tv Panel Discussion on Social Change CSPAN December 25, 2015 11:00pm-11:50pm EST
columnist spoke about the challenges patients face in the healthcare system. two-time pulitzer prize journalist gilbert paul described the rise of big money in college football. in the coming weeks in "after words" we talk about the importance of william mckinley's 1896 presidential campaign. fox news correspondent james rosen's looks at dick dick cheney's time in the bush administration. in this weekend, weekend, darcy olson, president of the goldwater institute take a critical look at the review. new medications undergo to get fda approval. >> it's all about when your life hangs in the balance and you have a terminal illness, it's about giving you the right to try to fight to save your life by accessing experimental and investigational medicines why they are understudied at the fda
but before they receive the fda final greenlight. >> "after words" airs on book tv every saturday at 10:00 p.m. and sunday at 9:00 p.m. eastern. you can watch all previous "after words" programs on our website apple tv.org next the panel on social change from the tenth annual brooklyn book festival. >> last night at the gala, i was introduced as nick already, so since this is a book festival, i'll take that as a clever pun or complement or both. i actually appreciated that introduction.
the law school is enormously proud to once again be supporting and participating with the incredible signature brooklyn book festival which has grown to be, in a very short. of time, even though were observing the tenth anniversary, to be the largest public, public, free book festival in the city of new york. i suspect in the united states, if not the galaxy. which reminds me, welcome to the best law school in brooklyn [applause]. now i suspect that most of you know that we are the only law school in brooklyn, but you know where the best law school in the big apple of the incredible empire state in the greatest nation of the planet so we got back on for us. we dream big here. in fact, in a recent dream, alex
trebek read me the final jeopardy answer and it was, it's in international and national center of learning about the power of law to improve the world. in my dream, i one by quicklink quickly scribbling down the winning question, why did brooklyn law school observed in the same week the 800th anniversary of magna carta, the anniversary of the united states constitution, the 100 50th anniversary of the eastern district of new york and the tenth anniversary of brooklyn law school question markets because your law school is a a center of learning about the power of law. in fact that question reveals why we do so much of what were doing, trying to drive down the
price and make legal education more accessible, improving the curriculum and doing everything we can to help launch our students and graduates to meaningful careers so they can fulfill the public and private roles that lawyers fill in the service of others. the power of law is certainly the continuing thread through all the presentations that you'll hear here today in a remarkable rate of authors and commentators. no doubt they will touch on many vivid reminders that we have of how law can make a difference. whether it's the 70th anniversary of the united nations that we observe this week as well in the incorporation of the freedom of speech, and worship or whether it's the seven decades since the
liberation of the nazi death camps and the nuremberg trials to hold the villains of the holocaust accountable for their heinous crimes. or the five decades since the civil rights act, the voting rights act which began to nudge this country closer to racial equality. but despite those milestones, our speakers and panelists and authors today will remind you all of how much work remains to be done, which is obvious when we just think about what's going on in the world around us. so i look forward to hearing from our speakers and learning from them and looking forward to discovering new books that will
be well worth reading. i congratulate them for producing this remarkable festival with all the others and particularly i would like to recognize two leaders. his energy and vision single-handedly probably made more impact for the good in terms of the brooklyn renaissance and our new president who will be here in an hour on the panel talking about the need to do better in terms of present community difficulties that are pitting people against people and neighbors against protectors. there they are a remarkable
leader to help make brooklyn the best city in the nation. i congratulate all of you today for being here today. inc. you very much. >> thank you, hello and thank you for joining us. i will be your moderator this morning. i am thrilled to have this conversation. i would have it at brunch if we could. before we begin i would like to let you know that books from all of the authors are for sale right in front of the building and will will be going directly from this conversation to the signing table. if you like the conversation we can continue it there. okay, so let me briefly introduce the writers. i hope many of you are familiar with their work. to my left we have pamela newkirk. she is an award winning journalist who has been posted in the new york times and the washington post. she will be discussing
spectacle. it's an amazing nonfiction book book about something that happened in new york in 1906. a young african man from the congo was kidnapped under very dubious circumstances by an american missionary and he found himself put on display in the bronx zoo in 1906 next to an orangutan. the spectacle is the story of how that happened, what are the implications and how are we still learning from that story. pamela newkirk, i'm so excited to talk to you. alexis company is the author of a book set in memphis in 1892 and tells the story of two young women at the beginning of a budding career relationship, relationship, certainly unexpected and unorthodox for
victorian methods tennessee. when the relationship is sorted by one of their family, one of the young women kills her lover and attempts to kill herself. she finds herself on trial and spectacle is going to be the word of the morning, a spectacle that illuminates sexism in this time period. the description of her crime was a rado mania because that's the only explanation for her crime or perhaps her menstrual cycle. finally we have casey lehman. how to slowly kill yourself and others in america. the title of that collection said so much about the enduring cost of racism, what it does to us when we have to live with it as americans.
long division is a coming-of-age story about time travel where we leave a teenager living in mississippi who finds a time travel machine. this is going to be a a great conversation about history. let's get to it. so in all three of your books, we meet everyday people who are pulled, pushed or literally kidnapped. how are you pulled into these histories? >> oh man, that's a question. pulled literally into the archives where i sought to uncover what had happened because the narrative around his story had been created be the very people who, during his lifetime, had exploited him. the bronx zoo and its narrative said it's unlikely that he had
ever been exhibited at all. the new york times, which had covered the story every day while it occurred, ten years later said that it was urban legend, that he had never been exhibited in the zoo. then the thing that really pulled me into it is that a book was written in 1992 by the explorer who brought this man to the united states and in that book, by the grandson, it, it was purported to be the story of friendship between his grandfather and okavango. i wanted to kind of sit with that and go through the archives to see if this notion of friendship could be corroborated. and, guess what, they were not friends and none of you have
friends like that. >> hopefully. my gosh. thank you. >> i think that i am drawn towards history that surfaces on ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. when i found out allison freda, it was buried in an academic text in grad school. i'd started to research the newspaper to get closer to them. the headlines were astounding. they were written in 1892 to 1902. the words that they were using and the arguments could have been contemporary. i found this in 2007 and still, from a point of same-sex married, we heard the same term, pointless, unnatural and so that really attracted me. it seems darkly funny as i went on because their agendas were on parade. the way they would talk about
women in the courtroom for the first time or if there was a crowd of people outside the courthouse, all of them wanting to see something sensational, it was, there were groups that were singled out, people of color. someone was thrown out of the court room for looking like a mexican. >> there was a member of the kkk. >> the founder of the kkk. he had keys to the jail. the judge had worked at one of them and so had the defense. everyone had their hands in it and it sort of unravels how this happened which was really important to me and i i felt almost complicit if i didn't. >> thank you all for coming out today. you no, my grandmother raised me and she had a lot of important sayings growing up in one of the most important things, besides
lord have mercy, was her saying that you are the we are the past and we are the future. she used to bring women to the house to do something called home mission and a lot of times i could be there with them while they were reckoning but often she would make me go out on the porch when it got too hot. as i sat on the porch, i listen to them talk and often cry and i started to look across the street in the woods and i imagined three or four young black kids coming out of the ground in the woods across the street from where we lived and a few of my other friends in the neighborhood said they saw the same people so i started writing this book that became long division. it came about really because i was tired of being lied to by
the nation. i was tired of lying to the nation and lying to people i really cared about. i finally really believed and understood that you cannot transform from point a to point b until you are honest about .8. with my grandma's blessing, i started writing essays to my friends and family and that became my book. >> in all of your work, media and journalism of the ongoing story is an important part of the narrative. in your essay you're talking about writing about the incredibly racist experiences you were having at the university that you are a member of in the official record, the academic record of what's happening. they're trying to talk down racism which is what you were talking about. throughout the book it's amazing to see how you record the new york time wavering and going back and forth on the narrative.
oh he seems to be enjoying it. they were friends with the orangutan. and of course alexis you write about the spectacle of the courtroom and the journalist. can you talk about interrogating and really grappling with the official record of history when you're trying to get to the heart of the matter? >> well it's really interesting because it's not for the new york times and its daily coverage of this episode, if not for all of the newspapers that covered it not just in new york city but around the country and finally throughout europe, if not for those accounts i would not be able to knit together the story so even when the new york times, early in the coverage basically said like why would anybody protest this he was basically subhuman, we could learn a lot from having him in a cage in a zoo. if not for the new york times writing those editorials, i would not would not really have
a sense of the times because while that seems shocking to us now that the new york times would hold that view, that was also a reflection of the prevailing attitudes around race in 1906. so i wrestled with the archives but i also needed those accounts to put together the story because they revealed so much about the everyday thoughts of people during that time. so between the newspaper articles and the letters that were in the archives, the letters written by zoo officials and they had gone back and forth with how they were dealing with this man. i was able to contrast the
behind the scene letters with the public record. so what they would say on the record was that he was happy there, he wanted to be there and what was happening behind the scenes was he was battling, he's resisting captivity and he's an unruly savage. >> to give you an idea of the spectacle,. >> i love that, so high-minded. [laughter] >> he is visibly angry and frustrated and is literally running around the bronx zoo and is being chased by thousands of spectators per they would just chase him down. >> tripping him, kicking him. >> it was amazing to get that back and forth because meanwhile everything it's great. meanwhile he was an unruly savage and the new yorkers who were pursuing him and the people at the zoo who were caging him where the civilized people. >> it supposed to be the academy. >> exactly. >> what you think about the.
>> i think i was fortunate in some ways to be researching a time that coincided with the rise of journalism because people would write anything to sell ads. this is also the first time that memphis had really garnered attention on a national stage and so the influx of reporters from different, the new york times to "the san francisco chronicle" to see them descend on a city and to see the city still accommodate them, that could have probably happen in a couple weeks but it took six months because they wanted to stay in the courtroom and they wanted the city to benefit. i think that it also, and this is true of newspaper articles and archives which are really interesting to reconcile. these materials aren't adjacent to history. they are history and in order for us to get as close as
possible we need to read everyone and understand the original voices and that's just another way of figuring it out but also to see where people disagree with how their worldviews informed by their geographical location and sometimes not. i think that is really so important because it's the author but it's the newspaper and it's so different than just reading someone's journal. >> again i'm doing something a little different than what you all are doing so when i think about the dominant record, james baldwin, who -- i'm from mississippi -- james baldwin was born somewhere around here and he said, i think it's important, he was born in new york and he said i'm getting become a writer. god, satan the mississippi
notwithstanding. i think there think there record that i had to confront and reckon with or except to a degree was this understanding that the world and parts of the nation that they have that little black boys and little black girls in mississippi are not supposed to survive. so i think in reckoning with the fact that not only should we survive in spite of what the nation and our state have done to us that we should accept our greatness and majesty and the fact that we do come from different parts of the world it was reckoning and pushing back against this notion that not only should you not right but whoever you are you should be happy and you shouldn't push against dominant norms and whatnot. for me to create a book, i had to to say i'm writing this book because i'm from mississippi, not in spite of being from
mississippi. >> that's beautiful. >> one of my favorite actors and candidates from 2016, viola davis said in an interview, with charlie rose that whenever she excepts a role the first thing she does is look for a trap. what are the what are the mistakes i could make in taking on rose. when you realize, i have a book, this is the beginning of a x[yzuáñ which is an investment that is often years or many years with all the research you've been doing, what are some of the traps, either anticipated or unanticipated that you had to deal with during the writing process? >> we can call it a trap or we can call it sheer terror. the terror stems from the fact that this man had no papers. i can go into all these archives and find the records with all of the eminent men of new york city and around the country and there was no way to get to his voice
and so that was a source of great difficulty and at some point i even wondered if i could do it. then after digging for years, i was able to actually find his voice and his spirit in the records of the people who helped him. there he was being described and talked about and talking back and if you lean in you can hear him. you can feel his resistance. you could so what began something that was very intimidating because when you write about a press people marginalize people, you have to
find different ways to get at their voices because they are rendered voiceless without agency and the people who have power are the ones who get to define them. so finding a way to define and to allow him to allow me to find him was really challenging. i think that's true with any marginalized group. their archive, their papers, conversations with them are not considered important and so they're not usually collected. so with allison freda, i had correspondence which is an embarrassment of riches for a living historian and as soon as she goes into jail, she goes dark. she goes on the stand once. anything that comes through her lawyer is put through here and
it was clearly not her voice. then i have to do the same thing with the archival resources. you have to be really creative so it's not just newspaper articles. you have to look for a mention of these people and someone else who might have been in the area. you have to create all these situations in which it feels like you're not just grasping at something but that there is something actually there. for me that was one of the riskiest things. i brought together the story of the two women but it felt really necessary because no other circumstances what a white woman from a a well-to-do family run by the founder the kkk with three men who were arrested for threatening of white business that opened up in a densely
black neighborhood. it was important to bring the stories together because of the way they were written about in newspapers. they publicly called for her lynching because of something she had written. but nobody wanted to see alice, a confessed murder hanged for her crime. so it's figuring out how to make these connections feel uncomfortable but also giving into the fact that you will never know. you can only, memoirs are inherently flawed. you hope to do the best you can by presenting these views because that is a way to write in everyone's opinion and sometimes you just have to present it. >> there was one chapter where it situated at the zoo and all the spectators on what's going on and there are only four words
from him in the whole chapter. those words are me know like america. >> wow. >> it said everything, everything, right. >> it screams on the page when you read it. specifically, my question for you, i often joke with friends that white people are sometimes the only ones that want to time travel. and probably only straight white men because i don't know about you, but for the rest of us the idea of going back in time is terrifying. i'm good. i don't know about you. i feel like time travel itself, it's a trap trap. what was it like writing a wonderfully, such a journey, time travel for young black kids question. >> that's a great question. i think that's a great question
because i think the four young black kids is the important part of that question and statement. i want to tie that question into the question you asked earlier. the hardest part for me other than waking up to a blank page and having to will yourself through it was pushing back against you new york editors who told me that audience didn't exist and there was nobody who would want to read a book about a book about a book that was narrated and a a young black girl who calls herself and ellipses. and when they didn't want the book written, they wanted me to write it as a native informant to people who did read about time travel. i think pushing back and pushing back against this directive to be able to write to folks who not only read the books that i want to write but don't see us
was the hardest part. but for me, in pushing back, i think i got stronger. in my book, we go back, we go forward and in some way the book is a big talk you to people who say black kids don't want to time travel. >> i love it. this will probably be our last question before q&a. when my book was debuted last fall, and it deals with a young queer black kid who really has to deal with violence on the black body, i was at my book party and i stood up to read and i couldn't ignore the fact that people were marching in ferguson and things were happening right then at that moment. when people weren't at a reading, they were looking at their phones trying to keep up with what was happening. :
i think there is -- when i found the book i was a grad student, i tried to turn people onto it and i thought nobody would be interested in that. i think when the book came out it would be great if some of it sold, it wasn't wasn't a total disaster, but also i assume something i wrote in the footnotes would be inexplicable side but that same-sex marriage surely -- i thought i would be of the talk about it being incorrect for the rest of my
life. that same-sex marriage in 1892 memphis was memphis was illegal and it is still illegal. in the book came out and i was not able to say that. and then it happen. so so i have seen a good amount of change, but the fact that the major production company in hollywood will sell and drawing clout crowds to movie theaters. it is encouraging to me. >> i for one am going to mail a copy. [laughter] >> and generosity. >> i'll just try to be brief, after my book came out i thought there was not anything more joyful than having someone who inspires your book, in the situation it was an author for mississippi who is in credible. to reach out and say my book inspired her to do -- when she
told me that i was like that is crazy. [laughter] i did the tears and all that, but i want to say that earlier this year i got a call some of the active organizers of black lives that matter movement, when i stalk into one of the guys from the ferguson movement he was like the book spoke to me and he said hold on for a second and i was talking to amnesty international to get some new tear gas mask. and i was like you're all out there fighting and struggling for us, for unit tell me that this book would do anything for you, i was just grateful.
i think what i love about this moment was authors and actors are sometimes the same person, workers are the same people but we have communities of folks and we are creating this echo that is reverberating and they're working the hill, so i'm just really happy about that. >> [applause]. so now we have ten minutes for questions. don't make me embarrassed in front of your mama she's probably watching, there's a microphone in the front.
[inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible] >> okay i will just repeat the question. she was asking with way sharing and media is changing and we are able to share journalism at a much faster rate how is it can impact the way we do the stories? >> i don't know if it changes the way if i would write an article or book but it certainly does give all of us more platforms. those people who at one time
were like so marginalized can go on twitter and their ideas can spread around the world. it is different in that way. i think for all of us what we would do is what we would do no matter the platform. i think that is true of each of us. it is just another way, another form to express your ideas. it would be the same whether it would be writing on a tablet hundreds of years ago were being published in newspapers, doesn't change it for me or for the audience. >> i think it lessens the power but at the same time i think the gatekeepers, the architects of
the capital are finding ways to see much democratic platforms. so i'm interested in what that actually would do. >> is a turn-of-the-century 1892, such two, is such a fascinating moment for american journalism. it's very. >> but i was struck with what they said about yellow journalism and that's typically what we associate with people who were on the hearse. and all of the other high-minded newspapers were the ones that supported it.
so it just makes me wonder about the labels that we use in that history has a way of perpetuating, narratives that may not even be true. >> is like be wary of the official record. >> thank you so much for the amazing work that all of you have done. sounds like each of you went into your books with a sense of passion and purpose, also a sense sense of discovery and openness of what you would find. i like to hear what you were surprised most about the journey of writing? >> what surprised me most i went into it already knowing that there's a shocking thing happen in new york city. so i know that was already stunning but what really surprised me was how the entire episode was sanitized about the
elite custodians of history so much effort have been put into totally re-creating the story that then took hold and became inscribed into the hard drive of history. so for years or exploited the xy tatian of oda bangka they got to write of fantastical fiction around the world. that was stunning and i don't see myself as a naïve but i was really surprised about so much deception. >> was like he makes himself the hero. >> he rescued oda bangka.
>> but what about you. >> it's like you know what's going to happen but you don't know what's going to happen. i think the question that i went in and did not resolve until the book came out was why don't we know about their names? in 1892 we were obsessed with them, they were in the newspapers for half a year. i kept wondering why and for the medical journals i could see their legacy, i knew when they entered the conversation and we are 40 years away from the word lesbian coming to america. then i realized after that two days after lizzie borden took and asked her father and stepmother and everyone got right on a train, headed to
massachusetts and that story was incredible. they were both considered fun in the same way. [inaudible] >> so why would you, how much better for our collective memory to think about a well-to-do white woman who came to fit within our perception of societal values. someone who confounded us and did not have a word for it. >> palatable. >> for me, i discovered a lot but in the process i probably should have known this already, but i was just amazed at how complicit new york publishing was in violently miss educating people and pushing potential
readers out of reader. i should have known that but i just did not. >> is just like the same thing. >> you would think you know better. >> just how far it goes, right? how pervasive and also one of you mention complicity. i was surprised surprised by the wide rebbe of complicity by so many eminent new yorkers. so the stories that have been told about oda bangka's exhibition, was like one wayward zookeeper who was responsible. he was the one bag i. but when you drill down as the mayor would not intervene, all of new york high society was behind it. tens of thousands of new yorkers, a quarter of a million new yorkers went to the zoo to see oda bangka. it was sensational. i was surprised by that whole idea of complicity.
>> i think just the idea of injustice is so staggering because it's everywhere. when you look at the people who came to see him, the zookeeper, everyone is involved. usually at the highest level. >> exactly. >> so we have about five minutes left. for the last three questions maybe we can direct them to one specific person. i'm sorry. >> i just add that anyone to answer it because all of your writing about resistant to change and the impact of the media and people generally resist change, if you look at how the media is shaping what is going on in politics today there is a resistance per my question is what is been the public response to telling the story in 2015. anyone.
>> that's a wonderful huge, tough question. for me personally think i wrote the book to create echo, the responses ben i have met tons of primarily black and brown young people across the country and world who have written back to me and ran for larger audience. also when you do this kind of work, you get used to people, the death threats you know you just have to tell yourself anybody who threats to kill you is not going to kill you. that's all i have to say. >> hi, think think is much were being here. the question i have is i hear from a lot of writers of color and about a fear of frustration about the story they tell becoming a single story for that
marginalized community. was there something that was part of your internal conversation when you are writing these books, if so, how did you move to address that? >> i don't know who that goes to. >> it's interesting the way people view and latch onto a story and they really need identification. so allison freda, and the gay section, it's referred referred to as lesbian, i don't think so. it's an argument i have long given up, it's an up optimistic. you know newspapers asserted as many psychiatrist said wasn't on his person waiting for the right trigger? i don't know. but. but i also know that she seemed monomaniacal about freda, she
didn't love anybody else, and freda was engaged to a lot of people. so i think the power to see that conflicting. you people to embrace something, you want them -- people say things to you about your work but it's not exactly true but does it matter? what really matters here? >> they call for being here. i hear you saying about the yellow journalism and media perpetuated a lot of the stuff. yet, during the civil rights movement the media was so critical to spreading that outrage but yet here we are back again almost a full circle to that yellow journalism. what you have read, did you find examples of people who somehow took back that power? maybe that set some kind of groundwork of how it helped the silver rights
movement how it can help now. >> yes, i think for me -- i'm sorry, just taken this question. [laughter] pardon me. i think that what happens is we often look at the media is the creator of the attitude that it is reflecting. so what my book did is it pinpointed the genealogy of the ideas of the media then reported on so in 19 oh six, if you went to an encyclopedia and you looked up african, african would be described as someone between midway between it and orangutan and human being. if you're thinking about the media portrayals, these ideals weren't created in newsrooms,
they were embedded in the science of the time. there are embedded are embedded in the scholarship, the history books. that is the popular culture that just runs away with it. the idea started at harvard and columbia, yale and princeton. these high-minded, highly educated people were creating fiction of what african life was. those are the ideas that we are still wrestling with and that people point to the media but we really need to look away from the media to the source. so if the media during the 1960s was playing a more active role, i think it's because society was coming around. it was reflecting that more enlightened attitude about the human rights. of african people.
so the media is a reflection, i'm a journalism professor and i do focus a lot of attention on the media. i will continue to, but it behooves us to look more closely as to where those ideas are coming from to begin with. we need to look to the academy, we need to look at at the textbook children read, we need to look at the source of the problem. because the media is just a mirror of us. not just us. >> it's a mirror of the power. >> thank you for your wonderful questions [applause]. 12 are panelists, viewers moved it to this