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  • NYS Writers Institute

Prof. Frankie Bailey's advice: "Put on some music, and dance"

We checked in with Frankie Bailey, mystery writer, UAlbany professor of Criminal Justice, friend of the Writers Institute, and long-time collaborator on programming with us. Frankie is celebrated at UAlbany for courses that explore the intersections of criminal justice and popular culture.

She presented her murder mystery set in a futuristic Albany, The Red Queen Dies, and shared the stage with bestselling author Walter Mosley at a Writers Institute event in February 2014. (See event page in our Archives.)

Frankie is also director of the long-running project, Justice & Multiculturalism in the 21st Century. As part of that project, the School of Criminal Justice and the Writers Institute have collaborated on numerous events over the past eight years.

She is the author of numerous books of fiction and nonfiction. Visit her website at

Q. What would you like your Criminal Justice students to pay attention to during these days of protest?

I teach courses on a variety of topics. I hope the undergrads who have taken my crime and mass media course have been analyzing the media coverage and the use of images to construct the narratives. I hope the grad students who have taken my race and crime course, or my historical research course have been viewing what’s happening with that historical context in mind.

Q. Is the media doing a good job depicting social justice issues? Are they missing anything?

Some media are doing a good job not only with coverage but with the people they are interviewing and the analysis by the anchors. Of course, fake news and conspiracy theories are still being discussed. But I think those arguments are getting more difficult to make.

Q. What are some of the unexpected and interesting ways that protests are impacting popular culture?

I’ve been surprised by the rush to cancel “Cops” and to scrap episodes of other shows. I was particularly interested in HBO’s decision to remove Gone With the Wind from circulation until they could provide historical context. I had been planning to watch it again later this summer because the historical thriller I’m working on ends in Atlanta during the four-day premier of the movie. Now HBO has Jacqueline Stewart’s introduction. [Hollywood Reporter: 'Gone With the Wind' Returns to HBO Max, With Context]

Q. Are there any films or TV shows that you recommend?

I know I should mention documentaries or a thought-provoking movie. But I’m sure everyone has seen recommendations from multiple sources.

I’m going to recommend “Twilight Zone” and “Hill Street Blues”. Rod Serling was incredibly thoughtful about how humans react during a crisis. I found “Hill Street Blues” fascinating when it was on back in the ‘80s. I want to go back and see if it was as complex as I thought it was at the time. I should probably do the same for “NYPD Blue.”

Q. Is there anything you’d like us to read?

James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son. The essays speak to the present moment.

Q. Do you believe that this is a real turning point in the history of American civil rights?

I’d like to think so – but I’m waiting to see. We’ve been on the verge before. We’re in the middle of a perfect storm of events, and much will depend on what happens in November.

Q. Where are you currently sheltering?

At home – in normal times, I work at home in the morning and go to my office at school in the afternoon. I’m naturally nocturnal and now I’ve fallen into this weird pattern of working late at night because I have to finish the gangster movies book I’m working on and get it out to my editor. So I’m going to bed later, rising later, and trying to get back into my regular work hours.

My cat Harry is confused because I’m at home even more than usual in summer. But he is learning to ignore my presence and get in his nap time.

Q. Any fresh news from your life?

I’m waiting to hear the news from my agent about the proposal he’s shopping for the book I’ve been working on for years about dress, appearance, and criminal justice. The book is almost done, so if he sells it, I’ll be able to finish it in a couple of months.

Q. Is there any action you’d like us to take?

Stay calm and carry on. And when that fails, put on some music, and dance. Great both as therapy and exercise.

The first collaboration between the Writers Institute and Frankie's Justice & Multiculturalism in the 21st Century project was a September 2012 screening of the film Kinyarwanda, a drama about the Rwandan genocide that won the Sundance Film Festival's World Audience Award.

After the screening, a packed Page Hall audience enjoyed a conversation with the young star of the film, Hadidja Zaninka.

Ms. Zaninka watched the film together with the Albany audience. She herself had seen the film only once before (despite being the star) because access to the film had been strictly limited in Rwanda. Albany was the first stop on her very first trip to the United States.


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