the “party of the people.” Slowly I began to realize that both parties were the parties of big business and special interests, and we needed to build an alternative. I remember the first time I Martavoted for an independent candidate. I tried to convince myself that a third party vote was not a wasted vote. Up until election day I was still conflicted about pulling the lever for Walter Mondale or for an unknown independent candidate. The irony is that I did waste my vote. It was my first time voting in New York City. On these pre-World War I machines you are you pull the lever, vote, and then pull the lever back. I pulled the lever twice and lost my vote. I guess that’s how I dealt with my conflict.

I liked the point Orman makes about duopolies . We have many in this country not only in politics: in the media, in business. They give us the illusion of competition. But they really serve individuals to keep their jobs, sell their products and get re-elected. Looking forward to the call.

Jessica Marta is an independent activist with Independent Voting and the New York City Independence Clubs.  She lives in Manhattan is an Adult Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner.


ramonI want to express my appreciation to Greg Orman for letting us ride in his journey for independence. In particular, page 96 Summer Soldiers and Sunshine Patriots the first 2 lines defines it all.  “THE ONLY WAY FOR OUR COUNTRY TO ADDRESS THE POLITICAL STALEMATE GRIPPING OUR NATION IS FOR A REAL MOVEMENT OF INDEPENDENTS TO TAKE HOLD.” When I read that I understood that Greg Orman knows what its like for the struggles of the independent movement.
This book became very personal to me. Cannot wait for the conference call.
Ramon Pena lives in New Jersey and is a long time independent activist.


As a long time builder of the independent movement, 30 years, I applaud Greg Orman for having the guts to challenge the bi-partisan gridlock in Washington that permeates across the states in the Blue-Red paradigm. In working on various campaigns over the years have learned that candidates will give lip service to certain political reforms important to independents but ultimately cave to the pressures of the two parties.

It appears that Greg is running to challenge the system to be more inclusive to open the 14947948_10209598211565790_78427255916291282_ndialogue in order to solve tough issues. In the past many opponents of the independent movement have said, “ What do you mean challenge the system and have it be more inclusive?” They will go on to say that independents do not stand for anything. The two-party paradigm is designed to pit groupings of people against each other that disagree on critical issues rather than bring them together to create new solutions.

Greg does a good job in describing measures that can open up the process and break the gridlock. In his book he speaks about the corruption of Gerrymandering, refers to the two-party game as a “duopoly”, the rigged primary process, partisan media and failing campaign finance rules.

Greg’s campaign is timely. Besides giving praise to Greg I am delighted that 43% of the voting population now consider themselves independent and proud to support the youth leading the – March For Our Lives – movement. According to recent research by the Pew Research Center: Millennial voters continue to have the highest proportion of independents of any generation.

Just as Greg is reaching out to all voters Democrats, Republicans, third parties, and Independents the young people leading the powerful March For Our Lives movement are reaching out to everyone. The White leaders from Parkland, after the tragic shooting, stated they need to support inner-city youth where gun violence has had them staring down the barrel of a gun for many years.

Naomi Wadler, an 11 year old leader, who spoke at the DC rally on March 24th said she was onstage to represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper. In my opinion, the powerful youth leaders such as Naomi along with independents such as Greg are all working to include everyone in new and different ways that are not tied to the Democratic or Republican parties.

Howard Edelbaum is active with the New York City Independence Clubs and is an Accounting Consultant.


This is an outstanding and very timely selection. Greg’s book is sitting on my shelf of 20 DSC_7664indispensable books related to independent voting and the movement’s intersection with the degraded political environment that we seek to rescue from itself. Greg Orman is one of the brightest lights on the scene and I am delighted that: 1) he is running for an important public office,

2) his book is now on our P4P agenda, and

3) I now have a reason to reread it after over a year’s lapse, rather than simply referring to it in bits and pieces when some new incident triggers a quick return to the book to see what Greg had to say on the subject. I look forward to a refresher course on the great American mind of Greg Orman.

Al Bell lives in Peoria, AZ and is an activist with Independent Voters for Arizona.




With Author GREG ORMAN

A Declaration of Independents

How We Can Break the Two-Party Stranglehold and Restore the American Dream



641-715-3605 and passcode 767775#


Vote for our Next Selection





How Communities Overcome Prejudice and Meet the Challenge of American Immigration

By Ali Noorani

This compelling approach to the immigration debate takes the reader behind the blaring headlines and into communities grappling with the reality of new immigrants and the changing nature of American identity.

Ali Noorani, the Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, interviews nearly fifty local and national leaders from law enforcement, business, immigrant, and faith communities to illustrate the challenges and opportunities they face. From high school principals to church pastors to sheriffs, the author reveals that most people are working to advance society’s interests, not exploiting a crisis at the expense of one community. As he shows, some cities and regions have reached a happy conclusion, while others struggle to find balance.



Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital

By David Oshinsky

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian comes a riveting history of New York’s iconic public hospital that charts the turbulent rise of American medicine.

David Oshinsky, whose last book, Polio: An American Story, was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, chronicles the history of America’s oldest hospital and in so doing also charts the rise of New York to the nation’s preeminent city, the path of American medicine from butchery and quackery to a professional and scientific endeavor, and the growth of a civic institution. From its origins in 1738 as an almshouse and pesthouse, Bellevue today is a revered public hospital bringing first-class care to anyone in need. With its diverse, ailing, and unprotesting patient population, the hospital was a natural laboratory for the nation’s first clinical research. It treated tens of thousands of Civil War soldiers, launched the first civilian ambulance corps and the first nursing school for women, pioneered medical photography and psychiatric treatment, and spurred New York City to establish the country’s first official Board of Health.

$2.00 A DAY

Living on Almost Nothing in America

By Kathryn J. Edin & H. Luke Shaefer

After two decades of brilliant research on American poverty, Kathryn Edin noticed something she hadn’t seen before – households surviving on virtually no cash income. Edin teamed with Luke Shaefer, an expert on calculating incomes of the poor, to discover that the number of American families living on $2.00 per person, per day, has skyrocketed to one and a half million households, including about three million children.

Where do these families live? How did they get so desperately poor? Through this book’s eye-opening analysis and many compelling profiles, moving and startling answers emerge. $2.00 a Day delivers new evidence and new ideas to our national debate on income inequality.


* Scheduling dependent on vote outcome and author availability

It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This

As National Poetry Month Continues at Politics for the People.

A poem by Mary Fridley

A poem I just wrote. The first line is something that my mom said to me when I first visited her after she went into a nursing home.”


It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Said simply
No lament of pity
Though many tears
An indictment of life?
A grasp for honesty
by a now blurry mind?
A tribute to dreams once dreamed
or futures never imagined?
It wasn’t supposed to be like this
Perhaps a realization created
as much by an ever-shifting present
than a past regretted
Necessary to say aloud
Preparing for what’s ahead
To live as she can.

Mary Fridley serves as the coordinator of special programs for the East Side Institute.  She is an activist with the NYC Independence Club and lives in Brooklyn.


Before the Scales, Tomorrow

We will leave our celebration of National Poetry Month with a final poem on May Day.  An appropriate poem to end on.  It is a poem sent to us by Juliana Francisco, an Independence activist from Brooklyn and a member of the IndependentVoting Phone Outreach team.


Juliana Francisco, April 14th. City Hall Steps.  Denouncing NY’s Closed Presidential Primary and the lock out of 3.2 million independents.

“Otto René Castillo was a poet and revolutionary from Guatemala. I first learned about him at the All Stars where his amazing poem Apolitical Intellectuals is on display. That poem is riveting and compelled me to learn more about Castillo. Before the Scales, Tomorrow is a painful for me to read considering how his life ended but ultimately I find this poem very comforting and inspiring. Being politically aware and active at a young age often makes me feel pessimistic and depressed. However, it is important to press forward for what’s right, not only for future generations – I’m learning now that creating a world in the present that you believe in and is nurturing and just is something to be proud of and happy about.

“But it’s beautiful to love the world with eyes that have not yet been born” is one of my favorite quotes ever.



By Otto Rene Castillo

And when the enthusiastic
story of our time
is told,
for those
who are yet to be born
but announce themselves
with more generous face,
we will come out ahead
—those who have suffered most from it.

And that
being ahead of your time
means suffering much from it.
But it’s beautiful to love the world
with eyes
that have not yet
been born.

And splendid
to know yourself victorious
when all around you
it’s all still so cold,
so dark.

If you enjoyed Juliana’s pick and live in NYC, you might enjoy seeing a performance of Castillo’s poetry coming later this month.

The Castillo Theater, named after Otto Rene Castillo, is hosting the American premier of Even Under Bitterness, a multi-media performance piece featuring twelve of Castillo’s warmly political and always moving poems.

Performance dates: May 6 – 15, 2016.    Friday and Saturday shows at 7:30 PM.  Sunday, May 8 at 2 PM. Sunday, May 15 at 4:30 PM.





National Poetry Month–Rethinking Regret

Today’s poem was chosen by June Hirsh:

junehirsch solo

Elaine Sexton is a contemporary poet who I’ve had the opportunity to meet. 

“Rethinking Regret” expresses that living life is not about order and being safe. Its passionately taking risks, falling on your face. It’s says to be human and alive is to be messy, awkward, not polished and perfect, but open to possibilities, open to impacting the other. 

Sexton says our “perfect mistake” is “keeping the heart awake—open and stunned, stunning.” 

Rethinking Regret

by Elaine Sexton

Let’s thank our mistakes, let’s bless them
for their humanity, their terribly weak chins.
We should offer them our gratitude and admiration
for giving us our clefts and scarring us with
embarrassment, the hot flash of confession.
Thank you, transgressions! for making us so right
in our imperfections. Less flawed, we might have
turned away, feeling too fit, our desires looking
for better directions. Without them, we might have
passed the place where one of us stood, watching
someone else walk away, and followed them,
while our perfect mistake walked straight towards us,
walked right into our cluttered, ordered lives
that could have been closed but were not,
that could have been asleep, but instead
stayed up, all night, forgetting the pill,
the good book, the necessary eight hours,
and lay there—in the middle of the bed—
keeping the heart awake—open and stunned,
stunning. How unhappy perfection must be
over there on the shelf without a crack, without
this critical break—this falling—this sudden, thrilling draft.

Reader’s Forum

By Michelle McCleary

Lisa McGirr’s ‘The War on Alcohol’ is the kind of book that stays with its reader.  I think this is especially true for a sensitive, long-time political and community activist like me who has spent decades anxiously hoping for and working toward the time when our world, simultaneously beautiful and cruel, will change.

Although I often experience the writings of historians as entirely too preachy and wordy, I found myself wanting to read every word of Ms. McGirr’s book. In the book’s chapter ‘Selective Enforcement’ I was impressed by the author’s courage in exploring the un-equal treatment of wealthy (mostly white) Americans vs. poor white and poor black people.  Although black people in America have a particular and brutal history, I have never believed that the color of one’s skin is the only indicator of one’s suffering.  No heat and no food in the refrigerator equals cold, sleepless nights and empty stomachs whether the person has blue eyes and blond hair or dark hair and brown or black skin.  Poverty and race in America far too often equals a life of everyday experiences that are harsh and unfair.  To add insult to injury, the message is always clear that these experiences should be shouldered alone.   If I had a dollar for the number of times that my middle-class, white peers have told me that they don’t want to hear about my everyday experiences, or insinuated that I was to blame for those experiences, I would be a millionaire.

Lisa McGirr did a wonderful job of opening my eyes to the short but deeply impactful Prohibition Era in America. Prior to reading “The War on Alcohol” my knowledge of this piece of American history was nearly non-existent.  I vaguely remember a scene or two in movies where smiling, imperially slim, white men and women danced their hearts out at glamorous parties during the fun, ‘Roaring Twenties.’  Meanwhile, in back alleys ‘shady’ characters exchanged money for boxes of liquor. I think Brad Pitt had blown dried, blond hair in one of these scenes!   In her chapter “Selective Enforcement” the ‘movie’ scenes that the author created were far from glamorous.  In painstaking detail, Ms. McGirr told the history of the enforcement of Prohibition.  I found myself needing to take breaks from reading the vicious details of the uneven ways that Prohibition was enforced:  white, wealthy and able to pay off enforcement agents equaled little to no penalty; poor white, black, female or Mexican equaled fines, imprisonment and sometime death for possessing even the tiniest quantities of liquor.

Although I wasn’t surprised, I was struck by how history repeats itself over and over again.  I found myself cringing when I read about Bradley Bowling, a poor, white, unarmed man in an Appalachian town, who was shot and killed by a Federal agent over a half gallon of whiskey, because he ‘put his hand in his pocket.’ While I read this, the faces of unarmed black men and women who have been shot by the police moved through my mind.  Ms. McGirr posits that whites’ experience of unfair and unlawful over-reaches by police during the prohibition era helps to explain why there was strong and popular push back against Prohibition.    As per Ms. McGirr, black people had YEARS of experience of abuse and coercion by police and other agents but this treatment was largely ignored as were the public lynchings of black men and women.

The white pushback against the abuses of prohibition agents reminds me of America 2016.  News channels are filled with pundits nearly scratching their heads as they try to explain the tidal wave of white, working class voters who are clearly angry and fed up with the corrupt political system and its impact on their pursuit of the American Dream. Real talk, the American Dream died a long time ago.  Black people have been aware of this fact due to double digit unemployment, brutal and dismissive treatment by the police and shabby treatment by healthcare professionals.  I have no doubt in my mind that poor white people have had and continue to have similar experiences, but sadly seem to be holding out hope that their white skin will come through for them.  They could learn a lot from Lisa McGirr.


photo (3)

Michelle McCleary is a long-time independent political activist and the President of the Metro NY Chapter of the National Black MBA Association.

Reminder: P4P Conference Call

with Lisa McGirr

Sunday, April 3rd at 7 pm EST

Call in number (641) 715-3605

Access code 767775#


First Impressions from Catana Barnes



The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier. pg 115: Momme, 2008


November 23rd, 2015

My “first impression” of Latoya Ruby Frazier’s The Notion of Family was how much it reminded me of the F.S.A. (Farm Security Administration) project.  With that project, which sought to garner economic support for various social programs in response to the Depression, the goal of the photographer was directed by those who sought specific economic packages from Congress.  At the beginning of the project, the photographers focused on the plight of people, with many people not being represented, and how much they needed help. It was then determined that the photographs weren’t showing enough of a positive outcome from the economic programs currently in place so the photographers were directed to show positive outcomes; with many continuing to be left out of the equation. What I find to be the most compelling part of the F.S.A.’s project is what they chose to leave out of their visual and historical narrative. What was left out is the fact that photographers, like Dorothea Lange, had no control over the narrative of the image, the photographer’s authorship and perspective, as well as which images would be used. The photographers were denied their role in providing their visual representation of the dire situation and the struggles of the people. This terrified me and made me question every single image I have ever looked at.  It comes down to the artifact; directed and undirected. Ms. Frazier, her mother and her grandmother took control over the authorship and perspective of their place in the history of Braddock, PA and, in my opinion, opened doors for further exploration with regards to the authorship and perspective in social documentary of photography.

In addition, I was stricken with how much I was reminded of Dorothea Lange’s images in her work as an F.S.A. photographer. I have always felt as though she had a special vision whereby she was able to see what needed to be framed in order to be compliant with the project while, at the same time, she was able to see what needed to be translated to the viewer…the ultimate message.  I did not study Dorothea Lange much beyond her contribution to the F.S.A. so I do not know what she thought about having to create directed artifacts. The notion of an artifact’s truthfulness is something I have put a great deal of thought into and what ultimately led to the motivation behind the photographic series I created as an advanced photography student (I received an Undergraduate Academic Affairs & Research Grant to complete the project and it can be found at ). Like Ms. Frazier, her mother and her grandmother, I also took control of the authorship and perspective of the photographic social documentary I created. I wanted to challenge the traditional notion of what a photographic artifact is, who creates the artifact as well as to challenge the perspective of the creator of the artifact. My project was greatly influenced by what I learned about the F.S.A. as well as what I learned through the work of Cindy Sherman and Nan Goldin (see below for a link to Nan Goldin’s work) whom I truly admire for their candidness.

catana barnes speakingAs I worked my way to the end of Ms. Frazier’s work, I also recognized a similarity with Nan Goldin’s work . Nan Goldin’s work is extremely poignant and draws the viewer into the world they are witness to. In both works, the viewer is presented with a question, “do you recognize this?” and then they must rectify, in their minds, whether or not they do “recognize that” which has been presented to them. I find the strongest messages to be found in what is not being directly addressed, and I see that twofold in Ms. Frazier’s The Notion of Family. This is one of the most compelling works I have had the pleasure of experiencing since my undergraduate studies as an art student!

“First Impression” – While I have looked through Latoya Ruby Frazier’s Notion of Family more than once, I wanted to share my first impression because I believe that it continues with the spirit and notion that first impressions are not always accurate.

Catana L Barnes

Catana Barnes is the President of Independent Voters of Nevada.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With LaToya Ruby Frazier

Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605

Code 767775#

Reflections on Reflections on The Notion Of Family


By Omar H. Ali, Ph.D.

I first saw images of Latoya Ruby Frazier’s riveting book of photographs, The Notion Of Family, in an NPR article about six months ago entitled “A Rust Belt Story Retold…” I wasn’t sure what to make of the images, as they felt a little distant at the time, despite my being familiar–as a historian of black labor and politics–with some of the history of those communities living “in the shadow” of Carnegie steel mills.

And then, this week, after receiving and reading through Latoya’s book, I read the reviews and commentaries by Michelle McCleary and Dr. Jessie Fields, among others, on P4P.

I’m not sure which impacted me more–the book or the commentaries. This is not to detract from Latoya’s truly extraordinary book (few artists capture, which such honest detail, poor people’s lives by poor and working people themselves–making their stories their own). But reading through the snippets of Michelle and Jessie’s lives as part of their reflections made the images in the book feel closer.

You see, I know Michelle and Jessie. They are two of my long-time political colleagues–extraordinary women–who have spent many years building an independent political movement in the United States to empower ordinary people, poor people, the outsiders, the forgotten, the survivors. I don’t know Latoya. But Michelle and Jessie are helping me to better understand her work.

While each of their experiences are different from the other’s, there are similarities in their experiences and the roles that women played in each of their lives–their mom’s, grandmothers, aunts, or great aunts–in helping each of them thrive.

Michelle writes, “I had come to realize that the feelings of pain and shame that I and millions of people experienced were manufactured and NOT in our heads nor were our fault.  Those manufactured feelings were designed to keep us in our place.”

I then see one of Latoya’s photographs …

The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier Pg 131, Aunt Midgie and Grandma Ruby, 2007

The Notion Of Family by LaToya Ruby Frazier Pg 131, Aunt Midgie and Grandma Ruby, 2007

And I hear (read) Jessie’s words “Ordinary people, though poor and abused are leading and fighting.” Part of that leading is giving expression to the plight of the voiceless, nameless, and unseen–here voiced, named, and seen through new performances.

Thank you, LaToya, for your book of photographs; thank you Michelle and Jessie, for your beautiful, painful, and moving words; thank you, Cathy, for giving us P4P and a space to reflect and support those who “stand in the rubble and fight,” as Jessie poetically writes, as Michelle explains, and as Latoya photographs.

Omar H. Ali, Ph.D., selected as the 2016 Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year in North Carolina, is a historian and community organizer who teaches black labor and political history at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. E-mail: 
image (1)

Politics for the People Conference Call

With LaToya Ruby Frazier

Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605

Code 767775#

Reader’s Forum-Kathleen Delaney

For our exploration of The Notion of Family, several Politics for the People members have chosen a photo from the book to respond to with thoughts, words, a photo or a poem. Today our next installment is from Kathleen Delaney.

The Notion Of Family, LaToya Ruby Frazier pg 15 Grandma Ruby Smoking Pall Malls, 2002

This image of Ruby, caught unposed, surrounded by her dolls and anticipating the pleasure of a cigarette, offers some relief from the brutal images of poverty and hopelessness. Perhaps her strength brought relief at other moments not depicted.

FullSizeRender (3)~Kathleen Delaney is an emergency department physician and educator in Texas and New York City.


Politics for the People Conference Call

With LaToya Ruby Frazier

Sunday, December 6th at 7 pm EST


641 715-3605

Code 767775#

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