Courtney Martin

Courtney E. Martin is a Prospect senior correspondent. She is the author of Do It Anyway: The New Generation of Activists (Beacon Press). You can read more about her work at

Recent Articles

Shoestrings Attached

The one-to-one charity model attacks poverty in the wrong way.

In 2006, TOMS began selling simple canvas shoes. But the business itself was not simple, because it was created to be equal parts shoe seller and shoe charity: For each pair purchased, the company donated another pair to a poor child somewhere in the world. TOMS became wildly popular, especially among the young and hip. The company doesn't release sales figures but says it's given away more than 1 million pairs of shoes. And last week, founder Blake Mycoskie announced that TOMS will now sell sunglasses. Each pair purchased will allow TOMS to subsidize one pair of eyeglasses or a cataract surgery procedure for someone in a Third World country. TOMS inspired more-established companies to develop similar programs and beat a path for new entrepreneurs to follow. Not only did Sketchers create a blatant knockoff, called BOBS, but about a dozen other "one to one" companies have been founded in recent years--selling everything from neckties that enable kids to get free school uniforms to T-...

An Ego of One's Own

Why gender parity is still so elusive in the art world

Even by the most generous calculations , only 8 percent of the work that the Museum of Modern Art exhibits is by women ( though most other art-world institutions don't fare much better). Only about 23 percent of solo gallery shows at top New York sites feature pieces by female artists. And there's nothing close to parity on the annual "power lists" in the art world ( Artforum 's, Art + Auction 's, and ArtReview 's), with consistently only 15 percent of names belonging to women. Why isn't there more gender equality in the art world? Last week at a panel, art critic Ben Davis spoke about rereading Virginia Woolf's seminal essay and thinking about how we no longer need "a room of one's own," so much as "room in the head of one's own." In a culture of 24/7 news, ubiquitous advertising, and exhausting schedules, we all strain to hear the muffled call of our own creative voices. Given that women continue to do the majority of caretaking and coordinating in most families, it stands to reason...

Homelessness Is Not Just About Housing

The federal government is pumping unprecedented resources into organizations that help the homeless in innovative ways.

Last week, the federal government announced an unprecedented funding commitment of $216 million to programs -- old and new, rural and urban -- designed to alleviate homelessness nationwide. The grants exceed last year's total by $26 million, with more than $16 million for novel approaches. As Americans continue to recover from economic downturn, mortgage mayhem, and unemployment, programs serving the country's most economically disadvantaged citizens are critical. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness , the number of homeless families has increased in 31 out of 50 states since 2008. Nearly three-quarters of all U.S. households with incomes below the federal poverty line spend more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent. In other words, many of the working poor live one paycheck away from the streets. This financial commitment by the federal government to help our country's homeless population is heartening, and so are many of the radical and bold new...

Moving Past Acknowledging Privilege

Recognizing our relative privileges is a good impulse, but it's time to turn that knowledge into action.

(Peggy McIntosh)
Last week, we experienced a funny study in our public dialogue on race. On Monday, a video of Chris Rock -- in which he discussed how backward it is to say the nation had made "progress" in racial relations because, in fact, white people had "become less crazy" -- went viral. By Thursday, Donald Trump was bragging about his solid relationship with "the Blacks." Perhaps this week Chris Rock will have to release a statement rescinding his previous vote of confidence in "the Whites" and while he's at it, apologize to disability rights activist who have long been fighting for people to stop using words like "crazy." It seems like we, as a nation, are still either inflamed in name-calling (sexist! racist! Communist!), or noticeably silent on more substantive issues like unearned privilege, guilt, and tokenism. Twenty-three years after Peggy McIntosh first wrote her signature article, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," we're still unpacking, and not particularly skillfully...

Revising the American Dream

Patriotism isn't about stars and stripes. It's about ensuring all Americans have economic stability.

(Flickr/Center for American Progress Action Fund)
"All Americans have a duty to defend the American dream." Who, might you ask, recently bellowed these words to a packed house of cheering, concerned citizens? A GOP leader? Maybe one of the up-and-comers, held up as evidence of the American dream's continued existence, like Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina? A Tea Party patriot, like Minnesota's Rep. Michelle Bachman? Or a conservative pundit perhaps? Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck? In fact, it was none other than green-jobs guru, Van Jones . Jones, given the opportunity to speak at the Guiding Lights Weekend , a conference on engaged citizenship in Seattle on March 26, decided to set his sights on what might, at first, seem an unusual project for a man famously positioned as anti-American by a Fox-powered witch hunt circa August 2009. (Beck made a big fuss over an anti-war petition that Jones was accused of signing post-9/11, which included some conspiracy theory-type language; shortly thereafter, Jones resigned from his post as green-...