tv Eve Ewing 1919 CSPAN August 29, 2019 1:10am-2:05am EDT
1919. this is about 50 minutes. [inaudible conversations] welcome to the 35th annual printers rowlett fest presented by the deer self killed thank you to our sponsors for their support and our programming sponsors the tribune and three l real estate and c-span book tv. the program will be broadcast live in if there is time at the end of the presentation we ask you use the microphone located in the center of the
room so viewers at home can follow along. also silence your cell phones and if you choose to take photos turn off your flash. with that said please welcome gary and eve. [applause] >> hello everyone. this will be fast we only have 45 minutes so what we decided to do is i would talk about the book and read a few j poems and then i will hop back over here and asking questions only those thatat you are not embarrassed to broadcast live on c-span two. [laughter] e thiss book is called 1919. it is about the race riots that took place in chicago in the year 191-9100 years ago.
each of the columns is in conversation with a report from 1922 called the negro in chicago why those race riots to place and how that could be prevented with racial violence so i will read a quotation from this report and then the poem. the first is with the train speaks the presence of negroes of large numbers is not a menace and of itself. even now i dream of the quiet nights in then railyard when the rats skitter beneath me those that have locked the door and laid his hands against me i see them dancing in every passing cloud.
my babies. my babies. born unto me in the hills of greenland catching in my sharp parts when they don't watch out and blistered hands hauling the burlap they moved like rabbits they look for a lash that is not there the lash lives in the shoulders. long after the last cases gone when the sunrise brings children to look for the space i have made for them with a gift i have prepared the file before they know the words and smile when it comes to them. inhe fact the land is flat and they smile to think of it in this new place the uncle or cousin that will greet them , the hat they will buy, the
ribbon, ribbon, they know not the men weaving in angry or the absence is not the absence of danger but my precious children i can never take you home. you have none. until you go out. thank you. [applause] so the riots of 1919 began when a young boy 17 e years old was swimming in lake michigan on the beach there is no legal segregation but informally a beach work for blacks and whites between 37th and 38th street he was in the water and started to drift over to the side where white people were looking out on the shore
he saw people throwing rocks. some people say they hit him some say he was too afraid to come out of the water but either way he was floating on a railroad tie and ultimately he drowned people were outraged that was the beginning of the riots so this is that moment of his drowning and it begins with this quotation on sunday jul july 271919 a clash of white people in negroes at a bathing beach that resulted in the drowning of the negro boy. little eugene. sweetest i've seen. 's mama told him those white nboys are mean. he didn't listen to what mama
said he went to the lake that july day. little eugene sorry to trouble you. call your mom's cries. sit up and drown to let them get you down. down down baby. sweet sweet baby don't make me let you go. flower flower grab the sky swallowwa swallow dark grandma grandma call on jesus because your baby is. no. all dressed in black black black all dressed in black but
black and he never came back back bac back. thank you. [applause] so now i will be due two more poems i would not read this one but somebody that inspired this palm is unexpectedly in the room so i feel they have to read this which is very much influenced by the work that i am very appreciative i live in the same time as him but it begins with two quotations in thee first is from the report of the negro in chicago that people participated in mob violence that resulted in folks dying but they did not realize until afterwards so it says often the sightseers even though
included in the nucleus did not know why they had taken part in t crimes the viciousness of which was not apparent to them until afterward. the second is the truth is that most evil is done by people who have never made up their minds. >> i hope you will forgive me for writing a didactic poem ia don't know how to say we live in the tve i'm sightseers many on the bridge of history watching the water go by then our bodies in the water and the water has been dirty for so long in the sightseers still drink from it when they smile with nice glasses and they put sugar in the dirty water that has our bodies in it the sightseers with children in the tower and the
tower has been crooked for so long and they still work at it they meet up on the weekends with picnics in the plaza in the tower that have our children in it and sightseers looking at the house waiting to take a tour in the house has been for so long and then they take pictures and model at the white pillars and just this once i hope you will forgive me to ask you directly to forget the charming pillars there are those in the towers and they are dead already. thank you. [applause] >> thank you for being so kind it is my first reading of the book since it has been out.
that is cool so thank you for being here for that. i will read oneoing t final poef you read my first book you know i write in the african futures and what i'm trying to do is trouble the assumptions of time moving in a straight line so this is about emmett till and itpo takes place in the universe where he lived a long and boring life because he never became famous for the victim of a vicious murder so i run into him and it's called i saw him this week at the grocery store. >> looking over the plums one by one his eyes turn it over slowly to check the smooth skin for mock one - - marks
and then sliding gently whistling softly reaching into the cart to balance over the wire before realizing the danger of bruising and then to cradle them in the crook of his elbow until something else could take that space. one of those has ceased to sell on roosevelt road he had carefully floated it folded a dollar bill and it stood at attention he wore his money. upright and strong already at althe checkout before i caught up with him and called out his name and he spun like a dancer looked at me quizzically for a bemoment before remembering my face. hello young lady. hello. so chilly today i should have worn my warm coat like you.
yes. it is so cool for august in chicago. how are things going for you? he puts the candy on the belt. it goes. it goes. thank you so much. >> thank you very much for that the book it is hard to read. so let's talk about what brought you to it and ghost of the schoolyard had something but what was the process like quick. >> my second book is nonfiction about the 2013 school closures the mass public school closure in theho history of the united states and in writing that book i started to talk about
segregation earlier and writing a lot about the great migration which ends up central to one of the chapters. but it was so fascinating because they captured it. of life in chicago when it wask very short because black people had not been here that long so that work of social science. eneven though it was a government report it had these lines that were poetic or paradoxical and i wanted to be in conversation with them. i also knew i didn't want - - i knew very little about this. maybe i got a paragraph in
high school but often our discussions up like history people know about slavery and and inil rights between black people were just doing stuff. [laughter] so i realized how little i do so the racial boundaries of 2019 are traceable to this ihing that happenedd 100 years ago. also i was curious why i did not know more about it. all of my work is which histories get told and which don't and why paraguay have 4 degrees i care about race in chicago i read books and write them for a living. that i realized if i knew so little and every time i talk about the project they say i'm embarrassed to say i don't know aboutow that. i wanted to be an accessible
entry point of conversation. >> so talking about the history of this and the impact of not being taught to what we hear about, your book looks at this from three periods before and during and after and going back and forth with others to tie it back in different ways can you talk about that process to put that together quick. >> yes i wanted to do the narrative stereo - - storytelling beforeas the event itself regarding the conditions of the great migration and what it wasgr like for black people coming up to this - - up to chicago.
while. that was amazing this is the first time i was ever telekinetic. [laughter] perhaps the folks in the room of parents or great-grandparents and then during is the sequence of the riot itself and then after from emmett till through 1968 and after doctor martin luther king is associate - - assassinated and then there is the heat wave that happened in 1995 for 700 people died that is a period of similarly interests me because the only reason i know about that is because i remember that happening all of these years later 700 people dying in the summern of natural disaster and
human policy seems like weol ought to talk about that more. and then the most recent is a poem about the jason van dyck verdict if you're not big poetry friends so to blackout or e-race part of it to make a poem so days before the murder with 16 shots to his body i received an emile on - - ann e-mail from the manager of my apartment building warning me how to protect myself in the case of mass civil unrest for quit a know if you remember that day that the police
department and the buses they drove them around downtown with the idea essentially there would be a race riot but the idea that black people would be in the streets. that if jason van dyck was not found guilty. that made a lot of weirdti assumptions of race and boundaries. and there is a pretty obvious legacy. but it is a familiar story a 17 -year-old killed in chicago because of the racialized boundaries and that's the story ofed emmett till and also mcdonald's what does that mean for us to be caught up in that return of this recurring story so the before during after is at ruse that i do not believe that. [laughter] spent the structure that you don't believe in.
>> that helps me to be successful. >> go back to the idea of the race riots of 1919 it obviously you have read a lot and the question i want to ask is it. after 1919, they had a riot and now they started to talk about retracing the terminology calling it the massacre what about looking at it from a different perspective quick. >> that's a great question now i have to talk about thisal riot it is an open question. there are certain situationsti where it is very clear so what happened in baltimore after freddie gray i would not call a riot there is a way it d legitimizess political action or violence as a response to
systemic oppression and that's what happened in tulsa was the opposite which is that you essentially white residents were enraged literally wanted to rip it apart with their bare hands so i write about similar things that happened around housing in the neighborhood that is almost completely black but many years ago was not or where the cha started to build veterans housing trying to move eight to black families into roseland in a predominantly white neighborhood there was a riot that lasted four or five f nights in 1000 police officers had to come out specifically with those white residents that were enraged of the presence of black people. but that was the majority of people that were murdered were black people and killed at the hands of stroke on - - street
gangs that were called athletic clubs. they were groups of young men usually affiliated with white of like italians they had an affiliation with some sort of powerful politician. this is also great because it is gender-neutral. [laughter] so they would act as the political machine and then act with impunity and protection. so with this post analytical report those that were the most responsible for the violence literally roving the street attacking black people
on the street and in streetcars one iss about a guy murdered on the loop and so of course one of the most famous members was a member of the hamburg gang who went on to become their president and that was richard daley who famously refused to ever confirm or deny his participation in the riots. so it is a loaded term and it brings assumptions about race in animal instincts and group of islands that need to be examined for grad the moment i don't have a strong stance but it is a catalyst for conversation how we label different forms of violence and if those are seen as noble or acceptable.
and when it is not. it is an open question. >> when you look at the starting point and it really is what people had left. it is a public lynching. >> exactly that's why the poem was over explanatory but with the image of the rope is the weapon affiliated with lynching and i appreciate you bringing that up there is a great way to talk about the great migration without talking about violence so black people migrated to the north because their living conditions of the south with the resurgence of the clan and the many ways that violences could be enacted random at any
time for just looking menacingly at a white woman this is what they would say to be successful in business i'd be wells of course she was famous for being anti- wanching crusader but she was impacted because she ran a newspaper in the south in memphis and when a group of black grocery store owners weree murdered she wrote against in her newspaper and was told you can never come back here and we will kill you for printing press was destroyed in all of her investment and she was never able to go back home. these are the conditions people were living in coming here so many migrant and immigration stories for a new place for the promise of something different in the promise of the american dream
so then then things and up being more complicated. >> and that connection between the reaction of the people of chicago to the great migration to what we seet today. >> absolutely it is you know phobia. there was so much in terms of economic and racial tension and black migrants were seen as dirty and uneducated and not fit to operate in society. one of the poems the frequency they would wear their clothes so theyo would work all day to be smelly or dirty and also a tuberculosis epidemic because people didn't have adequate sanitation or water and that was seen as a reinforcement
the plaques were dirty and bringing disease and not intelligent. was that they had to be held back with those you know phobic assumptions. >> the notion of how this applied to housing and your book goes to the school yard so talk about what that meant for the city to grow and it only grew because of that migration really which was a huge part of the economic engine but yet at the same time was pushed aside. >> yes. black labor was instrumental with the domestic sphere or factories or at less pay and
no opportunities for advancement and the black population in chicago and that 20 here. grew three.nine times while the rest of the city was growing one and a half times the population. so this is how we come to understand the city that we now live in that economic imprint the cultural imprint of black migrants from chicago the people that we consider the greatest musicians and literary producers but the question is how do people havepe opportunity to reap the benefits in their lives so obviously reading this was difficult there is a point you cannot write in response to something you have read in the book so how much different was this quick. >> so different mostly the
autobiographical work and this book is not there are bits and pieces my own grandmother came up from mississippi at five years old and there are some references to my own family history in the poll but for the most part it is not autobiographical at all but it was challenging because i made a decision i try to make every bread in order since 2017 which people say i like your book other say i love your bread. [laughter] so that you know i get very compulsive so i made the decision i would write the
book and conversation with this report from one century ago the report is 850 pages long it is pdf publicly available i encourage people to check it ou out. so part of it was to say some of those i could write on my phone in line at cvs but this i had to pour through this my friend say how the book is going quick so noise tell them i'm on page 500. [laughter] so i went to the text highlighting passages thinking about what i wanted to write to so that aspect was difficult but i push myself to write in form so there are a lot of forms in the book by patricia smith another great chicago poet said he really
made it when you could write and not announcing it is form at the beginning. like you want people to know i wrote this and it was so hard. then there are a couple in here that i labeled and a couple that are not. at i wanted to push myself to do things i had not done before. but onth the other hand that was visiblet but it was a relief not writing about yourself is a relief and once i created that mechanism how i wanted the book to work it d coupled that this is just a task i have to complete. i think it's important that i could have written taken four or five years to write another nonfiction book like a history
but i feel that i just want people to read the book and that's my desired take away i want them to go from a baseline of not much knowledge feeling like they have the entry point on their own. and that is a relief as well that this is not the definitive history into a broader conversation but it's also part why we have thesera archival photos with a series of photographs that help people understand what this was like so what does it look like to see a picture of the national guard? and those are photos that i was not familiar with before.
>> and then you talk about the craft that for example of the exodus poems so i don't want to downplay just how beautiful how painful it is with the effort you put into it and the use of language i don't think we should push that down because that is part of the reason it is accessible. >> yes. the role of the artist is to make the revolutionary irresistible. so part of what i like to do that has to dodo with being a professor and a poet are the two occupations of being an accessible so i get up every day and i look at the realities of human existence.
[laughter] and i'm a deeply regular person so archives are what the people think are not accessible so of its hopefully beautiful that has the potential to unlock so much more meaning, i don't want to be the expert but to hold your hand and pull you along. >> i will make a little segway. while you were writing this with all the academic work and teaching. >> yes. [laughter] >> and listening to you talk about iron heart and the
character when you have made your own you do that while writing the book. >> and then to influence. >> that's a great question. the various white supremacists misogynist that continue to be mad every day. i think that their vision of me is the social justice which by the way is not an insult. so people like me that will write these comic books and then to stand up and give the speech like medicare for all or single-payer health care.
and it is so ridiculous because i also want exciting stories about people fighting if you pay 199 you want to see people fight. [laughter] i want them to fight but the funny thing is they are more subversive political and now i am doubting myself but there is more subtle ideology like the team up between spiderman and others and to say you could write this story one of the most iconic characters ever to live but that beloved character who is a pakistani american from new jersey. so clearly they have to switch bodies. [laughter]
and now peter parker until a few minutes ago was slightly washed up now inhabits the body of a teenage muslim girl is new jersey and hijinks ensue and it is funny neither of them knows how to use their powers anymore and they become sake as a superhero but what do they learn from each other? that with iron heart but i'm trying to answer is traditionally superhero comics are rigid ideas of good and bad so she comes from the south side of chicago and from social conditions anybody ever live the life in the city understands the lines of good and bad are not so clear the people in power are not so
good and some people doing bad things but they are because they have beenaroi pushed to the circumstances that is the more social or racial political undertone to be a superhero that happens to be black to say black people are not dark skinned white people. so what does that mean how she moves through the world? i am always trying to ask that question someone of my favorite scenes is in iron heart to those that were stealing electronics it's a
acfirst issue to be back in chicago. so she spots a thief and chases the person and ultimately chases him down to the tracks and the person turns around and it is a nine or ten -year-old kid who is crying and gets down so she's that his level and says why are you doing this? what is going on? i will not hurt you and he gets scared and runs away. but they look i to i to confront the thief not just to bundle them up and call nypd to think about how you encounternt them to say i wonder
how the person feels. so there is a lot of thread they are but don't tell the white supremacist cement don't have that range. it's like the maya angelou quote's a 5 percent. >> i think we will take some questions if you are not scare scared, and up and ask the question but in the meantime i will just ask if you have that connection it is the emmett till poland.
what do you want for the future and that connection what you want people to feel? that's a great question with a sociologist i'm always trying toto ask why the world it is the way it is so how could we imagine the world that is otherwise? so for me questions of the future are always from the present so i am interested with those ideas ofnd basic care and empathy basic human respect and what it looks like to enact m that. >> first of all i adore you. a lot of people who look like me adore you as well.
so to describe that we want to go with you but we are trouble getting here. >> you mean on behalf of all the white people? [laughter] >> yes. >> you should get a badge. [laughter] i mean the old white people. [laughter] i'm not saying we have it run for office but people getting elected or made our phone calls are going door to door in a little bit different now but we still do it and we still want to do it but we don't know where we are going or what to do but you make the plight of our brothers and sisters on the south side very
successful but where we going and how do we help crack. >> that's a great question thank you to all the people who sent you. [laughter] yes. i talk often about the idea of abolition something that is easy to forget at the time when slavery was abolished , the entire social political economic system of the united states since the founding was predicated on slavery nobody alive understood to experience that. it was the fabric of reality. black peoplee and property it with the entire economic system of the country and
still to imagine something they had never seen to be imaginative enough with the basic questions where will they go? they cannot read can't we do a graduated system? so now those unimaginative questions about a variety of social issues so i could never answer thatanf question and that is what makes it terrifying and what it means to move through the world with more courage to say i don't know where we're going but we could take that down to the microcosm or the people in the bookis they said he will freeze to death literally the cold
the white press published all these articles how cold it was in chicago and people would die so yes it is terrible sometimes. [laughter] you cannot stay where you are because you are afraid of where you are going or don't know. so stumble forward with me into the dark so periodically you could have a flashlight and then just farther it a little further and hope you are better y than a few minutes ago. and then to pick up where we left off. thank you so much. [applause] >> i am also a poet i am a teacher and have a lot going on in my head right now but i am wondering how you make sure you take care of yourself when
you are writing with difficult topics especially with black history and how i can better take care of myself. >> thank you for that question. it is really hard you cannot write academically things that impact people that look like you are impact you i read stories how black women in academia still have terrible -how that outcomes and mortality is terrible for me to read those things you have to build and how to take a break i try really hard not to traumatize myself. i feel like when i was growing up the image i was given what it meant to black woman poet you had to put everything on the page but all the pain in
your world nasa people wanted to hear but i wanted to write a differentha kind of book and people said you are called the n-word. that happens.e but most of the worst things that have happened to me i have not written about and probably never will see you have to take breaks and recognize those boundaries for yourselves and have a community ofe people that can talk you through it. i am a big believer of therapy. therapy is therapy and writing is writing. [laughter] basketball is not therapy but therapy is therapy i'm a big believer of that with this designated space. but it is tough so i had to listen to recordings of kids crying for hours on end please
don't close my school i don't want my school to go at the away --dash you know that the school is closed when they are begging people to do something that they later did and that was difficul difficult. so you have to be aware of that but there is no glory or obligation to push through you take the brakes you need to take and talk to who you need to talk to. thank you. [applause] >> i am so grateful for you and your work and i loved electric arches and while i wasdi reading dad i was thinking about space and ongoing
struggles and not portraying the struggles as a past of a foregone conclusion and somebody to be a rag on --dash a radical educator, it is a bizarre time because we give power andnd domination so the space freedom in the classroom and in the schools is clamp down but i just wantol to create that away from the systems of power that are hurting the students. the economic system structures some of us benefit stepping on the backs of others so the question is what do you
do as a radical agitator that wants to bring the revolution to the communities and schools to create spaces of freedom with kids. how do you do that under the power and domination and the neolibera era? >> that is a great question that doesn't have a simple answer but i appreciate it and part of this is the tension that you constantly have to work through. one thing is pedagogy of the oppressed tells us that we can never bring people in an oppressive social position can never bring freedom or liberation to other people. liberation is some people who are in the social circumstances have defined for themselves. one of the things you can do is step aside and try to give people the tools and reading as an educator there are young people in front of you that the state says you get to spend hours of today so what does it mean to give them the tools they
need to understand their own political power and then be willing to step aside. id i think what you said about history is important because one of the most powerful things we crn do is highlight the stories of the mundane average people in changing the world. part of what i wanted to do is go through and talk about the fact thate they even have a history and they'r there such ag as my colleagues that tha thate book political education does a similar thing with her book this tour is-something people don't think of as even having a political reality and highlighting for people do you know that to protest segregation in the 60s, 220,000 students walked out of school. 48% of the students walked out ed school on freedom day and protested in 1963 and they were not any different than you. if you heard me talk you heard me say this before and i apologize i always say we talk
about the march on washington and martin luther king voting and giving a but somebody ha yos to make sure people have things to eat. they had to make sure there was child care during the meetings and go door-to-door are you coming to the march on washington. they do the work also and in fact it is the majority of the worktheworks and how do we valoe narrative is a specialty in how we history to young people. they need lawyers,y graphic designers, yoga instructors, people who know how to make sure the slideshow works properly. everybody needs to find their lane because if you only have a charismatic person that goes up and gives a great speech it doesn't help that change happen so how do we teach them to see and valorize the role that they can play, i think that it is a small answer to part of your question.