tv 2019 Anisfield- Wolf Book Awards CSPAN October 6, 2019 6:50pm-9:01pm EDT
afterwards, washington times national security colonists build nurse reports on china efforts to become a global military and economic superpower. in the 10:00 p.m. eastern, york today's in-depth program with selling author and journalist naomi klein. on consumerism. free-market capitalism and climate change. then all starts now. here is the enfield word hosted by historian henry louis gates. >> [applause] thank you good evening. i am ron richard president and ceo of the stevens foundation and i am delighted to we will you to the 84th annual book award ceremony named after it's been a factory edith wolf.
who has the foresight to endow this important prize way back in 1935. edith was the editor times anyways. she understood it was erasing the thing about racism and other forms of prejudice. she also understood, literature mr. as a posted an excerpt of the site. in the 84 years prize was established, our country has made great strides towards what is regard to respecting and embracing our diversity. recently, we have taken disheartening steps backwards. reported hate crimes of sharply risen in the past several years including of course the mass murders and the mothering manual church in charleston south carolina and the tree of live synagogue in pittsburgh,
pennsylvania. this is the national trend but it also gives it's close to home. according to the southern poverty law center, there are more organized groups in the state of ohio than in kentucky and west virginia combined. a great source of shame if ever there was one. but also. follow action. they must rewrite our current national narrative to vigorously oppose bigotry and all of its forms. [applause] and i ceremony provides an opportunity to energize that sense of purpose. this is the 16th year in which i've had the distinct privilege of opening this book awards. this ceremony always brings me so much joy and hope and all of
you feel the same answer. but tonight, my joy is intertwined with deep sorrow. these is my first book awards. in which the seat next to me won't be occupied by my beloved friend predecessor and mentor, stephen messer. [applause] with the exception of edith herself, no one is more associated with this award ceremonies d. steve made this if it national importance. and it was steve who enlisted doctor gate to chair the journey. his passion for this if it, and
all that it stands for, was unmatched. c was one of cleveland's great champions for social justice and he personified dignity which he actually maintained even through the barriers that he had overcome. two years ago, while receiving her award for lifetime achievement, civilian stated quote when in doubt, ask yourself what is the most generous thing to do. see mentor, was never in doubt. his moral compass always pointed true north. but he was unwaveringly generous. in every way. tonight, our award winners will touch our hearts as they always do. but their words and sentiments will shine even brighter from the blow of steve's enduring legacy legacy which i would like
to honor now not by a moment of. [silence] but by rising in a standing ovation all of us or our dear friend who was and always will be a moral conscience and role model for our city in the nation. [applause] [applause] thank you so much. and now, as steve would want me to say, the show will joyfully go on.
in keeping with recent traditions, i would now like to we will a young poet to the stage, logan greer, logan is the fifth-grader at camas international school. part of the cleveland metropolitan school district. please join me in welcoming logan as she reads her problem, city of growing up. [applause] >> city of growing up. city of pleasant party people city with gangs. city with learning city before harness, before being anxious. city that believes in god.
city like a flower growing the brand. city chatting grounded theory. city paralyzed for movement. city with depression. city examining the streets. city of so long grove the left out. with my family. city of angry people writing to lose. city of my grandma his macaroni. city of my live. but back. [background sounds]
>> thank you 11, that was beautiful. finally i would like to we will some special guests who are with us tonight. it would not be actually former poet from the united states injured her rita, and africa david. [inaudible conversation] national treasure who is here with her wonderful husband and our dear friend fred. so we will rita and fred. [applause] and last but certainly not least, our esteemed and treasured longtime mc for the evening, doctor henry louis gates junior. [applause] as you all know, skip
gates was the founding and chair of the awards jury. in a hundred other wonderful things i could say about skip and all of that he but you know him. we are blessed to have skip as our host once again this evening. and we are very grateful to him for his many decades of service book awards. so please join me in welcoming our mc my dear friends, skip. [applause] give it up bronze ladies and gentlemen. [applause] [background sounds] >> my names. look let's give it up for logan
and when it all starts, he and o dell back him are going to be unstoppable. i predict that. until october 27. [laughter] as i hope you know by now, i do love this city which had more than 100 events this spring to commemorate the river catching on fire 50 years ago. [laughter] now it has more books on it then boston's own river, charles. i love a good comeback story. [applause] we are gathered here tonight really for one reason and that's
because we love literature. we love stories and poems and we love words whether they are delivered through poetry, fiction or nonfiction. we've recognized for writers tonight who in their very different styles and genres rendered visible the invisible. they give light to those people in history that have been a raise and these writers come to us because the remarkable readership of the foundation. give it up for the leadership and the great work of the cleveland foundation for just need to make possible. i also want to give a shout out to my main man moss junior both
of them in the audience tonight. i've been interviewing people all over the country and asked them to name the ministers of all times in the top five. otis moss junior is on every list. ladies and gentlemen, give it up up. [applause] we should pause to offer my own remembrance about whom one spoke very movingly and as he said it is only because of steve that
i'm with you tonight. steve approached me about revitalizing the book award to make them a major national pri pride. he also saw the spirit of inclusion and diversity as the spirit in his beloved cleveland could embody. he introduced me to an associate whose collaboration he told me would be indispensable to achieving the vision that he had for this revitalized series of prizes and as soon as i met her i realized he was absolutely right that i had met my soulmate and her name is mary louise. so, steve, we set out together
to reinvigorate the idea that he was the person who thought it possible and decided that it could be done, it was important to be done and he was going to make sure that it was done in the right way. tonight we celebrate the patient, his leadership, his imagination, his commitment and his love of the great city of cleveland ohio. one of his daughters is here with us tonight. please give robin the warmest embrace and welcome as we remember the joy and openness that her father expressed in all of his life's work. [applause]
we'vwe have lost someone also vy dear to us this year a daughter of lorain ohio 30 miles west. chloe enriches all immeasurably and my dear friend herself of course a writer of no small talent will now say a few words in remembrance of our beloved toni. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome rita. [applause] good evening. when i was a graduate student in iowa city, i wondered if the
university's libraries one afternoon and then behind my shoulder i couldn't shake the feeling that a book was looking for me. right at eye level i pulled from the shelf, read the first pages and knew that i was home. since that discovery over four decades ago, no words can fully express what toni morrison has meant to me as a writer, a woman, a black woman and a fellow ohio in from the rain just 50 miles from my hometown of akron and less than 30 miles from here as you all know. at a time when i the only african-american student in the iowa writers workshop could have easily been consumed by
bitterness she taught me to step back as a poet and to pay attention to everything but it took in everything without prejudice. with an extraordinary poetic economy and her signature elegance, toni morrison burst a host of complex characters that we as readers recognize as familiar conflicted beings and no matter if we like or despise their behavior, except in the way of family. when i introduced tony in 2015 for the national book critics circle top honor.
it was like introducing the goddess athena while she looked on with her gray eyes please listen as some of our authors remember toni morrison. there are great things, her humor, open hand to so many writers but what moved me most is to the international platform without us losing our identity. praise for toni morrison, praise
bride and her black beauty, sweetness, rain, cold, they milkmen did find his wings. praise mendelian, praised mercy, praised the blessed earth, praised the dateless gate of eternity and a great mother's legacy and who shall finally reclaim her name. toni morrison's death may come as a shock because her words seem so evergreen even eternal as they explore. in ways unparalleled she was not
alone in doing so. she let us know she was in the tradition of langston hughes and unknown enslaved person she dared give the name and who guide us through the hard times. she helped us see ourselves and free ourselves and reminds us as she put it the function of freedom is to free someone else. i was a brand-new assistant editor of the review. when encountered by toni morrison on the first page was that this had been a mistake. how could i come in office editor lay hands on the pros of
the literary era. she disagreed with a few of the changes after we discussed it and after some length you have proved to them. toni morrison wrote to us again and again exporting our beauty and making us grapple reaffirming our humanity. every word, every sentence in an embrace and every paragraph they say i know you, icu, we are together. we prayed and sang and danced. she loved us she loved us at our best and broken and made us experience and understand ourselves for kindness with all
that we have survived and all we had not. all we have made, all we have become. now that she is gone. [applause] there's one more person i need to mention, the guiding force of the evening. the person who makes sure that every detail is in place. the person who does so much to bring us all together, my friend, caring long. [applause]
to celebrate literature that explores, celebrates and complicates race relations but it's caring who brings the dream tonight. give it up for care karen long. [applause] now let's talk about tracy k. smith when pulitzer prize winner tracy smith was in the water during the two-year tenure as the poet laureate of the united states, critics were amazed at the ambition and the sweeping scope of her topics.
upon reading the collection for the first time, i was struck by its echoes of walt whitman and its range of concerns and i'm not alone in this. the atlantic's review is for the work contains multitudes among the gorgeous meditations and experiences as mother and daughter they speak truth to power in the american context including a heartbreaking section come from thing slaveholding and the civil war and throughout the collection it permeates the imagery not surprisingly. smith has reported in "the new york times" interview i was in aspiring transcendentalist from a young age explaining the fascination, smith cites the excitement she felt on reading
emily dickinson and the calling mission essay to harvard was on. the author notes that she has been moved, changed, deepened and inspired by toni morrison. this lyrical intertwining of the sensibility and african american literary tradition informs this reckoning with american history. fritz briley and wide ranging currents of injustice in america, wait in th wade in thes this year's recipient of the book prize for poetry. it references the african-american spiritual that instructs runaway slaves to wade in the water to evade bloodhounds and capture.
as smith claims in the washington square review, the experience of attending the performance inspired her to write about the experience with its sense of love and deliverance of compassion, of justice and survival. not only does it achieve these goals but the reader is simultaneously immersed in the water imagery which goes throughout the book. gathered, shed, spread, then
forgotten, reabsorbed. one of the most personal describes traveling during the early months of a pregnancy. the mother orders bottle after bottle of water denying her own desire for the red wine but the water that is life-sustaining and another can become poisono poisonous. with the cap in snow and a
the african-americans enlisted in the civil war these are the poems of people who are lost. one of them concerns a letter opposing the emancipation of slaves. smith presents a plea ended in a letter written to president lincoln in 1864. mr. president, it is my desire to be free, to go see my people on the eastern shore.
another letter from 1864 from a wounded soldier to his children takes on a more defiant tone. they were put together by smith's sense of timing and feel for the kind of language appropriate to the poem. the violence that permeates the american national identity and the collection also offers in the spiritual world permeating
great poet with a symbol and love you. she didn't know me but i believed her. it is repeated many times and the narrator's feelings are pierced suddenly by pillars of heavy light transcending the confines of the world. there is hardly a better image for the multiple ways in which the poems invite us to transcend the confines of our world into the current history of american life and the winner of the 2019 anisfield book award for poetry.
[applause] the professor was one of my most generous and inspiring professors decades ago when i was an undergraduate at harvard and hearing me speak about my work was so moving. i am deeply honored to receive this year's book award in poetry. i'm grateful to be in the company of the other awards and because all of the writers are adamant readers who've been taught to see and feel and
recognize the world differently by the work of other writers i am to be welcomed into the community of past recipients, writers of vision and conscience and craft. i write poetry because i have questions and fears and anxieties and they helped me to struggle through what worries me and to work through something that might be helpful even just momentarily. i think that wade in the water is something that came about because i have questions about america. i have concerns about the country that i belong to and that i love. my books are wrestling with america in one way or another, but that this moment where there is a sense of fraud division
into so many of us feel the gains that had been made by generations who fought and worked before us have been pulled back a little bit my urge to seek and question a new kind of weight and urgency. i think of it as a book that seeks to center the history and experience of black people in this country, but generative democracy loving and forgiving struggling spirit of life that i think had made this country magnificent in all the ways that it is i wanted to center and is a great that and think about questions fundamental as we
pertain to freedom and democracy, justice and more than anything they need to make amends that continue to hamstring us even in this mome moment. i was thinking about all that and worry was alive in my mind, history activated that in new ways but also illuminated a vocabulary for love that was so surprising if necessary for me and all of us and i am hoping that maybe together we can find a way that the vocabulary of love and compassion can become even more vital to our citizenship and a sense of civic discourse. i hope that together we can learn to honor and cherish and protect one another in the ways that democracy suggests are
possible. i will read a little bit from wade in the water and i would like to start off with the title wave in the water for the ring shouters one of the women greeted me. i love you, she said. she didn't know me, but i believed her and it rolled over in my chest like a room where the drapes have been swept back. she continued down the hall, past other strangers each pierced by pillars of heavy light. i love you throughout the industry handclap, every stop.
miraculous many gone. where does this love that trouble you, this. this is a column that i wrote thinking about what it feels like to live in a nation that doesn't always recognize you and a community that doesn't always recognize you or see you in good faith and it sat for a while without a title and it announced itself to me one day as the united states welcomes you.
why and by whose power were you sent? what do you see that you may wish to steal, why this damn thing, why do your bodies drink up all the light, but aren't you demanding that we feel? have you stolen something, then what is that leaping in your chest, what is the nature of your mission do you seek to offer a confession with others brought by us to harm then why are you afraid and why do you invade our night, hands raised, eyes wide. is there something you wish to
confess? is this some type of enigmatic past? what if we fail, want an what ao whom do we address our appeal. i want to acknowledge one more time, i love her. i love you. [applause] i think about you and give so go much hope and joy and feel that it's possible so i'm grateful for your joy. i want to come back to the ceremony when you win the award. [applause] i'm going to close with a column that is my attempt to write a
new nasa usenewness we use so mr energy looking backwards to those that tell us who we are as a nation that seeks to justify some of the unjustifiable aspects of our past and i think it's important to try to write a new future for ourselves, so this is an old story. we were made to understand. it would be terrible. every small want, every urge, every hate swollen to a kind of ethic when, livid and ravaged like a dream. the worst having been taken over and broken the rest.
a long age past when at last we knew how little would survive us. and the old awoke and then our singing brought on a different matter of whether, then animals long believed gone cracked down from the trees. we took new stock of one another and whacked to be reminded of such color. thank you very much. [applause]
[applause] he couldn't find work as a sound engineer after college tommy made a life-changing choice by taking a job in a used bookstore surrounded by a literature, he quickly became an avid reader as he explained to npr i was in my 20s searching for meaning and i was in a reader sends section was a novel thing for me.
it was a debut novel and in decidinthendeciding to write abe americans in an urban setting, he says, quote, the landscape of american fiction and earned her praise as a new writer with an old heart. this juxtaposition of the old with the new permeates the pros as pointed out despite the fact seven out of ten native people live in cities have a kind of double invisibility going on in the country in which the stereotype is reservation life. the famous quote about oakland there is no there there. powerfully reconfiguring the city as the home of a fascinating group of characters
for his brilliant and captivating unveiling of the urban native identity he is a recipient of the anisfield wolfe book award. it's a prologue that traces the history of native americans deploying the way it to prevent a litany of atrocities. questionings about this is the kind of burden to set the record straight because it's been told wrong for so long. for some this information will be a revelation. for those more schooled in the native american history, this opening which "the new york times" calls a prologue still will startle with its lightning fast array of facts and images
beginning with the pattern that used to close the tv day until the late 1970s. beginning with the late 1970s to the head of king philip on this bike at plymouth for 25 years in the 17th century orange references are defeated native american ubiquitous in american arts, movies, flags, advertisements and the claims are now out of circulation. they initially seem disjointed
and then twine into a rope on which the american hatred is strong. embedded in the prologue is the resistance inherent in the urban native life and the narrator issues a series of challenges. it belongs to the city and cities belong to the earth. the land is everywhere or in nowhere. he describes the familiarity with and affection for the city. we came to know of the skyline better than we did any mountain range. he shows his mastery of getting
each of the 12 major characters some speed in the first person and others are described in the third person each character is compassionately a vote. he groups these and they reclaim and returned indicating again the intertwining of past and present for an example aspiring filmmaker uses cameras and microphones to record the stories about the native experience. edwin black is unemployed abandoning literature to spend most of his days addicted to his computer. ironically it is through the internet that he finds his
missing father and bus connection to his heritage. others constantly and both the drone and print gun figure in the mass shooting and in the contemporary era the search for the meaning is fueled by modern technology. one of the most sympathetic of all of the characters is a 14-year-old orville red feather whose thirst for knowledge is sparked by seeing a native dancer on tv and he reflects, quote, it was like breakdancing in a way that even ancient seeming. his great aunt, opel victoria, was part of the native american
occupation of alcatraz and refuses to discuss being indian, trading it like it was something that could decide for themselves when they were old enough, like drinking. orville instead turns to you to to learn dancing by watching hours of footage. he raised himself stolen from the back of this closet to attend the first powwow. for the first time he will hear the big booming drama and the intensity of the singing like an urgency that feels specifically indian. as all the characters congregate in the stadium, the connections between the characters are
embodied as parent-child reunions become possiblparent cs old relationships are renewed. it offers hope for reclaiming heritage or simply making money. the bullets had been coming for miles, years. we've been fighting to eradicate highest as a present people come th,modern and relevant, alive oy to die in the grass wearing feathers. the sweeping courageous and unflinching ending is as bloody as the shakespearean tragedy and is painfully contemporary as a
first and foremost i want to say thank you to the foundation for taking the time to consider so much work for acknowledging my book in this way and for putting us all up somewhere nice. and for putting together. my whole life i fear whenever i give praise it is because of pity. i used to think my mom paid my friends to be nice to me even though we didn't have extra money for stuff like that i got sponsored by a company when i was 17 and thought it was because i was poor and was the
janitor to pay for my late fees and then with this administration with the praise my books have gotten i had been afraid that this acknowledgment, this award feels different that it's coming from somewhere else and i appreciate where that is from here in cleveland from the foundation acknowledging that it plays a vital part of social change should and talking about race and our work acknowledging its complexities and giving a vision to the reader and what they otherwise might not have seen her come to understand about race in this country and how they shape our world and help us not keep getting the same harmful stuff we keep giving to each other.
i want to thank my wife and son for being my first supporters. my agent, and a special thanks to nicholas for coming out from new york for this. people in oklahoma and oakland without which none of what i wrote about would have been written or would i even exist without my relatives and ancestors fighting for their lives for centuries. just going to talk a little bit about part of the book that i'm going to read from the nonprofit world at the native american house in oakland. i had secretly started writing
this book and my wife is the only one who knew about it. we got a grand and some of the things we did in the form of book to alcatraz and i watched them tell stories of being there at the time of the occupation of alcatraz and that informed one of the chapters in the book and we put together an author, not we, my wife was a project -- i looked like a native youth and i was from oakland.
it's like i was data entry at best but we did a reading series and brought in some authors and i wasn't one but my wife was the project director and was the scariest reading experience of my life. most devastating if you don't, i'd been writing for a year as a novel and my wife made me read it in front of them. i don't know that the novel would have kept going if i didn't have the reaction that i got getting us to the cities
reservation. you could only keep it at bay which is easier when you can see it here in the amount. it made it that much more pronounced. plenty of us are urban now it's not because we live in cities inside the high-rise with multiple browser windows they used to call a sidewalk indians, superficial and authentic refugees. an apple is red on the outside and white on the inside but what we are is what our ancestors did, how they survived. we are the memories that lived
in us and which we feel which make us sing and dance and pray the way we do from the memories that bloom unexpectedly like blood through a blanket by a bullet by a man shooting for our heads and our bounty or just to get rid of us. when they first came for us with their bullets we didn't stop moving even though they moved twice as fast and even when they broke our skin, shattered our own, pierced our heart we kept on when we saw them flailing through the air they went up in place of everything we knew. the bullets, goes from dreams of a hard fast future. they moved on after moving through us and it became the promise of what was to come, the
in the book on the decisive forces that ripped apart the country in the 19th century without thinking of the current political climate. it excavates the past in ways that illuminate the present. he wants comparisons between the vicious conflict of the antebellum era of contemporary political strikes and with respect for the other side it is reminiscent of the anger he continues to just started to
beat up on itself following the passage of the fugitive slave act. with the concerns outside the focus of the book the war before the war, the engaging and lucid unfolding of the role that the runaway slaves played from the writing of the petition through the civil war as a washington examiner notes the author narrates this history with a moral clarity that is best described as terrifying. for his brilliant historical narrative, it transforms the figures of the fugitive slaves from the margins of american history to its dynamic center he is a 2019 recipients of the book award for nonfiction. as begins in long story of the conflict over slavery, he identifies the countries old
problem as he calls it, the fact that it is a condition from which enslaved people will seek to escape. this is a problem that also fixed many of the founding fathers. in 1783 for example general washington wrote about his concern that the tories and refugees were taking fugitive slaves out of the country including some of his own. he traces the way that this problem became a central compromise of the constitutional convention in 1787.
as "the new york times" points out these are facts anyone who claims to know anything about history should know but few of us have read these facts, presented in such a profound and direct manner. the gripping retelling highlights the conflict between the vastly different societies that made up the young nation as he recounts the observation of an anti-slavery activist it was a sad satire to call the states united because and one half, slavery was basic to its way of life while on the other it was fading or already gone. many of the found some date against the existence they were thoroughly implicated in its existence to an astonishing degree in what seems to be an
almost schizophrenic idea of lived reality, many managed to ignore the anguish of slave life informing him indeed arguing for the ideals of the nation. one of the most demanding challenges coming as he puts it in thing thing about history is, quote, explaining how people in the past could fail to see what seems so clear in retrospect. indeed while most readers may not be shocked the plans including washington and jefferson were routinely posted advertisements for the capture of the runaway slaves, the implication of other figures will certainly challenge the contemporary reader. for example, benjamin franklin offered views about the evils of
slavery, further, he writes as a young newspaper editor, franklin accepted advertisements from the merchandise and the same compartmentalization as he put it is evident when james madison was visited by the british abolitionist. it was, quote, amazed at his ability to hold forth at the dinner table on the evils of slavery while being waited on by slaves. ..
of the fugitive slave act he argues they might hope for public indifference but no longer count on public ignorance. not only were the fugitive slaves in the north at risk but also freed black people in the north could be denied the right to habeas corpus and sent south on a false pretext that they belong to someone they are. simply put being black was understood as the equivalent of being a slave. well-known the slave was a picture that everybody knew mason-dixon line - - north and south of the mason dixon line. cormack people of color seldom run unless there is something to run from. [laughter] among the tiny fraction of slaves from the border states who managed to escape maybe
30000 to the underground railroad, they could have their stories told. 102 former fugitive slaves for 1866 with the 18 sixties with the impassioned evidence to limit slavery along with many other politicians to stand with the abolitionist to restore the missouri compromise and stand against him with the attempt to appeal the fugitive slave bill. at the time of compromise was over the fugitive slave law as
delbanco makes clear was an instance of law of unintended consequences. demonstrating how the plight of the fugitive slaves expose the paradox of the nation torn between freedom and slavery. delbanco is the recipient of anisfield-wolf book award for nonfiction. [applause] >> i am touched and a bit overwhelmed by this award.
as others have said to be included in this panel of authors present and past is more than i could have imagined. it's a great honor not only because of the anisfield-wolf commitment to honesty of the struggle for justice or because of the distinction of the prize jury led by skip gates and i want to add the unexpected delayed of poetry this evening and i am sure we will hear more. in my case it is a pleasure for the personal reason my wife is here with me who grew up here in cleveland. [applause] best location in the nation use to believe was called. [laughter] i have very fond memories of
courting her to use the old-fashioned term in the oak room at terminal tower. [laughter] [applause] on cedar road at corky's and lenny's downtown here at the bookmark that you may remember. those where the two cerebral aspects of the courtship i'm pretty sure she would like me to stop there so thank you cleveland. [laughter] [applause] but i am afraid that's a lighthearted portion of my remarks. my book is not lighthearted and for a few minutes i would like to talk about some of the dark truths i learned from reading for and writing it like every writer of course it will help readers learn also.
beginning with i learn the truth of the fugitive that led from slavery told the white abolitionist crowd that i must whisper to you he said go slavery has never been represented. slavery can never be represented. and this from a man who had known himself. now nearly 200 years later we know slavery from books or films or pictures and are still trying to represent and so we must if we are to grasp the hard truth about the country as my frien
friend, hasse coates puts it when it comes to america's history, slavery was not a bump in the road it was the road. and those who would dare to claim from themselves in daily life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. i had the great pleasure last night hearing tracy smith read it in the middle of a rainstorm of a pool named declaration which uses mister jefferson's language against itself if you haven't read it, you should. in writing this book i learned that many educated self-styled sophisticated americans do not
realize and are shocked to learn our very own constitution as revered as it is for good reason as the principles are fought out before us that the constitution contains a clause exclusively designed to these people and blocked their path and stifle their dreams and speaking of the fugitive slave clause article four section two clause three that the founding fathers wrote the person who held to service and labor in one state escaping into another shall be discharged from such service or labor will be delivered up on claim to whom it may be due to.
and that euphemistic language about persons held to for the word slave is never used in the constitution emphatically places law on one side of the slavery question and justice on the other and leaving them unreconciled. for roughly 75 years between the ratification of the constitution and the compromise of 1850 most americans remain detached and indifferent and i found myself very often tempted to judge the band condemned them how could they have not taken that in justice when they started to ask myself how much
injustice do we stay with you going to our own time? murdered whites even who regarded slavery as unpleasant convinced themselves that somebody else's problem even as they were wearing cotton on their backs or depositing money that made payments to plantation owners of a problem in a magazine will talk about in the sermon but what could we do? constitution protected the right of some human beings to own other human beings plain and simple. and if the latter ran away.
so now suddenly need a sense of distance and abstraction for many americans is not abstract slave or free but for many it was that sense collapsed and as the country expanded westward the border between slavery and freedom got longer and more porous only between maryland or virginia or pennsylvania between kentucky and ohio with illinois. southern whites with the failure of northerners to live up to the constitutional obligation of enticing slaves into the fields and factories
of the north with false promises of a better life. meanwhile northerners accuse southerners and then would sell them to a buyer in the south. with recrimination of all sides rising slaveholders demanded a new law to put teeth into the toothless cause of the constitution. this was the fugitive slave law of 1850 and was merciless. fit denies the defendant's right to trial by jury and the anglo-american tradition of habeas corpus and a right that is to contest the legality in open court that is what has
protected some of us from being seized with no recourse. that law made it a federal crime for aiding and abetting a fugitive that the congress passed in the congress signed once again the law of the land was a mockery of justice. and hear the story takes a sudden turn. and with the law of unintended consequences and it was the fugitive slave law of 1850. it was meant to hold the nation together that's why lincoln reluctantly supported it because he believed the union would collapse
otherwise. and for northerners it turned a faraway problem into a local problem slavery was no longer a rumor about dark people picking cotton down in dixie. and then the barber and waiter these were the professions they were refined to in the free north. and then to the streets of boston or syracuse or buffalo and then those in power by the federal government to seize a man and ship him back once he came.
until 1850 when ralph waldo emerson put it and as he implicated himself in the charge with their pastries and their cakes or sugar in their tea but after 1850 it was hard to taste the blood. and to carry it through the civil war that no human being worships one - - wishes to be enslaved. that slavery is good and the slave owners of the south and
lincoln's responses very strange kind of goodness that no man wishes for himself. [laughter] but those wishing to wishing for slavery was absolved by the destruction itself. and think about what that would mean if you do the math in the country today. so my book is about the past but as i wrote it i kept thinking of the comment attributed to mark twain never said it but may have history does not repeat itself but it does rhyme. this is a rhyming story. fugitive slaves were the undocumented immigrants of
their time. [applause] a black man running or walking fast was assumed to be a criminal. the crime of stealing himself. black people all over the country feared for very good reason the site of the approaching law enforcement officer. boston, rochester and other cities declared themselves to be sanctuary cities. congress became dysfunctional. americas reached for each other's throats. i don't have to go on to make my point. [laughter]
into my own education i learned that however. in virtuous we may feel, we are all still ensnared in the legacy of slavery but that is subject of another talk i'm deeply honored with the recognition that chance it might contribute to the unfinished and essential project of coming to terms with the hard truth of what it means to be an american. thank you very very much. [applause]
with the energy and engagement of the audience's response and as noted there is no poet who sounds like so like sonya sanchez only perhaps the wind that makes music and endanger trees. and then 500 universities and colleges in the united states as well as around the world. and then to describe themselves as black women writers as work a very sad child and introspective child but overcoming all obstacles she became one of the primary originators of the black arts
movement and a model for younger poets. as maia angeli once said, sonya sanchez is a lien of literature's forest and then she writes, she roars. for over six decades the fiercely powerful and empowering voice for all of us and people in particular for their contributions as a writer and educator and activist she is this year's anisfield-wolf book award lifetime achievement award recipient. give it up for sonya sanchez. [applause]
primarily five volumes of poetry she has written seven plays a collection of short stories in children's books all of which are infused with the brilliant observation of everyday life told in the black vernacular and speaks of great affection of the storytelling style of her paternal grandmother in birmingham alabama she reared her for a number of years until the african-american revie review, that love of language that has compelled me that love of language that came from listening to my grandmother speak bat black english that says that said this before you and to keep
the great american tradition of american poetry alive. sanchez narrative poems tell the story of the poor of the addicted and oppressed and in their own language with power and empathy interspersed from the heartbreaking stories of home girls and hang grenades which won the american book award in 1985 also celebrating life and love and sexuality. one of her favorite poetic forms is haiku one such poem rejoices in the transformative power of physical love we are stars you and i exploding in
our skins and the longer lyric is that the poet in church wines the political awakening with romantic love conventions in with you i press the rose you bought me into one of the books it has no odor now. but i see you handing me a red rose and i remember my birth so in the sanchez verse always political in the home truth in the 2015 documentary about her work the author states that her motivation for writing that she wants to tell people how i became this woman with razor blades between her teeth
she has this language since the late 19 fifties when she had the broadside quartet of poets with giovanni and etheridge knight and during the lifelong career of racial and political injustice beginning with the early days in core that has warned of the human cost of oppression in all forms in worn hot one - - and one haiku she says icu black boy toward destruction watching for death with tight eyes and poems such as these
are poignant in the era of black lives matter and we owe her a great debt for both the ongoing political activism and the gripping and emotional poetry she has written in order to adequately praise sonya sanchez work from a black feminist conference member of the chicago black renaissance in celebratory language words seem apt to describe the poet and we celebrate you tonight there is an echo about her a woman celebrating herself and her
people her voice turns the afternoon around this black woman poet to baptize us with syllables and woman words sonya sanchez has requested one thing from her audience when you remember me, remember that i loved you with a passion. obviously we returned her affection. for her extraordinarily generous gift of love expressed through her poetry sonya sanchez is this year's recipient of anisfield-wolf book award lifetime achievement award. [cheers and applause] ♪ [applause] [applause]
years but now they have gone back. we want to think so many people for this award and we said for what we say don't expect any awards or many and my father said that's right. but i just want to thank very much henry louis gates junio junior, thank you my brother i am so so grateful to you and your committee and also for the work you have done for black folks in this place called america and also america. [applause]
you bad sister, sister logan. [laughter] [applause] we will contribute also to make sure you continue and to sister tracy thank you so much in this place called america. but also to love. and in the place called america as african-americans we went in search of ourselves and found other people for those who have been enslaved.
that are hit or hid it in this place called america. and then to root for those native americans. [applause] and that japanese americans in concentration camps and when we began the black studies and they said here. this has to do with concentration camps and then i come in and hold it up with two japanese-american students in my class and i said you know anything about concentration camps and they
got to step me. but then we began then in 1966 and always in the central inner circle and as they held my hand because we are not sure this has to do with some of your people concentration camps in a place called america. because they presented to their parents they said an amazing story of a concentration camp in a place called america. but then to go into the laundry room and go to the
schaumburg to find out those who helped build the railroad and also exploding in yellow from all the dynamite. and gay men and lesbian women and people to say those on stage listening to people. and not because my brother is gay and then talk about change in the world and that's what i said to myself. [applause] and also that people cannot change and ask on - - invited
to speak against the via vietnam war and this came up and then he picked me up and said sonya we are so happy to have you here speaking it was down by new york city. i said i will do my best and they said why didn't you cuss them out? he is the one i went to a number of workshops in new york city i was the only female in the only black and then i would leave because nobody responded to what i was saying. i said did you see him greet me cracked did you hear what he said? he said my dear sister thank you for that change.
i know people can change. this is a changed man here in this place called america. people do change. so i want to say this past month we lost three fantastic black women great scholars and writers and it was a rough week for a sister toni morrison i have vertigo that is messing with me today sister gloria and they were all around the same time.
and i could not believe talking to sister gloria to see some of the other people. i write longhand and every time i get ready to introduce her i have to write something new because i can never find what i had written. [laughter] this is the introduction in 1812 in a place called philadelphia. that may be the meaning of life that may be our lives and dear sister toni morrison how
you do this thing called language, the measure of our lives and recapture our words to untangle the language and open the sorcery of language and of our most sacred vows. selma is around the bend and then to bring us into the flesh from tar baby m beloved and god help the child your words that become a river on razor thin knees our bodies
are tattooed forever and we are one alive and apart of the electricity of the dead. the day comes my dear sister in your eyes of silk don't tell us what to believe but show us in a thank you for this called home where men and women have graveyard memories and walked themselves back home in air as black as their smile in new memories the
eyelash of your memory where there is always a small miracle called home. [applause] >> and i would like to end up with a piece i did buy a young woman then have a gallery show in a place called philadelphia and then what i write a piece so then i came to sit and watch her with her work there and watch her do these amazing paper balls for the children
who cannot afford the balls then they go and play soccer. i watched her do a sculpture of women who were experimented on by the continent of africa and killed bed then i cried and i came back the next day and cried. and then the gallery and i was there for five days for her. run floating from clouds and
intestines and riverbanks and horizons you burn in my throat i walk in your footsteps you are here, you are there, you will never go away and sweet walk your eyes with the moral singin singing. i know you butterfly that your lips taste of the sea were hands ripe with pain collapse in prayer and those with military blood. and with that noise who is your sister or your mama? this is that sermon hanging
ethiopian bodies into the ground children's eyes undressed. and then still backstage to modernity. and then conducting with a name or a heart and with that zero-tolerance. and then sleepwalking on corners what is erotic about that. i wait for my coming. now as your conjugation oatmeal tongue sliding down your throat you say you are
safe. they will say you are safe i know. i know it. where this brown skin is going to eat flowered cake and regurgitating cake they will say you're safe. i know it. i know and to smell that urgency and then can you hear the saxophone can you play this woman with your fingers and with those rhythms. now hear this across the board
today and the shattered feet against the sky today and then just standing at attention today. listen you hear me to that delivery and sister can you hear me don't you? and then to praise your beauty you can hear me don't you? you hear the children running as they go up the street with garbage bags you hear me even
believe that they are the greatest people on the planet earth. and to say you are my brother and you are my sister. that that this is all about. >> and i think even the foundation for what they do is so easy to say i ain't prejudic prejudice. i don't have a prejudice bone in my body. so every day even before you brush your teeth before you go
pottawatomie"is shown a confederacy's whose lands we stand on and the thousands of native americans people who represent more than 100 nations, who live in northeast ohio today. let us also. [applause] acknowledge a few folks who made our evening possible, possible, ms. anisfield-wolf coming all the way and the foundation board chair as well as our master of ceremonies, skip gates. [applause] and take note of the many partners who wasted multiple tasks to hoist the barn of book week especially the cleveland public library who
just brought so the data o'brien to town to celebrate the 150th anniversary of literature itself. [applause] in 1859 when our library opened its doors jesse james robbed his first bank. [laughter] the cincinnati reds socks played the first game of professional baseball in congress had the 15th amendment meant to extend to black men the right to vote to the states for approval. you can read about it in the library and for more inspiration please seek out the two brand-new bureaus one - - murrells painted this year one at the east 34th stop
the other james mcbride the color of water for 240 feet in university circle along the ita tracks. and speaking of visuals, i must acknowledge our partners book tv that will be broadcast and preserve this experience for others. but for now the night is ours please join us on stage tracy smith who calls us to wait in the waters of trouble and love and please come up andrew to on - - delbanco who has given us mid- 19th century, come up. come up. [laughter] [applause] and come forward whose brilliant first book is a
thunderclap and profit and sister sonja sanchez whose voice calls us to dignity please rise and join us. and whose genius help to raise us every year those in the audience please join the winner skip gates on stage for a book signing introduction we have beverages on stage and refreshments in the lobby lastly, let's tune our ears to the young women under the leadership to sing the song they created come too far. let's enjoy. thank you. [applause]
>> i went up and there was a whole floor of piano sand or against mother closed up churches just in that county alone and that was just a couple months after my own church closed. being a writer at a narcissist i.c.e. that i should write about this because timeline wise now we near the end of 2015 through the beginning of 2016 and caucuses are starting to happen.
the sociological theory of three places. your work, family and for so many the third place was church. what i noticed in my own life i wasn't going to church anymore actively refusing to go like get angry 16 -year-old. i want to have brunch instead which is my new religion, but he marries. that the subject of a new book. kidding. [laughter] so when you have a whole community now the church is closed or nobody goes anymore because they are driving 50 miles away to go to church in omaha or they don't go there anymore than what fills the voi void? i was asking that about my own
life and the heartland and middle america all these churches are closing than what is filling the void so i wrote an article for pacific standard in the beginning of 2016 arguing the loss of faith in america was changing us am changing politically this is a very journalist town c would understand when i say so many journalists who were there in 2016 have so many embarrassing takes in our past we don't want to talk about it. but this is my one good take because i think i was onto something