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tv   Panel Discussion on Social Change  CSPAN  October 10, 2015 1:00pm-1:50pm EDT

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be prepared so we may always be free. thank you very much. [applause] .. you're watching the tv on seeps bantu with top-notch authors every weekend. book tv, television for serious readers.
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>> here are some of the programs to watch for this week and a book tv. on. on afterwards, former meet the press moderator david gregory discusses space and religion on house your faith. dale discusses 100 million-dollar mark zuckerberg donated to schools, who is in charge of america's schools? also we bring you information from the tenth annual brooklyn book festival. you'll see authors authors and panels on social change, sexuality, gender, and more. and more. for complete television schedule visit but to be.org. book tv, 48 hours of nonfiction books and authors, television for serious readers. >> now but to be coverage of
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brooklyn book festival on social change, and voting rights in the middle class. throughout the festival there may be language some people may find offensive. first up from the tenth annual book tenth annual book festival, a panel on social change. >> my name is nick, i am the president of the brooklyn law school, last night at the gala i was introduced as nick all red. if it was a book, upon, a complement or compliment or both. i actually appreciated that introduction. brooklyn law school is proud to once again be supporting and
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participating with the incredible signature brooklyn book festival, which has grown to be in a very short. of time, even though we are observing the tenth anniversary, to be the largest public, free book festival in the city of new york. i suspect, of new york. i suspect, in the united states. if not the galaxy. which reminds me, welcome to the best law school in brooklyn. [applause]. i suspect most of you know that we are the only law school in brooklyn, you know, we are the best law school and the biggest most vibrant borough in the big apple, of the incredible empire state, on the greatest nation in the planet, so we have that going force. we dream big here. in fact, in a recent dream, alex trebek read me the fan final jeopardy answer and it was, it's an international and national center of went of learning about the power of law to improve the world. in my dream, i won by quickly and scribbling down the winning
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question. why did brooklyn law school observe in the same week, the 800th anniversary of magna carta, the anniversary of the united states constitution, the 150th anniversary of the eastern district of new york, and the tenth anniversary of brooklyn law school. it's because, the brooklyn law school is a center about learning about the power of law. in fact, that question reveals why we do so much of what we are doing. trying to drive down the price and make legal education more accessible, improving the curriculum, doing what we can to launch our students and graduates in meaningful careers so they can fulfill the public and private roles that lawyers fill in the service of others. the power of law is certainly the continuing thread through
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all the presentations you'll hear today in a remarkable parade of authors and commentators. no doubt, they will touch on many vivid reminders we have of how law can make a difference. whether it is the 70th anniversary of the united nations that we observed this week as well, the incorporation into charter of mankind the freedom of worship from fear. whether it is the seven decades of the liberation of the nazi death camps and the beginning of the trials to hold the victims, the villains of the holocaust accountable for their heinous crimes. or the five decades of the civil rights act, the voting rights act, the march on selma which began to nudge this country closer to racial equality.
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despite those milestones, our speakers, panelists panelists and others today will remind you all of how much work remains to be done. which is obvious when we just think about what is going on in the world around us. so i look forward to hearing from our speakers and learning from them, looking forward to discovering new books that will be well worth reading. i congratulate carolyn and liz for producing this remarkable festival with all of the others. in particular i would like to
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acknowledge to leaders who have been just incredible in the story of brooklyn, first, marty the marty the former borough president, my friend whose energy and vision single-handedly probably made more impact for the good in terms of the book on renaissance than any other source. our new current borough president will be here in an hour, in a panel talking about the need to do better in terms of the present community difficulties that are hitting people against people and neighbors against protectors. he is a remarkable leader that has helped maintain and expand their free eminence of brooklyn into a city, the nation, the world., the world. it is a remarkable day. i congratulate all of you in such large numbers for being here today. thank you very much. [applause]. >> thank you. hello my queens,
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good morning thank you for joining us. we are going to get to it. my name is saved. i'm the moderator this morning. i'm thrilled to have this conversation, i would have have this conversation, i would be having it at lunch if we could. before we begin like you to know that books from all the authors are for sale right in front of the building, we'll be going straight from this conversation downstairs to the signing table. if you like the conversation we can continue it there. okay. so let me briefly introduce the writers, i i hope many of you are familiar with their work. to my left we have pamela, she is an award-winning journalist whose articles have been published in numerous publications including the newark times, the washington post, the nation. post, the nation. the book discusses is spectacle, the establishing life. it is an amazing, nonfiction book about something that happened in new york in 1906. a young african man from congo was kidnapped under dubious circumstances under found himself put on display in bronx
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next to an orangutan. spectacle is the story of how that happened, what are are the implications, how are we still learning from that story. pamela, i'm so excited to talk to today. [applause]. alexis is the author of a book that was up for a movie. that was exciting. it was set and memphis, my hometown, in 1892. he tells a story of two young women, at the beginning of a budding career relationship, certainly unexpected and unorthodox for victorian methods, tennessee. when their unexpected and unorthodox for victorian memphis, tennessee. when their relationship is thwarted by their family, one of the women kills her lover and attempts to kill herself. she find herself on trial. the spectacle that really illuminate sexism, classism during this time.
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or perhaps we have a lot to talk about. [applause]. finally we have kc, the author of the novel long division and the epic collection, how to slowly kill yourself and others in america. the title of that collection really says so much about the enduring cost of racism, what it does to us when we have to live with it because this type of americans we all are. long division is a comment of age story about time travel. we made a teenager living in mississippi that finds a time portal and takes them back and forth, across america and many decades. this is going to be a great conversation about history. let's get to it. so in all three of your books, we meet everyday people who are
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pull, push, or literally kidnapped into history. how are you pulled into these particular histories? >> man that is a heckuva question. pulled in, literally into the archives right. where i thought to uncover what had actually happened because the narrative around zero does story had been created by the very people who during his lifetime, had exploited him. so the bronx new in its narrative said that it is unlikely he had ever been exhibited at all. the new york times, which had covered the story every day while it occurred, ten years later said it was urban legend, he had never been exhibited in the zoo. then, the the thing that pulled me into is that a book was written in 1992 by the explorer
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who brought oda bangor to the united states, in that book by the grandson, it was purported to be the story of friendship between his grand father and oda bangor. so i want to kinda sit with that to see if this notion of friendship could be corroborated, guess what, they were not friends, none of you have friends like that so yeah. >> i think that i am drawn toward history on ordinary people and extraordinary circumstances. when i found out it was a buried innate sense, academic sense in grad school. when i started to
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research and get closer to them, the headlines were astounding. they were written in 1892 until - and words they're using in the argument could have been contemporary. i founded 2007 and opponents from same-sex marriage we have heard the same terms, unnatural, impossible without progeny, pointless. so that really attracted me. it seemed darkly funny as i went on because there agendas, the way they would talk about women were allowed into the courtroom for the first time, or if there was a crowd of people outside the courthouse, all of them wanting to see something sensational. there were groups that were singled out, people of color. someone was thrown out of the courtroom for looking like a mexican. >> it's worth mentioning that the child member was a kkk.
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>> the founder had to use it to his travail, he presided over the cases. when i look at the newspapers which were clearly the center of all this, the judge had worked at one of and so had the defense, everyone had their hands in it. to unravel how this happened was really important to me. i felt almost complicit if i didn't. >> thank you for coming out today. you know, my grandmother raised me and she had a lot of important saenz and one of the most important besides, lord have mercy, was you are the past, we are the past, and we are the future. she used to bring women to the house to do something called home mission. a lot of times i
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could be in there with them but often she would make me go on the porch when it got too hot. as i sat on the porch i listen to them talking and crying, and i would look look across the street into the woods and i would imagine three or four young black kids coming out of the ground in the woods across the street from where we lived. a few of my other friends in the neighborhood would say they saw the same people. so i started writing writing this book that became long division about how to kill yourself and others in america. it came about really because i was tired of being lied to by the nation, i was tired tired of lying to the nation, lying to people i really cared about. i finally really believed and understood that you cannot transform from point a to point b unless you're honest the point .8. with my grandma's blessing i started writing some essays to all my friends and families. that became how to sell yourself to yourself and others in america.
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>> media is important journalism , an important part of the narrative to know. and one of your essays you're talking about when you are writing about the incredibly racist experiences you're having at the university that you are a member of, the official record, the academic record of what is happening. they're trying to kind of a race and talked down, very similar what you're talking about. throw out the book it is amazing to see how you record how the new york times wavers and goes back-and-forth on the narrative, as brutal as his exploitation but he seems to be enjoying it, he was playing with the orangutan their friends, and you write a great deal about the spectacle of the courtroom. can you talk about interrogating and really grappling with the official record of histories when you're trying to get to the heart of the matter. >> while it is really interesting because it is not for the new york times, it is daily coverage of this episode
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is not, and all of the newspapers that covered it all over the country and throughout europe, if not for those accounts i would not be able to knit together the story. even when the new york times, early in the coverage are basically said why would anybody protest this? he is basically subhuman. we could learn a lot from having him in a cage in a zoo. if not for the new york times writing those editorials, i would not not really have a sense of this time. while that seems shocking to us now, that the new york times would hold that view, it was also a reflection of the prevailing attitudes around race in 1906. so i wrestled with the archives but i also needed those accounts
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to put together the story because they revealed so much about just everyday thoughts of people at times. so between the newspaper articles and the letters that were in the archives, there were a luminous letters written by zoo officials and they went back and forth of how they were dealing with ota benga. so i was able to contrast the behind the scene letter with the public record. what they would say on the record was that, he, he was happy there, he wanted to be there, what is happening behind the scenes is that he is battling, he is resisting captivity, he is a on really savage. >> does it give you in indication of the spectacle after the end of this ten year display. >> i love that. >> we can decode that later. he was visibly angry and
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frustrated and running around the zoo and was being chased by thousands of spectators. they would chasing him,. >> chasing him, whipping him. >> meanwhile everybody saying it so great. >> meanwhile, he was an on really savage and new yorkers who are pursuing him, and people people who are at the zoo who are caging him where the civilized people. >> it was like the up into me. what you think about this alexis. >> i was fortunate in some ways to be researching a time that one-sided the rise with yellow journalism. people would write anything to sell ads. this was also the first time memphis had really garnered attention on the national stage. so the influx of reporters different from the new york time to the san francisco call, to see them descend on the city and
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the city so accommodate them that the inquisition of lunacy, not murder that could have probably happened in a couple of weeks, it took six months because they wanted to expand the courtroom. they wanted the city to benefit off of tourism. this is true with newspaper articles, and archives which are really interesting to reconcile, these pieces of materials are not adjacent to history, they are history. in order for us to get as close as possible we need to read everyone and understand the original voices. that is just another way of figuring it out. to see where people disagree how their worldviews informed by their geographic location, and sometimes not. i think that really is so important, it is just the author, as the newspaper, it's, so different than reading a journal.
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>> again i'm doing something a little different then what you all are doing. when when i think about the dominant record, you know james baldwin who is from mississippi, born somewhere around here, he says i think it's important that he is born in new york, harlem and he says i'm going to become a writer. so i think the record that i have to confront, reckon with, except, to a degree was this understanding that the world and definitely parts of the nation have low little black boys and girls in mississippi are not supposed to survive. so in reckoning with the fact that not only should we survive in spite of what the nation and our state has done to us, we
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should accept really, our greatness and the fact that we do come from the richard wrights of the world. for me, it was reckoning and pushing back against this notion that not only should you not right, wherever you are you should be happy. you shouldn't push against dominant norms and whatnot. for me, to create a book i had to say, i am writing this book because i am from mississippi not in spite of being from mississippi. >> one of my favorite actors and perhaps my writing candidate for 2016, viola davis. she said in an interview with charlie rose that whenever she acceptors a role, the first thing she does is look for the tracks. what are the mistakes i could make in taking on rose in
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a show. when you realize i have a book, this is the beginning of a journey, an investment that is often years, likely many years with the research, what were some of the traps either anticipated or eight on anticipated that you had to deal with during the writing process? >> we can call it a trapper we can call it sheer terror. the terror stem from the fact that ota benga had no papers. so i can go into all these archives and find the records of all of the imminent men of new york city and around the country, there was no way to get to his voice. so that was a source of great angst and at some point i even wondered if i could do it. then, after digging for years, i was able to actually find oda
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ota benga, his voice and his spirit, in the records of the people that held him. there he was being described and talked about and talking back, and if you lean in you can hear him, you can feel his resistance. so what began as something that was very intimidating because when you write about oppressed people, marginalize people, you have to find different ways to get at their voices. they are rendered voiceless without agency. the people who who have power want to get to define them. so finding a way to allowing hotel bangor and allow me to define him was really
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challenging. >> i think that is true with any marginalized group. there archives and and papers with them are not considered important. they are not usually collected. i had correspondence, from a historian, as soon as alice goes into jail she goes dark. she goes on the stand once, anything that comes to her lawyer, at that point i knew her quite well. i read her letters hundreds of times. i could tell clearly what was in her voice or someone leaning into her. then i have to do the same thing with the archival resources. you have to be really creative,
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it can't be just newspaper articles you have to look for a mention of these people. someone who may have been in the area. to create the situations in which sexuality feels like you're not just grasping at something, exactly there. for me that was one of the riskiest things. i've brought to the story title wealth but it felt necessary because no other circumstance would a white woman from a well-to-do family, be in a small jail, one by the founder of the kkk with three men who were arrested for economically threatening a white business in a predominantly black neighborhood. it's important to bring the stories together because of the way they were written about. in newspapers they publicly call for her lynching because of something she had written. nobody wanted to see alice, confessed murder with premeditation, tons of material to support part that, hanged for her crime.
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so it is figuring out how to make these connections, feeling comfortable, also, also giving into the fact that you will never know. memoirs are inherently flawed because they are driven, and the same as a historian, you have to do the best you can and by presenting actually these views like that is a way to write. sometimes you feel like you have to present it. >> yeah there is one chapter where, the it was situated at the zoo and all the spectators and what is going on, there is only for words from ota benga and that whole chapter. those words are me know like america. it said everything. >> it screams on the page. specifically my question for you, i often often joke with friends that honestly white people are the only people who wanted time travel.
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and probably only may be straight, white men because i don't know about you but the rest of us the idea of going back in time, i'm like i'm good. i'm great. or not, i don't know, it's hard to tell. so i think time travel itself is a trap. [laughter] what was it like writing a wonderfully, such a journey, time travel for young black kids? >> that's a great question. i think it's a great question because i think the four young black kids, the important part of that question statement, i want to tie that question into the question yes earlier. the hardest part for me other than waking up every day and confronting a blank page and will yourself through it was pushing back against really new york editors who told me that audience did not exist and there is nobody who would want to read
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a book about a book, about a book with two narrators and a young black girl who called herself and ellipses. when they did want the book written what they wanted was me to write it as a native informant. two people they leave did read things like time travel. so i think pushing back against this directive to be a native informant, writing to folk who not only don't read the books that i want to write, but don't see us it was the hardest part. in pushing back i think i got stronger. in my book we go back, we go forward. in some way the book is a big f you to children who don't want to travel.
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>> so maybe the last question before q&a, when my bookust hene
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said nobody is going to be interested in that. so i think when the book came out i thought it would be great if some of it sold, the sum of it was a disaster. i assume that some of the things i wrote in the footnote would be on applicable. so i thought same-sex marriage surely, i read this line and i'll talk about it being incorrect for the less rest of my life. but same-sex marriage in 1890 in memphis memphis was illegal and it still is illegal. the book came out and i wasn't able to say that. and the fact that a major
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production company with think that this would sell. it was so encouraging to me. >> i want to try to be brief. after my book came up i thought that there wasn't anything more joyful than having someone who inspired your book, and the situation it was an author from mississippi who is incredible, reach out and say, my book inspired her to do. when she she told me that i said that's crazy. and you know i did the tears and all that, but i want to say that earlier this year i got a call
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from some of the most active organizers in the ferguson liberation movement. some of the active organizers in the black lives matter movement, when i was talking to someone from the ferguson movement he was just like, your book spoke to me, and then he said hold on for a second and he said my thought, i was trying to talk to amnesty international so i could get some near teargas masks. i was just like your are all out there fighting and struggling for us, for you to tell me that the book did anything for you. i was grateful. i think what i love about what is happening in this moment is that authors and actors are sometimes the same person, workers are the writers of the same people. i think we have community of folks were actually listening
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and we are creating this echo that is reverberating and pushing back against power and working the hill on particular aspects of our community. i'm happy about that. [applause]. >> now we have ten minutes for questions. please, their cameras, there is a microphone at the front, anyone? there are two microphones. >> my question is about writing a book and publishing --dash you
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talk about identities. >> may be turn it on. i will repeat the question. >> she was asking the way sharing and media is changing and share stories and journalism much faster and easier rate, how is that impact the way. >> i don't know if it changes the way i will write, whether an article or book. it certainly does give all of us more platforms. those people who at one time were so marginalized can now go on twitter and their words and ideas can spread around the world. so yes, it is very different in that way.
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i think for all of us what we do, is what we would do no matter the platform. i think that is true of each of us so it is just another way, another forum to express your ideas. the idea about what i write would be the same whether i was writing on the tablet, hundreds of years ago or being published in newspapers, it doesn't change it for me. but for the audience it does. >> same answer. >> i would say quickly it lessens the power of gatekeepers. at the same time it think these gatekeepers they more. the architect of wealth and capital, there's other ways to own what seems like democratic platforms. >> they found ways. >> so i am interested in what it would actually do.
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>> at the turn-of-the-century, it's a fascinating moment for american journalism,. >> i was struck by something alexis said about yellow journalism, that is something that we typically associate with people like hurst. he came to epitomize yellow journalism. yet yet hurst newspaper was the only one in new york city that objected to what it called, a disgraceful spectacle. the new york times and all of the other high-minded newspapers were the one that supported it. it just makes me wonder about the label that we use and that history just has a way of perpetuating narratives that may not be true. >> if there is anything of this
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it's be wary of the official record. >> oh yes. >> thank you so much for the work you have done. it sounds like each of you went in to your books with a sense of passion and protest and a sense of discovery and openness what you would find. i would love to hear about what work some of the things that surprised me most in the journey of writing these works question. >> what surprised me most, i went into it already knowing there is a shocking thing that happened in new york city. i knew that was are ready stunning. what really surprised me was the extent to which the entire episode had been sanitized by elite custodians of our history. how so much effort had been put into totally re-creating a story that then took hold. it became inscribed into the
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hard drive of history. so for 100 years hundred years all of the people who had exploited, or supported the exploitation of voter bango and their descendents, got to write a fantastical fiction that circulated around the world. to me, that was simply stunning. i don't see myself as naïve. i'm up pretty skeptical journalist. pretty skeptical journalist. i was really surprised by the evidence of so much deception. >> it's an amazing missionary who kidnapped oda bango how he makes himself the hero. >> he rescued oda bango. [laughter] >> but what about you what are your discoveries? >> i think unfortunately i knew what was going to happen. i think the question i went in
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and to resolve into the book came out was, why don't we know about their names? in 1892 the nation was obsessed with them. they flashed the covers they flash the covers of newspapers for half a year. i kept wondering why, and medical journals i could see their legacy, i knew when they had entered the conversation, were still 40 years away from the word lesbian coming to america. the night realize after that a few days after the asylum losey took an act to her father and stepmother and everyone got on the train, headed to massachusetts, that story was principal. they're. they're both considered fun in the same way. so how much better for our
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collective memory to think about a well-to-do white woman, who seemed to fit within our conception norm of our societal value and someone who has so confounded us and didn't have a word for it. >> for me, i discovered a lot, in the process i should've know this already. i was amazed at how complicit new york publishing was in violently miss educating people. in pushing potential readers out of reading. i should have known that but i didn't know that. >> it's like the same thing. just how far it goes, right. how pervasive. also one of you mention
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complicity. i was surprised by the wide web of complicity by so many imminent new yorkers. so in the stories that have been told about oda bango's exhibition, it seems like there has been one wayward zookeeper who is responsible. he was the one bad guy but there's like the mayor, he went intervene, you had all of the new york high society was behind it. thousands of new yorkers, went to the zoo to see oda bango. he was a sensation. the whole idea of complicity has a whole new meaning for me. >> just the idea of systemic injustice because it is everywhere. when you look at the people who came to see, when you you look at the zookeeper, everyone is involved. usually at the highest level.
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>> exactly. >> so we have about five minutes lie. for the last three questions that we can direct them to one specific person. >> i would just ask anyone to answer this because all of your writing about resistance to change and the impact of the media and people generally resist change, if you look at how the media is even shaping what is going on in politics today, there is a resistance. my question is what is been the public response to telling the story in 2015? >> that is a wonderful, huge tough question. for me personally, i think the response, i wrote the book to create excellence, i met tons of
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primarily black and brown young people across the country and world who written back to me and written for a larger audience. also when you do this kind of work, you get use to people, the death threats, you just have to tell yourself that anyone is threatening to kill you, they're not going to kill you. >> hi, thank you for being here. the question i have is i hear from a lot of writers who write about marginalized community about a fear and frustration about the story they tell becoming the single-story for that marginalized community. was that something that was part of your internal conversation when you're writing these books, if so how did you move to address that? >> and it's interesting the way people latch onto a story and
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they really need identification. so alice and freda, in the gay study section there referred to as lesbian, i don't think so. it is an argument i have long given up. i wish alice had no because then we could have determined so much about who is influencing her, was she has many psychiatrists have told, and unhinged person who is just right waiting for the right trigger? i don't know. but i also know that alice about freda, she didn't seem to love anyone else and freda was engaged to many people. i think the powerful association to see that is conflicting. you want people to embrace something, someone will say
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thanks to you about your work that is not exactly true but it's close enough so you have to say, it doesn't matter? what really matters here. >> thank you all for being here. i hear you all saying about yellow journalism and the media influence this stuff. yet during like the civil rights movement the media was so critical for spreading that outrage, here we are back again, almost full circle to that yellow journalism. in what you read did you find examples of people who took back that power, it may be that set some kind of groundwork of how it helped the civil rights movement and how it could work now? >> i'm sorry i'm just taken this question. [laughter] pardon me.
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i think what happens is we often look at the media as the creator of the attitudes that it is reflecting. so so what my book did was it pinpointed the genealogy of the ideas of the media then reported on. in 1906, if you went to an encyclopedia and you looked up african, it would be described as someone midway between an orangutan and a human being. if you're thinking about the media portrayals, these ideas were not created in newsrooms. they are embedded in the science of the time. they are embedded in the scholarship, the history book, and then the popular culture that just runs a way with it. the idea idea started at harvard, columbia, yell, princeton. the high-minded, highly educated people were creating this
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fiction of what african life was. those are the ideas that with were wrestling with the people point to the media but we really need to look away from the media to the source. so if the media during the 1960s was playing a more active role, i think it is because society was coming around. it was reflecting that more enlightened attitude about human rights. about african people in this country. so the media is a reflection, i'm a journalism professor and i do focus a lot of attention on the media, i will continue to, but it behooves us to look more closely at where those ideas are coming from to begin

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