Jan Brogan is an excellent public speaker and has extensive experience in the field, from presentations to the New England School of Law and Boston Bar Association, to guest appearances on numerous radio shows, to gigs hosting Reading With Robin on WPRO. She’s served as a panelist and moderator at multiple writing conference and has been teaching for fifteen years.
Although it takes place in the 1970s, The Combat Zone touches on a multitude of topics that are possibly even more relevant today: race, policing policy, victim’s rights, and the capriciousness of the legal system to mention a few. The following is a list of potential speech topics related to The Combat Zone, Jan will customize her speeches to fit the needs of your organization.
Murder Convictions and the Media:
What is the media’s role in a murder case? Publicity—and a lack of publicity—before a trial can have a huge impact on the verdict. Sequestering a jury has gone out of favor, but the publicity, or lack of it, does its work long before the jury is seated.
When They Kill your Brother:
Victim’s Rights have come a long way since the Puopolo murder, but the psychological response to losing a family member or close friend to murder hasn’t changed. It still evokes anger, shame and often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, especially in adolescents. The desire for revenge is an extremely common response and helps explain many gang murders. Seeing this response through Danny’s eyes, how this desire for revenge plagued him his entire life, helps us understand some of the street violence we see today.
Police corruption, then and now:
A week before the Andy Puopolo murder, Boston newspapers ran a shocking report that detailed police corruption in District One, which included the Combat Zone. It revealed police officers drinking for free at strip clubs while on duty; ignoring sex acts and drug sales on the street; and sabotaging their own department investigations by tipping off the mob. The report had been released to the press by the department’s own high command. The Boston Police department has gone through waves of corruption and reform since then, made progress and backslides. Just when you think the department is getting better, the Boston Globe reports another scandal, but how does Boston stack up to other big city police departments? Actually, today, pretty well.
The Race War:
It’s hard to remember just how poor and how violent Boston was in the 1970s. Violence in the schools, where kids got stabbed; Violence in the neighborhoods, where houses got firebombed, even violence at the city’s tourist attractions, where members of a Black school group from Pennsylvania trying to visit the Bunker Hill monument were beaten by three whites with hockey sticks. At the peak, in 1978, there were reported 604 incidents of racial attack in Boston. The tipping point? When a sixteen-year-old football player was shot on the field during a high school game. What changed? Economics, demographics, and community policing.
The Failure of Desegregation:
The Boston School Committee thumbed its nose at calls for desegregation or even equity in resources for Black schools, with its members making political careers out of resistance. Judge Arthur Garrity had little choice but to take over, but did busing succeed at desegregating Boston or simply drive the white middle class out of the school system?
Boston, a Sexual Disneyland?
That’s what the Wall Street Journal called the Combat Zone, but how did an “anything goes” red light district get legislated into existence in a Puritanical city known for banning Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and I am Curious Yellow? What were the city’s plans for the Combat Zone and how did they fail so colossally? Was the city itself, responsible for Andy Puopolo’s murder, as the spokesperson for the strip club association suggested? It’s not such a crazy argument when you begin to dive into it.