tv Eve Ewing Ghosts in the Schoolyard CSPAN December 9, 2018 10:46am-12:01pm EST
that's what's coming up on booktv on c-span2. now here's eve ewing on chicago public schools. >> good evening, everyone and welcome to the strand rare book room. my name is nancy bass wyden i'm the proud owner of the bookstore here in greenwich village. a a little bit of history, the strand was founded by my grandfather in 1927, and then passed on to my dad, fred, and now on to me. it was part of an area called
book row that was located around the corner on fourth avenue the rent from union square to astor place and at its height it, there were 48 bookstore. >> where the sole survivor from those times. in the 91 year history of the strand and talk about important ideas, and it's program about racism is what of special relevance. folks sometimes argued that the moral blot of racism is gone but there is a discussion of the news yesterday about public hangings in mississippi, state with a tragic history of lynching. tonight we have professor yves ewing with us to discuss her brand-new book about racism and bureaucracy in education. "ghosts in the schoolyard: ract professor ewing draws on her
experiences first as a student, then as a teacher, and out as a skull in her native city school system in this powerful and necessary investigation. professor ewing is the author of two other books, the widely lauded poetry collection electric arches which we have for sale here, and when the bell stops ringing, race, history and discourse amid chicago school closures. she's assistant professor at the university of chicago's school of social service administration, and has had her work published in the new yorker, the "new york times," the atlantic and the "washington post." joining professor ewing and conversation as professor michael ralph, a teacher at the new york university department of social and cultural analysis as well as the school of medicine.
professor ralph is also the author of forensics of capital, which looks at the interpersonal politics of debt in senegal and the country has become a leader of political and economic reform in africa here and read those books for sale as well. his research at large focus on that, slavery, insurance, for instance, and incarceration. and he is at work for two other books on the u.s. insurance industry as well as the history of convict leasing. strand is honor to play host to these two scholars on the cutting-edge of the fields, and we are enormously grateful for in what use to private social cultural analysis, race and public space -- nyu -- and institute for public knowledge for the sponsorship of the nights event. we're also excited to welcome back our friends at c-span who are filming the conversation for
booktv. they are truly a national treasure. i can't wait to listen in, so please join me in first welcoming professor ralph to the strand bookstore. [applause] >> good evening. it's a pleasure to introduce doctor eve ewing who received her bachelors degree from your vision chicago and her phd from harvard university. obviously these are feats in themselves but even more impressive is appointed to short years of receiving her doctorate, eve ewing has become an influential scholar, activist and artist. she is recognized by the chicago review of books having the best book of poetry in 2017. "chicago tribune" for everyone the best books of the chip, chicago public library and forget chicago, los angeles
review books, near times as organizers have having one of e best books in 2017. perhaps most relevant to the nights event received a distinguished dissertation award from the american educational research association. i first heard her name when she was doing a poetry reading in new york city, and i was truly blown away by the performance she gave that night. for me her imagination put her in conversation with saul williams, toni morrison. also her scholarship is extraordinary and you know, i received my phd as well from the university of chicago in anthropology, and the university of chicago is not in academia is being incredibly rigorous, putting priority on social theory. i'm not going to say that chicago is the most rigorous place to study social sciences. i will just say people who think
themselves of the most rigorous, think of university of chicago as the most rigorous social scientists. so tonight will be hearing about her second contribution, "ghosts in the schoolyard" and in a minute you're thinking how could it be that in such a short time she wrote such an insightful and illuminating book on issues such critical importance? i just want to foreground the my experience that takes a lot of bravery to write about topics that we think of as important come to write about them in ways that other people ultimately find compelling. eat has been doing that even before she was widely recognized. -- eve. there's a graphic story called philadelphia print works and i came across it while i was looking for copies of eve's book to buy. they so iconic like black power merchandise, paraphernalia and actual also sell merchandise inspired by either ewings go trick-or-treating find that come
and get the thing is i encountered nyu student whose younger sister is applying to college is writing her college admissions essay about eve ewing. i think that speaks to how much she resonates with so many people instantly giveaways and with that position in looking eve ewing to the stage. [applause] >> hello. how's it going? this is a labor countable chair that i thought. taking so much for the kind introduction. i was in the back, like, you're hustling and you said saul williams and toni morrison. i was like there's nobody back there for me to look around to so i wish us luck at the wall. thank you and thank you all for being here.
>> so "ghosts in the schoolyard." >> yes. >> i think everyone would love to know where the project came from, like where the idea came from. >> i want to issue a slight correction. you mentioned that this is my second book which is true. when the bell stops ringing is a nonexistent but because that was the original title of this book. i just want to clarify that don't go looking for because it doesn't exist. where did the idea come from? in 2013 when the school closures were happening i was in graduate school and i was visiting my father on spring break. i read in the newspaper about the school where i had been a teacher being slated for closure, and actually can't i read a little bit? okay. i never do this but it's not really a surprise. we plan it out. go with me. i don't usually from this book, like every poetry so this is exciting for me.
i'm going to read a bit of introduction that tells this story. failing schools, underprivileged schools, just plain bad schools. the fodder of it so sad and that's why we send our kids to private school, and was so lucky. they are the stuff of legend, me too for inspirational movies and shocking prime time news exposés. in chicago were once famously called the worst in the nation by william bennett, secretary of education under ronald reagan. more recently, the governor called then inadequate, woeful, just tragic, and basically almost crumbling prisons. a verbatim quote from the governor. chicago's public schools have on position in the nation's imagination as at best charity cases deserving our sympathy. at worst they are a malignant force to be ignored if you can't or snuff out altogether if you can come up with something better. in this century compass like many of the urban school
districts that primarily serve students of color, you'd with pity and contempt. in 2013 when mayor rahm emmanuel announced unprecedented wave of school closures perhaps expected public approval. the city and the school district were facing a $1 billion budget deficit. enrollment dropped in the district overall and many of the schools in the list and long records of low test scores. chicago public schools for said as many as 330 schools could be closed. it then paired the number down to 129, and finally announced 54 that made the final list. of those 49 the slated to be closed by the end of the 2012-2013 school year. students attending the schools were assigned seats in other schools nearby. if the schools are so terrible why do people fight for them so adamantly? chicago is my home. i grew up your come with two public schools here and attended college. after i graduate i become a public school teacher in iran so. i had my fair share of starting
memories from the civet shaping the one of the most jarring moment i encounter took place when i'm away from home. it was 2013 i left the classroom for graduate school and necessity my father in florida on spring break. i was alone sit on the edge of the dead with the door closed, my grip tightening on the phone as of the chicago sun times article listen to chicago public schools that would be closing at the end of the you. when i got to the school and brown so right been a teacher i had to read and reread it and read it can to make sure wasn't missing something. surely this was a mistake. how could our school got a list like this? i i thought of each of my colleagues in bewilderment, not of my principal and her students and the many hours we dedicated to providing a quality education. my eyes flicked upwards to the statement from the superintendent in chicago this position is referred to as the chief executive officer, ceo, if you like a commentary on the entry of market neoliberal logical public schools.
i believe every child in every command in chicago deserves access to high-quality education. i believe that's the purpose of public schools, before too long children in certain parts of her city and been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they're trapped in underutilized schools. these underutilized schools are under resourced. two words emerge that it went over and over. the school she said were underutilized and under resourced. but, i said out loud, that doesn't make any sense. how could the person charged with doling out the resources condemn an institution for not having enough resources? i read it again, throwing, growing sadr and angrier and more confused. there was the question of race. distance would be affected by the closures 88% were black. black. 90% of the schools majority black and 71% had mostly black teachers. a big deal any country or 84%
public school teachers are white. in the coming weeks the expeditions of the district offered struck ms. inconsistent at best and illogical worst and left me tongue-tied when the full education research at harvard asked me to clarify exactly what was happening in chicago. the research in me was intrigued and puzzled. the teacher in me was morning. the chicago went in the witnessed a a seemingly bottoms tradition of corruption, a little clip use dishonesty, was skeptical. at the intersection of these identities i became obsessed with teasing as something deeper. what role did race, power and history play in what was happening in my hometown? thank you. [applause] thank you for the reading. one of the most impressive parts of the book is how you live lot this contradiction. they're closing schools. they say their underutilized and under resourced and yet partly underutilized as excellent because all the displacement, under resourced because you have
the racers but there's another part of the story that you illustrate beautifully, activism. i think chicago activism has become a sort of even more widely known for its impact. say more about activism like the different facets of it. how do people engage both the sort of forms approaches, analysis. >> thank you for asking the question. my mentor in graduate school is sarah lawrence lightfoot and she rides methodologically by the importance of a search for goodness, which is kind of antithetical jamming researchers are trained, right? at you are not a real intellectual unless you can find something that's wrong and bad. it's the way which we centralize the need to apologize, almost the way providing more legitimacy like legitimate cover. for me part of a search for goodness means uplifting the voices and the nudist the people
that are engaged in a legacy of struggle. in chicago, i write about, that takes many forms historically. in 1919 when chicagoans homes were being bombed, and black chicagoans who want to move out of brownsville which was a good black neighborhood, brownsville was a term that was invented by gaining anthony overton and it was alternative at the time maybe it was called dark you can produce like we can do better so he came up with his other, brownsville. instead of dark you count for the black belt this was also called. so one form of resistance took the form of people just stay where they were in refusing to move. refusing to move at the threat of physical violence. another form of resistance during the 1960s when benjamin willis who was the superintendent of schools at the time but basically reinforce segregation by not allowing black students to transfer to
schools and other parts of the city and it will these things called wellness wagons which were big aluminum trailers the basically instead of with schools are overcrowded to keep our black kids in one place to build his big trailers. blackberries would come and buy the bodies down on the grant to try to prevent the bulldozing from happening to lay the ground for the spirit black pants would go to all-white schools and demand they let the kids be enrolled in would be arrested taken up by the police in the 1960s. a group of hunger strikers will that solid food for 34 days to try to keep the school open. i write about that in one of the chapters of the book and they said that they stop hunger strike because they realize the mayor was going to let them die. what does it mean to be person in the city the seas, , where al evidence suggests this person is supposed be your elected civic leader is going to let you die rather than reopen the high
school? i think that legacy of resistance is important, both because i want to historicize it to make sure you people and organizers of all ages workaday understand this is part of your birthright, part of who and what you come from but also because the story still get told all the time and that's what you end up with people saying things like f i was asleep i have run away, like people are ignorant of the different forms of resistance that black people have historically engaged in overtime. i'm not naming names. >> you point out that like they had a number different hands with the city positioned themselves as one input from people but then it's not at all clear how they will click the above, how do we use input. tell us about that. the other passage where you contextualize all the input and insight people get in the series. can you talk about that? >> in order for the schools to
be closely going there has to be a public hearing with the city presents their case for the closure of the school. then community members can come up and 52 minutes to testify. people have been -- i i see pee get pulled off the mic crying for icing kids get pulled off the mike becker is a video of me of one like basically the secret garden is trying to take the way and i'm like a bob and weave, and another thing is, you know, furthermore, additional as well. moreover. and so it's like this bizarre spectacle of an event. i find it interesting the ways in which chicago which is a profoundly undemocratic city creates these ways to construct the veneer of process. i think that something that smeared and a lot of bureaucratic settings. many of us have felt in our workplace perhaps or in situations where people very disempowered in situation where it's clear that the decision has
been made against us but we're told there is a process. i think that becomes a way of legitimizing one form of knowledge of one form of evidence at the expense of another without ever really doing the interrogation of why that is. part of what i i want to interrogate in the book is, if the school district comes out and says this school is better than this school because they have two percentage points higher in their math test from the year 2012, which by the way part of the rules as the state dictates is that students have to move, if the school was going because they had moved to another school than a mile and half. chicago is very segregated so for the most part the school your bingo to is virtually identical. oftentimes the schools would be separated literally by three percentage points. most, this school got 65% achievement on math and this got 67% and 67% and so the school is better. it's unclear to me why that is
inherently a more legitimate form of analysis of a schools goodness band, for example, a parent standing up and saying when i was going through something, these teachers care for my child, like they were their own. and my mother and my grandmother went to the school and i trust him with my child because i went to the school. or children sang the kid to go to the school i like my brothers and sisters and cousins, and i feel safer and dispossessed in this edition. to me those are both competing values. the only difference is one of them has the institutional legitimacy behind it but there's nothing inherently that says that one should supersede the other. part of what i'm trying to interrogate is what do we mean we set a school is good and when a school essay and what's at stake. >> you point out they had these there is symmetrix and clay hunt statistics but is not clear gets in validity. not clear all with explain. part of the analysis, to point right now is the way you think about data.
as you pointed out, like the knowledge teachers have about what makes the school work well, what parents and young people say about with neighborhood is like in relation to the school and proximity to the school and various kinds of obstacles. that's part of what makes innovative. could you say a little bit about the kind of tradition you see her something in? i think it's impressive to people part of, to be widely recognized as a master storyteller in a seat that is so renowned for storytelling, to produce such oppressive social science scholarship in the city that both is highly regarded and even notorious for social science scholarship? can to talk about how you see yourself occupy these traditions in the concept of chicago? >> first of all that's very kind of you, and most people in the audience haven't read the book so for all but no, i feel bad judgment both of those goals. the book could be terrible. just keep that in mind. i see myself, so i think part of
the paradox you bring it up is really that paradox of like black people in the academy of our people of color more broadly in the academy, which is that we are trained to have a very specific kind of cartesian understanding of what constitutes knowledge. and what it means to know something, the importance of objectivity, what it means to be objective, et cetera, et cetera. that's like other is smalley, a series of construction of knowledge of what constitutes knowledge. and so that's always a conundrum for people of color because we come and from a tradition of very different kinds of knowing. that's why we see headlines of studies coming out that were like rigorous, randomized controlled trials the things that our grandmothers could've told you for free.
for far less money. i don't mean that to belittle. i think having the kind of corroboration of knowledge is important part of what i wanted to do was take a risk with the institutional position i was occupying to stake a claim and say this is knowing, this is also a form of knowledge. basically gambling, like putting my chips on the table like my harbor chips, and i going to undergrad and universe chicago so that's like a chip that's big. putting that on the table and saying i'm making a claim that is a form of knowing. i think i was prepared for that to fail. it still might feel. anything can happen. i truly don't know. but that was the risk i felt like it was important to take with the hopes of modeling of the forms of what knowing can look like. to your actual question and not the question i created from what you said in my head, i think i see myself in the tradition of
do boys. i . i suis of integration of wait at the apologists like yourself. i see myself black feminist scholarly tradition of people from bell hooks to kimberly crenshaw to collins. and to admit to i mention sarah lawrence lightfoot. i think i occupy very privileged position which is that this is like all really old. critical race theory, all these things that are quite old and established at this point, and i do not have to reinvent those think i sometimes have to do the work of marshaling might be ben the graphical resources and like slamming it on the table. like i brought du bois with me. no one should have any questions for me because the philadelphia negro is old but i think that kind of, like marshaling is really important to me. >> a great point although i think you're still being too modest.
you take this poem of going to brooks and read it social logically. i think it's interesting and innovative an important to treat wendelin brooks as a social theorist. can you say a bit about the poem is used and why you chose? >> any guess of what the poem is? it's the gwendolen books poem. there's this famous gwendolen books poem, we real cool and it's the first poem i remember reading about as a kid. i think there's something about repetition and so it was probably the earliest poem that i read that i didn't reread multiple times as a age and that a we encounter multiple times. this is amazing recording of gwendolen books reading the poem that you should check out and it will with the company, my friend and i work with amazing company called manual sin and there's a video of the policy can look it up. thanks for that.
you should look it up but she did this reading of the poem where she said the genesis of it was that she saw the seven boys skipping school and the middle of the day and should pull out like a pool hall. she said instead of asking myself why aren't they in school, i asked myself, i wonder how they feel about themselves? she was a very slow talker. i would have feel about themselves. that is such a quintessential humanizing question that kind of reasserts the human side of somebody. it seemed like such a simple intervention but i think about come you and i both know the political scientist cathy cohen who founded this he called the black youth project which now has branched off to become an amazing organizing it to be in chicago but originally the black youth project, which like lawrence, a friend of my, start
working on this project and in deafening and mentoring vessel for lots of young black scholars. the simplicity of the intervention was sent to asking this question. it was asking young black people about their political opinions. that was like a radical, like black people are the most hyper written about, over theorized, hyper documented, hyper visible people in sociological, political literature but the intervention of actually going to young black people and the like what you think about stuff was somehow incredibly innovative. i think exactly to your point that gwendolyn brooks, like so many things, did it first. i wanted to kind of to make that intervention. >> to your point about ordinary people having profound insights about their lives, there's a passage in the book when you talk about institutional learning. you tease out this theory about a people grapple with the loss of schools.
could use a bit about like what the loss of these schools meant to people in chicago, as it also sort of what you want to do with institutional morning? >> yes. when i started writing this dissertation what i wanted to do was parse out how people, regular people who are impacted by school closures understood the role of race and racism in the process. that was sort of a contentious debate in the city where some people were like this is super racist, this is happening because of racism and its racist. other people, , people like american people like robert byrd bennett said this is not racist. it is what it is. he schools used to have kids, method and that gives some had to close the schools. part of what i wanted to do was rather than it with my presumption of the sociologist about structural racism, action as people like what do you think? because we know oftentimes in
colloquial settings people have a different understanding of what race is amiss. they have a very individualized understanding about what race is amiss. what emerged from that was people talking about death and mourning all the time. people saying things to me like i passed by close school every day and is like walking by a tombstone. or, i felt like they killed our school they murdered our school, right, or when teacher telling me that she was hospitalized. she basically had a mental breakdown because her school, she had taught at a school that closed. she taught at another school and a close, it should really hard time at her new school. her principal called her in and said, i don't know what to do to make it work with you. and she said, i just don't want to love again because i'm afraid to get my heartbroken. so hearing people say he's
profoundly intimate, emotional things about schools, right, and so institutional mourning is basically my attempt to put a name to that, to say that people more and institutions in the way they mourn humans. in particular, that morning is amplified when the people in question are socially marginalized in a way that increases their reliance on institutions. what i mean by that is if you don't have a private house and you live in public housing with lots of other people, then when your public housing gets torn down, what that means to you is more. if you don't have a backyard and your social space is the cornerstone of the barbershop, then when those things get displaced by gentrification that means a lot to you because you don't have a private space. it ties in with other things that already, of the social science that has been done around the notion of kinship, that black people, we have different understanding of
family. there's all this interesting psychological literature i found about black peoples mourning practices that for example, black people are more likely to have a really intense grieving processes for distant relatives or people they don't know personally than white people. i was putting that altogether to try to understand why the people i interviewed and also i myself were shedding tears over buildings. people who are unemployed, people have moved on with her life had this real profound sense of loss that it wanted to understand. >> the question i'm starting with earlier, i was thinking about the mcdonald's case and also this question of reparations for victims of torture. it seems like there's this way that people have been very successful at drawing public
attention, national attention, international attention to some of these injustices and analyzing them, interrogating them in interesting ways. i'm wondering as a native chicago when how you think about these developments in the context of chicago. it's a lightning rod for backlash in the context of white supremacy of whatever chicago sort of stands in for everything -- >> a dog whistle. >> this dog whistle but it's important to activists successes, projects. analyses. can you say a little bit about that? >> there so much as i i can sit and as you probably figured out now i have very poor at brevity and concision because there's a essay length i can say about that. number one, chicago is a quintessentially midwestern city in many ways. one of those things means there's a work ethic and i disparagement of things being to shelley or two attention-getting
in favor of what is the labor. what that means is many chicagoans will always sort of understand like to go, a year ago when electric argument anybody was academic chicago hip hop and art. widest chicago hot right now? there's an understanding that you could be, , people could be talking about you today i'm not talking that you tomorrow, and also when you talk to it you cannot really talking about you anyway. they are talking about something else through you. because of that many chicagoans understand that and become less concerned with optics the thinks publicly and more concerned with doing the work that needs to happen. and a pretty much summarily disinterested in whatever the president has to say or not say in any given moment. or the like 12 records and an overcoat that put on a week everyday and pretend to be the president, whatever it is. [laughing] who knows, you know?
we should have known when he was like digging through the trash with this tiny hands that something was afoot. [laughing] anyway, so that's part of it. another thing, you asked me about this long tradition of persistent. chicago is like the city of the haymarket uprising. i don't think right is a bad word. in 1963 to protest chicago's public school segregation, 48% of the students stayed home on a march. 220,000 hundred 20,000 students stayed home that day. a really good documentary called 63 boycott. the hunger strike i talked about was inspired by another hunger strike that had previously happen in a little village which is a mexican american village on the south side, a 19 day hunger strike to get a score. we have this tradition of racism. the organizing tradition understands, number one it
understand and occlusive politic. if you want read more about this, charlene carruthers has a great book called unapologetic which is not the chicago organizing tradition. but it's a multigenerational ethic, something that understands that wins and losses look many different ways to get something that is not hyper obsessed with voting for electoral politics goes our electoral politics are totally broke and crept anyway. there's a mayoral candidate who's getting at bundles of cash to people to vote for him. willie wilson is simultaneously my most favorite and least favorite person. he is a black man with an eighth-grade education turkey goes by doctor willie wilson. i don't know -- [laughing] at what point, like his bio, he's running for mayor. i'm really excited to talk about this pic is running for mayor and his bio is he was in a work camp in florida as a child and escaped from the house. that's what it says. he escaped from convicts slavery essentially and is an
millionaire and is running for mayor in chicago. his platform is like free bus rides for seniors, no more carjackings, legalize weed, and i will give you money to vote for me. [laughing] so like electoral politics, like what is that in the context? so you bring up john birch, right? for those of you who don't know, john birch was a police commander who for generations was torturing people, mostly black men, into false confessions. he was arresting people in the '90s and he would electrocute them with cattle prods. he would change them to a radiator and beat them. this was an open secret. i remember reading about this in the newspaper, reading investigative journalism about it in the '90s. people gave false confessions that landed land them on death. there's a guy i know named
ronnie kitchin who just had a book come out this year and i mitt romney kitchen without knowing who he was. i met him the day after he was released from it being incarcerated for like 18 years on a false confession. he was walking home one day and got arrested and didn't come back. he talks about how, so he's been paid reparations, and he talked about when people hear about what to get is an exorbitant amount of money, he says my mother got alzheimer's while i was incarcerated conflict came out of prison and my mom didn't know who i was. right? so that's who john birch was. john birch ultimately was convicted on perjury because the statute of limitations of all the things he had done had passed, so he was convicted on perjury, that a a couple of yes and then retired in florida. so is that victory? what happened was people in
chicago organize for reparations for his victims and they said we need monetary reparations. we did mental health clinics to open up in the communities where people are struggling from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression and anxiety. and we demand the kids in school or about john birch, executives colborne that the police tortured people. and we won. john birch died not alone, like a month or two ago, and he died on, with a boat in florida, happy, living his life. i did not believe in him hell l the moment when john birch died. i mean that from the bottom of my heart. that man is burning in hell. given somebody like that, when that's what we're up against, how we think about success and victory, we have to play the long game. we have to say the long game is kids in school learning that this happened. we have to say the long game is
kids in school understanding that people organize for you to get this curriculum. for these people to have some sort of brief monetary compensation to even begin to address that terrible wrong that was done to them. i think the reason chicago organize it so successful is that it doesn't take for granted these conventions of what wins and losses look like. it's really asking the question, what does justice look like to us? very rarely is the answer like this person got elected or didn't get elected, you know. >> i think that deserves a round of applause. [applause] >> you are like, please clap. [laughing] >> i can tell by the sort of pregnant pause, like silas, you appreciated the incident as asking about your artistic work and also about traditions you are drawing on.
i was also mentioning both projects as both social science project and the radical projects, exhibit about which are working on next, like your next project? >> my next project, stay black and die. no, just kidding. i mean also that. there are a couple of things. one is i'm writing this book about the 1919 race right in chicago. the book of poetry. it's called "1919". so i'm working on that and candidate emerged from "ghosts in the schoolyard" actually picnicking out of, i did a lot of research about that time in order to write one of the chapters and then it became increasingly fascinated with that time. we are coming up on the centennial of this race right into something people don't know about. a lot of people don't know about the red summer. part of it is a a teaching too, and i'm working with, i'm a
scholarly advisor with the newberry library to think about a year of programming with a lot of of the people how to educate people in chicago about this race riot that happened that many of us believe kind of set the pattern for the city as a understand it today. i'm working on that. working on iron heart, so -- thank you. it's the comic book. it's interesting because there is a property into different times at the same time. i had hard number one is to drop november 28, and i am right now working on iron heart number five. i'm also like reviewing art and giving feedback on iron heart number two. it's like a way of having to have a story fit in your brain in different places at the same time. and then undoing a lot of research projects at home which as you know it is like for a slow and an interesting to most people but terribly interesting
to me. doing a research project about consent and about how middle school students understand and conceptualize the idf consent and have operationalized that in their behavior with their peers, and they talk to adults about consent. some working on that. academia is like, i'm working on the now and will be a paper in 2020. what else? those are the main thinks. i've a children's book coming out in 2020 called maja and the robot. he wrote most of it but that's also coming out. it's about a a girl whose best friend is the robot because really cool but . it's like my favorite thing i've ever written. so those things. >> i'm going to open up to the colitis but i did want ask, if you could call a moment when you sort of first thought of yourself as a writer and firstly you were a writer. you can answer the question as
well but i wonder if you can tell the story the first time you recognize as a writer? i heard the story of the first writing award so to speak. can you talk about that. >> my first writing award? i thought you going to say when i first realized i was a robot. when you first realized you were a robot. okay, was i -- is three stories you have in mind? >> the santa claus story. >> your good. i totally forgot about this. i have been a writer for long as i can remember, but the first thing i remember writing is that what you have in mind although i will tell the story. the first thing ever remember sitting down and writing was when i was five. my mom was a single mom. i had to go to work with all the time because we can have child care. on an ms-dos computer when i was five, i wrote several lines on fanfiction for the nickelodeon show hey dude. [laughing] it's a show about people living
in a dude ranch. at the very batch that's the first thing i ever remember like sitting down to write. when i was five. the thing you have in mind that when i was seven i won an award. chicago there's a thing called a young office competition where it's exactly what sounds like him so kids in elementary school write books and stories. .. this is like 1993.
it is how it is. so thenhe goes around delivering presence and is like oh my god, this is so scary . and then he's like, i should just accept myself and he goes back to his other clothes. it's like, never try new things. stay the way you are forever. which is not that good when i was seven. sofor that i won an award, that was the best tory of all this stories the seven-year-olds wrote . or had it together to get in on time in 1993. and i did not attend the awards ceremony because i had a t-ball game and that's the story of how i became a professional t-ball player which is why everyone is gathered here today to hear me talk about t-ball. something i want to say is i didn't see myself as a writer until much later until somebody else named it for me so when i was 12 or 13, i had
a close friend when i went to elementary school with who she should do an adult in my presence,she said it very casually, eva is very good at writing .until she said that, i never thought it. and in that moment i said yeah, kinda. and i was always interested in everything as a kid, i wanted to be an ornithologist, a paleontologist, i wanted to be a dog walker, a firefighter, i was sort of interested in everything and it wasn't until him but he else named something they saw in me that i saw it in myself and i think that's important because i think that it's important for us to do that for other people. for young people, but for people of all ages. when you see something in somebody else, don't take it for granted that they see it because often they don't so i'm grateful for that. >> so questions from the audience . >> ask me about anything
doesn't have to be things about that . >> i.e., i'm a native chicagoan.i lived in bridgeport forever. >> where did you go to high school? >> robbins catholic but i taught in chicago public school. i wanted to ask you with the political landscape as it is in chicago with the mayoral election looming , i just was wondering ideally who you would like to see become mayor of chicago and where you would like to see the direction of education go in chicago as far as education for the public andall that fun stuff . >> thank you for your question. i'm laughing and enable maybe people in the audience are laughing because for several months i had a running joke on twitter that the only candidate i will support is the cja platform heater which
is the heater from october to march, you can press a button and he comes on and keeps you warm so that's why voted for. kidding. i've been in conversation with a few mayoral candidates. as of yesterday i think there are 17 people running? i know this because i did this major twitter thread where i decided to find out every single candidate's stance on the question of an elected representative so i had to look at everyone's horrible website and try to find a determination which i turned into a medium post so if anyone wants to know about that, they can find it. so the seven people running, they ranged from truly terrible to truly comical to could be really good but i have concerns that prevent me from publicly telling other
people to vote for them. so there's that. i'll say on the truly terrible end, gary mccarthy who oversaw the look on mcdonald cover-up is the garbage can person and i would not vote for him. and paul valles who's always been an architect to what i think are some terrible public school policies in chicago in philly and new orleans is also on the terrible end for me. but other than that, i think what i'm really interested in is using the mayoral election as a time to catalyze conversations about your second question which is the direction chicago public schools should be going in and for me , the elected representative to the school board is important. we are the only district in the state of illinois that does not elect their school board. they are unilaterally appointed by the mayor and as superintendent and ceo, unilaterally appointed by the mayor so we don't have school
government so i can vote for the person that ivote for my judges, i can vote for the person who handles the water system, but i can't vote for the person who runs the schools . and that's bad. so that's an issue where i think the election becomes an important catalyst to have this discussion and asked people to get wrecked on record and ask people to start having the policy debates and i think there are many truly terrible things that happened in 2016 in the presidential election, like a lot of bad things happened but one thing i think was good and interesting was the way the conversation around mass incarceration and policing shifted in the national consciousness and elections become a moment to ask the questions you want asked about the future of the city or the country to look like.
i hope somebody good will become mayor and i'd like to do what i can and if it gets to a point where i feel confident shouting out somebody, i will but in the meantime i'm interested in pushing what are the questions we need to be asking? so i've never saidthis in public but until rahm emanuel announced he would not run again , i had a plan to announce my candidacy for school board. i had this plan i was going to hold the school board election and i was going to get all these people to run againstme . so basically, vote for me. oh, you can't because you can't vote for anyone because you don't have an elected school board and that was going to be my piece of performance art but now i'm not doing that because the biggest cut is the referendum they wanted to have two elect the school board and everything with it so thankfully i no longer have to run a fake election. it would have been a lot of work but thanks for your question. >> thanks for coming out, i appreciate your work and everything .
>> thank you for coming out. >> i know you do so many things, scholarly work in writing and everything. how do you balance it all? i follow you on twitter andit seems like you do everything . how do you do all this and not burn out? >> thank you. the thing about twitter is every day, i wake up and i put some birdseed over a keyboard and i spend all day having birds pack at it. no, just getting. really i'm waiting in line at cvs. that's the easiest question to answer because a lot of my tweets are i'm a doctor, i'm at cvs, i feel like at a time when other people would be doing a more healthy thing which is having private thoughts to themselves, i'm like, the real problem with
the pikachu movie is this. by golly. so there's that . but i think that, and i think twitter, i've said officially i'm not sure if i want to stay on twitter because i recognize island capital to accompany that is, has expressed what i would consider an explosive interest in using the platform to foster white supremacist terrorism. i don't want to have, i don't want to be part of that and when i talk about that realistically, if i quit twitter, i'm not writing anybody's blog because what i like about the medium is this quickness to it. but i think more important question is about just balance and i think one thing that i'm really interested in, i'm not here to romanticize because i sleep 7 to 9 hours a night.
i'm a very high energy person. i'm not able to function with less sleep than that. i don't drink coffee most of the time. i recently discovered decaf coffee which isexciting although it has a little bit of caffeine in it . so yeah, i think sleeping is important. i do this thing that i call saying no to saying yes which to me means i say no to people and i refuse to feel bad about it because i recognize i'm saying yes to something else. if i say no i can't be on your podcast, i'm saying yes, i can play spiderman while my husband talks to me . so while i can't say play with, it's a one player game but it's pleasant. so i refuse to feel bad about putting boundaries in my life. i tried to understand that my time on earth is finite and it's a zero-sum game so i need to be unapologetic about how i choose to spend that time and i also collaborate with people a lot and i work
on really long, slow projects and i don't announce them until they are like almost done . so something like iron hard for example where i was working on iron hard for a long time before i was able to say anything and what i love about: books is right pitch, send it to the editor, they revise it. i start writing a script and send it to the layout artist and i give them feedback, we send it to the pencil or, they start penciling and then a colorist and then a letter and i like these kind of collaborative projects. and that's why i cowrote play with nights, i think even something like electric arches, so many people worked on this book that are not me. so many colleagues gave me feedback. i had an agent that works hard to bring me to places like this. i have an editor that works hard so i tried to partner with other people.
the last thing is that i only work with people as much as i'm able to control it, i only work with people who care about me as a person so that if somebody who like, it doesn't matter if you're famous or importantor influential, if you are a jerk or if you don't care about me , or put in the labor you can extract, i have no interest in working with you because i know that ultimately i'm human and there's going to be a time when i like, i have a bad cold, i can't finish thisor i'm tired i'm kind of sad . and so that gives me a lot of space and there are a lot of people give me a lot of wiggle room and a lot of space to help me do what i do so those are the answers area i baked bread and i run. >>. >> thanks for coming. >> thanks so much, i'm alice, i'm an assistant as well. john j. >> this is two-part but unrelated question. i forgot.
the first part is as an act academic, how did you get encouraged to explicitly name yourself as an artist. >> and the second part is how did you get the courage to say i'm going to be an academic and a scholar, particularly as a young black woman in the academy and put so much pressure on us i believe to be very traditional, straight and narrow . if that makes sense. >> thank you. let's see. well, so one thing is that i have a lot of role models. and my friend nate marshall who i've mentioned three times, he and i worked together and he's my friend and i miss him because i only have a certain number of
friends . nate had to me once, the greatest thing a poem or a poet can give his permission. he said this once and i've been quoting him for seven years now but i think the same is true in scholarship which is that people give me permission by being so when i was an undergrad , my second year in college i took a class with a professor named jackie goldstein as you may know and she taught the class called with black women writers of the 50s and 60s and i walked in and university of chicago at the time i was an undergrad with a four percent class. if we were talking african-american, it probably would have been .5 percent, maybe one percent and i walk in and this black woman is there and she looks over top and she wrote on the board professor goldstein. this is what will call me.
this is my name. and i think that was the beginning for me. i wanted to look around and say yeah area what are you going to say now? and act all innocent, in this bizarrely antagonistic way but i felt proud. this has probably happened to you as well. so many times i've been in situations with random black people that don't know me and when they find out what i do, they will try or say i'm so proud of you. my husband is also a professor and where our offices are located is a block from where graduation exercises are held and every year what he puts on his road to go to graduation and he goes to walk and he's walking in his robe, random black people come and talk to him. like yeah, and it goes to this collectivity. right, they don't care. they think he's graduating, they don't care. doesn't matter.
i'm going to get these eighth-grade velvet ropes, maybe that's how they do it in new york private school but it goes to that collectivity that we talked about. so i'm not by myself. these folks are with me, there with us. i just met you and your with me and i'm with you even before now and i think that gives me courage and i also, when i talk about models, my graduate advisor said her first book is called bald in gilead and it's a memoir of her mother was professor and when her mother was a professor, she had to live in the service quarters at cornell. in graduate school, part of me. she had to live in the service quarters in school. >> would like to say because somebody look at me funny by the coffee machine, not to diminish the struggle of these things that add up but i feel like i carry people with me struggled for me to
be here. x and we are so don't. and we do the most interesting coolest work. and so there's that. that gives me courage. i think it's fair to call myself an artist. before electric arc came out, i was like, i won't tell anybody that i wrote this book and no one will read it. some other poets will read it. my friends will read it and then it will slide into obscurity and it will be like no one will ever know. and it failed spectacularly. >> and much to my surprise, my colleagues were like, interesting. and even positive about the fact that i had written this thing but i was willing to, i was and remain willing to whatever professional consequences i face and i don't mean it glibly. i truly don't know what my academic future looks like.
i tried to make my production, intellectual production unassailable and on the caliber that is unquestionable. the technical term might be unwinnable. that's what i strive to do. but i understand that there may be cost to the work that i do and if the alternative is not making art, i don't really feel that i have a choice. like, what am i supposed to do? not write poems? that's bonkers. so when it comes down to that, it's not really a question for me. i do make difficult choices and may in the future make other difficult choices about what that looks like in terms of professional use of my time and i say no to a lot of things that seem cool but that are not a great use of my time. but i don't think i have a choice area. >> thank you so much. >> we've got time for a couple of quick questions so would you mind. >>.
>> the last one. >> you spoke about the beginning about the proportion of gender and color in chicago and that made me think abouthurricane katrina and all the things that happened there . >> i'm so glad you called him out for being terrible. as an excuse to fire wholesale many, many unionized teachers of color. and i was wondering how that proportion turned out and also if you have any comments on comparison between those closings. >> i don't think i can say area and how those numbers turned out in in chicago? >> in terms of how may people were laid off.x and the proportion of teachers of color. like that remain employed, that if their schools were
closed because most of these people as you mentioned that were workers. >> teachers and students of color so black, not only predominantly black. so how did that change the school's population for the whole city and how does it look now? >> i unfortunately don't want to misrepresent my own memory of the numbers on that. but one number i can give you is that 10,000 students, the enrollment of chicago public schools has dropped by 10,000 students in the last year. and the majority of students are black. so i can't speak to, anecdotally, i feel confident tellingyou that the proportion of black teachers in the city is lower than what it was, i can't tell you by how many . but the city is hemorrhaging
people and is hemorrhaging black people specifically and the school closures have been part of that because part of making the city virtually uninhabitable for black people. and there's really great reporting that just came out today and my colleague is in the audience who does good work on the suburbanization of race and inequality and i wish i had you all. but he does really work in other scholarships have done great work on the way a lot of what we think about has been essentially urban struggles as moved to the hinterlands in the suburbs and exerts and that's a problem because all of our resources and our way of thinking about these problems are concentrated. so two years ago i believe, to school years ago was the first year that latin index students became the majority in chicago public schools and that's not because of an
increase in latinx students but because of the decrease in black students so that presents a twofold problem. number one, how do we acknowledge thinking critically about the fact that black people are leaving chicago, where they are going and why and number two, how are we as a district prepared to serve the students for the changing demographics of the district? what resources do we have in place, what teachers do we have in place and so on and what leadership do we have in place to serve those students. so it's really bad and it's something that i'm continuing to think about. >> if you want to know more about new orleans and the charter concept, there's a good book by an author, or last name is gloria and her first name is christine. christine orkristen? thank you. whoever that was. kristin burris, it's a very good book . it's all about the new orleans charter extension. >> thank you all. >> is there one more?
>>. >> this person someone pointing out. >> all the way over there. >> i loved her, she wrote down a question. >> okay. i. >> on the organizing cochair. >> over the summer we did some shooting in chicago and talking to local residents about the obama foundation signing on. so you're talking about this and a lot of black kids obviously and their families in chicago, what do you foresee in chicago if they don't sign on to the cda, what could probably happen, especially since blacks have
already been displaced? what's going to happen. what are the consequences. >> thank you. so just to provide a little bit of context, the obama presidential center, it was going to be a library, now it's a library center. it's going to be constructed in a location on the south side adjacent to several poor black communities and organizers in chicago have been pushing for the obama foundation to sign a community benefits agreement which basically is a contract that outlines the ways in which they're going to ensure that the construction benefits people in the community area and some of their demands are things like kids should be able to use the center for free, local chicago kids should be to use the center for free. the iron for job fairs and so on.and the obama foundation has refused to sign the cda. you clearly know this issue
that i'm very passionate about. i wrote an op-ed in the washington post about it and it's very frustrating for a number of reasons, not least of which is that president obama continues to use the rhetoric of his history as a community organizer in order to gain cultural credibility in black communities with is well-deserved, he was a community organizer but the irony is not lost on anybody as having someone brag about being a southside community organizer and ignoring the voices of the community organizers. and it's like a talking out of both sides of your mouth think he's able to do quite effectively. to use the rhetoric that he needs to using different places to appeal to different people . and the university of chicago has also been asked to sign on and there was another dimension, the mayor and city office. the alderman and city council.
so there was a protest about this today. and the thing that is interesting, nobody loves barack obama. some of you all in this room are like i love barack obama. i assure you nobody in the world loves barack obama more than lack people in the south side, especially black people from the south side of a certain age. especially the aunties. they love barack obama. when i voted in 2016, everybody came to the polling place with their barack obama outfits on. in the 2016 elections. everybody came with their bedazzled barack obama there barack obama martin luther king t-shirts . we love barack obama so what they had been chanting at these protests is yes obama, no displacement which i think is interesting because basically they're trying to head off the criticism of like, don't you love barack obama? and it's another way that black gearheads can be
deployed very effectively in the same way barbara quoted as a black woman, and when people say things are racist, rahm emanuel said how dare you say that. there's a way of deploying black people in positions of power themselves are implementing racist and white supremacist policy. to effectively deflect accusations of racism. and that's really bad. so also, the obama presidential library is the kind of thing that middle-class people of all races, white liberal people in chicago, they sound great. it's obama. though i think it's been hard for people to marshal political leverage to change the frame of the conversation. i think in terms of the consequences, people will lose their homes, people have already lost their homes and i think that at some point we're going to have to keep thinking critically about this strategy because i don't know.
i think it's good to keep fighting for the community benefits agreement, i also think there needs to be a next tier strategy because i'm not seeing a lot of movement on that front. and how are we going to keep arms reduction and triage to make sure that people who again are already losing affordable housing and already losing places to live are still able to live there? and i think there's no many examples across the country of places that trade on the symbolism and iconography of blackness. >> ..