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tv   2016 American Book Awards  CSPAN  December 18, 2016 1:00pm-3:31pm EST

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something, sanctioned place upon them, then able to take leadership positions at temple but it's even more than that. people in the community are told not only do not socialize with this person but do not even visit the place of business. in some sense this form of shaming is a deep it's hurting the person on every dimension. not because they're going to be thrown necessarily in prison, this is being dealt with internally within the community. ..
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letters of support for people say yeah, this was wrong here, but everything else this person did is so extraordinary. and it's pretty remarkable. one thing that it's humbling to see and individuals when their sentence is people are supporting them, which on one hand makes a lot of sense. these people know them under different context. but at the same time, you expected ahead of a major firm in the mid-hundreds of millions of dollars. presumably you've actually done a lot of good stuff. if you have it figured out to donate the money, you're not a great person. which is different than a person that doesn't have the privilege, you don't have an trinket to have the letters of support by testing how you donate money, how you change the community.
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the question is i wonder, do we need to have a little more of the outrage coming from the people in which they are one and the approval most from. that's a culture -- that the cultural shifts. when it does come from the standpoint that other people see themselves in the same boat, facing those same kinds of sanctions, it creates challenging questions. you want to support and save not that bad, you're protecting yourself. at the same time, you should be able to call out and admit mistakes when they are made. this is one of the challenges for leaders is we see exactly admitting mistakes, but that's generally about four steps later. i like to believe people would eat those shareholders, the
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public and would be much more accommodating when mistakes happen. they happen in major firms. to say another word be extreme. very clearly seeing what we are doing to change those. a degree of transparency, which i don't much like in political discourse there's a lot of -- represent one side external inlet side internally and some discussions are actually significant and what we are doing to address this go away. >> host: we could spend a lot more time on this fascinating book. a former prosecutor and enforcement lawyer, give me one individuals that i didn't have in my former role. as a personal thanks to you for having undertaken the work as well as an informative for all members of the public. a great time to spend with you and congratulations on the book.
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thank you for sharing. >> guest: thank you though much. ♪ [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon. and welcome to the 37th annual american book awards presented
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by the before columbus foundation. [applause] my name is justin desmangles, chair of before columbus foundation, where about eight years ago i succeeded in that position. our founder, ishmael reid, who we are very fortunate to have with us, joining the program today. needless to to say there were some very big shoes to fill. of course i want to thank our friends here at the san francisco jazz center will have been so generous in their support of the american book award for the last several years. also our friends at c-span who continue to support the
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historical mission of the before columbus foundation and the american book awards. i will say a few things about our direction that we've been embarked on recently. over the past several years, we have expanded our programming to include a number of partnerships here in the bay area and nationally, including those with the san francisco public library, who i am very honored to say one of their representatives, stuart shaw who has been so instrumental in facilitating collaborations and the san francisco public library has been just this year we presented and won't than, winner of the lifetime achievement award from the previous year along with will alexander,
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winner of the american book award in 2014. we continue those programs as the san francisco public library in collaboration with the african-american center this summer with the program focusing on black hollywood unchained, a collection of film criticism not only focusing on the work of tarantino, but the relationship between the hollywood and television industries and their auxiliary industries in the commercial world and black american history and writing and culture. that included marvin acts, myself as well as jesse allen taylor. our continuing collaborations at the oakland book festival this past year featured a number of channels, including one of the premier panels of the festival
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on literature in the 21st century, which included john keane. with the pleasure pleasure of honoring this afternoon for a present with us today. also victor of the battle, one of the great writers of today. a panel on the legacy of malcolm x included michael airbase in the winner of the american book award as well as myself. it has been a very good and fertile relationship that we continue and we look forward to expanding those programs into year-round programs. i'm also very excited to share with you that we are bringing on to new members to the board of directors this year, the novelist ryland james and leila wall of maine.
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[applause] we will begin the ceremony this afternoon with the book trace, only had the pleasure of the author, lauret savoy joining us to talk about memory, history, race in the american landscape. she will tell you more about this extraordinary work, but i would like to emphasize that to often, certainly the way that we articulate our individual identities is restrict dead to a temporal understanding of history to not just what i'm saying and the meaning of these words, but also the time and the place in which we are and might
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be described as deep time, has to say the formation of the earth at valve. this also plays a role in our understanding of ourselves and how we relate to one another in our concepts about what is possible to communicate and what is not. this book really perhaps more than any other contemporary work brings those elements into play. and so, it is our great pleasure to introduce to you the author, lauret savoy, winner of the american book award for 2016. [applause] >> thank you.
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>> i never imagined this. to be in the come in and of writers such power is at rate just. and to be chosen and celebrated by the founders and the members of the board before columbus foundation is a great gift. thank you. i come from a family that was silent and silenced. it wasn't until after my father's death that i learned that he was a writer and that his novel on racial hatred and passing titled alien land has been published to some fanfare decades earlier. dutton canceled his contract.
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the wood used second novel is contained a story of a young negro artist using the language of the time has guided the nation's capitol, my father's home and explores the possibility of communism. my father found himself blacklisted. this was the 1950s. many years later, when i came along, the men i knew was bitter, angry. he didn't write. and sometimes he did not speak. silence was easy to learn. i've long wondered how much the deep unspoken choice on hunger
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of a parent can touch the child and even mark the path for her to follow. "trace" weekend and my struggle to reach beyond islands, to either answer or come to terms with questions that long haunted me. questions like these. is each of our lives is an instinct, a camera shutter, opening and closing. what can we make of our place in the world, that latent image for that instantly have. and then over time, over generations, what you accumulated instants mean? the book are grew to become a mosaic of personal journeys and historical inquiries across the continent in time, exploring how this country is still unfolding
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history marked a person, marks the people as well as the landed south. from twisted terrain within the south carolina plantation, from an island in lake superior, to indian territory in black towns in oklahoma. from national parks to burial grounds, to the origins of the american land wears, the origins of the name. and then, from the u.s.-mexico border to the u.s. capitol and the origins of both, and all of these, trace tries to grapple with the syrian national history to reveal some of that unvoiced past to present. so whatever our is to read a page and a half from the book.
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an early reflection that came on a journey that rapid back to california to a place called the devils punch bowl and a journey that led to this book. from what do we take our origin from blood? t. brown skin and dark eyes he married a fair skinned man with blue grey eyes. it is a little girl in california, i never knew race. skin and high color, hair color and texture, body height and shape very greatly among relatives. like the land, we appeared in many forms that some differences
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help significant far beyond me. instead, i devised the cell theory, the golden knights in deep blue skies made me. sun filled my body like a scene to fill tri-california hills and sky load in my veins. to a 5-year-old could only move these things. i'm not drive east from the punch bowl, i realize how little i knew of my family as an organic unit held together by a shared lab, experience or story. i was born to parents already well into middle-age. they had come into the world before moving pictures, before teamsters drove on the horseless trucks and before the iceman has to find a new profession.
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and they have lived with others who could recall life before the civil war, their memories lit by lanterns light. the nearly palpable, and their past number spoke to me. and in response to them, mama said she couldn't remember and she wondered why i wanted to know. so from what do we take our origins from inside his memories? one memory home. many a workweek night. my father sits in his easy chair alone in a back room. the only light is the inhaling burning. why pcs are names i don't
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know. what i remember silence. another memory in fifth grade social studies in washington d.c. our textbook describes the unsuitability of indians who wasted away and the preference for africans to thrive does slave and by nature love to serve. i asked my teacher if and when i might become a slave. imagine searching for self meaning in such lessons. will i be a slave? they history taught wasn't a history that made me, but i didn't know this. and he languished away so i was and a knowledge homeland in time touch may family remained
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elusive. once we move to washington d.c. in the late 1960s, a keen to learn how risk of their lives, black, negro, nigger came loud and hard after the riot. worthless showed that i could be hated for being colored. and by the age of eight, i wondered if i should hate in return. the book is on the many journeys to explore the history and to reveal so many of the damaging public silences that often go
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unnoticed, such as the link between deciding that the nation's capitol in the economic motives of slavery and what is important to remember that none of these is coincidental. too few of them appear in public history, yet they all touch as. i want to give my heart felt thanks to my family and friends who kept me from throwing away my worries yet again. and i give my strength to my father who negotiate -- and break towards understanding and survival. i give thanks to my editor, jack shoemaker and colleagues at counterpoint press for taking a chance with me. of course i give thanks to the
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american land and to the many tribal people for which this is homeland. and my deep, deep gratitude goes to the before columbus foundation. you have honored my struggle and you have helped me realize that finally i am learning how to speak. [applause] >> that was beautiful. the next writer is a poet and a public school teacher if only public school teachers could be
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so brilliant and truthful, we would all be in good hands. she's a lifetime resident of the pacific northwest. laura da is generally member who lives near seattle with her and. of her work, our national poet laureate of the united states, juan felipe says tributaries of raven have conjured homeland to conjured homeland, of removal histories, of bloodstains and new generation between anthropologists gave textbook disconnections and the deep rivers and galaxies and painting, reimagining, sashaying the lawyer of corn tassels and
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between each line. breath in the truth pollen dust still moving, moving with her hands, laughing with knowledge and dream and vision and insight for all human systems in harmony. this book abundant, calling peoples, generations long time and now a gifted, genuine deep, strong voice but i miss. the book is "tributaries." alongside personal identity and memory, with the eye of the storyteller, da creates an arc that floats on the personal to the universal and back again. in her first collection, da
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employs interwoven narratives is, examined historical documents and ways in which images to create a shifting vision of the past and present. it is my honor to present laura da with the american book award. [applause] >> thank you. good afternoon. i am so honored by this company and by this award. i am a little bit overwhelmed by how beautiful the words have
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been already in our afternoon is just beginning. first of course my deep gratitude to the before columbus foundation. i have thought about all my most loved and dearest books on my bookshelf and so many of them have been in award winners from this particular award. it is an amazing feeling to join its ranks. so thank you and thanks of course to the board and to all my fellow writers here. it is really an honor. i worked on the spoke for about 15 years. so this is a very sweet punctuation mark to basically my entire adult life's work. i want to take a particular moment to of course thank my family. my husband is here today and he is actually the artist who
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created the cover. so i like that the book is really a family affair. i also want to give thanks to my tribal community, the shawnee nation who have supported me every step of the way as a writer that reportedly is human, you know come as a daughter, child, mother, sister. thanks to my tribe, certainly. also, thanks to the professors at the institute of indian arts, the first people who ever encourage me to write. also the first people who put a book in my hands that was written by native author. if i hadn't been educated i'm not sure what would've happened to me, but i certainly wouldn't be a writer. i want to of course give thanks to my students. i've been teaching middle-school for the last 13 years and i find
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that dared deeply inspiring to me and they are very excited about this word is so well. i think that for many of us as writers, there is a creative obsession or spark the kind of propels you forward because sometimes writing can be a bit of a lonely endeavor. i thought i would share just a small story that i think gets at what is always driven me as a writer. so as a teacher, usually the first thing i do the very first morning that i'd meet my students who are middle schoolers 11 to 13th, is asked them to greet me in their home language and talk about how many languages we have and the vast knowledge that we are bringing into the classroom. then, i will greet them and say a very informal way to say hello and ask them to guess what
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language did i say hi to you in? i want to note that i have great respect for my students. they are incredibly intelligent, citizens of the world. however, they'll adjust every charter of the globe sometimes several and gas for 10 minutes. not once did it come to the north american cod net. not once did they guess in the americas. and when i tell them, you can see this kind of awakening that they maybe didn't think about their land as having had people on it are languages or culture. in, patti lucier has kind of haunted me and my family and my tribe for a long time. i feel like dr. powell some of my own creative as sessions as a writer, particularly the history of the shawnee people.
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so my dad was actually born here in california. he was born in an wpa labor camp. my grand parents were migrants from oklahoma from the shawnee reservation. they were trying to escape the difficulties of the dust bowl. i am so grateful to them because it is easy to lose who you are and it easy to lose your indigenous, those ties that bind you to your indigenous communities stretched very thin comments ashley as you are living for generations and generations. my deep gratitude for them for the sacrifices they made as well. i would like to read something that i think speaks to that concept of american land. and of course as was so
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eloquently mentioned we are a native indigenous land right now. i think i will go ahead and read a poem from this collection. that looks closely at the shawnee land and how it has changed from generation to generation. this form is called american town. seneca, missouri, soft wash seeps through the pontiacs cracked window. the knob flutters on the dashboard. one corner grits, spurs ozark wash. a herd of buffalo loin in the side pasture. here is the voyage, conjured homeland to conjured homeland. no, not that quiet trajectory of
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the past, but a fierce fierce fierce conception and a quick grapes inside just the same. the drive to ohio will take 11 hours and 48 minute, costs $195 in gas. and the subtle semantics of shawnee, a tight and fast its connotation. principal city, all human systems living in harmony. the sachet of corn tassels along the byway. historical markers back in the reader plunge an iron, trees her fingers to feel. no rocks to bend the plowshare. what airs on fields of shawnee corn, under the crust beside the card then.
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august we have bad acts create large boulders jutting. deep grooves in the center for grinding corn. what is so great in the corners of the mouth. the plaque on the museum store extols the revolutionary war hero, the ground on which this council house stands is unstained with the blood us. my heart which wishes for nothing but peace and brotherly love. summer school kids mill around in the sand. it introduced the panel at tribal council members as remnants of the once great shawnee tribe c++ murmur of pencils across steeper. in the front room, a volunteer curator leans over a diorama, anxious to capture the real
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story of the revolutionary war camp. he settled that paint onto the sandy ground, stimulating the core of the military flogging, pants up the paintbrush to the next room were 53 letters from 17 broker captive trays with the delaware and shawnee. shades of ink from blanched olives to corn flour lasted a long dead hands. each one by the promise of whiskey. leaving me at that evening on an old shawnee trade route, retraced the town, while the canada, blue jackets have. the cdm, the influence of the pollen upon the fruit. where is this ground unstained?
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thank you very much. [applause] >> feature films about the chicano experience, the author of the fabulous stories, the skyscrapers that flew in the critically acclaimed memoir i witnessed the filmmaker's memoir of the chicano movement. of his work and his book, return to rio grande, in his private --
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and his prior life, jesus made movies and directed television drama. in this work, mostly and had to be shot two or three times. times space. suggest that repeating a scene that did the actors to return in time from the previous scene, a kind of going and returning, a coming back from the future they had just created. eliot mailed to the image in the line, the women come and go. did all those years behind the camera is too speculative fiction aren't all stories speculative? for he taught us about the going and coming of dreams, but we the old people already knew that memory registers time, space. we have been there and here. timeshifting and alternate dimensions appear or disappear
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folks pay the fabulous ankle and a skyscraper that flew. his latest book, return to rio grande is an interesting segue to earlier stories. focus on the word return in the title, of course they can return because they have already been there. the here and there of time, space. but don't let my wild regulations keep you from reading this most interesting book. the stories grounded in reality although a reality that sheds depending on what page you are on. the plot goes like this. young men and women to pursue careers but now they return to save their hometown from greedy developers. plotting images same time, space and parallel universes in which they could as live.
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who most the writer's hand? god, free well, imagination, sol? gravitational waves that arrive them to buckle is that exploded in a distinct aleksei over a billion years ago, returning to a rio grande at its best challenging conceptions of fiction or a collection of stories, just a continuum to surprise and fulfill our senses of readability. [applause] >> thank you.
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i got new glasses, so i am trying them out. thank you, justin and of course the before columbus foundation and its members for the vision to see what was needed and the follow-through to make it happen, to reclaim what is truly ours, to make events like today a reality. and it is indeed an honor for me to be here in the company of such a distinguished group of writers and act to this in the storytellers and this and that after all what we all are, storytellers. i began my story telling career in 1968 as a student activist on a picket line in east los angeles brandishing a camera. it was the heyday of the emergent chicano civil rights
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movement and i didn't know i would make a lifetime of it, but i did. i learned how to tell our stories using film and later television. please were stories as you might imagine mainstream society didn't want to hear. stories of our precious, stories of our struggle, stories of overcoming and stories of victory in the face of defeat. for 15 years i was a documentary filmmaker and then i shifted. i became a narrative storyteller directing episodes of prime time television shows at n.y.p.d., "star trek," criminal minds, law and order and others in all the while during this time of course i was writing. i was a writer. as a storyteller. throughout, i've struggled to find a balance in my
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storytelling, a balance between documenting and telling the dark side of our troubled past and we all know it sadly too well, the history of discrimination of the lynchings, the murders of the genocide that have been committed of people against color. and i also wrestle to find hope amid the backdrop said these horrible events. to relegate our storytelling only to these atrocities ignores a past that is also filled with steadfast resistance, with fierce struggles, with irrepressible victories. perhaps the most difficult challenge for me has been to focus you on the and visceral. it is easy to focus our storytelling on the political
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say when the times demanded is harder to find a quiet time to write, especially when we know that brothers and sisters of the standing rock the standing rock's emissions for ample and so many others are today taking a stand. are we confront the sordid realities of what a potential trump nation might the. much harder to find the timely need to be quiet, to reflect, to ponder, to amuse. but it is only when we do this, when we overcome our anger, transcend our anger, allow their creativity to simmer, to distill, to nurture deeper insight into who we are, that are crafted storytellers can truly come to the fore.
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i live in a world of alternate realities. some of my doing, some that just happened to happen. and my latest story, another character who's fallen out of construction site and awaken to find an indisputable memory of an ominous terrible world, world of friends or enemies in despair is the order of the day. she so convinced that what the doctors are calling false memories, that she can't accept the possibility that another more positive world might exist. yet her doctors insist due to the afflictions that have been when she fell, this is what's going on. they are false memories. but what if these false memories
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took place, she questions? aren't they cheating, aren't i. denying these things having hotbeds? the doctor replies, jimmy, the point is you must not allow the bad memories of a terrible pass to cripple and your future. simple as that. so i storytellers, let's not allow ourselves to be paralyzed. let's go forward. and let's tell stories of purpose, stories of resilience, stories of hope and i for one and not afraid to use that word, hope. thank you very much for the honor of the award.
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[applause] >> not to live i received a phone call from the "baltimore sun" and they wanted to ask me about the american book award. they wanted to ask me about the curious land susan's collection of short stories. the journalist on the other phone on the other side of the country said why the american book award? why this honor? and i said well, suzanne doesn't take the easy way out. what do you mean by that? well, part of what i mean by that is that the empathy that
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she achieved with her character in the stories that she tells offers them in the complexity of their own contradictions without judging them or putting them in a corner or encouraging the reader to tempt caricature as nation for their own moral or ethical or unethical actions. this is a real miracle and literature and something that even great writers are often unable to do. that is to present their characters in full contradiction, full complexity and still hold them close as human beings. particularly when dealing with groups that constitute a class
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particularly by the market-driven media simply caricatures to continue. we will be talking more about that this afternoon. how is our answer and that is only a fragment of the story and we are very honored that suzanne is with us to share inside and discovered about the land stories from home, winner of the american book award for 2016. [applause] >> thank you.
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i am still so moved by the words. really powerful words. thank you so much of the before columbus foundation for this honor. this book took me eight years to write. not 18 years, eight years not as long. writing is such a solitary act and i feel so grateful that my attempts to celebrate the voices of palestinians and palestinian americans is being recognized with this award. palestinian american literature is growing as a genre and i'm very happy about that. growing up i had a very hard time discussing my palestinian heritage, most of because people are easily equated palestine with terrible things like terrorism. you can see it on their faces. you say they're palestine. they say palestine, plo, terrorism. you could see the progression that was fair.
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i had a college professor tell me once that there wasn't a such thing as palestinian people, that it was a made-up nationality, that palestinians conveniently invented it after 1948. my book is my answer to his comment many years later. i was made he man. i know better now. of course as a child i could never find palestine on a map of the world to explain to people where my parents were from. you still can't find it on a map. i didn't have a place i could point to and say that's palestine. that's why parents came from right there. that heard in many ways as if it really were sent a made-up. being a palestinian christian is challenging and still lives. we get painted with the same terrorism, a fellow muslim
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americans and is astounding to me. there is a weird disconnect from history on the part of western christian people who want to stereotype arab christians. this ancient community, people who come from places like nasa read, bethlehem, they don't understand our community but they are ready to stereotype us. i had a woman asking what i was muslim and i said i was palace indian. i said no, my family is christian. she looked surprised and that they come for and i said no, you did. boxed mac and of course as jesus said, the elections are a week away and we are breathing in the toxic air of this climate. we are seeing more than ever that the denigration of arabs and most fun is an efficient tool for politicians and media
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personalities to get noticed. the denigration of our people get them a boost in the polls and said they do it. they improve their ratings so they do it. for some candidates, the denigration of our people as their entire pop. i've learned in order to change the narrative can be just as to seize the narrative and that's why this award is so special to me. palestinian and arab writers have been seizing the narrative for some time now and organizations like the before columbus have always recognized our literature. i want to pay special tribute to african-american writers. there was that much that i could look to when i was growing up in writing. i went to african american writers says and a quote debut
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beta boy in an essay he said about the deep south, but a curious land so full of untold stories and tragedies. i have '-backquote in the introduction to my book and i'm very grateful for that quote because they think of palestine in the same way. thank you to the associated writing programs which awarded my book which led to its publication. i think my writers group we are five women who meet once a month. they added every word. i am very grateful to them. thank you to my parents are reminded me that you can bugger culture, but too many children who are part of the reason why it took eight years to write the book, but who are messieurs dooley, who are my home. and tonight has been.
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he supported my writing and for the last 16 years before i ever publish a single word before i ever won anything. thank you to the foundation once again and congratulations to my fellow award winners. it is truly my honor to be here with all of you. thank you very much. [applause] >> indeed as suzanne was pointing out, some of the most backward and criminals in american politics are poisoning the atmosphere but the billion toxic rhetoric that create an environment in which extraordinary levels of violence
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are becoming commonplace. indeed as ishmael said, who traced their lineage there. i'll give you some specifics. just this year alone, over 820 american citizens have been shot down by police. that's an average of three a day. since trump announced his candidacy, the department of justice says hate crimes against those of the islamic faith or perceived to be how they're raised in over 68%. these are just the ones that are reported. so this is part of what is happening in american politics. but back to you as part a nationalist xenophobic waves that has been crossing the west. not just with brexit, the greece
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and france and poland. so, in framing that, i want to emphasize the extraordinary courage involved in a transcendence work. we have the honor for being with us and we can share more review about what the substance of that is good for both, south asian arab muslim shape our multiracial future. i had the great pleasure of featuring deepa iyer as a guest on my radio program a couple weeks ago. it was indeed one of the most vivacious and is faithful and eliminating conversation that i've had in many years on the issues at hand.
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i will be especially grateful always for the conversation that we had with links and he is, whose poem is in fact something of an answer home to walt whitman's i hear america seen. which lent its impulse and elimination to the title of her award-winning work. so it is a great honor to introduce deepa iyer to you and to bring the american book award for week to seeing america. [applause] >> good afternoon, everyone. good afternoon.
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common response. thank you so much that i'm so deeply appreciative to the before columbus foundation for introducing to writers who reflect on them known as america. as a personal level, i'm so grateful to the nurse for this recognition. it's an honor to be among this exceptional country of writers. i sat here only because of the beloved community i've been unfortunate -- were shipped to learn from. i came to this but from the perspective of being a movement at this ended its organizers and community members that i have learned the most from throughout my work. some of my san francisco comrades here this afternoon. in particular, i want to acknowledge three women who are
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here. a cache of priya moore t. they have influenced the development of salvation american community building in the years after 9/11. you're a big part of this book. and to those who couldn't be here today, but whose spirit i feel i must of my colleagues who took a chance on me and that added their shepherded a movement activists and especially my six-year-old son who helped me get my most important to talk a few weeks ago to his first grade classroom. and tonight activist community who inspired me by standing out and showing up every single day. this beautiful reward exists because of all of you. when i was reflecting on what to say this afternoon, i kept returning to the childhood
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memory to the book i had written. it was when i was in seventh grade. we had emigrated to the united states to kentucky just a few years before in the mid-1980s. i had hand written this book and i'd taped it purple cover on it. it was not ironically entitled belonging. i don't remember much about the plaque. it was insignificant. but i know it had something to do with my own experiences. feeling like a consummate outsider at my elementary school in louisville, kentucky where the markers of my immigrant status, my brownness, indian myth stood out in sharp color and contrast. immigrant experience as many writers and poets have so beautifully expressed can be one of pain and separation, the loss of self and the finding of self through community. in many ways, this book of mine
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also reflects in the great circle, but a time of tremendous strength in our nation. it documents the lived experience as a asian muslim arab and immigrants who are surviving post-9/11 america. a 15 year time period that had been rife with islamic phobia, and racial anxiety. the book introduces us to the narrative we don't often hear in order to sharpen and depend our understanding of the realist consequences of the war on terror or the book is a call to action for muslim arab and south asian communities to center our own racial identities and there it is. during my work in post-9/11 america and again with this book was inspired me to the voices and actions of courageous people who from the front lines call us to action. people like he lost his mother by white supremacist at a place of worship in wisconsin.
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or a muslim kurdish refugee who as a teenager in. the daily barrage of islam is an rhetoric in a play she was wanting to make her new home. for an undocumented immigrant like evo's home in maryland was rated at immigration one morning and his father was deported. or an egyptian american muslim advocate in st. louis who is on the ground and ferguson in the aftermath of the murder of michael brown and who cofounded muslims for ferguson. ..
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>> or a sick american not far from here in richmond, california, was driving home when he was assaulted by two men through a car window. these are our stories, our immigrant stories, the stories of people who are trying to shape and reshape the american landscape. and yet while on the front lines of pain and turmoil, people like the ones i write about and so many others continue to rise up, find their voice and challenge systemic injustice. they are disrupters, they are bridge builders, and they call us to action.
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from from the streets of baltimore and oak lan to the say -- oakland to the sacred ground at standing rock, people of all faiths, backgrounds and histories are calling upon all of us to join movements from liberation from oppression, for love and freedom and for equity and justice. books can play a role in supporting these movements by documenting struggle, by imparting lessons and by expanding our minds. by inspiring a whole new generation of disrupters and bridge build ors. i'm so gratified that we, too, sing america have been playing a -- we too sing america have been playing a role especially in this moment where we fair, as martin luther king said, the fierce urgency of now. the book has been a springboard for race talks in classrooms, for messy conversations at
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family dinner tables and for personal and collective a actions to create safer, more welcoming and equitable spaces in our country. i am deeply grateful to the before columbus foundation for recognizing and acknowledging the voices and experiences of muslim, arab and sikh immigrants in post-9/11 america, and i want to thank all of you for being on a journey for social change and justice together. thank you. [applause] >> so before welcoming our founder, ishmael reed, to the stage, i want to say a few words about nick terse who received the american book award this
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year for tomorrow's battlefield: u.s. proxy wars and secret ops in africa. nick was unable to be here today. he is hard at work. we regard his efforts as a journalist to be heroic. and to put that into context, in the waning months of the bush/cheney period in american politics, a deluge of policy papers from extreme right-wing think tanks began to flood with recommendations that the emerging front in the war on terror -- you remember that -- was going to be on continent of africa. and so with that in mind, the united states government formed africom, a central command for u.s. military operations on the continent of africa.
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as obama acceded to the presidency and in the years since, the united states military has expanded across the entire continent of africa with the largest military presence in our nation's history. but this story has almost gone completely unreported. you can search through the database of the pape possessor of record -- papers of record, and you will find nary a peep about anything having to do with military operations on the continent of africa. but again, to be clear, it's the largest military presence that we have going. in fact, recently the so-called war on isil or isis which the department of defense calls inherent resolve -- pick up on that -- their web site says that we spend $12.9 million a day
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fighting just that campaign. that's the do, the, that's their number -- dod, that's their number, right? they say we spend $174 million a day in afghanistan. that's the aboveground numbers. it doesn't have to do with the secret operations that only dianne feinstein can sign off in the intelligence committee. this is the over ground nurnlings right? but despite all this, there has been almost zero attention other than the work of nick turse on this issue. and so i want to congratulate nick, but i also want to urge upon you to look into this to find out what this is about. ted jones, the late ted jones, one of the titans of international surrealism and among the first generation of the beat generation when it was still generating used to frequently lament the lack of
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interest on the part of black america in affairs of the african con innocent. continent. further, in the last months, last year or so of malcolm x's life, he made it his principal point that the struggle of african-americans within the borders of the united states would not be addressed unless it was elevated to an issue of bear national human rights. and that this would be achieved through alignment with the struggle that was taking place on the african continent, of course? martin luther -- okay? martin luther king was also advocating for a similar program. so with that in mind, again i urge you to discover this book, tomorrow's battlefield, and follow up on what's happening. i mean, 174 million a day, 12.9 million a day. can't give you clean water in flint, right? can't give you funding for
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public schools. you've got to -- can't give you tuition relief, but can send $12.9 million a day to stretch the fight against isil across into libya? okay. so congratulations to nick turse, and -- [applause] for his extraordinary work, you know? and with that in mind, i'd like to introduce the founder of the before columbus foundation, ishmael reed. [applause] who will be speaking to you about the walter and lilley lowen fed's criticism award this year. >> thank you, justin. [inaudible]
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has kept us in our, kept us going for three decades can. he's sitting back there. he's very modest. [applause] and he also produced the program that you have. he's been producing programs every year. and justin comes down from, he gets on an amtrak, comes down every week to keep us in shape, watches the office. so i think he runs the best cultural and jazz program in the united states. and jenny we hear, she's our host, actually, because she is the second poet laureate of the sf jazz center, this beautiful $40 million building here, which
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is like the center of west coast jazz, you know? this is a long ways from those dives that louis armstrong and others played in. [laughter] matter of fact, we had one of these fundraising parties up in pacific heights where you can look out over the bay and you can see alcatraz. one of the great patrons of jazz was incarcerated in alcatraz, al capone -- [laughter] who brought louis armstrong up from new orleans to chicago. three of our board members have made the news recently. the great writer who's been with us for decades was presented with a presidential medal, and even though he's not reviewed in "the new york times" book review which is sort of like trump with
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more of a big vocabulary -- [laughter] well, they feel they're better. i mean, they spend more hours having dinner parties on the west side than trump does. i think he sends out for fast foot, right? [laughter] fast food, right? but the president said he had read rudolfo's books, and we have a very hip president. i think we're really going to miss him. best president since kennedy, i think. who listened to charlie parker in the white house and pardoned hampton haws, a jazz pianist, because hampton saw kennedy, and he said -- at the inaugural, and he said this is the cat that's going to pardon me, and he did. we have an organization called penn oakland which "the new york times" calls the blue collar pen n because we're all working class, we're in oak poland.
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they will be -- oakland. they will be having an a awards ceremony on december 2nd? december 3rd at the rock ridge library in oakland. and one of the recipients will receive the adele foley award named for the late poet and civic leader. and her name is sarah who is a judge, declared stop and frisk unconstitutional. and defied mayor bloomberg and the police commissioner, stop and frisk bratton. and received a lot of anger or from those people. but the daily news apologized to her, because they predicted that crime would go up if you didn't have stop and frisk where at one point they were stopping and frisking 800,000 hispanic and black citizens, but it didn't go up. the daily news, i mean, amazing. the daily news apologized to her.
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and she sent a great acceptance letter that we read. we're going to publish that, tennessee and i, in our magazine. okay. now, when i was 14 years old, i received an award for coming in third in a speaking contest. now, if it hadn't be in my hometown, buffalo, new york, i'd have come in first. [laughter] that was -- [laughter] my wife just wrote a great book about a hotel i used to pass. carla wrote a book about two feminist architects from the 1900s, turn of the last century. that's still a question. but my prize was a coupon to buy a book. so i bought a book about stalin. didn't know anything about it. [laughter] and the book scared me to death. [laughter] i mean, i had nightmares about this book, because you had all these weird, sinister looking characters like the head of the chief of police, and stalin was a thug, you know?
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they put the jail, they jailed their opponent toes, you know -- opponents, you know? does that sound familiar? [laughter] and, you know, and he was served by a scary looking head of the government and all these people. and they were lie are onized by -- lionized by historians, artists, painters and writers who were faved -- favored by the regime. i think some of the other ones had problems because they wouldn't go along with the mandate or the official art. the only difference between those hacks and the ones who clean up the reputations of slave traffickers like alexander hamilton and indian killers and indian removers like andrew jackson is that their creations were never made into musicals. [laughter] the premise of the musical "hamilton" is that hamilton was an abolitionist and a progressive. this was the abolition and
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progressive who accused the british of stealing negroes from their owners. he left a note of smoke gun which describes his role in trafficking and slave trading on bethat of his sister-in-law -- behalf of his sister-in-law and her husband. and i think he deducted $225 from their account9 for the purchase of a, from a person who had owned them from church's account for the purchase of a negro woman and a child. he left this. this is a transaction that ron chernow, one of these groupie historians, you know, groupie for the founder chic put in his book. so the guys -- and he was also a arkist. and they talk about -- monarchist. somebody mentioned jorge cho alger -- horatio alger. his mother was a slave trader.
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so the good old boy historians have been glorifying slave owners and those whose plan for the indians was extermination. that's thomas jefferson's word, extermination. for decades. their at the tuesday prevail -- their attitudes prevailed in the schools that i attended, and it wasn't until i left school that i learned about the presence of 5,000 black troop during the revolutionary war thanks to the historian benjamin quarrels. noticing to omission of blacks were present during the time the musical took place. she mentions ron chernow, one of the expointers of what -- exponents of what she calls founder chic. he even admits hamilton may have owned slaves, even this guy. you know, he just had a weird moment where he just stopped
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being like a fan, you know, and put that in there. [laughter] she writes others, including i think a president and the first lady enjoyed this musical because they studied history at harvard. [laughter] found it to be a school for christian men, young men. she writes others, including ron chernow, have described the cast as representing obama's america. the idea that this musical looks like america looks now and contrasted then, however, is misleading and actively erases the presence and the role of black and brown people in revolutionary e america as well as before and since. i'm quoting ms. montero. ms. montero. america did then look like the people in the play if you looked outside the halls of government. this has never been a white government, all right? just mark that down, okay?
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this has never been a -- i mean, the irish who are, you know, this guy, john adams who wanted to be lionized and they made a miniseries on pbs, wouldn't you know, he complained about irish and blacks in boston, precipitating the boston massacre. they were all -- so irish are new whites. i guess you read, you know, how the irish became white. during which they lost ireland, okay? james t. ferrell said when they left chicago, they lost ireland. but when i was up here as poet laureate, they tore or the place up. and it ended in singing. [laughter] so anyway, so america's never been white. as a matter of fact, one writer, i think it's joel williamson,
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says up until the 1950s the united states looked like america, looked like brazil. finish the idea that the actors who are performing on stage represent newcomers to this country in any way is insulting. miranda, the writer, is puerto rican meaning his parents and even his grandparents were born american citizens. the african-american actors in the stage may also be the descendants of enslaved people on whose backs -- [inaudible] built their fortune toss sustain their lifestyles. more importantly, it's -- [inaudible] stand this for great white men of the early or united states in a play that does not acknowledge that the same actors were excluded from the freedoms which the founders bought which i think is a profound observation. our second recipient, nancy isenberg, offers another view.
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nancy isenberg quotes one of the critics who swooned over this historical lie. quote: "hamilton" is the hottest show on broadway filled with hip-hop songs, r&b rhythms and tricornered hats, a pantheon of revolutionary greats and for many, and for many a starved critic just sing along with the founders or offers a factually -- [inaudible] she writes: these are the words of jodi rosen in "the new york times", and he is not alone. as an academic who has spent years studying aaron burr, i can say emphatically that the rules of historical rigor do not apply to hamilton. quote: hamilton may be a delight to watch, but let's not convince ourselves that it honors the discipline of history. when he interviewed lynn manuelmy ran doe, stephen colbert joked, i didn't have to read the bible because i saw
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jesus christ superstar. [laughter] that pretty much says it all. the musical "hamilton" is the historical hamilton what rl charlton heston's moses is to -- well, you get the picture. [laughter] they took forms created by you are ban blacks, hip-hop and everything, to honor the oppressors of slaves. incredible. i also mentioned it's like having minorities in nazi germany dress up lit hitler and himmler -- dress up like hitler and himmler. the before columbus foundation was formed -- [inaudible] media from which most americans get their information and the euro-centric curriculum the which doesn't even get europe right. i've been going to europe since i was 17, i'm amazed at how different europe is from the way
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the overseas colony make row plant e oric -- romantic or fantasize about it. the combination of -- doesn't even get europe right which covers up atrocities committed by those whom it defies. generation after generation of bigots and self-loathing among those students who don't see their histories represented. and it's amazing that the next president, brought to us by television, they gave him $2 billion worth of free publicity. $2 billion, and they continue. i watched wall to wall coverage of his speeches and his insane rants yesterday, and even when secretary clinton was making her speeches, they mentioned -- they quoted him in the crawl arers underneath hers -- crawlers underneath hers. the fact that the rockefeller foundation would provide school children with free tickets to a musical that ohioans a slave trader -- honors a slave trader
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is a disgrace. i know a lot of people are not going to like that. you remember iowa yell castro -- ariel castro who kept those women hostage for 30 years? why don't they write a musical about him? hamilton sold people, he sold women. and they say, oh, you know, hamilton was smart. well, castro was smart too. that's the analogy i would give. it's not surprising that david duke, the klan leader, was a history major. we honor nancy isenberg and lara montero who, and i might add michelle deross who would challenge other historians who portray hamill in -- hamilton in
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a rags to riches manner n. a day of academic cowardice, they have risked retaliation because they demand that history be honest. while the biggest glass ceiling might be broken, or shattered i guess, on november 8th, these brave scholars show that glass ceilings are being broken elsewhere. [applause] thank you. wonderful, wonderful. >> thank thank you. >> let me get out of here. okay to, there you go. >> thank you so much. wow. it is such an honor to be here, and i must say that i feel like a bit of a freeloader at in this ceremony where all of you guys have written books and being
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honored for whole lifetimes of books, and i wrote an article, and i'm getting a prize. [laughter] but at the same time, i know that my recognition with this award is really because of the timeliness of my critique of the musical "hamilton." my article, which was titled "race conscious casting and the erase sure of the black past," appeared in the academic journal at a time when everyone from theater critics to president obama were lavishing praise on the musical and on its creator. however, my own immediate reaction when i saw the play was that for all of the brilliance of the writing, the performances and the production, there was something seriously disturbing that was happening on stage. when i looked for a reflection of this this per peck i among the many -- perspective among the many reviews, i wasn't entirely surprised to find wall to wall approval of pretty much every aspect of the production.
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because of this, i was extremely relieved to locate ishmael reed's piece, the fabulous subtitle is particularly timely given today's date. it was subtitled black actors dress up like slave traders, dot, dot, dot, and it's not halloween with. [laughter] reed's incisive critique, which echoed many of my own concerns about the play, gave me the confidence to turn my own early thoughts about the play into a journal article. so in a very real way, the piece for which i am being given this award came about in part because of the founder of the american book awards. so thank you. in addition to thank ishmael for his indirect assistance, i also need to thank my editors at the public historian for accepting my unconventional review. i'm also grateful to my husband, my sister, nia, and my colleagues at rutgers newark and elsewhere for reading drafts or otherwise discussing the play
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with me. i'd also particularly like to thank the committee for the american book award for validating the importance of critically interrogating the stories that popular culture tell tells us about our past. in my job as a history professor at rutgers newark where i teach survey courses on u.s. history in addition to courses on public history, i'm deeply concerned with what i've come to call historically politics. not necessarily the political uses of history by, say, politicians or by movements for the rights of marginalized people. instead, i propose an analysis much like that offered by racial or gender politics, one that can be applied to almost any act, utterance or cultural product. in each case we can and should ask what aspect of the past is being invoked here and why. to what end?
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what does this imply about who did what in the past and about who matters in the present? in other words, what does this use of the past suggest about who has a right to power in the present? because either seeking access to or justifying possession of power in the present is, i'd argue, the most important and prominent function of history in the public sphere. it is essential that we interrogate not only the historical accuracy, but also the historical politics of a show as popular as "hamilton," because the stories it tells can have an impact on how we perceive ourselves and each other in the present. i find it concerning that so many people are excited by the way that the musical, quote, makes history accessible. to be frank, i don't want stories that glorify the founding fathers to be accessible. i want them to be dull and stodgy and to feel as old-fashioned as they are. [laughter]
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i sure as hell don't want them to be made interesting and even exciting by appropriating the talents and labor of black artists to portray slave-owning founding fathers as rappers. in effect, blackwashing the seriously oppressive history to make it seem cool. i am also bothered by the rhetoric surrounding the musical that's just that the play is generous in allowing black and brown people to identify with a history that they are not technically entitled to on some level because their ancestors supposedly weren't a part of it. this is the whole idea of the musical being, as ishmael mention inside my introduction and as the show's tagline put it, quote: the story of america then told by america now. but as i argue in my original article, america then did look like the people in this play. new york city, where the play is mostly set, was 14% black during the revolutionary era, and there were slaves in nearly every wealthy household.
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this means that in every scene of the play contains an opportunity for a black character to appear. one of the most egregious to missions is the song "the room where it happened," where aaron burr says that no one else was in the room where it happened, thus completely erasing the slaves who certainly would have been in that very room serving dinner. similarly, the musical -- [inaudible] the role of the thousands of black soldiers who fought in the revolution their war, including a man named cato e who was enslaved by one of the characters in hamilton and who actually performed some of the acts of spying on the british that mulligan takes credit for in the musical. not to mention the fact that alexander hamilton's financial system, which is described in the musical as a work of genius, was built on the bodies and labors of enslaved people of color. it's easy to miss the fact that
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there's not a single black character in the show, because there are so many black and brown bodies in -- on the stage. however, the effect of this white supremacist account of the past is to reinforce the idea that only white men have a rightful claim to the history of the united states and that everyone else came on to the scene later. every journalist who has interviewed me about "hamilton" has asked me what i would do differently. [laughter] well, my answer to this question rarely makes it into the final piece, so i'd like to make clear what i change about "hamilton." i would change everything. if lin-manuel miranda had asked for my opinion when he started to write the show, i wouldn't have suggested he find a way to work in a black or native character or two or that he try to address slavery a little more explicitly. instead, i would have encouraged him to pick an entirely
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different story to tell rather than one that glorifies the perspectives of our founding fathers who were literal white supremacists and literal male chauvinists. perhaps he could have told a story that centered people of color, such as one of the leaders of the protests that resulted in the boston massacre. or perhaps he could have chosen a story that would challenge our popular obsession with heroes altogether and presented a more truthful version of what revolution can and should be. these are the stories that i wishmy ran that's considerable talent and, indeed, genius could have been applied to. and i sincerely hope he will, in the future, break free of the adoration of the racist and sexist founding fathers and return to the form of his first broadway hit which told the stories of first and second generation work class latino immigrants in the washington heights neighborhood of new york
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city and featured a brown young woman as its protagonist. in closing, i'd like to reiterate my thanks for this award for criticism and add on a very personal note that it couldn't have come at a better time in my own life. when i learned that i had received this award, i was in the midst of dealing with a very serious illness, and i was questioning my capacity to contribute meaningfully both within and beyond the academy. this award has helped me to recognize how necessary my voice is in the public sphere as a woman of color writing criticism about popular culture, and it has inspired me to continue doing what i now believe is part of what i am on this planet to do, so for that i thank you. ms. -- [applause]
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>> so before welcoming john keane up to the stage, i want to say a few words about matt johnson and his novel "loving day." matt was unable to joins this afternoon to accept the award. he sends his greetings, and he said specifically that the great meaning was that this was coming from his peers, and he wanted to thank all of you and the before columbus foundation in particular. the philosopher wicken stein once said the most treacherous and difficult issues in life can really only be discussed in terms of jokes. and if that's true, then matt johnson is a very serious dude. [laughter] you know, for a black folk who appear to some in the world as objectively white, one
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of the most terrifying experiences is to be found in the company of all whites who think that you're one of them as they embark on discussions about us colored folks. it's, it's a pretty ugly business. but eventually, as you grow through that, you realize this is going to continue to happen thousands of times. so as you grow a little bit older, you realize that part of that terror is going to be not just being regarded as white and being privy to those conversations which are very threatening to your very existence, not just your family, but also enhanced by your status as ally biddal object in the imagination of this projection, let's say. not very funny stuff, huh? well, matt johnson in this extraordinarily insightful,
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buoyant -- to use the jazz term -- swinging, very funny description of this treacherous labyrinth which have -- which very few of us actually survive. in fact, i believe -- [inaudible] in her autobiography of her father said she believed this is what actually killed him, was his inability to deal with this. so i would just say very quickly that we've all heard of laughing to keep from crying. ted jones, who i mentioned earlier, said laughing to keep from lying. well, if you don't want to become a lying cryer, i suggest you get with matt johnson and dig "loving day" which is just a beautiful and, again, vivacious, hilarious, buoyant novel and a brilliant take on race relations and color relations within the
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so-called races here in america. so with that said, we are deeply gratified that john keane could be so generous with his time in joining us this afternoon to accept the award for his collection of short stories and novellas, "counternarratives." i've said before in writing but i'll continue, i believe that john keane can accurately be thought of as a cartographer, a map maker of the unconscious of the americas. and it produces a unique literary experience because of the deep sensuality of his music and his language which accepts all the joys and pains and satisfactions and refusals of even going there as we say. that is to say, to even entreat the possibility that there is a
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deep and lasting conflict within your own body, mind generating. but again, it's the embrace of those pains and those joys that makes his work so unique and such a unique pleasure to read. so i could go on. i'm not going to. i'm going to give you the master himself. again, john keane, tremendous -- one of the most innovative and exciting writers in america today. [applause] >> so thank you stop, justin, for -- so much, justin, for
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those beautiful remarks. congratulations to all of my fellow honorees. it is an extraordinary honor to be in your company and, of course, in the company of all of the people who have received this award before us. thanks so much to the before columbus foundation, to the board for this extraordinary award. it is hard almost to put in words even though i'm someone who writes poetry, fiction, essays, everything, just to sort of express how moved i was to learn that i received this award. sort of took the words away. so i'll say a little bit more in a minute. i would also like to thank my publisher, new directions publishing corporation, and my editor, barbara epler, for taking a chance on this book. sometimes, of course, i think when we see books in the world, we imagine -- and i've actually had people say this -- oh, it
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must have been easy to get that buck under print. [laughter] and this was a book that actually received discouragement. so i'm very gratified that it's in the world and that new directions published it, and thanks to my agent who was a part of that process. many thanks to all of my colleagues and my students and to my fellow writers, some of whom are here today, for their support as i was writing this book. writing a -- is a solitary, often solitary pursuit. but as we have heard from the people that have gotten up here and spoke, it is also a collaborative effort. we don't write in isolation, we're always in communication with those around us. the people around us help make and bring works of literature into life. thanks to my parents, including
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my late father and my mother, both of whom encouraged me from childhood in my various artistic pursuits. and above all, thanks to my partner, curtis allen, who is here, who has been with me all along the journey from not just this book's conception, but every book's conception, through its completion and who would periodically asked me if i'd finished the story about the hot air balloons. [laughter] that was one of the best prompts of all because, of course, if someone's asking you did you finish that story about the hot air balloons, you have to finish the story about the hot air balloons, and that's actually one of my favorite stories in the book. [laughter] since its inception in 1976, is so it's 40 years, this is a really, i this i, impressive anniversary. and in ten years it'll be 50 years, and we'll be able to celebrate that. the before columbus foundation has sought to promote and disseminate anticultural literature which is to say to champion and affirm literature
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that reflects the richness and diversity of the society. and i think sometimes when we think of diversity, we think -- or multiculturalism, we think about it in a kind of soft and easy term. but i always think of the poet and critic and essayist elizabeth alexander who talks about hard multiculturalism, you know? that richness, that diversity that's often antagonistic, right? that requires and reflects the struggles that we go through. and i think this is, you know, one of the things that the before columbus foundation is making clear. and, again, as we've heard many times today, this is sort of central to the work that it does. so to champion the literature or that reflects the richness and diversity of the society and that shows us a way forward to our common future. i think this is crucial. as our current election season reminds all of us yet again, i think -- i just want to say it's easy to reflect on this election season.
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when i go online, i see people talking, they say this is the craziest election they've ever lived through, and i think, you know, i've lived through, like, six or seven crazy elections, you know? i mean, just tally up the years. and of course people say, oh, my godness, you -- god, you know, e emergence of this horrible racist -- i'm like, when did it ever leave? [laughter] it's always been here, people, come on, you know? and one of the candidates is not the first one to utter crazy racist things either. so as our current election season reminds all of us yet again, while we have made tremendous advancements over the years, we still have a ways to go. and literature, literature -- let me say that again, literature -- clearly all the other things we have in the world, but literature, poetry, fiction, drama, creative and critical nonfiction, critical nonfiction, right? which we've had representatives
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talk about today, writers talk about today, hybrid and cross-genre writing, right? and forms we haven't even fully conceptualized all pez the power -- all possess the power that we should never fail to acknowledge to shape our voyage to a better, more equal future for all of us, right? this is what you were talking about in storytelling, right? stories are so powerful be. they are not simply these things that, you know, are frivolous, right? that have no value, that carry no weight in the world. they're tremendous -- they shape how we think about the world. this is what ms. montero was just telling us, the stories about the past and the stories about the present. let me be clear. literature alone cannot dispel the fear, the anger, the hate and the distrust out there. it cannot by itself heal the histories, differing but not incommensurate that we have all lived. it cannot transform us overnight
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into kinder people, lead us on a path of goodness and righteousness. yet it can and often does help us to understand each other and ourselves. it can and often does place us in the minds and bodies of other people very different from us and help us see them more fully, more clearly, more everyone netically. everyone netically. but on the systems and structures in and by which we live and how they can oppress or liberate us. literature can also show us how we can transform this world, our world, for the better, right? literature often plants a seed or seeds for the future. right? i loved the comment about are you reading african-american
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literature, and it inspired you. sometimes things may not seem to have any direct relation to us but they do, we see them, right, can empower us in ways we don't really fully understand. this is why literature is so important. literature can also show us how we can transform the world for the better. as the great poet sonia sanchez has said speaking in the language of our ghanaian ancestors and family members, it will get better. literature has always played and will keep playing a key part in making this happen. this aim parallels that of one of the before columbus' founder, ishmael reed, who is here with us today, and whom i want to thank in particular for having been a wonderful, visionary teacher for so many others and me. and for having helped set me at a crucial time in my life on the past that i'm on.
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and he's, i will just say, host really one of the finish he's really one of the not just remarkable writers and activists and people, but he's a really extraordinary teacher. he's one of the best teachers i ever had, and i thank god every day that i had you as a teacher. particularly at that critical time. ishmael's work, like that of my fellow honorees and of past recipients of the american book award, embodies the freedom dreams of our ancestors and our own. ishmael's produced an expansive literature of social engagement and justice, of social and political consciousness and conscience, of resistance, revisioning, recenterring and reconstruction rarely shying away from the often difficult, critical conversations we must participate in so as to create an experience -- and exappearance new for our world.
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you know, you don't shy away from confronting the realities of the world we're living in, right? no matter what it is. it's really quite powerful and quite moving and quite inspiring and really one of the things that i, you know, carry with me always and that led me to write this book. for that reason, i can this award not just the highest honor i could receive, but a tribute to my former teacher. thank you, ishmael, and thank you before columbus foundation. [applause] >> thank you, john. one of the distinguishing characteristics of american literature and african-american literature in particular is that it emerges from a period in which our literacy was punishable by death. right?
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and that this law of capital punishment for literacy was taken so seriously that even the person who was teaching the person was also killed, right? okay. now, did that ever really stop? what is the contemporary 'em nation of that law? it has sculpted and shaped the hitture itself, right -- the literature itself, right? this leadership -- this relationship with the word, with the literary world. now, our next honoree, william maxwell, who did the excavation, who did the homework, who did the difficult job that many of us had intuited, programs of
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counterintelligence that were focused on black writers had sought to not only negate their expression, but also to lead to extraordinary levels of censorship. so when you see this period of american history in which african-american writing is emerging from a period in which it was punishable by death, then you see coming into the 20th century we'll bin with the red summer -- we'll begin with the red summer, right? 1919. claude mckay and the poem, be we must die -- if we must die, which alerted the u.s. government to what they described reading into the records of congress as a new attitude among our negroes. now, the intensity of that focus led to over a century which i
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believe i'm sure continues to this day in terms of that kind of counterintelligence activity. it must, because the scope of the writers that are engaged in this book, fbi, how j. edgar hoover's ghost readers frame bed african-american history, the scope of these writers is one that actually describes the entire trajectory towards freedom. what i mean by that is that we all know that all over the world and throughout the planet that african-american art and music has inspired liberation struggles globally, all over world. so it is contained within this letture, and that is why -- literature, and that is why the fbi took so much assiduous care in analyzing it, in disrupting it, in destabilizing it. and eventually along the way with some sort of version of
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literary black face, writing it themselves. it's a shame that this book has not received more attention here in the united states. but i suspect that part of that lack of critical reception has to do with not only that these programs continue to go on, but the stark mirror image of what's taking place in terms of surveillance of artists and writers and intellectuals is taking place now. one of the revelations arrives out of this book was that at one time several dozen black american writers, including ishmael, were on a list of those to be to awe rested in the -- to be arrested in the case of national emergency. just going to put you all in prison right away. i'm sure that list still exists today. and had the writers who are
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talked about within this extraordinary book, had these been beat folks or black mountain folks or new york school folks, you never would have heard the end of it. but it's not. so that's a difficulty that we all are going to have to face. but i, i urge you to do the hard work and to honor the example and to find your way to read this book. and it is a great pleasure to introduce you to william j. maxwell who did, as i said, the hard work, the very difficult work of dealing with the bureaucratic apparatus that keeps most of this information hidden. he excavated it, he brought us this gift. bill maxwell, it's a great pleasure to bring you the american book award. [applause] >> thank you so much. all right. so i'm beginning to think i'm in
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a hotbed of leftists here. [laughter] which is a bit per terrifying, but it feels like coming home. [laughter] so i'm an english professor which means if i stand before one of these things, i deliver long, boring lectures. but i won't do that today, i'm just going to thank people. i want to thank before columbus foundation for helping with this book in many ways. this gentleman here for being an ideal reader. and one of the subjects of the book for blessing the book which was itself a fantastic blessing. i've actually heard from a number of contemporary african-american writers about this book, and that is the greatest honor of all. one thing i'd like to particularly praise the before columbus foundation -- that's a theme -- anyway -- [laughter] one way in which it breaks down segregated walls and one way to take seriously and critically historical writing as writing, right? i am tremendously honored by that fact. and i'd also like to thank my
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publisher, or princeton university press, which actually thought it could sell an academic book. [laughter] so it sold a few copies, and now i'm speaking with you. i actually sat down and wrote a book, which academics do occasionally. okay, so here's a few people i'd like to thank. i will not give you the four-and-a-half hour lecture i had planned. i'd like to thank my family. that's a shock, but i'd like to thank jules, my partner, my wife. i'd like to thank my kid, and i hope he leaves the midwest too. though i lo st. louis. [laughter] i'd like to thank my sister stephanie, i'd like to thank caroline. i'd like to thank my parents who were working class kids made good through the book and all they gave me, and i wish they were here today. so thank you to my family. and what my family teaches me is that every time out, every damn time out life trumps art, right? [laughter] i used that word, trump.
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[laughter] okay. so i would like also to thank the freedom of information act, okay? which is one of the sometimes underemphasized successes of the 1960s in this country. an achievement of the american left. that is still bearing fruit. it's an important tool of our democracy. so let's have a hand for the freedom of information act. [applause] without which this book would be impossible, right? i'd actually like to thank some of the employees of the fbi, the people who process these requests, okay in who work with some diligence, many of whom are people of color, actually. i don't want to thank james comey in any way, shape or form -- [laughter] but, you know, you should write away for your figures files because they're easier to come by than you might think. they're often disturbing, right?
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they're evidence of crimes, but they're also surprisingly insightful documents at moments. it turns out police are good readers in certain ways. i would like to thank the african-american writers in the book, some of whom are here today. thank you, ishmael reed, for giving me a life, for saving my life in various ways. and i say that quite seriously. and for for giving us an example for something that we're all going to have to live with in the 21st century which is how to live with surveillance with grace and creativity. the fbi broke people, but it also strangely enough inspired a lot of very fine black writing. black writers have been dealing with this scourge that we all now have in our pockets, okay in. [laughter] and again, i'd just like to thank all, and i'm honored to be here. [applause]
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>> how's everybody doing? hanging in there? it's is so wonderful to hear all these wonderful voices speaking out. i want to echo all the accolades that ishmael reed has received, and he deserves much more. if not for ishmael reed, we wouldn't have established the critics award, and he fought for that. and we all realize that, what a visionary he is. ray youngbear is a lifetime rez tent of the mess quack key -- mess quack key settlement in central iowa. his poems have been collected into three books. the recipient of a grant from the national endowment for the arts, ray youngbear has taught creative writing and native american literature at numerous
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schools across the united states including the university of iowa and the institute of american indian arts. we are sad that he wasn't able to join us today. of his work, he says, i'm not exaggerating when i tell you that ray youngbear is the best poet in indian country. and in the top 46 in the whole dang world. sacred and profound, profound and irreverent, his poetry pushes you into a corner, roughs you up a bit, maybe takes your wallet and then gives you a long kiss good-bye. [laughter] yeah, that's alexei all right. manifestation wolverine is the collected poetry of ray youngbear, the definitive collection from a ground breaking native american poet whose work traces the fault line
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between past and present, real and surreal, comedy and tragedy to unveil a transcendent new vision of the world hailed by bloomsbury review as the nation's foremost contemporary or native american poet, ray youngbear draws on mess quack key tradition to create poems that provoke, astound and heal. it's an indispensable volume which i'm really looking forward to reading. especially now with the standoff at standing rock, we really need to support our brothers and sisters out there in that long struggle because they will stand their ground. and so i'm personally very afraid for what's going to happen because pipeline people are just as determined to profit from that land. stolen ground.
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so again, i'm so happy to know that ray youngbear will be getting this award. the next award, if i can find it here, is for the book the american slave coast, a history of the slave breeding industry. seems to be the theme today, looking back at the slave past. hamilton, etc. ned and constance, the authors, ned sublet is the author of cuba and its music, the world that made new orleans and the year before the flood. constance has published -- publishes as constance ash. she has three novels and edited the anthology not of women born. unfortunately, they were also
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not able to join us today. of the book, counterpunch says they have provided the world with one of the best history books ever written about the united states. .. [inaudible conversations]
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[inaudible conversations] >> i just brought the cover because the book weighs three pounds. nearly 800 pages. and every word is important. so it is my honor to except the american book award for authors ned and constance sublet, their extraordinary book, the american slave coast. i will read the sublets acceptance. the authors wish to thank justin , demone and the columbus foundation. saying, we salute the foundation on the longevity of the american
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book award and whose magnificent play list were thrilled to's. i also share that sentiment. i an awardee last year. so i am very happy to be here again. the sublets continue, perhaps because of the stimulating name, before columbus, and because the american slave coast is squarely in the genre of american hoyt, history, it took awhile for it to sink in for us this one a history award but a literary award, which is particularly gratifying because he have long read history as literature and vice a versa. creating historical narratives i a literary act and never-ending task pause people interrogate
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history differently over time, different moments have different urgent questions. different reference points, different sources, different taboo. the publisher published all three of ned's books. all four were -- creating a long-term continuity of editor, publisher and writer that is unusual today. the solid erredder to you're support allowed to create large historical structures which is against the grain of the publishing industry, and focus on short books and more narrow topics. our book is 265,000 words, and weighs the pounds in hardback. at first we were apologetic for its length and heft, but in new
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orleans, a woman said to us, it takes a book that big to tell our story. they continue: the american slave coast is a history of the united states. it takes into account something that everyone in slavery days understood. the workings of the slave breeding industry, which was a unique creation of anglo-american entrepreneur ship and would was central to american politics politics and s as long as its existed. all american history looks different when the slave-breeding history is taken into account and key events like the annexation of texas and california are inexplicable without reference to it. this it's history of the slave-breeding industry which is did he find as individuals who
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profited from enslavement of african-american children at birth. at the heart of our condition is the connection between the league fact of people as property, the chatle principle, and the national expansion. our narrative is a history of the making of the united states as seen from the point of view of the domestic slave trade. it also traces the history of money in american. in the southern united states, slavery was inex-trick my associated with its own economy, interconnected with that of the north. one of the two principal products over the antebellum economy was stable crops which provided the cash flow, primarily cotton, the united states' major expert. the other d export.
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the other -- talking about products. and money. the other was enslaved people who counted as capital and was the stable wealth of the south. african-american bodies and child-bearing potential massive amounts of credit, the use of which made slave owners the wealthiest people in the country. when the southern states formed the confederacy they declared independence for their economic system in which people were money. the conflict between north and south is a fundamental trope of american history, but in our narrative, the major conflict is intrasouthern. the commercial an to go system between virginia, the great slave breeder colonial, and state, and south carolina, the
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great slaves importer forks control of the markets that supplied slave labor to the coat ton kingdom. -- cotton kingdom. the dramatic power struggle between the two was central to the constitutional con sense in philadelphia in 1787 and to secession in 1861. what has prevented our presence today is associated with this weekend's performance at new york city simphone any space. a two-hour reading of the book with multiple voices and a live score. for two hours, a theater full of people listen and respond to historical discourse. it was cathartic and we hope to present it in other cities. at the top of the slow flier we proudly set a banner, american book award winner.
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so many people have congratulated us on the award, and our publishers very happy. we send a profound thank you to the before columbus foundation, and we feel dumb for not being there to celebrate with you today. thank you. that's the end of their statement, and i want to say congratulations to all the awardees today. it's been a wonderful afternoon listening. thank you. [applause] we're getting there. closing. >> in autumn of 2015, tatanaba joynson, then a student
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california state university, sacramento, challenged the mischaracterization and distortions of the history of the so-called new world as taught by one of her prefers. the voracity of her arguments war backed by the luminous documentation from credited historians from thought the west. documentation she offered to the bias she understood of dismissive of genocide in the americas and slavery in africa. she understood her culture and what was at stake and not defending it. she chose a path of integrity and honor. then-prefer retaliated by disenrolling her to the classroom. the pursued justice through the filing of official complaints with the university, garnering attention and sustain attention to international attention to her struggle.
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the challenged the status quo on the genocide led to the establishment of new faculty and new curriculum at the university. more than this, miss johnson's example has nourished of countless others. we at the before columbus foundation, honor miss johnson's bravery, example, and intellectual integrity with the inauguration of our andrew hope award named for or long-time board member, poet, andrew hope iii, passed away in 2008. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] >> hello, everyone. unfortunately my sister could not make it today, but i am her younger sister. >> smoke signals airs. i will read the first section of my sister's speech. i would first like to start by saying thank you. thank you to every heard work -- hard working individual who made this event possible and the kind
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and brilliant people at the before column was foundation to choose to recognize me today. it's nothing short of an absolute honor to be here even if only in spirit and thought. i am both incredibly thankful and humbled to be among such amazing, inspiring, hard working individuals. i'm quite honestly unsure of what too say in face of so many brilliant people so i'll keep it as honest and simple as i can. i'm just a girl who wants to do the right thing. my people and my parents taught me that we have always been responsible for more than just ourselves, that we come from a land with a deep history and an ancient sacred circle that we are responsible for -- my patients taught me -- always told me the truth about the her don done on our people. they in other words the power of
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history so they told me grassily, piece by piece, stories of our family's survival until i was old enough to hold the weight of the truth. every year in elementary school we celebrated columbus day with reference and without any mention of violence, domination. we celebrated thanksgiving with arts and crafts and turkey cutouts and pilgrim hats and indian feathers and head bans. in fourth agreed it was map dealted we vision a california mission and tacoma a 3 -- model after learning about its history. in middle school we learn updated versions. some it one until high school that our lesson plans continued any truth about any real violence that occurred during the invasion of native land and people. it was my parents, not school teachers who teach me about the drought of columbus. my parents taught me about the aftermath of those first thanksgivings. it was my parents who held my
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hand when we visited the mission and warned me about the evils that took place inside those walls. my parents taught me the truth about the united states and it wag was my parents who made me a unafraid to peek at -- speak the truth. >> my name is martina johnson. [speaking in foreign language] i am navajo, from arizona, from the navajo reservation. my husband is from northern california. we have two girls, and one is pursuing a degree in theater and english, and right now she is at a part in one of the plays that is going on over at the capital theater in sacramento so she couldn't be here today.
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so, i will read the part where she -- this is a poem sloat about her experiences. when my professor at sacramento state university said, genocide is not what happened to native americans, genocide implies a purposeful dissemination. mose natives were wind out by diseases. it was not genocide. silence was not an option. genocide is more than bloodshed. it is in present day denial of the truth, repression of those -- it is the truth -- the denial of truth and re repression of those who fought for it. genocide is the fight that is taking place right now at sacred stone camp in north dakota.
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genocide is the reason natives have been fighting for the right to exist for the past 500 years. it's the reason we exist inadvice my and -- invisibly and the reason we live so resiliently. because we survive, we laugh, we love, and we listen. though we are outnumbered, we are far from being a defeated people. as long as we are here, there will always be warriors who will take a stand for what is right and true. there are millions of blank spaces in the spaces -- in the places where the faces of our people should be. there are billions of blank spaces in the earth where a tree once stood. a river once flowed, and the green of the earth sang a sweet sun song. we look to the land and so many are gone.
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we look to what survived and hope it's alive. we look to the sky, say a prayer, and hello, because there are not -- bus they are not here but they are there and we are not here but there in the sky. writing dreams with a smoke of a star sacred memory. singing back into the space wes lost. we are resilient, hopefulling and we are alive. as first people, as first nation people, we neither had nor needed a constitution or bill of rights. we already had the elements in our cultures by which to treat our people, our children, our women, and our elders. we have paid a staggering price for our 1924 citizenship and our 1948 right to vote that no other americans will ever have or
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will. with this staggering price we have paid, the ideals that drive our people forward, whether in the past or now, are based on truth. speaking up against the denial of native genocide that this nation built its foundation mon was not and is not an attack on the united states. the united states of america is my country. the united states of america is your country. the united states of america is our country. speaking up does not attack or diminish the united states. she poke up a year before standing rock. the strategy and tactics being used against american citizens standing rock or adaptations what russia employs against people of georgia and ukraine.
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the beatings of elders and women and plain-clothesed infiltrators and instigator, the use of military equipment, stopping the broadcast of human and rights violation, the police denying constitutional right of peaceful assembly, the seizure of land and continuing persecution of unarmed citizens are grueling sad chapter in the greater story. speaking up is speaking the truth. defending the truth that will -- that the united states must reconcile to avoid the trash heap of history. speaking up was and is having faith in all americans to have the intellectual and moral strength to deal with the truth. heal from the truth, learn from the truth, and become stronger american people. thank you nor for -- for the award. [applause]
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[inaudible conversations] >> before concluding this afternoon's award ceremonies and bringing up and welcoming our fellow board member, margaret porter troop, who will be accepting the lifetime achievement award for louise mary-weather, want it to make a couple of short announcements. those who are here to receive the award, behalf we leave if you could all gather on the stage, we's like to invite tuesday tuesday -- tennessee reed to take photographs and emmore everyone here to join us around the corner for our reception.
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celebrating our winners this afternoon. very close by, just right around the corner. i don't have the address in front of me. but i can tell you it's about a three-minute walk. there will be a guide group heading over there. but again in all seriousness, the before columbus foundation offers on a shoe string budget and every once in a while the shoe string snaps, and i don't want to see that. i know you don't. so at the beginning of the program i mentioned a number of different things that we are cultivating in our relationships with our partner advertise san francisco public library and the oakland book festival and also urge all of you to contribute to sustaining the before columbus foundation and matter of fact i brought receipts so you can
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write it off an your taxes. i have a folder of them here so you can come see me, either here or around the corner win we gather at the reception. so, again, we're very happy that margaret porter troupe to make the trip across country to join is this afternoon to accept the lifetime achievement award for louis maryweather and say just a few wores of introduction for those who are not familiar with miss maryweather's or work. you're in for surprises win the, a and panorama of it in tour she holds a unique and hallowed position, many positions, actually. as a pioneer of women's letters, as a pioneer of african-american art, she staked out new territories, uncharted, untaken down in words, but not entirely
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unknown, to the inner lives of black women, to sisters, husbands, brothers, sons, and daughters, old and young. the emotional complexity of her characters revealing the fragility of her own expansion intelligence, disclosed a consistent empathy to hold her people close. despite whatever contradictions may exist, despite the terrorrors and turmoil there is always, always, at the center, deep and abiding sense of their own shared humanity. it is this immense quality of dignity, trust, belief in the human spirit we honor and bestowing the american become award for lifetime achieve to louis maryweather and welcome to the stage margaret porter troupe. [applause]
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>> thank you. good evening, good afternoon. it's my pleasure to be here today. i am a relatively new member of the board and i am very proud and privileged to be able to serve in a very small way as a member of the board of before columbus foundation. thank you ishmael reed for asking me to join the board. thank you for your support, and thank you for the great legacy that you have left -- that you leave for us, the model that you present for me, personally, as someone who is committed as a wonderful writer, but also as an activist. which is the same way i feel about louise maryweatherer who spent her entire life others a creative writer also as an activist, and committed to human rights and committed to helping to leave the world a better
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place than she found it. she and i have known each other for perhaps 40 years, but only now am i really beginning to get to know her, both as a writer and as a human being. she enjoyed her 93rd birthday on may 8th this year. my birthday is may 9 so we are sisters and twins in a way, sharing almost the same birthday. i feel privileged to have met her and to know her and to know her unrelenting energy. she is finishing her fourth novel. she has just finished the fourth draft of it and is the most up to do it person i know on contemporary movies, film, and
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knows and goes to see every film, every day. she is extraordinarily active and beautiful. the manhattan burrough leader memorialized her contributions to the art as well as to her advocacy for civil rights, human rights, et cetera so on her behalf i am so privileged to accept this award and as she sents her thank and gratitude. so thank you all for having me. [applause] >> so, once more, if you walk down the is to corner here, and then you walk up that way -- you
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got the days. right around the corner on hayes. thank you, steve. you'll be seeing some of us walking there. i'm going with them. 398 hayes, three-minute walk. so, if we could have the winners of the -- oh in regard to -- yeah, actually, ishmael, do you want to come up and say something about joyce? >> darryl -- carol thomas is a
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member of the column columbus foundation. she began her police officer picking cotton, like this old 1950 stuff in the cotton field and was the fifth member of a nine- -- had a big family. nine children. and she worked her way out of the cotton fields through literacy, began writing books. her hispanic coworkers, david murray says people left the cotton fields and the -- fruit-pickers because the chicanos were must faster. but she received -- sat san jose university and i wanted to say her fellow hispanic workers taught her spanish, and so she received a ma in spanish at san jose university.


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