I was born and raised in Davis, California, and currently live in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating from the University of California, at Davis with High Honors in History, with a focus on Soviet History, I studied Ukrainian at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the International School of Ukrainian Studies in L’viv, Ukraine. As a journalist, I cut my teeth in the newsrooms of Conde Nast Portfolio and AOL Money & Finance, and have written articles and columns for The Daily Beast, Forbes, TIME, and The Atlantic. Since 2004, while finishing my History thesis on the role of religion in Ukraine’s independence movement at the fall of the Soviet Union, I began dreaming up a screenplay that would take me fifteen years to research, write, and produce. That screenplay became MR. JONES, directed by three-time Academy Award-nominee Agnieszka Holland and starring James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard, and Joseph Mawle as George Orwell. Much of the research for the film was compiled into my book Orwell and The Refugees: The Untold Story of Animal Farm, which has been taught in classrooms in Canada and Ukraine through the genocide education program Orwell Art.
When I was growing up in Northern California, my grandfather Olexji was the world to me. Born in Donbas, a region in eastern Ukraine currently being invaded by Russia, my grandfather witnessed the Russian Revolution fought on his family farm as a small boy; survived the Holodomor, Stalin’s genocide famine that killed an estimated 4 to 7 million people; and as a young father was arrested and tortured by the Soviet secret police during Stalin’s purges. Shortly before he passed away at the age of 83, my grandfather wrote down his life story, showing the events Orwell allegorized in Animal Farm through the eyes of a survivor.
It was for my grandfather and the countless others who suffered under the Soviet regime that I wrote and produced MR. JONES. The idea first came to me in my final year of university and followed me to Ukraine after college and to a road trip through Wales shortly before my wedding, and many research trips for several years after. I wanted to tell a story that would honor the millions of victims of Stalin, who has been resurrected under Putinism as a great hero, and expose how Kremlin propaganda works – sometimes with the help of corrupt Western journalists and political leaders. The history of Stalin’s genocide is told through this short documentary I was asked to write, director, and produce for genocide education by the Holodomor Research and Education Consoritum at the University of Alberta. It features interviews with the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Anne Applebaum, author of Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine and Gulag: A History; Yale University’s Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin and On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century; Harvard University’s Serhii Plokhy, author of The Gates of Europe: A History and The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union, Stanford University’s Norman Naimark, author of Stalin’s Genocides, and other leading historians on this period. You can watch the documentary, called Stalin’s Secret Genocide.
As surreal as this journey has been against the backdrop of growing authoritarianism around the world, I met along the way brave human rights activists and journalists who continuously restored my faith. In January 2014, I helped launch #DigitalMaidan, a hashtag of the revolution in Ukraine; #MarchForTruth, a nationwide protest on June 3rd, 2017 demanding transparency and accountability in the Russia investigation, and helped lead a crowdfunding campaign to turn an oligarch’s abandoned private zoo in Ukraine into an animal refuge.
Over the years, I have spoken about Ukraine and Russia in the World Forum for Democracy at the Council of Europe, the Personal Democracy Forum at New York University, the National Press Club in Washington, DC, the National Arts Club in New York City, and went on a two-week university lecture tour of Canada, including McGill University, Carleton University, and the University of Toronto.
I’ve known Tim Wise for over 10 years and I have tried to showcase his work wherever I go from siriusxm to CNN to this podcast. I always learn so much when I read or talk to him. Today Tim and I talked about his latest writing
35 mins Tim Wise, whom scholar and philosopher Cornel West calls, “A vanilla brother in the tradition of (abolitionist) John Brown,” is among the nation’s most prominent antiracist essayists and educators. He has spent the past 25 years speaking to audiences in all 50 states, on over 1000 college and high school campuses, at hundreds of professional and academic conferences, and to community groups across the nation. He has also lectured internationally in Canada and Bermuda, and has trained corporate, government, law enforcement and medical industry professionals on methods for dismantling racism in their institutions.
Wise’s antiracism work traces back to his days as a college activist in the 1980s, fighting for divestment from (and economic sanctions against) apartheid South Africa. After graduation, he threw himself into social justice efforts full-time, as a Youth Coordinator and Associate Director of the Louisiana Coalition Against Racism and Nazism: the largest of the many groups organized in the early 1990s to defeat the political candidacies of white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. From there, he became a community organizer in New Orleans’ public housing, and a policy analyst for a children’s advocacy group focused on combatting poverty and economic inequity. He has served as an adjunct professor at the Smith College School of Social Work, in Northampton, MA., and from 1999-2003 was an advisor to the Fisk University Race Relations Institute in Nashville, TN.
Wise is the author of seven books, including his highly-acclaimed memoir, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, as well as Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority, and Under the Affluence: Shaming the Poor, Praising the Rich and Sacrificing the Future of America. His forthcoming book, White LIES Matter: Race, Crime and the Politics of Fear in America, will be released in 2018. His essays have appeared on Alternet, Salon, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, Black Commentator, BK Nation, Z Magazine and The Root, which recently named Wise one of the “8 Wokest White People We Know.”
Wise has been featured in several documentaries, including “The Great White Hoax: Donald Trump and the Politics of Race and Class in America,” and “White Like Me: Race, Racism and White Privilege in America,” both from the Media Education Foundation. He also appeared alongside legendary scholar and activist, Angela Davis, in the 2011 documentary, “Vocabulary of Change.” In this public dialogue between the two activists, Davis and Wise discussed the connections between issues of race, class, gender, sexuality and militarism, as well as inter-generational movement building and the prospects for social change. Wise is also one of five persons—including President Barack Obama—interviewed for a video exhibition on race relations in America, featured at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC. Additionally, his media presence includes dozens of appearances on CNN, MSNBC and NPR, feature interviews on ABC’s 20/20 and CBS’s 48 Hours, as well as videos posted on YouTube, Facebook and other social media platforms that have received over 20 million views. His podcast, “Speak Out with Tim Wise,” launched this fall and features weekly interviews with activists, scholars and artists about movement building and strategies for social change.
Wise graduated from Tulane University in 1990 and received antiracism training from the People’s Institute for Survival and