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10th Independent Mixed Regiment

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

10th Independent Mixed Regiment was a regiment of the Imperial Japanese Army that has association with a number of U.S. National Register of Historic Places-listed places in Guam.

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  • ✪ The Juneteenth Book Festival Symposium on Black Literature & Literacy
  • ✪ The River War, An Account of the Reconquest of the Sudan by Winston S. Churchill
  • ✪ Interview with Richard H. Wells, OEF veteran. CCSU Veterans History Project

Transcription

>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Good morning. Good morning, everybody and welcome to the African and Middle Eastern Division and to the Library of Congress. I'm Mary-Jane Deeb, Chief of the African and Middle Eastern Division. And I and my colleagues here at the Library, Jane Sanchez who is the Chief of the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, the -- our Deputy Associate Librarian who is here, especially to meet with you today, Sandy Lawson and Sibyl Moses, Marieta Harper, Eve Ferguson, Robert Casper, Paul Zany and many, many others who have worked so hard to make this event possible. We are all delighted to see you here to celebrate together at the Library the 150th Juneteenth Anniversary which has been celebrated in Galveston, Texas since June 19, 1865. It is Maria Fenton, the President of the Juneteenth Book Festival who we must all thank for coming up with the idea of having an event at the Library to celebrate this occasion with a symposium on black literature and literacy. But before we begin, we need all to stand up for a minute in silent prayer for the victims and their families of the tragic shooting on Wednesday in Charleston at Mother Emmanuel Charleston Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Described in 2013 by its pastor, the Reverend Clemente Pinckney, who was slain two days ago as a very special place because this church in this site, in this area have been tied to the history and life of African-Americans since the early 1800s. Thank you. This tragedy reminds us of the price so many have had to pay for freedom. For all the freedom is a universal right. It is not always recognized as such and we should never, never take freedom for granted. There are still today an estimated 30 million people who are illegally enslaved in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. What is important is to remember that freedom is not only a matter of physical freedom i.e. to be able to live where one wants to live, to travel wherever one desires, to choose how to earn one's living. But it is also the freedom to say what one thinks, the freedom to follow one's faith, the freedom to read, write, create in a way that is unhindered and free. In many parts of the world, people are killed for their beliefs, imprisoned for their writings, flogged for their blogs, beheaded for their views. So today, we should remember all those who gave their lives to fight for those freedoms and again, we should not ever rest on our laurels and believe that freedom is a given. We should always in every way defend those rights, speak up against attempts to limit or to curtail them in any way. And today, we have you here. We have you here to speak to us of black literature and literacy. Of this important, incredibly important issue of the right to speak up, to write, to think freely, to create and to share with others. So let me pass on now the microphone to our Deputy Associate Librarian who has been here, who has come especially today to welcome you in the name of the Library, in the name of the Librarian, Sandy Lawson. [ Applause ] >> Sandy Lawson: Thank you, Mary-Jane. And good morning, everyone. I do bring greetings to you from Library Services. The Deputy, the Chief of Library Services, Mark Sweeney, the Associate Librarian for Library Services, and also from the Librarian. This is a very special occasion, a very special celebration. Today is Freedom Day. Today is Emancipation Day. And today is Juneteenth. We celebrate today the end of slavery in the United States and this -- with this exciting Juneteenth Book Festival Symposium. I want to thank the staff of the African and Middle Eastern Division, the Humanities and Social Sciences Division, the Poetry and Literature Center, and the Juneteenth Book Festival Incorporated for sponsoring this event. And as Mary-Jane said, unfortunately, we must also reflect today during this celebration, the devastation that took place in Charleston, South Carolina. We have to keep the victims, their families, friends, the City of Charleston in our thoughts as we look at the program and listen to the speakers today. Thank you to all the speakers and to all the honored guests who are here today for bringing the literacy and literature of the people of the African diaspora to the forefront. We're all in for some very exciting panel discussions and some interesting information I'm sure will emerge from this symposium. So I hope that you all enjoy it and thank you for inviting me and hope to see you and talk to you later today. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Jane Sanchez: Good morning. Thank you for joining us for the Juneteenth Book Festival Symposium. We welcome you and we are pleased to welcome you to the nation's library, the Library of Congress. My name is Jane Sanchez and I, along with the very talented staff, comprise the Humanities and Social Sciences Division. When the opportunity to co-sponsor and support this symposium presented itself, we seized the opportunity to join with the African and Middle Eastern Division, the Poetry and Literature Center and the Juneteenth Book Festival Inc. We did that because the subject of Juneteenth encompasses so many of the disciplines that we are responsible for in the Humanities and Social Sciences Division. We are responsible for developing collections for that area and so many different areas that include African-American history and culture, education and literacy, literature, political science, local history and genealogy, poetry and many, many other areas. We hope you will enjoy today's symposium and we hope that as a result, you will develop new strategies and new opportunities for publishing and promoting black literature, enhancing literacy and for capturing the stories and lives of Africans in diaspora. Please come back and make use of the rich and varied collections that we have preserved in your nation's library. We hope to see all of you again. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Maria Fenton: Good morning. >> Good morning. >> Maria Fenton: This has been a long time coming. And I'm not just talking about the 16 months that I've been working on this project. I'm talking about 150 years a long time coming. And I welcome you all and I feel so welcome and I want to first thank the Library of Congress for making me feel so very welcome. And yeah -- [ Applause ] And making it not just a nice little cliché, but an actuality, and a knowing that you can do anything that you apply your mind and your heart to. But it has to be a combination of both the mind and the heart, the both. So why Juneteenth? Why a book festival? Why you? Juneteenth? Book festival, for real? So first of all, I'm an immigrant. I was born in London. I came over as a young child. And so I don't have the African-American story. I have the African story. And the beauty of the African story and the African diaspora is that waters, borders, governments set lines and this is where this one begins and this is where that one ends means nothing to the African people. You know your people, right? And so for me, being able to say, "Okay, I want to put together something that celebrates the thing that I love which is words, the thing that was given to me early on in life which is words. Whereas we didn't have a lot of money, we didn't have a lot of access to a lot of things but we had access to the libraries. Libraries at school, libraries at home and we made use of them." So when things happen that were as wonderful, I went to a book. When things -- something happened that was horrible, I went to a book. And that's exactly what they were doing back 1865 -- 1773, Phyllis Whitley was writing when it was uncalled for. She was supposed to just survive. How dare she sit back and create? How dare she take the word and make it her own, form her own sentences, create her own thoughts, write her own story? Write her own story. That is what I want us to remember is to write our own stories. Be stewards of our stories. One of the things that makes a person free is the ability to define and think for yourself. There's a reason why we're doing this here in the Library of Congress because this is the land of the primary source, people. You don't have to go to another source to have something fed to you. You can go to the source. It is open and available to you and find out and write about it and critique it for yourself. Juneteenth is about, yes, Galveston and the emancipations and it's kind of story but the history of emancipation is a storied history. There are, we have emancipation Day on April 16th in DC then you have Juneteenth on June 19th and people kind of throw their hands up in the air because they don't really know what it is because that's exactly how it unfolded. It was storied. It was complicated and then the story was retold in ways to benefit some and to demote others. But what I'm calling for us to do, this festival -- yes, we want to celebrate but it is a call to action. It is a call to read your books. It is a call to publish books of quality. It is a call to write your own story and to critique the stories that are out there. Engage with it. So yes, I'm excited that we get to celebrate it but as what's going on in South Carolina, as what's happened in Baltimore, what happened in Chicago with all the places that are around us, all the violence, all of the tragedies. One of the key things that we get to do is know our stories and own our stories and retell and share our stories. And I hope that this festival is an inspiration for those, for average people, right? I'm an average woman. For average people to say, "I'm going to make my mark and I'm going to lead it and why? Because it needs to be led." So thank you and thank you for coming. [ Applause ] >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Okay and now we call upon Hari Jones, the curator of the African-American Freedom War Foundation and Museum. All right. >> Hari Jones: Good morning. >> Good morning. >> Hari Jones: Today, I will begin by telling you a lie. That lie is that on June 19, 1865, slaves in Texas finally learned that they had been freed by the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This lie has been advanced in legislation, in the popular culture as an explanation for Juneteenth celebrations. This lie is predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of the Emancipation Proclamation and its enforcement. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863 as, "A fit and necessary war measure for suppressing said rebellion." In that fit and necessary war measure, President Lincoln declared forever free all persons held as slaves in the 10 states that were at war with the United States for the independence on January 1, 1863. And the five still holding states that did not Abraham Lincoln as -- that accepted Abraham Lincoln as president; the Emancipation Proclamation did not apply. It only applied to the states that had to be brought back into the Union by military conquest. On September 22, 1982, in the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln warned the rebellious states, giving them 100 days to return to the Union or he was going to declare free their slaves. Frederick Douglas, eight days later, wrote in his monthly that in order for the Emancipation Proclamation to free any slaves, two conditions had to be met. The first condition was that the states in rebellion still had to be in rebellion as of January 1, 1863. And the second condition was, "We must have the ability to put down the rebellion." In late 1862, the enslaved knew that an order to be freed by the Emancipation Proclamation, they would have to contribute to suppressing the rebellion thus to preserving the Union. And this would have to be done through military conquest. Thus begun -- thus began their military campaign for emancipation and union. It was understood by many members of Congress, the President's Cabinet, the Confederate Legislature and Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, that the Emancipation Proclamation was a cry for help to America's African-descent population. Jefferson Davis told the Confederation Legislature in January 1863 that the Emancipation Proclamation was, "An authentic statement by the government of the United States of its inability to subjugate the south by force of arms." Meanwhile in Texas, there is clear evidence that enslaved persons in Galveston knew of the Emancipation Proclamation in late 1862. Galveston was captured the Union Navy in October 1862 -- a navy comprised of 25% African-American sailors. The Austrian Council at Galveston wrote a letter to the Union Naval Commander, Admiral William Renshaw, stating that Texas slaves had run away and been given refuge by Renshaw's fleet. The Council wanted to know if his slaves ran away, would the Admiral return them? Renshaw unequivocally said, "No." Only a small army force, the 42nd Massachusetts Infantry was assigned to occupied Galveston and the rebels recaptured Galveston on the day the final Emancipation Proclamation was issued, January 1, 1863. Union soldiers and sailors were taken as prisoners of war and these Union soldiers and sailors with knowledge of the Emancipation Proclamation reported contact with enslaved Texans as some were assigned to the POWs as cooks. The Union strategic plan neglected military operations in Texas through much of 1863. Lincoln's priority in the west was on controlling the Mississippi River. And Lincoln believed that the only way the Mississippi could be controlled is with the help of the African descent population. When General Nathaniel Banks started a Texas expedition along the Red River, he was ordered back to the Mississippi in support of General Ulysses Grant's campaign against Vicksburg. The Louisiana Native Guards, the first African descent regimen mustered into the Union Army under the field command of African descent commissioned officers led by Captain Andre [Inaudible] assaulted the rebel position at Port Hudson along the Mississippi three times on May 27, 1863. Though these sable soldiers failed to capture the rebel fort, they were successful in keeping the rebels at Port Hudson from reinforcing the rebels at Vicksburg. Therefore they had accomplished their primary objective. Grant captured Vicksburg on July 4, 1863. Now Lincoln had called Vicksburg the key to victory. And after capturing Vicksburg, Grant wrote to President Lincoln and told President Lincoln that Vicksburg could not have been captured when it was without the help of these African-American soldiers. The general goes on to tell the President, "By arming the Negro, we have added a powerful ally." Such powerful allies would participate in General Banks' Texas expedition in November 1863. Rebel blockade runners were able to bring supplies into Texas along Texas' southernmost coast. And Banks was ordered to take that part of the Texas coast. Five [inaudible] regiments -- regiments comprised of African-American soldiers from Louisiana took part in Banks' successful Texas expedition making up 10% of the conquering force -- capturing and conquering the Texas Gulf coast from Indianola to Brownsville. These conquering soldiers brought word of the Emancipation Proclamation to Texas. John Bates was 10 years old when these military operations were going on in Texas. Bates pointed out in his WPA slave narrative that word, "traveled purty fast," and that's P-U-R-T-Y [laughter] -- traveled pretty fast in Limestone County, Texas where he was enslaved. Indeed Bates goes on to report that it was the enslaved on the plantation where he was that told the planter that they were free. The first state in rebellion to be brought back in the Union thus having its enslaves free -- enslaved free by the Emancipation Proclamation was Arkansas. It took one year and four months to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in a rebellious state and that state was not Virginia with its proximity to Washington. That state was the western state of Arkansas bordering Texas. When Arkansas was brought back into the Union as a free state on April 11, 1864 there were thousands of African descent soldiers enforcing the Emancipation Proclamation in Arkansas. Meanwhile back in the East, in 1864, African descent soldiers for the first time were deployed in the Army of the Potomac after General Grant became the general in charge in command of all the armies. In December 1864, General Benjamin F. Butler, the commander of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina organized the 25th Army Corps, the only Army Corps in American history made up of only African descent regiments. Butler wrote of his African descent soldiers, "Better soldiers never shouldered a musket." General Grant wrote in his memoirs that on April 3, 1865, the 25th Army Corps under the command of General Godfrey Weitzel captured Richmond, Virginia -- the capital of the Confederacy. The headlines in the Washington, DC newspaper, <i>The National Republican</i> read, "Glorious Fall of Richmond Captured by the Black Troops". These sable soldiers of the 25th went on to stop Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox Court House, Virginia forcing their surrender -- his surrender there on April 9, 1865. Though some contemporary scholars falsely claimed that these highly regarded soldiers were prohibited from participating in the grand review of the armies in Washington on May 22nd -- 23rd and 24th, 1865 because of their race. Without complaint, these highly motivated sable soldiers stood ready to go to Texas and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation in May of 1865. Thomas Morris Chester, an African descent war correspondent, reported that on the eve of the grand review, the word that they were embarking for Texas was received in their camps, "With a great deal of satisfaction." Out in Texas, African descent soldiers who had been there for months engaged rebel soldiers in combat in May of 1865. Galveston was captured and occupied by the Union Navy on June 5, 1865. By the end of the first week of June, the 25th Army Corps and thousands of other reinforcements were arriving in the Lone Star State. In the early morning of June 15, 1865, the rebel governor and thousands of rebel soldiers were chased out of the United States into Mexico by this imposing Union force. The tradition of the Juneteenth Ball on June 16th was thus established. General Gordon Granger was the commander of the New Department of Texas. His immediate superior, General Phil Sheridan, ordered Granger to publish general orders informing the people of Texas that all the laws enacted by the rebel governor and legislator -- legislature were null and void, that federal laws applied and thus the Emancipation Proclamation had freed all the slaves in Texas forever. Granger arrived in Galveston on June 19, 1865 and he reported to General Sheridan that when he arrived that morning, there was a brigade of the 25th Army Corps already in Galveston. Over a thousand African-American soldiers, heroes of Virginia, were in Galveston over a week before Granger showed up. Later that day, Granger published General Order Number Three and the military campaign for emancipation and union was officially declared over. Let us therefore celebrate the 150th anniversary of the end of the successful campaign for emancipation and union. On this Juneteenth, let us embrace the truth, reject the lie, and pledge ourselves to achieving liberty and justice for all in this our indivisible American republic. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Thank you. Thank you for setting the story straight, telling us the history the way it is and for a most inspiring presentation. Thank you so much. And now, we call upon Michael Graham, a poet and 2015 graduate from the Washington Latin Public Charter School. >> Michael Graham: So my name is Michael Graham. I'm Maria Fenton's son. I have -- I'm actually the youngest member of the JVF team. Oh sorry, and I'm going -- thank you. I'm going to be sharing two poems by Paolo [Inaudible] and one poem I made for myself. So, should I [inaudible] the name -- title? Oh, sorry. Wait just a moment -- Oh, iPhone, iPhone, iPhone -- okay, all right. So the first one's called "Love and Grief" by Paolo Lawrence Dunbar. Out of my heart, one treacherous winter day, I locked young love and threw the key away. Grief wandering widely, found the key, and hastened with it straightaway, back to me. With love beside him, he unlocked the door and bade love enter with him there and stay. And so the twain abide forevermore. Okay, I'm sorry. The second one is called "Life's Tragedy" Paul Lawrence Dunbar. It may be misery not to sing at all, and to go silent throughout the brimming day. All right. It may be misery never to be loved but deeper griefs than these beset the way. To sing the perfect song, and by a half-note, lose the key. There the potent sorrow, there the grief. The pale, sad staring of life's tragedy. To have come near the perfect love, not the hot passion of untempered youth, but that which lies aside its vanity, and gives, for thy trusting worship, truth. This is indeed to be accursed for if we mortals love, if we sing, we count our joys not by what we have, but by what keeps us from that perfect thing. Okay, now here's a poem I actually made on the spot. I was on a youth leadership trip in Tennessee this past month, I think, and there was a talent show and I had to make up a poem on the spot. So here's my poem. I entitled it -- I'm sorry. I'm very nervous. I don't have much to say. Except the experience for my life in DC. Please listen to me. They want me to fail. That's all they want me to succumb to, failure. The prying eyes of the ones who despise me try to make me feel like I have failed. What they do not know is that I have prevailed. Prevailed over the prying eyes for they look up to me. So I watch the sneaking eyes trying to look at the mystical figure that they despise. On the train, I smile and laugh. At work behind the bar, I smile and chuckle while keeping up my belt buckle. Trying not to be that black DC stereotype. Yes, that is all they see, the tall violent untamed black animal with the dangerous locks, the DC inhabitant. Hating on me because I do what they can't. Now this is not only for the people of white and red combined skin before other complexions. This is about the war between the light skins and dark. That's what they, those of the higher power want us to say. Light versus dark, dark chocolate versus not. What we are fighting each other on the ground for attention, we are blinded by the constant gun smoke. Our lungs are filled -- our lungs are filled because of the weed smoke. Mother Earth's weed smoke chokes us for pleasure. We get caught for the earth -- we get caught for the earth that we bought and breathed. You best believe that our protectors are now our fear dealing defectors. And now aren't -- yeah, I myself tried to be friendly and give the killers a smile so I can walk around with them for a while and not minding their blank smiles, hiding the hate but keeping control. I would rather not like them. I hang my head in fake like I have respect in order to protect myself from lying on the floor silent because of the bullet hole. They want that to be my future so they could see another black one down and give no cares and yes, it sucks. And so they realize the best drink made for them isn't made by me in Starbucks. It is I in public they do not want to see but behind bar of a coffee shop or eventually prison. But like I said, I have risen above the contempt and kept my sanity in check. For I am that young black -- young black adult who had not succumbed but surpassed failure. Before my body leaves the stage, before I go away, I have one thing to say. I'm sorry I'm so nervous. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Thank you, Michael and I know that every one of us wishes you the greatest success. We know that you will succeed. Thank you. And now, we are going to start with the first panel. And I would like to call upon the moderator, Sibyl Moses and Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Yanick Rice-Lamb, and Ethelbert Miller. We'd love to have you up on the stage for the first panel. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Sibyl E. Moses: In 1969, Amiri Baraka issued a call, SOS, calling black people, calling all black people. Man, woman, child, wherever you are. Calling you, urgent, come in, black people. Come in wherever you are. Urgent, calling you, calling all black people. Calling all black people, come in. Black people, come on in. Today we invite you to come in. Come in to celebrate Juneteenth. Come in to explore, celebrate and embrace the creativity of all black people without publishers and bloggers on the state of black literature, our stakeholders in literacy and our independent artists engaged in telling our stories. We also invite you to come in and come in again in the future to make use of the Library of Congress' vast collections both primary and secondary sources about the black experience and created by people of African descent all over the world. So please come in, listen, learn and contribute as we are here to once again -- Haki -- change the conversation and to define what is needed and to go forth and create more. We welcome our three distinguished panelists for the publishers and bloggers on the state of black literature panel. We have Dr. Haki Madhubuti. We all know the prolific author, Third World Press publisher, and founder, one of the longest-running independent black-owned publishing companies in the United States. We welcome Yanick Rice-Lamb, Associate Professor, Department of Media Journalism and Film, Howard University, author, former newspaper reporter and editor, and co-founder of FierceforBlackWomen.com, a digital health and fitness network. We welcome with most love -- our most love, the distinguished E. Ethelbert Miller right here from DC, a literary artist, activist, poet, and editor, former chair of the Humanities Council of DC and a teacher of many of us. And so, we will begin with our panelists [applause]. >> Haki Madhubuti: Good morning. >> Good morning. >> Haki Madhubuti: I'm happy to be here. My wife is with me, Dr. Carol Lee and we both came in last night to DC. I think first, it's in order to give, you know, deep thanks to Dr. Deeb, and Chief Sanchez, and Executive Director Fenton for this wonderful day. It's not easy to do this kind of work. My wife and I have been doing this kind of work for over 45 years in Chicago and the rest of the nation. And I'm here primarily because of, I guess, my work. I've published many books and actually I taught at Howard University for seven years -- eight years that when I met the distinguished Ethelbert Miller. And I'm really happy to be here with him. I haven't seen him for some time. My journey to this place has been a long one. In 1967, with $400 and a used mimeograph machine, I founded Third World Press a basement apartment in South Side Chicago with a used mimeograph machine. I started there. We now own half-a-block in Chicago where my wife and I, and others, not only operate Third World Press. We have four schools for our children, the New Concept School, the Betty Shabazz International Charter School, Barbara Ann Sizemore Academy, and the DuSable Leadership Academy. And we serviced over a thousand black children each and every day with an African-centered education. Our journey has been a long one. It's been a difficult one. But it's one that we chose. And with all the problems that we've endured in terms of trying to build these institutions, this is what we chose to do. This has been our job, our task and our journey. My journey started actually in Little Rock, Arkansas 73 years -- I'm 73 years old -- 73 years ago. With my mother, at that time, father had escaped up towards Detroit, Michigan and as Juan Killens would say. And then the journey somehow my mother who is not with us now -- in fact my mother -- this is my memoir, <i>Yellow Black </i>. This is my mother here. You see, she's a very beautiful woman. She was in the sex trade and by the time she was 34, she was dead. But before that time, she introduced me to literature. I write about it in <i>Yellow Black</i> and I write that and I talk about libraries because my mother introduced them. My introduction to the library was the first place where I could -- I could hide. Libraries are free, brothers. It was kryptonite. An oxymoron to the 10th power. Libraries in Detroit in the 1950s were white, quiet, safe and sacred places with books, ideas and white children trying to feed their minds and stay ahead. For me, the necessity of libraries was early liberation to my young mind and soul. I devoured their content like running oil in a bad engine of a used car. I was hot for knowledge and the more I received, the greater I realized the supreme ignorance of my ways and that of my family. For the first time, hope for me appeared on the horizons with the acquisition of my knowledge. Defining the pure, practical answers that seldom entered the black community propelled me into a long [inaudible] that I would never leave. To talk about ideas other than those of the books, other than the work, beating weakened women and money placed me according to most brothers on another planet [laughter]. It was like a musician discovered the beauty and brilliance of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, realizing that their music was genius and wondered if he could ever do that. The real task of getting the young musicians to try books and music encouraged me to try. Maybe it was God and [inaudible], our supreme judge who instructed my mother to actually go to the Detroit Public Library to check out <i>Black Boy </i>by Richard Wright. I, at first, refused to go because I did not want to go to a white library and ask a white librarian for a book with black in the title authored by a black man who I was told was challenging white America's concept of itself and black people. Apartheid America had worked. I was completely ashamed of who I was, felt inferior, inadequate and unprepared to answer the simple question if asked, "Why do you want to read <i>Black Boy </i>?" I found <i>Black Boy </i>with luck on the library shelf. There were two copies. I took one of them, walked into one side of the reading room and sat down and began to read. I was immediately captivated by the boldness of the language, the clarity of the ideas, the similarity of the [inaudible] and living experience within my own. The familiarity of the landscape, the intellectual genius of the protagonist to get what he needed at any given time, the feeling of Richard Wright to present a world in which our people were completely locked down emotionally, physically, economically and culturally -- yet still functioning as whole human beings. Which brings us most certainly to what happened in Charleston. Whole human beings being shot down by you know, white supremists and I know Miss Fenton spoke about it this morning but I just wanted to again -- bring it back up that our hearts go out to our brothers and sisters in Charleston. But as I read each word, each sentence of paragraph after paragraph, page after page, it was like a sledgehammer hitting me upside my head, stating in no uncertain terms, "Wake up, Negro!" I checked out <i>Black Boy </i>. Ran home, went to the room I shared with my sister and read all night. The next morning upon completion of the book, the first serious book I read in less than 24 hours, I was not a different person but a different questioner. Wright gave me content, a long content as I was beginning to move to the age of 14 and now they focused on direction for my own culture and intellectual development. His words formed the circle in our own investigation into the ways and whys of white folks and my own. Life suddenly, suddenly it slapped me right in the face. Read the white books, newspapers, magazines and journals and [inaudible] and questioning what was read is fundamental to developing a quicker consciousness and world view. Knowledge of oneself, of one's culture shapes a person. I do not know how my mother felt about the literature she read. We never talked about it. All I remember is that she once wanted me to read. She was never angered by my spending countless hours in the library. As our lives slowly slipped into another world, mine did too. Into the pavement of countless of books that put me into other worlds, cultures, places and without me knowing it, helped to determine my future. Black music had freed me creatively and black literature began to find [inaudible] me intellectually and culturally. For the first time in my young life, I realized that life has greater meaning than my personal circumstances. And I began to chance a smile in between books, concepts and what I perceived was a fine girl interested in me. I also picked up a pen and began to write my own thoughts. I didn't call my words poetry but became like square in a 12-round -- sweat in a 12-round fight that you didn't know you could win. Over proper training, there was always a possibility of gaining ground if only a yard, a word, a round at a time. You know, there's more but this whole question of literature and reading, it is absolutely necessary. For the last 75 days, I've been getting up every morning at 4:30 in the morning to write this book which will be published in August. The title of the book is "Taking Bullets" -- black men -- black boys and men in 21st century America fighting terrorism and violence and seeking human space. And what set me on this task and many of you may know I've written two other books on black men. <i>Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous </i>, African-American family transitioning <i>Tough Notes:</i> <i>A Healing Call for Creating Exceptional Black Men </i>. That my life has revolved around black people. My wife and I spend over 90% of our time in the black community. And I've had all -- you know, I've taught at research one in universities, in urban universities for the last -- I'm retired now, for the last 22 years. But the point is that our community needs so much -- -- and needs so much. >> Oh yes, yes. So much. >> Haki Madhubuti: And the great majority of our people do not know it, do not understand what we are dealing with. You know, we're dealing with empire. The United States is the last empire. >> Yeah. >> Haki Madhubuti: And these brothers are in these family corners, you know, talking, "Mac, you know, this is my turf. They paying rent." >> Yes. >> Haki Madhubuti: They don't own it, you know. I've lived here for eight years in DC. Commuted every week between Chicago and DC and I don't even know this place anymore. >> Yeah. >> Haki Madhubuti: And we don't know it. > That's true. >> Haki Madhubuti: And if such a question to ask, "Who are you? Who are you?" You ask 10 black people out on the streets, "What's your name? Who are you? Where'd you come from?" You will get 10 different answers. In fact sometimes, 20 different answers. >> Yeah. >> Haki Madhubuti: If you don't know who you are, anybody can name you. And they will. And so we find ourselves in this continued war, this continued pattern to just to be human, just to be human. Black people don't have no place else to go. And you know, these clowns are like, "Go back to Africa." What? [ Laughter ] You talking about Africa, Mississippi? You know, Arkansas? And so for us, my wife and I and -- and trying to create, we need independent black institutions. Not Negro institutions, not imitation white institutions. We need institutions that are essentially going to talk about us, to give us direction. We need family. We need community. And people say, "Well, why -- you know why does black [inaudible]?" You know, black-on-black crime exists because of white-on-black crime." >> They all do. >> Haki Madhubuti: What we do, we've been taught to do. >> Yes. >> Haki Madhubuti: You see, women taught to kill white people, not in [inaudible] -- the people who raped us in another continent so we don't do that but we kill black people because we devalued black people's lives. You see, so we got a lot of drive-by shooting but we got drive-by looters. The central problem in America is white supremacy based upon white nationalism, you see. That has infiltrated itself and lived within the context of these institutional structures and most certainly the police structures in this country -- the military and police. I've served three years in the military. I understand what exactly that meant there. And so, in trying to build these independent black institutions in Chicago, our focus has been what do we have? What do we own? You see, I'm not talking about your, you know, 18 suits. I'm not talking about your Lexus from Japan. What do you own? You see what I'm saying? And this is critical. And I just got to -- and what I do in this book, I talk about the United States' empire but what's critical about empire is wealth. We have no idea of what wealth is in the black community. Bill Gates is worth $79 billion. That's with a B. Warren Buffet is worth $73 billion. That's with a B. If you look at the total wealth of black people in the United States including Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan, this [inaudible]. [ Laughter ] And Beyonce and Jay Z and all the athletes, you're only talking about $20 billion. That's chump change in the real world. And so we have been detached from each other and what we hope in one level of literature, and I started telling what [inaudible], we have to tell our own stories. >> Yes. >> Haki Madhubuti: If you don't tell your own stories, somebody's going to tell it for you and that is essentially what happened. The winner tells the story. And the winner's getting the story out very quickly and we end up studying their story rather than our own story. >> Exactly. >> Haki Madhubuti: And so, you know, brothers and sisters, this has been a long journey and I'm rather passionate about it. And every day, you know, poetry and [inaudible] are the same but for the last 75 days, I've been working on this manuscript and all my life, all my adult life, I've been involved in literature, in books, you see. And I think that books in part represent an answer -- not the only answer but an answer, you see. And I'll just end with this. When I wrote -- when I published<i> Black Men: Obsolete, Single,</i> <i>Dangerous </i>, I got invitations from all over the country. [Inaudible] a lot of folks and the brothers down there. We sold the books to prisoners all across the country for a discount. So I was invited to a lot of prisons. And what I learned, you know, clearly and I got -- I've got a brother in prison now and another brother who's in and out of prison as well, another sister in and out as well. But what I learned quickly and very forcefully that the average brother cannot read in prison, cannot read at a sixth-grade level. If you can't read at a sixth-grade level, you can't write at a fourth or fifth-grade level. If you can't read at a sixth-grade level, you can't write at fourth or fifth-grade level, what can you do in the black community? And you find all across this country, black communities around 50 blocks, you see. We still segregate their lives and stuff. And so what can you do in that community other than go back to the [inaudible] which is largely illicit, illegal. What can you do? And so education what can -- how do you bring young men, young women into an educational system? When as you said, they're pushing us out. And one of the reasons and this -- my wife is brilliant. She's educated. I'm a poet [inaudible] and what we found was that you have to have your home must become a mini-learning institution. That the children must be -- the babies, the children must be introduced to literature early and often. I mean, we have to read to our children. We have to read to ourselves. We have to be involved in the elite intellectual pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge -- and I'll just end with this. One of the major problems this nation I think is facing -- we have ignorant people telling how to keep [inaudible] other people on it -- 85,000 black churches in this country, 2.3 million black and brown boys locked up in the [inaudible], in the criminal justice system. There's a disconnect there. Thank you. >> Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Yanick Rice-Lamb: Good morning. >> Good morning. >> Good morning. >> Yanick Rice-Lamb: I'd like to thank all of you for being here and I consider all of us word warriors and thank Maria Fenton and the organizers at the Library of Congress for putting this program together. And it's an honor to be between these two giants. I first met and heard Dr. [Inaudible] -- Haki Madhubuti when I was at Ohio State. We used to have a bus to go to the invitations conference at Howard University. >> Haki Madhubuti: Oh great. >> Yanick Rice-Lamb: You were speaking. This was in the late '70s. And Ethelbert Miller, of course. I was introduced to him by my cousin, Van Jordan, who's also a poet. And he considers Ethelbert a mentor as to why and he's also helped me with some of my own writing and also my students with their writing too. And some of the things that he mentioned earlier, I agree with. The library was very important to me and my sister, Michelle, who's out there. But we lived on up the street from the library. It was four blocks from us so we spent a lot of time there. There were a lot of books in our house. We started reading and writing early. I read the newspaper with my grandfather. And my grandmother told me at an early age that I would write a book and it seemed an impossible feat but I have done that. And that time, it was a seed that she had planted at an early age. And growing up, I also wrote poetry as a child and wrote short stories. I escaped through books and some of you remember back in the day, the list that they would give us at schools where you could take it home and talk to your parents into trying to buy these books for you, little paperbacks and things like that. So my mother, whether she had the money or not, she always, you know, set some aside so we could order books. And we also, like I said, we went to the library a lot too. And so I focused on looking for something for my life's work that's related to English and art. Those were the areas that I was focusing on which led me to journalism. Because I didn't see myself in the media and I learned that I wanted to give voice to the voiceless and try to tell stories that weren't being told. And then also hearing a lot about my own family history and the stories that, you know, my parents and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles would tell us about our family tree. And the importance of reading and I tried to do with my son also when he was a baby, reading to him. And it got to the point where he wouldn't go to sleep unless I read him a story or he would say, "Tell me a story about your life." And I would tell him about our family history. And sometimes -- and this is, I guess, something for those of you who are parents, for other people who are parents -- sometimes, we're tired after a long day and it's hard to find that time to read to our children. And sometimes, I couldn't -- literally couldn't keep my eyes open. And so then I would tell him to tell me a story or read a story to me. And he could -- really couldn't read yet. But he knew some of the stories by heart and he would turn the page at the right place. And I remember once we were at a naming ceremony for a child and someone ran to me and said, "Your son can read!" And I was saying, "No, he can't read." He just knows some of the stories by heart and he turned them at the appropriate page. They thought he was reading early [laughter]. But, you know, as an instructor now -- I'm teaching at Howard University. I can see the difference in students who were read to, in students who have a love for reading growing up and students who continue to read. And if you look at any statistics, children who were read to at least three to four times a week, they performed two to the time -- two times or at least a third better than children who aren't read to on every level that you can look at.- Whether it's learning their alphabet, whether it's reading stories, whether it's taking tests or whether it's getting into college or the reading comprehension. So it's really important that we do that. And whether we have children or not, we have to kind of expand the village with our nieces and nephews, the children in our neighborhood, giving books as gifts so that we can get them away from the video games and also trying to counter align this teaching to the test. Because students, they've learned through the test. So at this point, some students only retain as much information as they think is necessary to pass a test and that follows them in the way they handle their courses or the way they handle information throughout their lives. And we spoke earlier about you know, the opportunities that people have for their careers or whether they're participating in the underground economy if they don't have the skills of literacy to read. And we have to make those examples by what we do, you know, so we practice what we preach in terms of reading ourselves and sharing that. And sometimes even with -- my younger brother didn't like to read but he was very into sports. So I would buy him sports magazines so later on, now he reads a lot of books. And I always give my nieces and nephews books as gifts. And sometimes, they would look at me like there's Aunt Yanick again with another book. But I didn't care. I was going to give it to them anyway. So what I've done, I've worked -- I started off at newspapers and worked at the <i>Toledo Blade </i>, then later the <i>Journal Constitution </i>, <i>The New York Times </i>. Then switched to magazines so I've worked at <i>Child Magazine </i>, <i>Essence </i>. I was editor-in-chief of <i>BET Weekend </i>and<i> Heart and Soul Magazine </i>. And now, I've started a website called FierceforBlackWomen.com and another one called Fully-Connected.com. And with Fierce, one of the points of that is to tell our stories through health and fitness because we set the wrong records when it comes to health. And those stories aren't always being told. So we're also interpreting a lot of things like different studies that come out and we don't know to eat this, don't eat that or take this, don't take that -- and how that affects us. And as writers, I also encourage people to do whatever, you know, write by any means necessary so even, you know, I write books. I used to write poetry. I'm not as good as these two here so I kind of abandoned that a little bit or do it every now and then. Articles, blogs, people are telling stories through tweets but if you would say you want to be a writer, you must write and you must do it often. And it's really important to tell our stories. And also -- and I think another reason it's important to tell our stories because there's so many distractions out there and there's a lot of disproportionate focus on some stories. So in the past week or so, we've had disproportionate focus on a certain person who shall go unnamed but she's been everywhere all over social media, all over the news to the point where it overshadowed a lot of other things. And some people started putting out lists of 10 stories that you didn't pay attention to because you were focusing on her. So there's that, you know, accountability that we have as consumers, as readers, and also as writers in terms of what we put out and how we put it out and being good at what we do. A lot of times, people also want to write but they're not developing the skills they need and there are a lot of resources out there. There are other people that we can bond with to help us, you know, develop into the writers that we want to be. And also trying to put those stories out there. There are a number of different places to do that -- whether you -- there's an abundance of stories. Sometimes, there's not always the outlets if you're looking at going through traditional routes because in some of the places, if you were a publishing company, there's fewer imprints that we're focused on our stories and fewer editors at those companies. But we also have Third World Press. We also have self-publishing. A lot of people are doing eBooks now. But the important thing is to understand the process -- understand all the facts of it and know what you're getting yourself into. And making sure it's sustainable too because a lot of times, we've lost institutions whether they're magazines or newspapers or book companies or bookstores for various reasons. And so we have to make sure that they're financially sustainable and that we support them as well. So understanding what we're getting ourselves into and making sure that we're also focusing on marketing and distribution and all of that -- and word of mouth is very important in terms of supporting people. A lot of times, particularly some of my friends who are writers, if they have a book signing, if they have three, six stops here -- I'll go to every single one of them. Because as writers, some of you who write, you value every face out there whether you have six, 60 or 600 out there in the audience is really important so do everything we can to support them. And in this area, we've lost a lot of bookstores, the Caribbean chain and on and on and throughout the country. So it's important to kind of support the ones that we have and to find new ways of telling those stories and making sure that people know about them. Let me see, what else didn't I mention? Also that, you know, and that also goes to literary festivals, book clubs and also starting book clubs. I'm in two book clubs, one of them has a number of journalists in there. If you don't read, you feel guilty and ashamed if you're behind. And sometimes, if I haven't had a chance to finish the book, I try to talk about the first chapters that I have [laughter]. Lately, I have finished them. But the other one is the neighborhood -- it's in my neighborhood and some people are content to have the most prolific readers in our group tell them what happened in the story and it's more of a socializing situation. But it's an opportunity for me to make sure that I read because I'm juggling a lot of things and also we started a writer's group as an offshoot of the Color Me Red book club that I'm in because we discovered that we all had stories on the shelf that we -- some of them we hadn't done anything with. So some -- we have worked together on screenplays and books. And we encourage each other by meeting together to write together, meeting together to read our work, doing it by email when we can't read together, meet together and do the process. I was able to finish the first draft of my first novel and another member finished her screenplay. So I also worked on <i>Born to Win, The Authorized Biography</i> <i>of Althea Gibson </i>and <i>The Spirit of African Design </i>, which is a coffee table book. <i>Rise and Fly </i>which is about Bid Whist and space but also weaves in history and all of our kind of wild behavior playing cards sometimes. And various anthologies, writing about my Aunt Rose who lived to be a hundred but I didn't know she was a hundred until I walked to her wake because she lied about her age [laughter]. We lived in New York and one of the reasons she lied about her age is to make sure that she got good healthcare so people wouldn't ignore her when she was in her 80s and 90s. And then a piece called <i>Daddy, My Brother Barack and Me </i>which was in a book called <i>BET on Black </i>, African-American Women in that write on fatherhood in the age of Barack Obama. So a number of women -- we wrote about our brothers, our fathers, our husbands and other men in our lives who were good fathers. And that's really important -- Father's Day is coming up and we have a piece on Fierce this weekend that will encourage women to make sure that they keep the fathers in the lives of their children. But as I -- again, as I said, I think it's really important for us to give voice to the voiceless, to tell our stories. And you know, whether we tell them in words, you know, through other forms of art, and or when we write them down -- it's important that we write them down too because we have a lot of rich stories. And I've also been encouraged to see more people writing memoirs. A lot of times people didn't think that they had stories to tell and that -- or you had to have accomplished so much before you told a memoir. But we now see a lot more people doing that. And encouraging children to write stories too and write their books. So I'm encouraged to see in school sometimes where they've been buying some of the books that some of the students have and have programs built around that. And also at Howard, in the Department of Media Journalism and Film, we tell stories there in the various different forms whether they're through journalism, through audio, through television production and also through film. And Haile Gerima will be here this afternoon. He's one of our esteemed filmmakers and please support Sankofa, one of our remaining bookstores in this area. On that note, I will stop. [ Applause ] >> E. Ethelbert Miller: It's always good now and then to assess a state of African American literature. What does this mean? First, it should mean a close examination of all genres. Second, it might consist of a study of the work of writers of significance, as well as writers of applause. By applause I mean those writers who win mainstream acceptance and awards. Third, the state of African American literature should also be evaluated while taking into consideration technological economic changes within our society. These changes can have a key influence in determining how our literature is produced, distributed and consumed. Four, if we could look at the literature through the eyes and works of literary critics, whose work attempts to offer clarity and understanding to the body of work created by African Americans at any specific time in history. Finally, the state of African American literature offered mirrors [phonetic] to social and political transition and transformation of global black culture. Let me for just a few minutes present what is simply a probe into the state of African American poetry today. Any study of African American poetry begins with an acknowledgement that there is always two streams, one oral and the other written. Now and then, they overlap creating hybrid structures, as well as poets who have diverse literary portfolios and bodies of work. Spoken word, for example, is very popular today. Its energy incurred by social movements, changes in social media and even urban gentrification driven by the opening of new cafes. Spoken word at time, competitive in nature, can be viewed as empowering a young generation. A generation coming over age during the occupied movement, the rise of police brutality, income and equality, power of spring and the growing [inaudible] of radical Islam, drones and hashtags. If black lives matter in 2015, so does black poetry. Yet, I would underscore that the most important development responsible for the changing state of African American poetry is the organization Cave Canem. In 2015, we probably have more African American poets than ever before in our history. The same way we have more photograph -- photographers because of cell phones. Maybe the cell phone and iPod is the reason for so many poets. Consider how this poem by jazz poet, Ted Joans, takes on a different meaning because of our technology. <i>The Truth </i>-- "If you should see a man walking down a crowded street, talking aloud to himself, don't run in the opposite direction, but run toward him, for he is a poet. You have nothing to fear from the poet but the truth." There's a good chance someone walking towards you talking aloud is talking on a cell phone. The question we should ask ourselves is whether we should ignore this person. What are the social implications if we do? We could also ask, where are the poets? It's just a matter of time before someone fascinated with numbers issues a report of how many young people are doing spoken word on a given block or subway car. Like money ball and baseball, the state of African American poetry has given voice to the voiceless. So many numbers to consider. If everyone is reciting poetry, is everyone a poet? Today there's an unregulated freedom of expression, which mirrors the internet. What we are now witnessing might be the true poetry of the people. Where poet and critic, Larry Neal, once pondered the possibility of black poets being as popular as James Brown, today common might be just common to all of us. Meanwhile, what cannot be overlooked is the impact the organization Cave Canem has had. This organization founded by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady might best be compared to NASA. Instead of training astronauts for space, Cave Canem is helping to create literary stars. Started in 1996, Cave Canem's mission was to be a home for the many voices of African American poetry and it's committed to cultivating their artistic and professional growth. Still, how does Cave Canem affect the state of black literature? Never before have we systematically attempted to educate and train African American poets. We have a new generation of African American poets who are now teachers of creative writing. To some degree, we have started to workshop the black experience and place a heavy emphasis back on the craft of making a poem. I think Cave Canem has three tiers consisting of first, faculty members and workshop leaders, poets -- poets currently accepting and participating in the workshops and a strong politically active network of graduates who maintain creative and social ties despite geographical separation and distance. Pick up any number of new books published by African American poets by well-known publishers and one will notice quite often a reference to Cave Canem in the author's bio note. If one visits the Cave Canem website, simply examine selected milestones which consist of the achievements of Cave Canem faculty. Names mentioned are Elizabeth Alexander, Terrance Hayes, Nikky Finney, Tracy Smith and Natasha Trethewey. The arms of Cave Canem is so outreaching that even E. Ethelbert Miller is listed as the honorary director. One thing which Cave Canem has done, which is very important, is a creation of its legacy conversations. This archive helps to document an overview of African American poetry. In 2004, Elizabeth Alexander interviewed -- interviewed Haki Madhubuti. In 2006, I sat down with Alexander. This type of documentation of African American poetry has altered -- undertaken by Dr. Joanne Gabbin, the founder and director of Furious Flower at James Madison University. Gabbin's Furious Flower Conference is another event that once you study in order to evaluate the state of African American poetry. Last year there was a major gathering of African American poets at Madison under the title "Seeding the Future of African American Poetry." From Furious Flower to Cave Canem, to [inaudible] Magazine. The literature edition of Afro-American poetry needs to be critically examined. Too often, for example, and [inaudible] that exclude as much as they include. In the future, we should be suspicious of [inaudible] collections that attempt to define the state of African American poetry. A good example of this might be the book, <i>Angles of Ascent </i>edited by Charles Rowell. If there's one thing I've learned over the last four decades is that literary politics is alive and well. If we honor who we are, then we will never be post-racial. The mirror -- mirror reminds us of history's horrors. We only need to look out the window to know our struggle continues. Everywhere we live, not suffocating, but breathing, our beauty residing in our blackness, everlasting or shall we simply say, eternal. [ Applause ] >> Enjoyed the comments of each of you. So I have a question. I work on the campus of the Historically Black College. And I would like to spearhead an initiative to get books in the hands of each of our students. And I'm wondering if you have any suggestions on how I can go about doing that. I thought about maybe trying to do a book festival, but our students can't even afford their textbooks. A lot of them are not in the habit of reading. So, I don't know if it's practical to try to make books available for sale. But I guess I'll just leave it at that. That's the essential question. Thank you. >> Haki Madhubuti: The Third World Press, we have a [inaudible] program, anybody incarcerated in the country can write us a letter and we will send them free books [inaudible]. For libraries and especially [inaudible] talking about College University, if you write us, we will send you all the books that have been published, to your library [inaudible]. For your students, we would donate -- how many students do you have? >> [Inaudible] last spring was about 1500. >> Haki Madhubuti: Okay, I can't do that [laughter]. We can send you as a donation, say 50 copies of -- of [inaudible] -- www.thirdworldpressbooks.com. >> Yanick Rice-Lamb: I think I -- I might have some books I can donate to you as well. But I think that's one of the keys is getting people to donate books. And I know that when I worked on Althea Gibson's biography, there was someone who wanted donate books to a school and they had approached [inaudible] books when it was around and they -- they ended up donating our book. And so, then I also went to the schools to speak to the students about reading and about the book that I worked on. So that's -- that's one thing and I know our freshman class, they choose a common text for them to read. They read -- a couple years ago, they read <i>The Warmth</i> <i>of Other Suns </i>by Isabel Wilkerson. And I'm not sure if all the students purchased that book or if they were donated as well. And she came later to speak and they were able to interact with her and that helped to bring it home to them a little bit. But I think it is important, the other thing about -- when we talked about reading to children, students and young people who read for pleasure also do better in -- in school. So we have to encourage them to do it on their own for pleasure, you know, so [inaudible] encourage that. >> E. Ethelbert Miller: I could answer this on a number of levels. First in terms of -- on my first level, I've been over the last few years, creating what I call "eBoxes" giving parts of my personal collection to writers that identify, who have a lot of potential. I say that because I see books as sort of like a sacred gift, passing it on, as opposed to sometimes just putting books out in a box and hoping somebody comes by and picks it up. What I try to do is customize the -- the selection from my own personal collection to the interest of the writer, okay. So, for example, Giovanni Singleton was a poet out in California. Knowing that she was a Buddhist, I gave her a lot of books that were dealing with Buddhism and spirituality. So I -- I got books out of my house that I know were going into good hands. When we deal with glass schools, I think the first thing that we have to be concerned about it is preservation, okay. You know, I was at Howard University for 40 years. Now that I'm not at Howard University, I can speak openly. What I would be concerned about is -- is a preservation. And -- and this is a challenge to the people outside Howard University, is that we have to make sure that money is raised, you know, to protect the libraries, okay. I've always looked at historic glass schools as living organisms where you would look at the library as the heart. And I say that, especially to African Americans because of if the library is our heart, just look at the problems that we have with our heart, everything in terms of heath matters, as well as the blues, in terms of broken heart. So we don't take care of our heart. Consequently, we don't take care of our libraries at historic glass schools. Many of them are overheated for some sort of reason I would like to examine, you know, why are many libraries overheated? Okay. Which means that some of these books after awhile are just falling apart. At the same time on this last note, we have to look at the changing fact of we are living in terms of the book itself. Okay? At one time, I was a strong advocate of personal library, but we know now today that people don't collect the books the same way, they download them. And we have to look at it in terms of that way. But I think looking at, you know, Charleston, and looking at the history about that one institution, we have to look at books that need to be passed down to throughout our family, you know? As a writer, I'm concerned about the fact that in my household, my kids look at my book collection and ask, "How much is that?" Not necessarily in terms of reading the book and passing on the knowledge, but, "Oh, this book might be expensive because Ethelbert had this signed by so and so." And so, they see it as a commodity, okay. And this has a lot to do with how we see African American culture today. We sell it as a [inaudible], you know, how important is it? Going back to like the piano lessons in August Wilson's play, you know, you sell it to somebody, you keep it in the family. >> Haki Madhubuti: [Inaudible] I just want to add to what Ethelbert stated. I taught at Howard, Morgan State -- I spent 26 years at Chicago State University. I taught at research ones and so forth. To my black universities and colleges, the real problem is leadership. These boards are atrocious. I'm not serious [inaudible] that Tuskegee, I was there for three days and, you know, it's just -- it's horrible. Now we do not have enough funds in terms of monies coming in, but the leadership for the most part, do not see the library as the heart. And if you work in there, you can't say anything, you know, whether you're [inaudible] or not. But the -- the management of black historic and black college universities for the most part, I would say are the -- are the -- the 100 or so that exist, maybe 15 are doing well. And those 15 that are doing well, they still have serious trouble, you know? But with faculty members like yourself, there's always hope, you see. And just see me afterwards, I'll follow through on what I promised. >> Thank you. >> Sibyl E. Moses: Before the next question, we would like to take this opportunity to build upon what was said, especially in the area of preservation. As we move into this new age that we are currently in, the issue is preserving. How are we preserving the writings, the stories of those of us who create on the web? Those of us who, what we call, create these born digital collections where there are no print volumes available. How do we even know that they're there? So, one of the tasks before us is to begin thinking about how can we create a mechanism to get control? And that's not a negative word, but control meaning to be able to discover. To be able to discover what is out there so that we can read and -- and preserve that information. So that -- that is a big issue. One of the things that we're doing at the Library of Congress is web archiving, archiving various websites, archiving blogs, etcetera. And this again, is something for the agenda of our black institutions, to begin archiving much of this digital information. I'm turning here because we cannot carry on this conversation with black publishers, and bloggers, and black literature without mentioning or evoking the name of Dudley Randall and so many others that have really set the stage for us and on whom's the shoulders we stand. We cannot leave here, leave this panel without evoking the name of Monroe Nathan Work and when you mentioned Tuskegee, this is the man who enabled us to know who the black writers are all over the world, not just African American writers, but black writers all over the world. And so, as we have this conversation, please let us include. >> Haki Madhubuti: Yeah. Dudley Randall [inaudible]. I'm here because of -- in part because of Dudley Randall. The people that mention me as a young boy were el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, Malcolm X. Margaret and Charlie Burroughs, who founded DuSable Museum, was the first black person in the country -- in Chicago. Dudley Randall, who's the publisher -- poet and publisher of Broadside Press. >> And librarian. >> Haki Madhubuti: And librarian. And he used all his money from, you know, being a librarian and he was my first publisher. I published my first book myself, which was <i>Think Black </i>in 1966 and then 1967, 1968 -- at '68, Dudley Randall published <i>Black Pride </i>. I met Dudley Randall after Malcolm had been assassinated -- well, let me just mention these other three mentors because I can't go without them. Hoyt W. Fuller, who was the editor of <i>Negro Digest Black World Magazine </i>, which was a major magazine to document that whole period between the late 1960's and up to 1975. And then, of course, Barbara Sizemore. Barbara Sizemore was -- Dr. Sizemore was the first black superintendent here in Washington D.C. Of course, she didn't last too long because of her love of black children. Then of course, finally the person that essentially mentioned me the longest was Gwendolyn Brooks, for 33 years, part of the family. But Dudley Randall and -- and Gwendolyn Brooks were very [inaudible]. In fact, when -- when -- when Gwendolyn Brooks left Harper and Row, she went to Broadside Press. Broadside Press published her first book of poetry back -- I think it was 1969, which was <i>Riot </i>. And -- but finally, this is -- the reason I got into building independent black institutions is because of Margaret Burroughs and Dudley Randall. So I'm at the -- I'm in the army, I'm in the United States Army going crazy, all right, reading all this black literature. And, you know, nobody to talk to, you mentioned black, you look like you had lost your damn mind, all right. And so, I found my way into Chicago at the -- at that time, it was the Ebony Museum of Negro History. Ebony Magazine sued them so they had to change the name from Ebony and go to DuSable Museum of African American history. I walked in that morning in 1962 and Margaret Burrows was in the kitchen working on a linoleum cut. I didn't know what a linoleum -- she's a world-class visual artist, okay. I walked up there and I, you know, I [inaudible] looked natural, I was in the army -- say, "What you want, boy?" I said, "I need to talk to somebody, all right." And, you know, I'm -- I'm about 20 years old, 19-20 years old. "Go upstairs and talk to my husband." I go upstairs, they got this world class library in their home, all right. He sitting at the table writing and [inaudible] glass of water down there. He said -- he said, "How you doing, son?" I say, "Well, I just need to talk to somebody." He says, "Sit down. Do you want something to drink?" I said, "I'll take some water." He said, "That's vodka," you know [laughter]. Charlie Burrows had been reared in the U.S.S.R. The guy spoke Russian fluently, all right. So he was the first person that introduced me to [inaudible] literature, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, when Malcolm was assassinated, Dudley Randall came to Chicago to talk to Margaret Burroughs about co-editing a book on the life and legacy of Malcolm X, all right. And so, I gave my first poem and he -- and then I gave my manuscript to <i>Black Pride </i>, he -- I said, "Will you please consider this?" He called me back in a week and said, "Yeah, you know, I -- I'll publish this." He said, "But would you allow me to write the introduction?" And that was for me, you know, the biggest thing. Now, the museum started in their home, the DuSable Museum started in the home of Margaret Burroughs and Charlie Burroughs and Broadside Press was in his home, okay. And so, both the museum and Broadside Press was really funded by their monies, the monies that came out of their pocket, okay. And so, when I went to Detroit to sign a contract, which I didn't sign, I just shook his hand and said, "I got this. I got this." That's it. >> Thank you. >> Haki Madhubuti: Beautiful people. [ Applause ] >> E. Ethelbert Miller: I'll just mention one other name. That would be Naomi Long Madgett, also from Detroit. And she was -- >> Haki Madhubuti: Oh yeah, Naomi, yeah, Lotus Press. >> E. Ethelbert Miller: -- the Lotus Press after -- after [inaudible] and The Third World. >> Haki Madhubuti: In fact, she was my second publisher [laughter], I -- you know what I'm saying. Naomi Long Madgett, who is a fine poet also [inaudible] all poets, Ethelbert. And, you know, she called me and said [inaudible] about a book. And, you know, so I said obviously yes. And so, she -- she's still alive. Dudley is not with us anymore, of course, Gwendolyn Brooks is not with us anymore, nor Margaret Burroughs. So Naomi Long Madgett, she's in her -- can you tell, I don't know -- >> E. Ethelbert Miller: Ninety-nine, she's about 99. >> Haki Madhubuti: -- she's about [inaudible] 90's. But what happened, Ethelbert, Broadside Press is still functioning, but not in a very high level. So Broadside Press and Lotus Press have combined, okay, to try to keep both of the press's going. >> Yanick Rice-Lamb: Some of the people who influenced me are some of the people that influenced a lot of people. Like James Baldwin, I read a lot of his books growing up. And then being from -- I'm from Akron, Ohio, so Toni Morrison because she's close by and she always made references to things in Ohio, so my sister and I always got excited when we saw those references in her books. Rita Dove is also from Akron, Ohio, went to the same high school I went to -- I graduated with her younger sister. And she was -- she's a poet, and I sat in her class, the Pulitzer. And then -- then a number of journalists that I have - I have met over the years and -- and poets, authors, all sorts of writers, screenwriters that I've met who have influenced me. Her question, she's -- she said, she was asking about discerning between blogs that give you good information and blogs that don't give you good information in a nutshell. And I wanted to point out, Ingrid Sturgis, she's standing back there. She's also from Howard University, but she teaches digital media literacy. If any of you want to grab her afterwards, but one of the things we're trying to do is to help students understand all the things that are out there in the digital world and -- and what's good and what isn't. And to -- we all have to be discerning about that. Sometimes when we're looking at information, if someone -- is their [inaudible], is their opinion, in a -- and sometimes it's incorrect and unfortunately, the corrections take a long time to catch up with the truth. One of the things we're starting also at Howard, working title right now is HU Insight, but we may change the name. But we are starting kind of a truth squad or a verification -- verify information, myths, stereotypes, false statements that are made about us and even things that have persisted, you know, for a long time. So we could say, you know, what's true and what isn't true and do it in real time. And there's some site like, called PolitiFact that does it for politics, but we want to do it across the board because as it affects people of color because there's so many things that are said about us that are completely false, or partially false, or whatever. We want to address that, but I encourage you to call people on it when, you know, when you're reading blogs or reading, you know, whether it's mainstream media, or whether it's a one person situation, you know -- call them on it when you see errors and when you see untruths that are out there because we really do need to stop that. Because a lot of times people take that information as fact and a lot of people don't do their homework or they rip off information from someone else and if that person has false information or has made a mistake, they just keep repeating it and perpetuating it. And with social media, a lot of that information goes viral. And, you know, one of the things that I'm committed to, which is one reason why I teach, is to, you know, encourage and train young people to tell the truth, to do the homework, to get out in the community, to go to places that aren't being covered to tell our stories. And I'm thankful to Ethelbert because a lot of times I say, "You know Ethelbert Miller, you should go talk to him." And he always, you know, talks to them and gives them great information. But it's really important that we do that because we so often allow stories that they aren't being told period about us and they're told in the wrong way. But there's a lot of bloggers and there's a proliferation of bloggers and they definitely are not all created equally, so you have t kind of, you know, watch what you're reading or what you're consuming, so that you're consuming good information. >> E. Ethelbert Miller: Yeah, I've been actually blogging every single day since 2004. And I look at how I use blogging to move into other forms of media. So if you look at what I did a couple years ago, I created E channel, which was a blog. And I interviewed the novelist, Charles Johnson, every single day for an entire year. That is not a book that came out in January, 672 pages. It's one of the most -- most comprehensive thing about Charles Johnson and, you know, this year is the 25th anniversary of his key book, the <i>Middle Passage </i>. But I used to blog in such a way that was like a tool and -- and to help people. If you look at my -- another thing I'm doing right now, the critic Aldon Nielsen -- interviewing him pretty much four or five times a month trying to look at the development of a literary critic, okay. So I'm using the blog as a way to interact with other, you know, media the same way you go back to Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan always felt that print was the key [inaudible]. So my thing is that if I can control the print, you know, and -- and have things come out of that, then that would be a way of staying a breast with the technology where we don't see it as either or, but connected. So when I look at how the E channel became a book, I realized, okay, these things are not separate, okay. I can just reach more people, okay. But the thing I found out with the blog when I was doing the E channel with Charles Johnson, I was happy I was interacting with Charles Johnson because he's a perfectionist. And if -- and the thing about bloggers, blogs have a tendency to be very sloppy and -- and that's the difference between blogs and journalists. Charles just would not let me post anything if there was a period of comma out of place. And I -- and I had to reformat the whole thing because he said, "Oh, no, you're not going to put that out there." But what I realized is -- it was that he was dealing with this project in such a way, he said, "Okay, this is extremely important. This is literary history that's being made." And every now and then, I would be joking around and whatever, and -- and he said, "Yo, but this is serious," okay. The other thing about the blogging and the technology is how it makes the -- the black world smaller, okay. And that is -- I would not have been able to do this if Charles was not in Seattle and I was here. And the time thing helped us to be connected. And I say that now in terms of when we talk about the literary world. We have to be international. We have to be supportive, you know, whenever there's crisis, we are the survivors, okay. That's the key thing in writers. Something happens during the world [inaudible]. We have to be responsible to that and we have to use the technology. >> Haki Madhubuti: Actually, repeating the question, she is concerned about the reading level of [inaudible]. And actually we have a house [inaudible] in that area [inaudible]. And if I can [inaudible] ask Dr. Carol Lee to come forward please. Can you come up here to speak? She doesn't want to come [laughter]. My wife is -- is -- she -- she's really -- she's an -- she's one of the living experts in [inaudible]. A former [inaudible]. But she's very modest and that's why she married me, so she [inaudible]. But she would, "Baby, come up here for a minute [inaudible]? Everybody encourage her to come up -- [ Applause ] >> The challenge us not unique to black boys. I think they're two things. One is that the challenges that we have to -- that we have an education, we need to understand in an international context and that is the things that we try to do to impact education in the United States. No other high achieving nation in the world does any of the things that we do. So, politically and this -- it seems to me, we need to be advocating. We don't have an infrastructure -- so part of what I'm trying to do is to say that the challenges that our children have in school relative to reading is part of a bigger challenge in the country at large. So if you look at national educate [inaudible] -- and national assessment of educational progress, which is the only national assessment that we have. And you look at the growth over the years, for example, of 17 year olds, there's no growth at all, for decades, right. So, the challenges our kids face are extreme exacerbations of a bigger problem. We don't have -- we don't have strong capacity in our schools for supporting most kids, but particularly for not supporting black kids. So I think that while we struggle in terms of policies, certainly being here in D.C., we have to equally struggle within communities. And to have what Haki and I have talked about for years, what we call liberated zones where we say some -- to some degree, maybe something like the Harlem Children's Zone, where we go neighborhood by neighborhood and say that, we are responsible for the young people, whether it's 10 square blocks or what -- we are responsible for them. And we're not going to depend solely on public education to be the place to educate our kids [applause]. And all kinds of communities do that as well. And so, everything they talked about in terms of, you know, working with kids, reading kid -- well it's not -- there's no magic to how to read -- teach kids to read or teach them to love to read. We've all done that ourselves in our own lives with our own kids. It's just that we don't reach out, we're dependent on other people to do this for us, as opposed to saying, whether it's our own, you know, extended family, the kids on the block, the kids in our church, that we're going to make sure because we know how to do it, it's not rocket science. >> Haki Madhubuti: You know [applause], what she didn't mention was the professionalization of the whole area of teacher's education. When you look at nations like Finland or look at even Hong Kong, that their teachers are paid as much as doctors, MD's and physicians because essentially you cannot become a teacher unless you're from the top tier, all right. And so therefore, their whole -- and in Northern Europe, you find that -- that education from preschool up to graduate school is free, all right. So these young people -- their young people do not come out of college or university with thousands and thousands of dollars of debt. In fact, the student debt in this country is $1.3 trillion -- $1.3 trillion, that's a shame, that's a crime, you see. And that started with Ronald Regan in California. I don't need to get into all politics [laughter]. >> Sibyl E. Moses: Thank you [applause] E. Ethelbert Miller, Yanick Rice-Lamb and Haki Madhubuti, we thank you and embrace you for really encouraging us, for providing such an informative and provocative discussion. We've had an effort to change the conversation and to begin defining what is needed. And so now we go forth and we create our stories, create liberation zones in our communities, develop writer's workshops and what I focus on, biography workshops and begin to capture so many more of the stories. In closing, I just want to say that in terms of our black institutions, they offer opportunities for us to begin capturing the lives of the people's -- people who have built those institutions. I work with the Prince Hall Freemasons and so many of those organizations throughout the country, which have roots in the late 1700's and the true histories have not been written. The lives of those people involved in -- in really, preserving our culture and -- and helping our people have not been explored. So we encourage you to go out into your communities and capture not only the lives of you and your families, but also the lives of others to help us preserve the word. Thank you [applause]. >> Marieta Harper: My name is Marieta Harper. I'm an area specialist here in the African and Middle Eastern Division. We're going to start with the second panel called, Stakeholders of Black Literacy. I'm going to intro -- start the panel with Betty Entzminger and fourth generation native Washingtonian with our National Anthem. >> Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty. Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the hope that the dark past has brought us, sing a song full of the hope that the present has taught us. Facing the rising sun of our new day begun, let us march on till victory, let us march on till victory is won. It is won, it is won, it's won. [ Applause ] >> Marieta Harper: Our first speaker and panelist will be Dr. Brenda Greene. [ Applause ] >> Brenda Greene: Thank you, thank you very much. I'm really, really pleased to be here. And I first give thanks to God for continually blessing me and my family, for doing his life's work and for placing me in this moment, and time, and space. It's really a privilege and an honor to be here. This is a legacy and historic event. And I also want to thank Maria Fenton for her vision and her commitment to sponsoring the Eleanor Holmes Juneteenth Festival. As Haki mentioned earlier, this -- it took really a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of passion. So I think you should give her a hand. [ Applause ] Okay, I think what better way than to celebrate Juneteenth then by celebrating literacy. And I think this day and this test -- this program are also testament to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who also put her support behind this program. She's an outstanding leader who embodies the whole spirit of what Juneteenth is. A tireless advocate for social justice, and women's rights, and liberty. And I also want to acknowledge my colleagues in the audience, Eric -- Eric White and Linda White, who I've known for many, many years. It's really good to see you here. And my colleague from Medgar Evers College, Richard Jones. And of course, the writers who are here, it's really, really a please -- pleasure to be here with Haki and with Marieta Golden. Maria Fenton asked me to speak on the challenges and triumphs of literacy from my perspective as a parent, a professor, an academic literary activist, and a media professional. I smiled when I saw that, I said, that must be related to the work that I do as the director of the National Black Writers Conference at Medgar Evers College." And I'm also executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College and also chair of the English department at Medgar Evers College. So, I'm the mother of two outstanding sons and a grandmother of four. So I do have many, many roles to play. And it's really a challenge to try and reconcile all of those roles through my work at the school in educating young people and teaching writing and literature to college students, and teaching future teachers and in educating the general public about the range and complexity of the textbooks produced by writers from the African diaspora. And in supporting writers through conferences, such as the National Black Writers Conference, symposium, workshops, readings, and -- and publications, it is really a challenge. In her anthology, I don't know how many of you know Pamela Newkirk, wrote letters from black America. She's an award winning journalist and editor of a wonderful book, also of love letters called, <i>A Love No Less </i>. And most recently, this is a book you should get, <i>Spectacle,</i> <i>The Astonishing Life of Ota Benga</i> , who was an African man used as a human zoo exhibit at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. That book just came out and it's an important book and it tells an important story. And it's part of what we're doing in telling our stories. She writes in <i>Letters From Black America </i>, despite their importance as historical markers and as literature, the letters of African Americans like so much of black history have historically been undervalued or ignored. Newkirk, she just decides to correct this by presenting a multidimensional portrait of African American life from the 18th through the 21st Century through illuminating letters of ordinary and exceptional African Americans enslaved and free, powerless and privileged. In fact, one of her last letters is a letter that Alice Walker wrote to Barack Obama when he was elected. She has a letter from Toni Morrison, when he was -- when Barack Obama was nominated. But letters or the [inaudible] narrative provide windows into our interior lives and represent one of the first forays into literacy. Letter writing has become a lost art form, so I decided that I would celebrate and talk about literacy by writing a letter to you about the triumphs and challenges of promoting literacy today. And so my beloved friends and colleagues, the reading of literature has always been very, very dear to me. I was also one of those people who spend hours and hours in the library, and also recognized that there were very few books that represented depictions of me. But I was interested in the story and stories of famous people and how historical figures overcame obstacles, and mysteries, and friendships, and triumphs. I remember one book about a little girl who faced racism and it's interesting that I can't remember the name of that book, since that was the only one I remember that depicted me. For some reason, I blocked out the title. But books were my comfort, as my other colleagues have said, my solace, my friends. Because they were a way of reimagining my life. And when I became a parent, instilling a love and -- of reading and writing was very paramount to me. I was determined that my children would be reading and writing before they entered school. In fact, I even thought about homeschooling and opening my own school because like so many people in my generation, I was very disillusioned with the public school system. I had worked in a middle school and elementary school and the students were two years behind in their reading at both levels. And I viewed this as a tragedy and determined to do something about it. So the first thing I did was when I worked on my Master's Degree, I decided to get it in the teaching of reading. And I did my Doctoral Degree in the teaching of writing, so that I could really become proficient in that. And one of the things that I've learned over the years as a educator for over four decades, is that children come to reading processes at different stages and in different ways. Everyone has their own journey. And what you have to do is to surround students with language, with read -- opportunities to read and write to them as we all know. And there was a book that had an impact on me. It was a woman named Glenda Bissex, who did her dissertation on her student's growth into literacy. It's called <i>Gnys at Wrk </i>. And she spelled genius G-N-Y-S, <i>Gnys At Wrk </i>. She chronicled her son reading and writing, and by the time he was in late primary school he was writing newsletters for his school. And I was concerned that, as an educator, my son should have been reading early, because I had a master's in reading and was doing my doctoral work in reading. But I realized that there are different ways of reading. One other thing, my son is a hip-hop artist, Talib Kweli. He began writing before he was actually reading. He actually -- he loved telling stories and he loved drawing. So he would draw these books. And he -- I would give him reams of computer paper and he would draw these pictures. And then, he would put captions on the bottom of the pictures. And so, he was writing picture books before he was actually reading. He was doing that reading we talked about earlier, you know, my son can read, but they had memorized the text. We all know that. You know, children go through that, right? So he actually also had a special journey into reading, and by the time he was five years old, was writing and then producing shows about books that he had written. Whenever there was a family gathering he would take his -- produce this show and get all of his cousins together and put on a production based on what he had written and the characters he had. So my love of books and reading really formed the seeds of literary activism, which always attribute that to my friend and colleague, E. Ethelbert Miller, who calls -- said, "I'm a literary activist." I also am a literary activist. And when I was student teaching, I worked in an alternative school with reluctant readers. And one young man who was reading years below on the school level, never writing, I said, "Well, I'm going to make sure and get you -- motivate you to write." And so, he loved music. He played the guitar. So we went to a guitar store and he got -- I got him to buy books that represented lyrics of songs he wrote. And then, he would come back and that was his way. By the time the program was over, he was writing. In my work as executive director of the Center for Black Literature, we have a program called Re-Envisioning Our Lives Through Literature. We go into the public schools -- we bring teaching artists into the public schools, in middle schools and high schools, sometimes elementary schools. And we work with students on creating -- giving them opportunities to create stories, to create poetry, to create skits. They create and anthology. In fact, I have one here that they just finished and it's based on "Roll Call." When we give them a book, and we used -- we've been using "Roll Call" for the last few years. Hakeem Abuhti, [phonetic] mentioned "Roll Call" that's published by Third Row Press. And so, we give them Roll Call and they read the stories, and then they take those stories and use it as the basis to create their own stories and literary text. And I just want to read to you one of the stories, one of the letters that came out of that, just a part of it. This is by Yassim [phonetic]. it's called "The Struggle." "I stare at the empty black hole that is my future and the bright light that is my past. I examine the struggle that my brother, mother, sisters, ancestors have survived. What was the purpose, what did we do to deserve this? Red fills my eyes. I can hear the blood pumping through my veins as my pulse quickens. I can hear the screams and the yells. I can feel the wipes and the cotton thorns as they prick my skin. I read the White Only signs. And I feel the desperation as a man runs from the house, a girl cries, a woman dies. It's over. Is this it, was that all? Is this what my ancestors have survived, have fought against for me to be here? As I witness the brutality of the past, as time goes on, I see my future brighten. I shall stand strong, for this is what my people have struggled through, what I may struggle through. But that's okay, I can turn around and walk towards my bright future." And that's an example of the kind of work that we get from our young people when we give them opportunities to use their imagination in the schools and give them some real text to read. We ask -- we give them the book. They're not just reading little passages; we're trying to make reading very meaningful to them. So, that's Re-Envisioning Our Lives Through Literature. One of the things that Talib says to me is that you can't just give people the words. You have to give them a hook. If you want them to get the message, you have to find out what the hook is. And I think one of the main challenges that we face as educators and as parents is how do we find a hook for our young people? How do we find creative ways for them to get hooked into language and to writing and reading? We have to create those spaces, and they have to be intentional and deliberate. And when we look at the impact of the internet and social media and popular culture, the decline in independent black book stores, the merger of publishing companies, the disappearance of sections in bookstores devoted to black writers, we understand what those challenges are. Our students are reading and writing in different ways, and we cannot ignore the 21st century technology. Have you witnessed those students, who, when they read the poem, they come up with their iPad? They're reading from their iPads. Right. You know, they're not reading from the text. So we have to find a way to draw on that. I mean, how often do you see a young person sitting down and reading a book? And look at what's happened, at least in Brooklyn, in the libraries. The libraries are full with young people in the afternoon, and that's because there's no other place for them to go. They go to the library. It becomes a place where they can hang out. They're not necessarily reading, but we can draw on that and capitalize on that to create a space to get them more involved in reading and writing. Which means we have to support the libraries more, they have to be funded more. We have to demand that. When we look at reading behaviors, someone mentioned the third grade. The third grade becomes that first step when you lose the readers, and then it's the sixth grade. There's a correlation between students' reading behaviors in sixth grade and then what happens later on? So we have to -- we have some formidable challenges, we have to make the literature produced by writers throughout the African diaspora more available in our schools and for the general public. Which means we have to make sure that we get librarians to order those books. And in our schools, we have to make sure that they're part of that cannon, which is one of the things we do in our Re-Envision Our Lives Through Literature. A large part of what we have to do is professional development for teachers, so that they're not just teaching the add-on, the one book. Like, how do you incorporate books by people of color, and black books in the curriculum, so that it becomes part of the curriculum? We have to find ways of -- we have to support the black writers by buying their books, even if we have to give them away. And I like -- I love what I hear -- heard this morning about giving the books away. So you may not want it, so you give it to someone. And then, we have to support the conferences and the festivals, Column [phonetic] Book Festival, National Black Writers Conference, this festival tomorrow. I hope all of you are going to come out and see it. One of the things I did as I was looking at what was happening, preparing for this panel, I looked at the "New York Times" book review and I realized that over the last year, every week there's one book reviewed by a writer of color, usually African American. One book. Which means that we have to have more people who are writing those reviews, and we have to populate that. They find that one person to do that -- and, as you know, in the newspapers and in print, book reviews are disappearing. Which means we have to find ways to write them. And then, perhaps we need to go back to the bookstores and say we have to have a section on African American writers. Because if you're going into the bookstore and you're looking to see who the writers are, if you don't know who those writers are, you're not going to find them. You have to go through the entire book; maybe we have to go back. And even I understand some of the libraries have taken away some of the African American sections, because we are what? Post-racial, right? We have to say that we're not. And we have to support our bookstores. One of the messages that came out today is, Telling Our Story. One -- I remember Valerie Boyd, who wrote the biography, the most recent biography, of Zora Neale Hurston. And she said she wrote that biography because Robert, I think, Robert Hemingway, the white biographer, had said, "It's time for a black woman to tell Zora Neale Hurston's story." We have to tell our story. And she said when she wrote it, she was called. She felt a calling to tell that story. So in closing, I teach African American literature and the early part, in the first book we read, is "The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano," or "The African," written by himself. And of the things we talk about is there's been controversy as to whether he wrote this -- his book. But one of the important messages is that this book was a form of liberation for him. He eventually bought his freedom, and he wrote his way into literacy. As is Phillis Wheatley, the first African American to publish a book of poetry. She used literacy to write her way into freedom. Our young people have stories that represent liberation narratives, and there are many examples of liberation narratives throughout the cannon of African American literature. So our role is to teach these writers, these historians, and educators and find creative ways for our young people to develop their own liberation narrative. So, the end of my letter. Yours in solidarity, Brenda. [ Applause ] >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: Good afternoon, it's such an honor to be here. I come to you directly from Asia, where I spent two months doing research in the prisons, in Asia. I went to Bangkok, I went to Cambodia, I was in Thailand, Malaysia as well, and Vietnam. The king in Asia apparently felt that incarcerated individuals who were mothers were unfit to live in prison with their children. And therefore, he released all of the incarcerated mothers and their children. And so, I was brought in to do policy implications with them. And so, I come to you from that. It's such an honor to be here. Thank you very much for the invite. There's so much creativity here, there's so much power, and there's so much strength. And I wouldn't want to be anywhere else right now. I want to start by reciting a poem for you that I performed for the mayor of Newark, Ras Baraka, during a meeting two months ago, when I spoke with him about the importance of creating a family halfway house, the first in the nation, in the world, in Newark, New Jersey, that would be directly connected to my research. So it was really interesting; I walked into his office, this was the first time we met, and he says, "Begin wherever you like." And this is what I said. Ivory tower blues. My mind and intellect and critical thinking skills are at an unrest. I mean, my brain is exploding, erupting like a volcano. Hot lava flows from my soul, burning and paving a new path. A new way towards academic success, a new collegic [phonetic] yellow brick road that truly leads lost souls home; the true and only way to the top. The ivory tower is my lighthouse, not my safe haven. A place I go to garner the verbiage needed to overturn the miseducation of modern day research. I keep a ladder in my briefcase to climb down from the tower's balcony that overlooks it all; the good, the bad, and the ugly. My PhD is my access, my ability to walk freely between the hood, my roots, and the blinding tower of untold truths. This PhD is my over ground railroad, an unhidden pathway of truth and familiar resources that keep children, parents, and families bonded by embracing the root, the root causes of intergenerational curses; miseducation labeled as technology, politics as revenue, and parental incarceration. Listen to me, I'm telling you something. Something that nobody, I mean, no B-O-D-Y wants to see, or hear, H-E-A-R and H-E-R-E. You, come here. Come over here and listen. Listen to this message, because it must be told. This message is for those with eyes who can see. Those with ears who can hear. Those with hearts who can love. And those with light, to brighten a path that will lead the way. Now, move out of my way as I charge forth with this message of truth. Researchers, how dare you? Politicians, how dare you not? Ten-year track, why would you professors, how could you? Department chairs, deans, and the APT committees, cut those shackles. Peer reviewed articles, journals, why don't you incorporate innovation? Innovation that pushes those research subjects involved to a new place. Why do articles take the place of the people? How can secondary data be respected as human? Why are we bringing life to statistics and not to people? Research has to stop killing the people, to save the numbers. Research has to stop killing the people, to save the numbers. Percentages and greater likelihoods of a negative outcome cannot be the norm. There has to be more to the story. I'm not asking for remorse, rather, reality. Nothing is single sided; everything has another side, an additional angel. I advocate for the full view, not just a zoom. And if you want your dose up close, move up close and personal and talk to those have lived it and walk at every step. Use their narrative to create and not the other way around. I've done it, and it works. Fifteen years of riding buses with children affected by parental incarceration has given me the courage to be the truth, write truthfully, and create nothing of lies, deceit, or one-sidedness. Conducting interviews in locked bedrooms of children, it gets no more truthful than that. I can still hear the tears shed and the whispers of help to this moment. I remember every qualitative interview and every quantitative file assessed. I put this experience in every fiber of my soul. I live it, but I am not it. I live it, but I am not it. I am impassioned by it, but not lost in it. I am simply leading the way, creating a new path, the only path to the top, the true top. I use my research to create an educational coloring book for children of incarcerated parents, "The Prison Alphabet." It was born out of Mr. Critical Fill-Work Jr, married to Mrs. Critical Me. It is a publication that gives back; it is a legacy. The legacy, my legs, that allow me to see. A literary masterpiece that addresses illiteracy, lies, knowledge, and the unknown; all empirically based. It is accessible in four different languages and used in various countries. Its knowledge is a legacy that belongs to the world. "The Prison Alphabet" has been used in Uganda, Dubai, Europe, and Asia. The truth is unstoppable, and it doesn't end here; it never ends where it started, rather travels far beyond. Howard University. HU, you know, prides itself of truth and service. And that is what my track record shows. The ivory tower blues, ivory tower blues. The ivory tower is blue and cold. And it's easy to make it warm. Create and make for the community, serve the people, and allow them to help you serve, create, and make for the community, serve the people, and allow them to help you serve. Climb out of the ivory tower and walk onto the ground amongst the people as one. Find the answers to the next creation and fully support it, support the truth. Support the truth. Support those who support the truth. Support truth. I am the truth. I support you. You support me. We support me. When? Now. Ivory tower dismantled. Now we have ivory grounds, ivory minds, ivory souls, ivory everywhere, ivory shared. So truthful, so true. I have access to the ivory tower although I don't reside there. No more blue ivory tower. No more you ivory tower. [ Singing ] Thank you. [ Applause ] So thank you very much. I just wanted to share briefly that the present alphabet, the educational coloring book, was born out of the spirit and the energy of the children. I read literature for many years that identified these children as angry, as frustrated, as non-intellectual, and when I went into the homes to interview these children, they were brilliant, they were bright-eyed, they were respectful, they were remorseful, and they were not their parents although they loved their parents. So I knew that at the end of this journey that I would spend the rest of my life allowing the world to see that true narrative. Right now I'm working on a book called <i>Far</i> <i>From the Tree </i>and it looks at success stories amongst children of incarcerated parents, one of the things you don't hear. Right now we use the statistics that identifies children have a greater likelihood of going to prison if their parents are in prison. If they knew the parents are not. One of the things that we don't balance that argument with is the reality that African Americans supersede a lot and sometimes it's the worse situation that builds the brightest stars. So I have been travelling all around the nation and interviewing amazing children at top Ivy League universities, Yale. Some individuals who have JDs, who had parents in prison knew the truth about their parents being in prison, accepted it, and were able to move past it and be an example for their parents once they re-entered, to not recidivate. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Bomani Armah: Good afternoon. My name is Bomani Armah. Before I do anything else, I'm a hip-hop artist. I'm a poet. I'm an [inaudible], so I got to make sure the energy in the room for [inaudible], right? When I count to three, I need everyone to say peace and throw up the deuces like this. All right, you all ready? Here we go. One, two, three. >> Peace. >> Bomani Armah: Not bad. All right. It's a small room so if you don't participate I can see you [laughter]. Let's try this again. One, two, three. >> Peace. >> Bomani Armah: Thank you very much. I needed that. That helped me. In fact, a bunch of smiles coming this way now, so I appreciate that. Thank you. I am blessed to be in this audience and being a part of this panel. Once again, my name is Bomani Armah. I am not a rapper. I am a poet with a hip-hop style. If nothing [inaudible] today, please check out my website. It's www.notarapper.com. I have a -- that's not a joke. It's literally my website. Go check it out. I realize some people think I was joking with that. So I have a bunch of aliases. I'm a hip-hop artist so I have a bunch of aliases. I'm the Watermelon Man. I am Mr. Read-A-Book. That's probably the most relevant to today's panel. I am the Hip-Hop LeVar Burton. I am the Black Colin Powell. I have a bunch of them. I'm not going to go through them all. But I take my art and my poetry and my activism very seriously. The first thing I wanted to do. We [inaudible] just because of my energy and the events over the last couple of days, I want to encourage everyone in here, I want to encourage the previous generation, my parents' generation, their parents' generation, that black people, young black people, we are doing good. All right? We're not doing exactly what we want to be, but we're doing good. We are doing better than we were [applause]. Yeah, you all give that up for young black people. Sometimes we get discouraged. Sometimes we get discouraged and we believe, and we think and we internalize all the negative press that we hear about ourselves. But the energy that has been fighting against us for 400 years of slavery, 450 years of de facto slavery, is strong and insidious. It keeps coming at us with different things all the time. Nobody was ready for the crack epidemic of the '80s. Nobody was ready for the economic bubble burst in the '90s. Nobody was ready for the economic class of 2015 -- or 2008. So all these things keep happening to us, but black people are still fighting, young black people are still interested in the liberation of their people. Do not get twisted by the media that you're hearing. I work with them directly. They tell me directly. They're very interested in the struggles and don't feel discouraged, all right? You're doing a very good job. I'm at the age now where college kids are half my age so I'm in that weird timeframe, you know what I'm saying, where they're trying to explain to me how broke J Cole is, and I'm like, really? You know what I'm saying? I wanted to come up here to tell you a little bit about what I do. I am a product of the free black spaces that we have been trying to create for the last century. My mother's side of the family moved up here to escape South Carolina and the oppressiveness of racism and no job opportunities. My father moved here from South Carolina to go to Howard University. They met here. I'm so into being black. It's like one of my favorite things about myself [laughter]. It comes from growing up in this community. It comes from being a product of Marion Barry's Washington D.C. It comes from being a product of P. G. [inaudible]. My father brought me -- they came before Columbus when I was 13. You know what I'm saying? Like that doesn't happen in like normal households, you know what I'm saying? I had to have one my [inaudible] employees make me understand what kind of free black space I lived in where my father would buy me that kind of book. I'm in the same generation as Dr. Green. In fact, I'm a huge fan of his. So this is the result of that happening. So I don't want us to be discouraged at all. What I do for a living -- I am creative. I'm a poet, an M.C., a producer, and an edutainer -- a term coined by [inaudible] when I used education to entertain. I am the Director of Poetry Events for Busboys and Poets which is a chain of restaurants throughout Washington, D.C. There're six of them. We do 39 open mics a month. I direct all six of them which actually -- I miss, actually, being in the crowd and being the host so I'm going to go back to that soon. But we take freedom of speech very seriously here in the literary and black community here in Washington, D.C. We currently have the National Slam Champion Team. We currently have the National Teen Slam Champion Team take writing and literacy very seriously here in Washington, D.C. When I'm not doing that, I have a creative writing program that I do mostly through an organization called Young Audiences of Maryland. But I'm actually doing a workshop on July 1st at MLK Library with teens. If you have teenagers who are into writing, have them come see me. I just, this past week, ironed out the deals to teach my creative writing workshop to other teachers through the Kennedy Center. The first workshop will be March 16th [applause]. Thank you. I'm excited about that. The first workshop will be March 16th, and the way my workshop works is it shows how -- our kids are into hip-hop. It shows how a well-written song resembles a well-written essay, with the chorus being the -- with the chorus being the introductory paragraph and the verses being the supporting paragraphs. Showing how the writing process is the same across the board no matter what style of writing you are doing. I got my break into the literary world as a 19-year-old working for Karibu Books. There's a whole bunch of locals here who probably won't understand what Karibu Books. I was responding to the [inaudible] system [inaudible] press sometimes. I was really cool to actually meet Dr. Myra [Inaudible]. I was sitting behind -- a lady turned around and said, "Oh, you're Bomani." I was a kid. I'm Bomani. She's like, "Oh, my son's named Bomani." I was like, "Cool. He must be handsome and intelligent" [laughter]. She said, "Yeah." Then Dr. [Inaudible] said, "Can my wife come up to the stage, please." She walked up and said hello to everybody. I said, "Whoa." My life is like a poem in so many ways I can't begin to describe it. But, anyway, it started from there. The first day at Karibu Books, one of the owners, Yao Glover, pulls out the lease. He doesn't pull out the instruction manual, the instructions for being a good employee. He's like, "I understand you're just passing through here. I want you to see what kind of business I run because telling our people's stories is what I do for a living and it has to continue." So the first thing he did was show me the lease so I could see what kind of money he was paying P.G. Plaza, you know what I'm saying, and how we worked out our best when I get to my own level of trying to understand that in education -- I mean, in business. So I am very much hands-on. One of my very next jobs was working for Martha's Table. I lived above Martha's Table. There's an apartment there. I don't know if you're familiar with it. It's on 14th and W Street. It's basically a soup kitchen. I lived above it as an employee. One of the most amazing things that I saw while living there was gentrification in action. It was something that I was able to take to the prison system when I talked there. Fourteenth and W Street is notorious. What is notorious? Eighties and '90s. I joke with people all the time. If you got caught at 14th and Clifton, 14th and W, you call somebody to come get you. They'd tell you to walk a couple blocks south before they came get you, right [laughter]? So I'm living above Martha's Table, 2003 I think, before they broke ground for what is now Busboys and Poets. Once again, the corner's notorious. You know the signs of gentrification. First you start seeing homosexual couples because they've been ostracized from the rest of their community and so they come to the place where they can buy stuff. Then this is what happens next. I saw it right on my corner. They brought in the National Guard with [inaudible] and M16s and camped out on the corner for a month. Right? During that month they shut down whatever illegal operation was going on. Then they brought in the developers and broke ground, right? I saw the process happen out of my window, and what blew me away the most was that as notorious as 14th and W was, the government, the politicians, the military, the police, could have shut it down at any moment -- during the '80s, during the '90s, when it was dangerous there. They could have shut it down at any moment. They waited until they realized there was a point when it was valuable to them, and then, all of a sudden, all the crime stopped immediately [finger snap]. Then the next stage of gentrification, when you see whites going jogging with their dogs at 11 p.m. You feel weird about it because you're like why do they feel safe? They shouldn't feel safe. They shouldn't feel safe. Someone comes -- I'm not the only one who's been making these things, right? I've lived this thing and seen it happening first-hand. So when I've walked to these different prison institutions and talked to young people about writing and about reading, the first thing they always say to me is, "No one understands me. No one gets what I'm trying to say. No one gets my words, my feelings, my emotions." I'm thinking, ah, literacy and wring is exactly what we need in this situation -- the ability to tell each other stories. So what I'm able to tell young people back, that that's what they're missing. Their inability to articulate their feelings comes from their inability to read, from their inability to write. Now I'm automatically able to spark their interest. Most of these young people have children, have younger brothers and sisters, and they want to be able to use their story as a positive message in order to change the world, and so they're able to do that once they learn how to be literate and communicate. When I use literate, I don't completely just mean book literacy. We definitely need multimedia, social media literacy at this point. It's unavoidable. Most young people are getting their news through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, so showing people how to navigate these things is a very important thing. We also need musical literacy. I have people get their political/philosophical philosophies from rappers. They're quoting Kendrick Lamar. They're quoting J Cole. So we need to start breaking down poetry for them. That's been my blessing through my entire adult life. So I'm really into practical solutions about how to affect our young people and increase their literacy rate and to move on to the next generation even stronger. My favorite quote is from Jonathan B. Clark. When I was into tattoos I was going to get it tattooed on me but I changed my mind, so it's good. That is, "We must start projects our grandchildren will finish." >> Oh, okay. >> Bomani Armah: He said, "There should be a railroad across Africa. But no one man will ever live to see it happen, so no one does it because you have to trust your children and your children's children to do it." That's what we have to start talking about. That's why I'm encouraged. That's why the state of our streets doesn't bother me because we're better than we used to be, and we're moving forward. Dick Gregory says all the time, "Don't let people tell you you need to go back to the old days. There is no better old days to go back to." We're all moving forward. So these are some of the things I want to start moving forward with. First of all, as a community we need to start adopting our schools. They entire building, the entire block. Everyone who lives within a 10-block radius -- someone said something close to this -- a 10-block radius of a school. They need to think of that as their school. They need to be having their events there. They need to be doing their birthday parties and their bar mitzvahs at that school. They need to be -- we need to feel free that if we're in the 10-block radius of a school, and we see some of those obviously school-aged, we need to feel like we're in our community. We can tell them, "Why aren't you in school?" We can ask them do they understand the importance of their education. The same thing with the libraries. Now from what I understand about the libraries - they might not be as visible as D.C. Library, but D.C. Library has treated me well and I feel like it treats the people of D.C. very well. There are always opportunities for the young people to come in and learn something. Opportunities for young people to come in and be read to. One of the biggest problems with learning how to read is you need to be read to. So there a whole bunch of opportunities for that with the D.C. Public Libraries. In our black communities, we need to make sure all the libraries are operating like that. We need to do -- I've done this because I don't sleep. We need to do a surge the way Iraq got the surge, right? I calculated the [inaudible] one of the school -- Johnson Square Elementary in Baltimore is one of the worst educational schools I've been in. What I did was I went and found out how many professionals live within Baltimore City and Baltimore County, how many black professionals, right? If we get -- I forgot exactly what the numbers are -- but I calculated what it would take, how many volunteers it would take to put a volunteer adult in every classroom, every week for an entire year. What these teachers need are other adults in the room. They don't even necessarily need other trained educators. They need other people who are willing to be a fellow third-grader for a day, and when they're teaching that third-grader their basics of reading, you can sit at the table and give the kid more input, all right? There are definitely enough black professionals surrounding Baltimore that, if each of them took a vacation week and did it for one week, we could do that and make sure that the student/teacher ratio, the student to adult ratio, is no greater than one to seven or one to six. That needs to happen. We need to take our own talent and not even wait for the Federal Government to clear a program. It's a long-time dream of mine but I already put it out there because I feel like I'm in a room with like-minded people, so I'm excited. We also need to have our ability to empathize for people who can't read, go beyond the children. All right? We say, oh, this poor, this 18-year-old can't read. Oh, this 12-year-old can't read. Oh, this 16-year-old can't read. Oh, this 20-year-old is on her own. You know what I'm saying? It's like you're not making the connection, that that 20-year old needs to be able to read so the next eight-year-old can read, and the next four-year-old can read. So I think that it needs to be extended well beyond when they're cute, and we have to do that as a group. One of the things I'm realizing, and one of the myths that happens with young people is that they think that learning isn't cool. It's a myth that we've been repeating over and over again. All kids know learning is important and they all know it's cool. What it is is once you get into the third grade and you can't read, you realize you're never going to catch up, and so your goals in the classroom setting become different. They become getting attention. They become being cool. They become living your life at that moment because you know you are lost. You know that what the teacher just wrote on the board is not going to have any effect on your life because you cannot comprehend it. They understand that they need it. What they need is more understanding. They weren't ready when they got there. So we need to have that empathy go all the way to the heart of who they are. Let me see. I want to share with you guys some good ideas that I've seen. There's a brother -- if you follow me at notarapper.com or on Twitter, there's a brother who has a kit where you can buy a bookshelf and a pack of books that you might -- somewhere I'm out of time, but a pack of books that you can put in black barbershops, and what we're encouraging black men to do is if you see a child in the barbershop, someone will pick up a book and read it to them, to leave the books there and just read them at all times. Kids who have adults read to them read better. One of the hardest things for me the last couple of days was looking at the whole situation at Emmanuel Church. I personally am working on a poem, play, a whole bunch of things about Denmark Vesey. That was Denmark Vesey's church and it's been burned down four times. The saddest part of what we're going to have to explain this story to young people, is this -- is they don't understand the story of that church, all right? We have to make sure that doesn't happen anymore. It's an interesting story. It's a gangster story. You know what I'm saying? There's no way why we shouldn't be able to tell the story of Emmanuel AME Church to a group of 12-year-olds who are into like thug rappers and tell them the story of the AME Church like, yo, these people went hard. You know what I'm saying? They saw a battle. They [inaudible]. That's what young people -- we all remember 13/14 roles. They're rebellious, you know what I'm saying? They want -- all these kids want to fight and we're not telling them who to fight. We need to tell them who to fight. We need to tell the story of Emmanuel Church and do a much better job of articulating that. I'm going to share with you all the three creative writing rules I give all my students. First rule is, the only wrong answer is a blank answer, all right? Make sure you tell young people that. We are trying to get their opinion. We are trying to get what they think. You cannot possibly get that wrong, all right? We can make you improve on it, but the only wrong answer is a blank answer. Number two, artists do not make mistakes. We make discoveries. When I tell this story I talk about Thomas Edison who quote/unquote, "discovered the light bulb". Evidently at one time he electrocuted himself and made his hair stand up on end and all that kind of stuff, right? When he finally did it, he did a press conference and the reporters asked him how did it feel to fail so many times? He said, "I did not fail a thousand times. I discovered a thousand ways that did not work." All right? We need to make sure these young people understand they are not writing down the wrong word, they're not writing down the wrong phrase, they're not writing down the wrong sentence. They are writing down the words, phrases, and sentences that will lead them to the words, phrases, and sentences that they want to use. They need to talk about it. They need to do research. But they can always improve. The third thing that's involved. This will be the third thing. Do not edit in your head. That's the rule I have to use myself. I'm so bad about that. Some of my best ideas were bad ideas that I wrote on paper and I saw them, and I rearranged them. When I go over to these classrooms I will pictures of Eminem's notebook which makes absolutely no sense, but he comes up with these incredible rhymes. So these are the things we need to be telling young people. To end with, what made me infamous is eight years ago I did a song called "Read a Book." It was the subject of an animated video that was on BET. BET basically hired an animation department that started doing all these jokes about how bad BET programming was and putting it on the air. I was a part of that. The song is called "Read a Book." It used a whole bunch of profanity. The idea of the song was to make fun of the current state of the hip-hop when all they do in krump music was curse and repeat themselves. So I made a song like that. Most of the educators were down with me. Most of the educators know what we're dealing with. A couple of dignitaries came against me. Jesse Jackson came out against me. He said whoever wrote this song was illiterate, uneducated, and unkempt. I gave him unkempt but the other two were like really uncalled for. [ Laughter ] But the biggest piece that's missing in transferring literacy from one generation to the next generation is the older generation's inability to try and relate to the next generation in their art form, in their culture, and the way that they are illiterate. Jesse Jackson's organization revealed accidentally that they don't have anybody younger than 40. You know what I'm saying? Because somebody would have gotten the jokes. Someone would understand who Little John was. You know what I'm saying? Someone would have been -- understood the reference. The reason I am saying that is we have to open our ears to the young people. The young people know what's going on. They want to know who to fight. They want to know how to fight them. They want to know how to get their skills together. So please don't be discouraged. There was one more thing I wanted to say. I'm always [laughter]. I'm always afraid I'm going to miss one of the crucial points I wanted to make. But I advocate for these people, for young people, even when they make mistakes. That is my job. Even when they aren't following my instructions correctly, even when they argue with these bad things in the street, I'm still advocating for them because I understand what they're working against, and it's my job to help them articulate their story better. This is the point I wanted to make. Every generation thinks the next generation is going crazy. I saw young people yelling to get the story, because I don't have any young hip-hops, so I'll tell you a better version. I've seen clips of Ella Fitzgerald in the middle of a concert in the '60s breaking down, like I don't know what the heck these young people are listening to. She goes into a James Brown impersonation, all right, because in her mind James Brown is the kid doing this what-in-the-heck-is-that-music? You know what I'm saying? Every generation thinks the next generation is crazy. As the older generation, we need to start breaking down that wall. I want to believe that's not an African thing to do, that every generation respects the other generation, and understand that they are carrying on the tradition but also building one. So what we have to stop doing is thinking that the young people are crazy. The young people are a part of us. They're taking what we're doing and remixing it in their own ways, and we have to embrace them and help them become better at articulating their voices. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Rahman Branch: I always hate following Polson MCs [laughter]. Hate it. Every time I speak in a place and there's a folder MC there I always [inaudible]. They're like the headliner, right? I've known Bomani for years and I never want to go behind him [inaudible]. My name is Rahman Branch. I'm a liberator by definition, and I say that because so many things being similar, my first gift from my uncle at 12 was <i>Stolen Legacy </i>, which kind of spiraled my belief system and such. But I think I've used several different things over the last many years to push for black liberation. What I've used in the past has been education. I've used politics. I've used music, and I think all those different ways to get to the goal. But I've started to find ways to kind of incorporate everything together. Currently I'm the Executive Director for the Mayor's Office on African American Affairs here in Washington, D.C. But my most exciting job ever, and my most loved job ever, was as a high school principal. Before I took over that I was a high school principal of a school here in D.C. called Ballou High School. Anyone know Ballou a little bit? >> Yeah. >> Rahman Branch: A little bit? Yeah? It's the best school. It's a -- hello. It's the M.C. in me. Ain't that right? A Ballou High School? >> Bomani Armah: Yeah. [ Laughter ] >> Rahman Branch: So does anybody know that Ballou High School is the best school in the city of Washington, D.C.? You understand that. Got to make some noise [laughter]. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: Make some noise. >> Rahman Branch: Geez. So I adopted a high school where, on my first day as I'm walking into the hallway, there's a young man sitting on the floor smoking a cigarette in front of the main office. It was a school that was popular for all the wrong reasons and there was a teachable moment at that point, on my first day, seven minutes into the day, and I encountered an opportunity to help someone understand that they're meant for something better. So I began to actually step over the young person to get to the office and he makes a noise as if I'm invading his space and he's offended by that. The young man kind of makes a noise and kind of stands up to his feet and at that moment, for me as the adult, I wanted to -- I had the unchoice to make, and the choice was do I let these young people know that you're crazy and I have to now address that? Do I take that route or is there another way to have a teachable moment? Every young person will tell you at Ballou that I've always used the term "conversation brings about clarity," so the conversation I had with the young man was that what you're doing is unacceptable. I introduced myself as an adult, not as the principal, and that there should be a different exchange we have. The young man thought that wasn't good enough and so then my teachable moment became -- I'm six foot five, 320 pounds [laughter], and I'm not an easy take. So we had a different kind of conversation at that point. So there was a teachable moment in that [laughter] moment right there, right? It was we can go about this one way or there's another series of things that can occur. Needless to say, we got to a agreeable place [laughter] and that young man moved forward. One of the things that I realized when I got to the high school was the amount of despair that existed, the lack of belief that existed, the level of apathy that existed, and that's before I met any of the children. That's before I met any of the young people. That's where I met adults in the neighborhood and adults in the school who had lost hope in what our children could accomplish. The conversations that kind of ensued always became about those kids. At some point the conversation had to turn into these kids are a product of what we have or haven't done as adults. That case was making many of the decisions that brought them to this space physically, that brought them to this space emotionally and mentally. It's what we have or haven't done as the adults who are responsible for the care of and the teaching of these young people. So the conversation that we began to have, had as a staff, began to turn because one of the things I thought was the most important lesson we teach the school was literacy. It came from the reading of the last valedictorian's speech, the valedictorian of the class before I arrived. Seeing the speech of this student who was the valedictorian with a 3.9 grade point average, and recognizing fourth-grade literacy skills within it, and the kind of crime that was committed by so many adults to allow this to happen. The crime that had been committed by so many people to say this our brightest star. We're going to put this person on stage for the world to see knowing that we haven't done this child justice. There was the necessity of having the culture of conversation at our school. Everything was on the table to talk about. We were able to discuss everything, and that was from decisions that I'd made as the principal, that was decisions that our adults in the building had made that I clearly wanted to have a discussion about. That came with the conversation that we had to have with children because we all were assumed we knew what they wanted. We all assumed we knew where they were coming from, and we were way off track to the point of what exists in various cultures. Our young people were speaking a language that identified with the culture that many adults had chosen to remove themselves from as if they're not of it or from it. There was a teacher who told his science class and, pardon my French, but I'm quoting him directly. "I'd make more money off you niggers opening a funeral home than I would teaching you." Yeah. So we had -- so there's a -- so in a cultural conversation there was the necessity of understanding that this person had severe, severe issues mentally to think that was all right to say to a roomful of children. We had to then -- so we had a teachable moment with that teacher and myself. It entailed a closed and locked door and [laughter] at a conference room table and, needless to say, he made his exit from Ballou soon after that. But there was the necessity of fighting for our children, which a lot of us aren't doing, and in fighting for our children there is a necessity of letting them know. That was an amazing poem that I actually wrote into my device here which is that we start [inaudible] our grandchildren. Well then we're finished. There's a necessity in making sure we understand that continuum as not just one directional. We have an obligation to learn and understand who our children are because then we can impart information to them in a much better sense. So as we got to the place where we had a culture of conversation, we made sure that we had opportunities for young people to express themselves. In my other life in music I represented a group called the Unspoken Herd. There's a young man named Asheru, a young man's named Blue Black, and we were hip-hop musicians. Still are to some degree but at some point you put on a shirt and a tie for songs. So what we did was we brought that group into the school and we had to figure out ways to get literacy across to our young people. We found values in our young people's value system. We found valuable information in the news our young people listened to. The beautiful thing about hip-hop -- and I am also of the hip-hop culture -- and I had to put that out there first most times that I speak. The thing about hip-hop that's so beautiful is that there is a blending if you will. There's a real blurred line between what is adult and what is not adult as far as music. Within hip-hop you can turn on the radio station and your child and you are oftentimes listening to some of the same music. So we found common places within that. By finding those common places -- the young man asked a roommate, a remarkable product. I think he'll be here shortly. He made a remarkable product called the HELP Project, and the HELP Program is a hip-hop literacy tool. He'll do it much better than I can. But it ultimately takes popular hip-hop music with a socially conscious message and it binds literacy lessons to it, based upon national reading standards. As I looked at the product and I thought it would be a great opportunity for us, we brought that into the school and we saw young people's engagement increase. Their interest in what was going on increased. Their participation in class increased because there were teachable moments both ways, from both the adult and the child around this work because kids saw themselves in the work and they were able to express a level of knowledge about what was being presented. They were in-room experts on the topics. A lot of our teachers, one of them walking away having learned a whole heck of a lot, one of those things being a value in who our young people are and what they're expressing. A really, really exciting thing happened as a result of that. We saw our math and reading scores that year go up by 18 and 20 points which we thought, or the world thought, would never happen at Ballou High School. But it was funny because one of the young men who had been in Asheru's class says to our class of students, "The cool thing about this is now that they know we can learn, they'll no longer come and tell us what we have to do. They'll come and ask us what we want to do." That's how empowerment was probably one of the most beautiful moments that we experienced at the school. It became the lynchpin for all the things that we began to do. Someone else in this room is of Ballou experience as well. There's been several opportunities for us to make sure young people have avenues of expression. When they have those avenues of expression they want to make sure they come off correct, that they perform, as they communicate, well, so they're opening this -- their willingness to literature and literacy began to skyrocket. "I want to say this right in front of the crowd. Can you help me with this speech? I want to do this right in front of the Chancellor when we show our PSA's. Can you help me write the script? I'll [inaudible] better." So young people, as they start to see relevance in the work that we're providing and opportunity to express themselves within it, their engagement and desire around academics began to increase and it was our cool scoopful of sugar to help the medicine go down, if you will, and it's that kind of work that I feel -- it has to continue to happen. I see that my time is up. But literacy is important. Once we understand that young people have information to give, then literacy can go both ways. All right? Thank you. [ Applause ] What is my role? As the Executive Director of the Office on African American Affairs, what I envision my role to be? To continue this conversation, move this platform forward, and also get residents of the district engaged in supporting this effort. Okay. So, but the big three for the Office of African American Affairs in direct conversation with my immediate supervisor, Mayor Muriel Bowser, is to push housing, education, and economic opportunity. If we want African Americans to thrive in the city, we know that housing is way out control as far as cost. We know that education is a situation that needs to be drastically improved. We know that there has to be more opportunities for African Americans to open businesses, to establish themselves financially in the district. Specifically around education, I think that the first thing that I would probably say, and this is a shameless plug, is that events like the Juneteenth Book Festival need to be a part of our annual conversation. It needs to be part of annual programming, not just from an independent organization but from the city's standpoint, from the community's standpoint, we have to begin to make sure the world knows that we want this and we need to have this conversation consistently and constantly. The more we make noise about its importance, the world tends to respond. If I've seen anything throughout the history of the diasporas, that when we make something a big deal, that the universe responds to meet our needs, and so I think that's the first thing that the residents should do is make sure we're vocal. It's important to an event like this. Additionally, Bomani brought up a great point about the algorhythm he kind of discovered in Baltimore, right, by professionals and giving some time to your local school in that 10-block radius. The funny thing is, at Ballou we made -- we had a little struggle -- sure it was with a six-block radius. But in every direction we called that my country, and we figured it was our responsibility to make sure everyone in the community was aware of, and felt a comfort in engaging the school, because the days of the adults are inside the building, and so we don't have a lot of energy to go and poke it loud. But we did want to make sure we made an inviting situation for anyone who wanted to give to or support our young people because the more hands we have on deck, the easier the lift is. >> [Inaudible] you're the first Director of the Office on African American Affairs. Do you think this is going to be a tradition that tries to [inaudible] around America or [inaudible]? >> Rahman Branch: So in looking it up, I am the first in D.C., yes. In looking it up, I think there -- I'm the first one in the country in a major city. Yeah. I -- >> You laid the foundation for what happens in [inaudible]. >> Rahman Branch: Ha-ha. >> Bomani Armah: Good. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: Yeah. >> Bomani Armah: The Director of African Affairs, so he used to be called the Mayor [laughter]. >> Rahman Branch: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So the awkward thing is that -- as we've seen gentrification occur we do know that in 1990 there were -- this is a way tangent so I'll be really brief. We know that in 1990, Washington, D.C. -- 71% of the District of Columbia residents were African American. We know that in 2013 it dropped to 49%. So if anyone tells you that's not alarming, then they're completely buggered out. It's not just a D.C. phenomenon. It's happening in North New Jersey where I'm from. It's happening in Chicago. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: New York City. >> Rahman Branch: It's happening in New York City. It's happen -- I mean, Brooklyn is not Brooklyn any -- it's not the planet anymore. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: That's right. >> Rahman Branch: It's something much different. So there is a need for this template to be followed in other places. Thank you. >> Bomani Armah: I got you. I think we have to start -- we have stop guaranteeing our children things based on the United States economic [inaudible] policy. I think we have to stop saying that if you get educated you'll get a job. If you do the right things you'll get a job. That if you participate, these good things will happen for them. Well, when you start telling young people this -- you need to learn to be literate, you need to learn to be educated so you can relate with your own people. So you and your people can make it better no matter what goes on around you. I think that -- you stay down here and what you see -- your daughter may tell you son is that there's some kind of guarantee in literacy beyond the ability to communicate. There is no guarantee other than the ability to communicate. But that ability to communicate can lead to a whole bunch of other beautiful things. But I do like -- I personally am wary of telling young people to further [inaudible] to enter the system that we have here, that if you pass and you get the stamp from the state council or the county council in education that you have an education, that that guarantees you a future. I mean we have enough issue to know that that's not necessarily true. I also think that we are still begging for a group to see us as human, to invite us in, and they do every once in a while, but we need to be okay whether or not they let us or not. I got asked in an interview the other day how I felt about Black Lives Matter. I'm sorry. Paying a little bit of attention. How I felt about Black Lives Matter, and I am unable to repeat it forcefully because saying black lives matter feels like saying water if wet. It feels like -- it shouldn't be news. You know what I'm saying? If we're still explaining to people that we are human, we need to -- like that was my father's fight. I'm done with that fight. I'm done explaining to people my humanity. I'm trying to learn how to communicate with other African Americans, other people who relate to African Americans and provide job opportunities amongst us, so it doesn't matter if they see me [inaudible] or not. People ask me for -- why'd you give your sons such funny names and not be able to get a job? Good. Good. All right, folks, if you're working for a racist who doesn't like you because you have some racial or ethnic connection that you feel strong about, but you've saved yourself some time by having that name and them [inaudible] over your application. My sons learn [inaudible] other Africans and African Americans looking for jobs. So I would encourage your child to read so he can better communicate with his community, with his people, and that we will find a way whether or not they hire him or not. Here's the other one, and this is what I tell all young people. Tell your story. So that they -- and this especially coming from the hip-hop angle working with young people. It tells young people that their story's interesting. So I will go into a classroom, I will go into a prison, I'll go somewhere and be like, yo, so what's going on? Where you from? What are your aspirations? I may be [inaudible], I want to be a lawyer, I want to be a track star, I want to be an engineer, I want to be a biologist. I'm going to be this, that, and the other. Okay. You want to learn how to rap. We'll put on the beat immediately [rapping]. Like they automatically -- because they'd been told that is black art for masculinity. They go to that. Like, no, we just spoke. Your mom's a doctor [laughter]. We just talked, like that's not you. Like I really want to know your story. What's going on in your life? At one point it changed a little bit. At one point -- the reason we come [inaudible] is like in the [inaudible] top 10 artists, seven out of 10 are always a gangster or very closely gangster related. I would go into the worst neighborhoods. I'd go to Trinidad. I'd be like I'll show them this stat. I'll show them the seven [inaudible] recognize who are gangsters. Sometimes eight or nine. I'm like, so they say eight out or nine people in the black community are gang/drug related. I'll say, "Do you live in Trinidad? Are eight out of every 10 people you know are drug related?" They're like, "Yeah." I'm like, "No, think about it. Eight out of 10? Like that's the mailman. That's a Sunday school teacher. Like there's a whole life happening outside of this." So my four [inaudible] the first is, please tell your story. Don't feel the need to say what you think black people are supposed to be doing. One of my favorite black -- oh, who is it? [Inaudible] was getting a lot of flak for not writing black poetry. He wasn't writing about black stuff. He said, "I'm black. I wrote a poem. It's black poetry [laughter]." That's what we got to tell our young people. They need to tell their story. Thank you. >> I just want to add to that. I would say also find out what your passion is because I think that's what's motivating the people. What if it that you like? What are you passionate about? Make that your life's work. It's not -- don't be concerned about finding a job. Be concerned about finding what your passion is, and then you won't even realize you're working. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: Mm-hmm. >> Bomani Armah: Amen. >> Hi. I'm Marita Golden, writer, literary activist, and head of the Zora Hurston/Richard Wright Foundation [applause], and I just was just so amazed by this wonderful panel, and the brother mentioned -- you said Komunyakaa, and I have to, now that I have a captive audience, let you know that this is the 25th anniversary of the Hurston/Wright Foundation, and for 25 years we've been creating community safe spaces for black writers, teens, adults, and the international community of black writers. October 23rd will be 25th anniversary celebration and annual Legacy Award. This year we will be honoring Edwidge Danticat with our North Star Award. Yusef Komunyakaa and Nikki Finis have been asked to compose original poems that they will read in honor of Zora Hurston and Richard Wright, and the law and order lady, Effie Pinker Merkison [assumed spelling] is going to be our Mistress of Ceremony. We have a wonderful -- we have 18 black writers from all over the world who had been nominated for the Legacy Award, and who will be in attendance, including Charles Blow, the <i>New York Times </i>columnist, Chris Avanni [assumed spelling], and so it's going to be a wonderful event. Go to www.hurstonwright.org., join our mailing list. I'll see you there. >> We have the great honor of having with us Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and the Congresswoman is now -- [ Applause ] -- I'm really -- we're really delighted, honored, and -- I don't know. I'm losing my words. But, anyway, we're delighted to have you. Congresswoman Norton is now in her 13th term as a Congresswoman for the District of Columbia. She's the ranking member of the House Sub-Committee on Highways and Transit. She serves on two committees, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Committee on Transportation Infrastructure. Before her Congressional Service, President Jimmy Carter appointed her to serve as the first woman to chair the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She came to Congress as a national figure who had been a civil rights and feminist leader, a tenured Professor of Law, and a board member at three Fortune 500 companies. Congresswoman Norton has been named one of the 100 Most Important American Women in one survey, and one of the most powerful women in Washington in another. The Congresswoman's work for full Congressional voting and presentation and for full democracy for the people of the District of Columbia continues her lifelong struggle for universal human and civil rights. Her accomplishments have been enormous and I will just skip a number of them just -- and point out to a few. The most significant of her economic development projects that she's had was to bring to D.C. the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Headquarters Compound, which is the largest Federal construction project in the country. She has also been successful in bringing to the District the new headquarters for the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, along with an additional Metro Station at New York University -- New York Avenue, sorry, which has resulted in the development of the [inaudible] neighborhood. The Congressman who taught law for a time before being elected is a tenured Professor of Law at Georgetown University, teaching an upper-class seminar there every year. After receiving her Bachelor's Degree from Antioch College in Ohio she simultaneously earned her Law Degree and a Master's Degree in American Studies from Yale University. Yale Law School has awarded her the Citation of Merit for Outstanding Alumni, and Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has awarded her the Wilbur Cross Medal for Outstanding Alumni, the highest awards confirmed by each on alumni. She's the recipient of more than 50 honorary degrees, and I'm just cutting it very short so that we can hear from the Congresswoman. [ Applause ] >> Thank you very much. It is a very special honor to say a few words to you at what is your first Juneteenth Book Festival. I appreciate this English speakers who have spoken and will speak. I particularly appreciate your theme that relates Juneteenth to literacy, to literature, to American artists. Juneteenth, of course, is not nationally celebrated because it is not well enough known. That's why I appreciate that here in the nation's Library of Congress you are having this symposium, this two-day book festival, which will draw attention to this very important, yes, event in our nation's history, and, of course, I note that we're in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. You have found a really seminal way to link our past with our future because, if you just think a moment about it, literacy is as much a key to the future of our young people today as the slaves regarded it as central to their own freedom. What was a free man or woman? Well, a free man or woman didn't go around saying free man or woman. But a free man or woman had somehow overcome the resistance of the master to literacy. A free man or woman could read and write. How rare in a country and at a time when it was understood the most dangerous thing you could do for a black man or a black woman is to teach them to read and write. Keep him ignorant and you will keep him enslaved. That was a cardinal principle. You know, in a real sense it works better today than it worked then because as illiterate as they were they yearned for freedom, and the first things they wanted to do was first find their relatives who had been sold off into slavery God knows where, and then they wanted to learn, to do what was forbidden. There must be freedom in it if they said we couldn't do it -- >> Yeah. >> -- so we got to learn to read and we've got to learn to write. >> Yes. >> What a yearning there was at a time when learning to read and write certainly didn't guarantee you a job. You could read and write as much as you wanted to and you will still be scrubbing floors if you could get a job at all as a free man or a free woman. Yet, if you wanted to feel free -- you knew your mind was free when you could put that mind on a piece of paper or on a book, see what it said, let alone write it for yourself. Somehow or the other we have got to be able to convey that sense that the slaves understood inherently of what it meant to be free to our children and our young people. The most tragic deficiency a child can have is the inability to read. Even if somehow she can't speak, if she can read she's on her way. So for us and for the African American community, reading is as much a priority today as it was 150 years ago. In a real sense if it was seen as the key to freedom then it is obviously essential to freedom today. When reading and writing is not enough, when appreciation for literature, for culture, for the world in which you live is now required. But you can't do that if you can't read and write. So how to inspire our young people, how to use our history. That is worth. Laid out for us to inspire our own young people to learn to read and write in the very same way that their forbearers did. In this city we are especially inspired by Juneteenth because in this city the slaves were liberated nine months before the <i>Emancipation Proclamation </i>. We were the first to be liberated. So on April 16th in the District of Columbia that liberation is so important that it is a holiday in the District of Columbia. Don't even go to work [laughter]. That's how important it is. So there's a big parade downtown. That's our wig day when everybody else is working. Well, we're walking in the District of Columbia because we understand how important being free and free first. Oh, my goodness. My own great-grandfather, Richard Holmes, was in the District of Columbia on that day that the slaves in the District of Columbia became the first to be freed. He was not a free man. He was a runaway slave. He walked away from a slave plantation in Virginia and made his way to Washington. Now I don't tell any stories on miss about Richard Holmes. He didn't gather himself together a group of slaves and said, let's sneak away from the master and look at the hour and then hear my call and let's be gone. Richard Holmes looked around. When he saw nobody was looking, he left that plantation, and for three generations in the District of Columbia, if your name was Holmes, you learned to read and write. You went to the public schools of the District of Columbia and you learned to read and write because you remembered Richard Holmes who did not know how to read or write. But his son knew how to read or write, and his son knew how to read or write. So, when I understood that here in our own -- in the nation's Library of Congress we were commemorating Juneteenth I then understood that the process of national education of our people of every race has begun. They will be grateful to have another occasion, particularly during this 150th year of the end of the Civil War, another occasion to celebrate the liberation of slaves. But you will go far and wide before you find any people than the people of the District of Columbia who are more grateful to what you're doing today as the first to be liberated and who, as a people will not entirely be liberated here in the nation's capital until we become the 51st state of the United States of America. Thank you for what you're doing today. [ Applause ] >> Thank you, Congresswoman. We're really moved by your words, by your story, by the story of your family, and we hope very much to continue the tradition that we started today. Now we will continue with our third panel. Eve Ferguson will moderate the panel. She is a Reference Librarian for East Africa and also a journalist, also a graduate of Howard University, and one of our very own scholars on Africa and on African Americans. So Eve Ferguson. [ Applause ] >> Eve Ferguson: Thank you very much and good afternoon. I'm glad that you all stuck around for the best, the last panel. I really feel spoiled because I picked this one. So we are going to hear some really wonderful presentation. I just want to say a couple of things, and that is that I was a school teacher for 16 years. The thing that -- [ Applause ] The thing that made me the saddest was when I had to teach children who were reading on a third-grade level, and they were in junior high school. That really bothered me. That was in Florida. But then I came to D.C. and I taught remedial reading to UDC students, and I'm saying, how are these students getting into college and they don't know how to read, and they didn't know how to read. So we tried using Toni Morrison but that was a little bit too complex, so we had to bump it down to the <i>House</i> <i>on Mango Street </i>and anybody who's been a teacher in here knows the <i>House on Mango Street </i>. It's a middle school reading level, and that's what we had to go from, so we have a long way to go for literacy. But I applauded those students because they went to college anyway, even though they couldn't understand what was going on. They used to come and tell me, Miss, this is like 13th grade, and it was in many ways. But they had the ambition to try to overcome their obstacles and I really had to be appreciative of that although I knew that those kids came from houses where people didn't read. I started reading at three. That's really early but I have a sister who's about three years older than me and another one who's five years old than me, and my middle sister used to whisper in my ear the words to the book as I'm turning the page. She said one day she wasn't whispering but I was saying the words. So did I memorize it? Was I reading? So they kind of did an experiment and they gave me another book that she hadn't whispered the words. But I did know how to read. So ever since then it's like reading has been important. You cannot read if you can't write, and you can't write if you can't read. So the two go together. I just want to say to anybody who has a college-age or high school child, please don't let them do all their research on the Internet. They end up using wrong information and creating what I used to call the Scotch Tape Special -- cut and paste from everything. That does nothing for their learning experience so read books with them, newspapers, have them around the house or something like that. So, to go on, I have this great panel back here, and I'm not going to take a lot of time because we're running behind, and I want them to have their say. But our first panelist was one of my instructors at Howard University. I dropped his class [laughter], which he's never forgiven me for. But we went on further to work together and when I was a senior at Howard I wrote the first article on his work for the <i>Washington Post </i>. So we've always kept in touch since then. He has constantly told me, "You have to tell your story. You have to tell your story." I haven't told it yet, but I will. So we have the distinguished Professor Haile Gerima from the Film Department at Howard University. [ Applause ] He's a celebrity in his own right. I don't even have to talk about his movies <i>Sankofa, Teza,</i> <i>Bush Mama, Harvest 3000 </i>, right? <i>Harvest 3000 </i>? Yeah. That was actually the film that I did the story on. So we are glad to have Haile here. Been trying to get him in the Library for a long time. Next to Haile we have Hafiz Shabazz who I met yesterday and I find him completely intriguing. He is a Professor at Dartmouth. He teaches a course which is called -- -- let me make sure I get it right. I don't want to get it wrong. Oral Tradition Musicianship? Is that right? Yes. Oral Tradition Musicianship at Dartmouth. So I really want to hear what that is. But he's also Adjunct Assistant Professor and Director of World Music Percussion Ensemble. He's the producer of more than 85 major concerts. I was absolutely floored talking to him yesterday, and I'm sure that what he has to say today will also give you all something to take away from here and think further about. Next to Hafiz Shabazz is Beverly East. She is a leading authority in handwriting, international forensic document examiner. I want to know what that is. I'm not sure what it is. She's author of <i>Bat Mitzvah Girl,</i> <i>Memories of a Jamaican Child</i> which I hope she'll discuss because that's been -- I know a number of book clubs like the Caribbean Professionals took up that book as one of their books to read in the Book Club. I haven't read it yet, but I will. Last but not least is Gabriel Asheru Benn. Now what I have to say about his is he must have a reputation everywhere because in the last three days I've gone to three public events and at every public event they have mentioned his name. Monday at Busboys and Poets, Wednesday at Eatonville, and the third one I don't remember but it was somewhere. So he is listed as an educator, youth activist, international hip-hop artist, co-founder of Educational Lyrics whose cornerstone program is HELP. We heard a little bit about that earlier, the Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program. Now I'm just so curious to know about him as an artist and now that his name is all over the place, next time it pops up I'll make sure to hear what he has to say. Then I just wanted to leave you all with a poem that is really my favorite poem by Langston Hughes because I think -- I always thought Langston Hughes was a children's poet because he was so present in our house as well as he wrote short poets that you could memorize. So I didn't realize until I was much older that he wasn't a children's poet. But I'm glad that my parents exposed me to him. But one of my favorite poems by him is "Dreams," and everybody probably knows it. I have it on my phone because I'd had a tendency to change the words around. But he said, "Hold fast to dreams for if dreams die life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly. Hold fast to dreams for when dreams go life is a barren field, frozen with snow." These panelists will talk about how they made their dream reality, and I hope it will be inspiration for everybody to hold fast to your dream, tell your story, and pass on the torch. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Haile Gerima: First I just want to thank you, my [inaudible] and my supporters. Miss Ferguson, I don't want to say her first name, but I'm very grateful to all the nice words you had to say. But I am very nervous and I feel I'm like I was sent to Siberia [laughter], and I have to first paraphrase my presence of how I got myself into this situation. A sister who I would consider -- I told my wife, "This sister is crazy. She wants to do this thing. I know she's not going to put it and I'll say yes because it's not going to happen." That's how I got in trouble. This is Miss Marie Fenton here sitting next to my sister. So I will tell you that I never wanted to set foot in this place. I don't know why. But you got me trapped and I have to admit that you are a very powerful person. I just hope you were a counsel outside the institution where I met you because we don't want to lose the people's story that doesn't get to make it here with all these Jefferson leftover books. [ Laughter ] But I want to speak about the stories because I felt at this short time the only thing I could do is speak about the battle to tell the story. It's only bourgeoisie people who want to make it look like it's entertainment. But every battle in contradiction is built on stories -- whose story are we telling? The official story where that negative run of the official story? There's the unofficial story. Now, for me, I don't think -- the human beings that went into the caves to write their story anticipated war, conquering, enslaving, et cetera. They were just saying this is who I am, this is who I belong to, and this is where I came from. All human beings do this without any instructions because it's very human that changes us or distinguishes us from the animal kingdom. We pass our story. But it's not also anticipated that we will enter this digital period where stories cross-dress thinking they are our stories when, in fact, they are really the official stories that possess our tongues and our minds to tell the official story and make us pretend we are telling the unofficial story. That's the time we live in. I have my students. I tell them, "Empower your story." They think story is what they see on television and film, and their grandmother or grandfather don't figure out in this idea of storytelling because once [inaudible] is made, it's impossible for black people to empower their story from the time they came in contact. This is not just every contact. It is the colonial contact ushered, the middle passage. Now in storytelling a lot of people talk about <i>Sankofa </i>, and they don't know where it comes from. They don't know how to trace me from Ethiopia to Chicago to California, and the most agonizing journey I took to know who these black people are in America. I'm still trying to figure out there's black people in America because they're a symbol of a complicated journey of a people. I will not underestimate by saying I know. I'm learning. I'm in the university of black people in America because it does have a direct relationship to my personal life in Africa. Not many people know that. So the battle in America is one that -- for example, when I wanted to do<i> Sankofa </i>white people wanted me to tell the story in the official story-telling of their empowered position. Black people did not have the power to begin to infiltrate into my consciousness to influence me any other way. I knew who they were. I knew my brother Haki. I knew Baraka. In fact, I was really going to tribute my [inaudible] to Baraka because I used to do the <i>Dutchman</i> at the Goodman School of Drama just to liberate myself and try to get in touch with black people. He usually said drama, that scares the hell out of white people, and a lot of black people who feel excluded in the acting world of the Goodman School of Drama just -- there's no parts for them. <i>Hamlet </i>comes. No parts for them. <i>Macbeth </i>comes. No parts for them. <i>Othello </i>comes. They still have a white guy picked to playing Othello. No parts for them. So what do they do? They do the <i>Dutchman </i>in the revenge, just to revenge in that house at the Goodman School of Drama. I took that all the way to UCLA because I wanted to kind of why people -- no, I am not a grateful foreigner because I have liberated myself from that grateful position thanks to racism. So stories is a battleground. A simple illustration is in the Palestinian struggle. It's a struggle of stories. Whose story is what? The same thing in America. When it comes to race issue, slavery is a contention. Slavery is a story not to be told by black people. The monuments and poetry and books to be written officially have to be commissioned by white artists. But what are they taking when they take a black film away from a black filmmaker dealing on slavery issue, they are denying the black artist to exorcise the demon and toxic ingestion of a thing called slavery. White people in their [inaudible] of position snatch the story from a black person and make films that -- I don't have to enumerate them for you, but <i>Amistad </i>would be a good enough story for you. I don't know. Black filmmaker in school -- we never fantasized to someday do a film on [inaudible] because it spoke something different to us. Yet, not only are they denying the black filmmaker -- they're denying the black community to make that leap because when an artist, when a black artist makes a monument he exorcises this evil toxic into arriving there. In so doing, he or she takes the community by that act. That is a very privileged position only given to white people in America. Face it. Every story black people want to do is scrutinized and realigned by white dictatorship I would call it of storytelling. They used to have this game called "What's Your Point of Entry?" Point of entry means do you have a Brad Pitt in your story? Point of entry does not mean what Aristotle's idea of storytelling is. No. It's the empowerment of white people over black consciousness or to divert and obstruct the right to imagine the future from the present circumstances he or she finds herself. So it's very important that you should know -- I think we will arrive someday somewhere where stories would exorcise the evil toxic of all that is passed to all of us. In this case, racism. The most divisive toxic on Earth is racism. We know it; we see it here. I don't have to mention to you. But what helps you to exorcise the toxic divisive nature of racism is not allowed to be exorcised because of the dictatorship of white supremacy in America. When I speak about this -- I don't have time -- but I'm also talking about the vocabulary and tradition and convention of storytelling. I'm talking about the mindset, the thought process. White America would want the whole world to think, to go into the thought process, the thinking source where you imagine story is obstructive. When a black kid goes to say, "I want to write a story," and when he or she bends and takes the pencil, this subliminal power of white supremacy enters the brain, deflecting you from what you are about to exorcise, the points that you're trying to get out of your system. It's not allowed. I'm sorry. Even in the <i>Sankofa </i>it's an imperfect gesture, imperfect gesture. Why? Because there is not black finance. There is not black power. There is no black economic power. Distribution, exhibition, completely controlled. Even when we had it out and we were in the Berlin Film Festival competing with every big budget film including <i>Malcolm X </i>by Hollywood, the white American press boycotted us throughout and throughout. That's why black people in America -- I went and saw -- in Washington I said to them, "You know what? I made the film. I exorcised it." I know I owe people with my way. We're going to pay for it. But if you don't show this film it's on you. I have made it and I'm going back to Howard, my other plantation, earn my money, and pay. But I'm not going to fight to distribute this film. Black people took it on there. Made it a world phenomenon. It's not repeated again. The whole Sankofa family from here to Ohio, San Francisco, Chicago -- when Haki opened it had Hyde Park. Nobody had ever penetrated the system in our terms, without letting them own it. I'll tell you, my life as a filmmaker would have changed had I given my film to white control from the outset. But I knew that was a kiss of death. I knew it was the end of me as a person, as an individual. So I just go on and bogart the time here. But I'm saying when we talk about story, we're talking about war. We're talking about war. You talk about proclamation without [inaudible] who actually unleashed without [inaudible] who actually unleashed until the white power structures say if I'm never going to be free, you're not going to have a good life. Gabriel Prosser confronted the founding fathers and stories are not going to be told. In fact, the MacArthur Foundation, when I applied, came and asked me, "You're talking about a slave confronting the founding fathers?" Yes, Gabriel Prosser, 1802, they were on there and they were running the country. There were Vice Presidents. They were all the founding fathers. He said, "This Revolution is for you, not mine." Whose story? That story's never told because there are not gutsy, black capitalists who understand that their capitalism could also transform when they allow people to transform stories that need to be told. Thank you. [ Applause ] >> Hafiz Shabazz: Good afternoon. >> Good afternoon. >> Hafiz Shabazz: My name is Hafiz Shabazz. My father gave me the name Terrell Johnson. However, I chose to change my name because I want to know who I am, and by doing that I learned a great deal about the Shabazz, the lost tribe, those who don't have a home, those who do not have a place to call their own. So, therefore, I began to search and find out where I came from. I searched to some extent in vain, but I went a lot of places, and so I'm multitude. I'm a number of people. I'm mixed of everything that you could possibly imagine because I am the original man. Now one of the things that led me to this journey that they asked me to find out who I am, was my drum. By the time I was seven years old I wanted to drum because inside of me I was a violent person. I wanted to tear stuff up. I wanted to hurt something. Not necessarily people but everything I touched I would tear up. So my father, he said, "Son, I'm going to give you a drum." He says, "You can hit that and it won't hit you back." That was a good thing. However, studying the drum I wanted to be the best, so I studied the masters. I went to Ghana. I went to [inaudible]. I went to Brazil. I went to Cuba. I went to Haiti. All of these places to study with master drummers. So I have all of that information and as a result of studying drumming I learned much more about music and I also learned a great deal about each one of those cultures. I refer to those cultures in my study as Haitian studies because I studied the Haitian people and how difficult their lives was and how hard their lives was, and how everyone on the planet hated the Haitians, even after this last earthquake. They were just devastated. The Red Cross, okay, the Red Cross actually decepted these people. They took money, did not build homes for them. They're not curing their illnesses and whatnot, and they spent the money on themselves. The Haitians. So I studied the Haitians and I went to Haiti not because of that, because that was -- I went to Haiti a very long time ago. As a matter of fact, it was 1971 when Papa Doc divided -- was the President or Prime Minister or whatever. So I went there because I wanted to study voodoo. As I say the word voodoo, folks shudder because they always say, well, you stick pins and all those kind of things. Well, I said I wanted to see this sticking of pins. I wanted to see all those various things. But I did go to a ceremony which was for Baron Samedi, and Baron Samedi was the god of the cemetery, and there was a festival for Baron Samedi where a person stayed in a coffin, slept in the coffin for seven days. At the end of those seven days there was a ceremony and at the ceremony there was food. There was food, there was a lot of drummers, a lot of dancing, and I saw within the dancing, people were getting possessed by their spirits, okay? That just shows the power of belief. They believed so powerfully and so devoutly that their god could actually heal them, could actually give them the strength to live long and to make their lives meaningful. However, there was this Houngan who was the priest. A little small man. Couldn't have weighed no more than 100 pounds. There was a bull in the hunt for them. Hunt [inaudible] a place where the [inaudible] ceremonies take place. So the bull was tied to the peristyle, and there was a pole that held up the roof and whatnot. He was tied to it. A bull. I'm going to say that again. A bull. This little man. So the bull wanted to go out and leave. He wanted to leave. He was pulling the pole and pulling and pulling. So this little man sat down behind the bull, held both of the bull's hind legs, and steadied the bull. The bull could not move. A hundred pound man. I mean it. So he was exceptionally strong because he believed this is what he was supposed to do. So I learned about the voodoo drumming to the point whereas if you believe, I can play my drum and possess you. You will then transform. Neurologically you transform. So you could be actually I'd say to the point where pain could not invade your body. You could be painless. You could feel wonderful just from listening to this drum. I went to Cuba. The exact same thing. Belief. People were getting possessed by their gods and goddesses, the Orishas. They could transform. They could speak in what we call speak in tongues, right? They could heal you. So I learned that through drums. I went to Brazil. The exact same thing. I went to [inaudible]. The same thing. I went to Ghana. The exact same thing. So we, if we choose to believe that we're powerful, then we could do whatever it is that we choose to do and be successful. All we have to do is believe. That was from drumming, learning about the cultures, quote/unquote cases, studies. I am now an ethnomusicologist. I went to school and learned what to say and how to say it, what to study. I went to school to learn. But I did that naturally because I love my culture and I love drumming, and I love hitting stuff. I still drum. I'm 68 years old and I play every day. When I leave here I'm going to go play. >> You don't want to stop. >> Hafiz Shabazz: Well, this is not the point. It is not the point. I wanted to tell you the truth. But nonetheless, that is what actually healed my soul. I cannot get away from [inaudible]. There was a school in Philadelphia, an independent school called [inaudible]. They were, I think, a school of humanitarianism, for humanitarianism. It was to teach people to love one another, to love your black brother and sister, not to kill your black brother and sister, not to hate your black brother and sister, but to love them, and [inaudible] is in your [inaudible] language, it means house of love. I studied there and played there and I became the master drummer of the dance ensemble for [inaudible] African American Dance Ensemble. I was the master drummer. All of those cultures that I studied, I taught young brothers and sisters, seven years old, five years old, 12 years old, even adults. Now I teach at Dartmouth College. Been there 30 years. I teach three terms a year, in every term, every term. I have a waiting list of 200 students. A waiting list. I only allow 25 into my class because it's special. That's how I live my life. It's how I support myself, and that's what I continue to do. So that's my story. [ Applause ] >> Beverly East: Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Beverly East and it's such a honor and a pleasure to be here, especially sitting up here with three mindful, progressive, wonderful, handsome men. You don't know how it feels to be up here [laughter]. I'm very pro the black man because I had this wonderful father who gave me so much love that when I hear women or anybody talking about my black man, it hurts my heart because of the man that raised me. Because of the way the man raised me, my father raised me to be proud of who I am. Don't let this British accent fool you [laughter]. I am a Jamaican woman who happens to live in other parts of the world. But the diaspora that I come from, I walk with pride. So my story is that I had your typical nine to five job in London. I was a manager for a large retail company, the only black woman in the entire company in a management position -- 45,000 people in that company. I'm the only black manager in the company. One day I am told that a customer complained that it was unhygienic for me to be standing near the food. I'm not touching the food. I'm not supervising the foot. I'm not selling the food. I'm just in that division of the company. I was told to move to the bra section, the manager. So I moved to the bra section and that night I got home, I packed up my -- and came back to London, and didn't resign like you're supposed to -- give notice. I just quit. I just quit. My family was worried because you need that reference from your last job to get another job, and I didn't have a reference, and I wasn't going back to say sorry, and I wasn't having a bad day that day that I quit. I just had it. So I decided -- the kind of personality I have I need to set up my own company, do my own stuff. So that's what I've done. I am a handwriting examiner, a forensic document examiner. So what the hell is that? I don't read palms. Let's just get what I don't do [laughter]. I don't read palms. I can't tell you the future. What I do is I look at handwriting, identify the authenticity for forged signature. Do you know how many people forge documents? I didn't think this business would survive the way it has. So I do two aspects. I look at profiling. I look at handwriting and your personality, and I look at handwriting for authenticity. So it's two different fields, but I'm qualified in both. I just so happen to be the only woman in the world who's Jamaican qualified in both. So for a long time no one took me seriously, not even my mother who really loves me. So she would tell people. She's married to a lawyer. She would never say what I did, like I was a hooker or something [laughter]. She's married to a lawyer. So for years that was my claim to fame. So I decided -- well, a friend suggested, "Why don't you write a book about handwriting?" So I says, "Yeah, but it would have to be academic and who would want to read it?" Then this can only happen in America. I was asked to talk about the JonBenet Ramsey ransom note back in the time. I did not have the letter. Hadn't seen the letter. Just knew the basic story like all of us. But I was asked 26 times to go to 26 different events to talk about a letter that I had not seen. I would tell them I had not seen the letter. Come, come, come. So I did. Twenty-six speaking engagements, for pay, across the United States, to talk about a document that I hadn't seen. Only in America. So then I get there and then I'm not white because they hear me on the phone. They think, oh, she's white. I get that I'm not white. Then it's a whole another palaver. One man said to me, "Oh, you're not at all how I imagined you to be." I says, "Maybe a little taller, yes [laughter]?" So on this trip of going on -- I call it the JonBenet Ramsey tour. Poor baby. What was the most question I was asked? "I met this man in Barbados. What can you tell me about his handwriting?" No one wanted to talk to me about the murder of this child. First of all, I was offended that someone would be -- I'm here to talk about the death of a child and you're coming to me to talk about some man you met in Barbados. So after about 15 cities I'm hearing the same question. I'm thinking this might be the book that I'm supposed to write. So that is how <i>Finding Mr. Writ </i>, W-R-I-T, came about, which is handwriting, how to look at handwriting and identify personality traits. So this was my first book. I got a major book deal with Random House. Major, major book deal with Random House. I couldn't even believe it. Because my mother always said, isn't she married to a lawyer? So I asked the lawyer I was married to to read the 15-page contract to make sure I was getting a good deal. So I did. I got a two-book deal with Random House -- unheard of. So I'm really an author now. I've always wanted to be an author. But when you're a little girl you keep it to yourself because you don't want to speak it aloud because you don't want to sound silly. Back then. I'm an old woman, so back then. So I had read Fanon and James Baldwin and so how could I be an author because the people I was reading, they were so phenomenal, so how could I be one of these people? So then when I'd written this book and then I was on <i>Good Morning America </i>with Diane Sawyer and we sold 6000 books in eight minutes, I was like, whoo, I really am an author [laughter]. So I had to go back into my head because there was a story in my heart that had been in my heart from when I was 18. What had happened is my father had lost 14 members of his family in one night in a train accident. Two-hundred-and-fifty people had died, 14 from my family, with the same name as me. That night my father locked it away, had not spoken about it. So I started to go to Jamaica to research that book. But because I grew up in England I didn't really know enough and I wanted to give the story justice. So I moved to Jamaica to write that story because after -- I'm an author now. I can do this. So I go to Jamaica, spend two years in Jamaica, and I write <i>Reaper of Souls </i>. the story that was untold in Jamaica. I didn't realize how many people were still walking around from this terrible night unresolved, emotions unresolved. This book is now in the hands of a director. I'm sorry. I would have come to you first [laughter]. With a movie director. This book is with them. But the thing with this book was I was told by Random House that it wasn't Jamaican enough. So I was like, oh, thank you very much, me gone [laughter]. So I didn't try to -- I don't know what it is to be Jamaican enough. I'm not a raster. I don't smoke weed. I listen to more than reggae. So is that all it is to be Jamaican? I do have more than one job though. [ Laughter ] So I kissed Random House goodbye, went to an independent publisher in Jamaica, and had the book published in Jamaica. Then I fell out with them because if you don't do it my way, none of it works, so. It was mainly inexperience, the small press in Jamaica. So then my final -- well, I shouldn't say my final. My third book, because I'm working on a fourth book. Because I lived in London and no disrespect to any woman in this audience, but I cannot define my childhood through somebody else's childhood. There are so many young girls who have been molested as a child, and beaten, and gone to bed hungry, and all these things, that we -- you know <i>Precious</i> is a typical example of how young black girls are defined. I am not one of them and I'm not ashamed to hide that I'm not one of them. I had a father that loved me. Would come home from work 3:30 in the afternoon to be home so when I got home from school I wasn't a latchkey kid, and would stay home with me, cook dinner, and stay with me until my mother came home. I could never get into trouble you know. There was -- the leash was so tight. So I wrote this book as my young life, <i>Bat Mitzvah Girl </i>, and the reason why it's called<i> Bat Mitzvah Girl </i>because I had my mother and I had four Jewish women across the street from my house who had no children. So I became their girl. So it's these four sisters, my life with them, and my life back and forth from London to Jamaica because I went to Jamaica to live with my grandmother for a while, and I'm so happy for that two years that I had with her. So I wrote this and actually for the first time self-published, which, for everybody in the room that wants to do a book for the first time, it's really not as easy as they tell you it is. Because I had a database from the Random House and a template of the marketing, it's done very well. But I always feel as a first-time author you try and get a publisher to help you because it's not as easy as people try and do. So, I thank you very much for listening to me, and I knew I [inaudible] talk for five minutes so I'm sure that five minutes is way, way up. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] >> Gabriel Benn: Good afternoon. >> Good afternoon. >> Gabriel Benn: My name is Gabriel Asheru Benn. I am an educator. I've been an educator here in D.C. for 18 years as a teacher and as an administrator for an after-school program and a summer program, and et cetera. I'm also an artist, a hip-hop artist. I go by the name Asheru so I guess in the effort of telling my own story in self-discovery. Asheru is a name that I gave myself at 17 years old when I was in college, my quest. Yeah, my story is ever evolving. I feel like I'm just kind of moving through my story as it's being told or kind of creating it as I go. But because I have these two backgrounds of being an artist and an educator, I've kind of spent my whole life finding a way to bridge the two. Early-on, I put on my first independent project in '97. It was a vinyl. It was a vinyl and tape. I was very proud of that, to be able to put something out with my name on it, something that I wrote, something that I created, and I still am. I continue to be proud everytime I release something new. But I also was in [inaudible] at that time on my first year as an educator, as a teacher, and I never -- I went to school. I studied Anthropology. My dream was to work in the Smithsonian. I want to take down that -- just be a global traveler and study different cultures and write and just -- kind of like what Anthony Bourdain does -- food, everything. Just experience the whole thing and report back up. So that was kind of my thing. When I got back home from school, the job that I thought I would get, because I had interned and done some stuff with the Smithsonian, when I got back, the job wasn't there. So I took this menial job sitting in a cubicle, and one day, hating my job, I looked in the classified ads, and I saw an ad for a teacher. It said, "Teacher Wanted." It just said, "Teacher Wanted" and a phone number [laughter]. I know. I called it. A guy answered the phone. He was the principal of the school. He had called it [inaudible] Elementary. It closed down in '06, but he answered the phone and he said -- I said, "Yes, I'm calling about the ad." He said, "You want to teach?" I said, "Yes." He said, "When can you get over here?" I said, "Right now." I got in a cab and I rode to Union Station to Southeast. Walked right up in the school. I introduced myself and he asked me if I had ever taught before. I told me no, but I really -- I think it was something that I -- all of my mentors were teachers coming up. I felt like it was something that I'd like to at least experience, to try. I guess he was very desperate for a teacher because -- this was a Wednesday, and he said, "Can you come on Monday?" I said yes. He said, "You got to turn in two weeks or whatever?" I said, "No, let me worry about that. I'll be here Monday." I went back to work, I quit, I went home, I got ready. I started that Monday. I learned everything on the curve. The students taught me everything. The students in -- I had a couple of older teachers who were kind of mentoring me through my first year, and I really realized that not only did I enjoy it, but then I saw a real need and a real service that had to be done. So I just, from that point on, committed myself to doing it. Now, while I'm doing this and learning more about myself and being -- and what it means to be a teacher, I'm still working on this music stuff. I had family that said, look, you're going to have to give one up. You'll never be able to do both. You got to -- eventually you're going to have to choose. Everytime I came to that point where I felt like I had to choose, I had come to that fork in the road, and I just -- I can't choose. I'll go straight. So my whole life from there has been a merging of these two passions. So, to fast-forward. A few years after that I started working a private school with EDLE students. If you're not familiar, that means emotionally disturbed or disabled students. I was encountering students, like you said, students who were 13, 14, 15 years old, but reading on a second and third grade reading level. I'm sitting there like how am I supposed to teach the student this stuff that you want me to teach and is graded age appropriate, when they're reading on such a low reader level? It was something that I struggled with for a while, and yet I just -- I thought about it and I said, well, hip-hop taught me everything. When I was growing up people like Mike Kemp, [inaudible] MC Light, Native Tongue, these groups were like -- they were my teachers. I learned about drag nationalism. I learned about manhood. I learned about America. I learned about history. I learned about ancient Egypt, Black Panther Movement. I learned all of it through hip-hop. So I said, well, maybe I can just take some of these lyrics and make textbooks, make activities where they could -- they already know these lyrics so why don't we use this as our text, and then I could kind of finagle the rest from there. So that's how I created the Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program. We made 13 titles, we travelled all over the country, and we started to learn that teachers were gravitating to it more than the students because teachers were saying, "Look, I have this issue, too. What can I do for these kids that I have?" It turned into a professional development model. We started talking to teachers about culturally responsive education using these hip-hop materials and other things. So that kind of spun into me really stepping into being, I guess, a hip-hop educator. It was not meaning that I'm coming in to teach you how to rap. More that I'm teaching you how to look at the world critically through the lens of hip-hop culture and the culture that I identified with as me being a hip-hop person. So that kind of started my quest. I still carry that banner to this day. Currently I'm doing a lot of work with culturally responsive teaching. I just quit DCPS in August of last year from just fatigue I guess and students getting killed. I went to my last funeral and I just decided in August I was done, and I left in -- I'm going to tell you a quick story because I could go on forever, but I can kind of sum it all up in this story. So I quit in August. In October -- I mean I'm sorry -- in September I -- now let me not just say I quit. I quit knowing, okay, I have a little bit of savings. I have a wife, three children. I didn't just recklessly walk away, but I knew, okay -- let me start stopping for right now because come August I don't want to stop in the school year. I want to find my new thing, whatever it is I'm going to do. So I had a little bit of savings, what have you, except -- August I quit. September I'm still working, figuring things out. Not at school but working on my own and doing my own thing. October comes around. Same thing. I'm lecturing, I'm doing some little shows here and there. I got an ambassadorship with the State Department -- I'm actually a Global Hip-Hop Cultural Ambassador -- who sent me to Bangladesh for the month of November. So I said okay. So I'm good until November, and then when I come back in November, I mean from this trip, I don't really know what I'm going to do and to figure it out. So I go out to Bangladesh and I'm almost -- not poor, but I'm getting there. I'm rapidly approaching. I'm over there, I'm overseas, and I'm enjoying the whole time there. Our job was to kind of use hip-hop as a form of cultural diplomacy. So leading these workshops for students and learning about their culture and really facilitating the process for these youth to tell their story through hip-hop. Some of you may or may not know but when I do -- when you go overseas and you meet young people who are in hip-hop culture, they're heavily, heavily influenced by American black hip-hop culture. Yes, most of them -- what's your first memory of hip-hop? Most of them will tell you Chuck D. Public Enemy is my first inspiration of hip-hop. It's not that now, but that was their first. So it was a big deal for people to empower themselves through hip-hop, to tell their stories. Then once they stopped speaking in English and speaking their mother tongue and tell you the story, it's a whole new level. So being over there and going through this transition and seeing these youth that are starting to step into that realm of speaking in their mother tongue and speaking to tell their story, I was very inspired. I met these artists called [inaudible] musicians who dedicated their life to reading poetry by this poet named [inaudible] and some other poets. But they dedicate their life to this poetry, this poetry so to speak. I collaborated with one of the artists, and he was singing a song, and the song gave me chills. To hear this man singing it just gave me chills. I didn't know a word of what he was saying but it was a moving, moving song. So I asked one of the people who were with us. I said, "What is he singing about in this song?" He was like, "He's singing about this bird called the chatak bird, and the bird floats on water like a duck, but he never drinks the water under his feet. He only drinks water that rain -- he drinks the rain what comes down. It's almost like this bird is dedicated. He's patient and he's dedicated to what the Creator gives him. He doesn't want to drink the water that he's swimming in everyday." I was like, wow, that's amazing. So the whole arc of the song I guess is what happens when it doesn't rain? Oh, wow. All right, I'll make it very quick. So the story is what happens when it doesn't rain? What does this bird do? He leaves it hanging. You never really get the answer. It's left for you to imagine what does this bird do? So I come home and I'm back from this amazing trip. I look in my account and I'm like, wow, I'm really stuck. At this point I'm like, well, I got to do something. So I'm doing these little odd things, and I said, well, maybe I can apply for unemployment just as something. They were like, well, no, you can't apply for unemployment. You quit your job. You weren't fired. You don't -- you can't just quit and get unemployment. So I'm like, wow, I can't get unemployment. I'm thinking about these other things, and then I thought about that bird. I was like you know what? I'm not going to drink from that water. I'm just going to let the rain fall and I'll be fine. So November comes, December comes, and I'm like whoo, now I'm really being tested. January -- because I actually -- the end of December, my birthday is December 29th, so right around my birthday I get a phone call from this sister who I had hired maybe eight years prior to work on this educational literacy thing that I was telling you about. She calls me, and she's like "I've been looking for you for two months." She said, "I got this job. I'm in Chicago right now. I'm working with <i>Discovery </i>, and I think this job would be perfect for you. The only thing is you got to come to Chicago." I was like, "Okay [inaudible]. Tell me when it's bad." She's like, "No, that's it. You just got to come to Chicago." So I landed and took this job from a woman who had -- who was my employee years ago. She turned around and hired me, and now when I do -- after I left in August, I said I wouldn't come back to this kind of thing, now I've been kind of deployed to the South Side of Chicago, and I do the same work on the South Side of Chicago. I do it four days a week, and I come back home. So I commute back and forth, but I'm working in the same community. This is a sign for me that no matter how much I try to walk away, it's never going to happen. I'm always going to be pulled back, and that's fine. I'm perfectly fine with that. But I think it just speaks to the -- I think that's why I'm the kind of artist that I am, the topics that I speak about, the things that I talk about, are all in that same vein of being in service to my people, and the fact that I'm -- I can never be torn from it. I'm always a part of that fabric and I'm always going to speak about it in every forum that I can, so. [ Applause ] >> Eve Ferguson: Wow. So everybody has a story, right? But these were some fantastic stories, and I hope you were inspired by them. I'm going to take the liberty of -- before I open it up to the audience to ask questions -- to ask Asheru if he can give us a little sample of that which his name has been so on the tip of people's tongues. Could you do that? >> Gabriel Benn: Sure [applause].Over there? >> Eve Ferguson: Yeah, you can come -- yeah. >> Gabriel Benn: I'm going to dedicate this song to -- this story, to the film<i> Sankofa </i>because it meant a lot to me when I watched it. It kind of inspired this beast. Okay. Once upon a time in the outer reaches were coal-black knights met white hot beaches. The destroyers came ashore and left speechless by mysterious peoples with sunburnt features. Among them, healers and even teachers who knew of God before they even heard of Jesus. It was fate that they would cross paths. Neither side would come out the same in the aftermath. Off to the new world, through the door of no return. Broke our mind, body, spirit with very little concern. I guess over time we learned how to adapt, make a brand new second hand out of these old scraps. Now we influence the whole planet. Better or for worse the effects are titanic. Different branch from the same tree. NO matter where I find myself I'm the same me. It's a new place to be in, a new breed of human being made of Africans, Indians, and Europeans. Went from their goose to niggers, from [inaudible] to cotton-pickers. Still God lives through. It takes a lot to kill us. When you talk about this country we the builders, and that there is an actual fact. But I don't hyphenate the name. Hold my head with no shame. I ain't African American. I'm black. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter when you go, there you are. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter where you go. I wear it like a suit of armor. My [inaudible] to bring me good karma. So my seed worth a plow like a good farmer. It's out of every Trayvon or Obama. Lots of potential to be great or die trying. The odds are stacked. Ain't no point of me being a shy liar. I walk with a certain pride and move by a code that go for what we know. More like what we're owed o make up for the lies that the media tells, like being black is hell. Death, crime, and jail are the only outcomes with few exceptions. We're here to change course in a new direction. Use talent to provide balance. Advance through the corporate to make them forfeit or give a fatigue in the Ivy League and watch them all fall short on the ball court. Never forget who you are, what we've been through. How what we did don't compare to what we're meant to. And the best is yet to come so what's essential that we wake up before we get that wake-up call. We don't all have to agree, but we all have to be committed to a degree to do for you the same as I would do for me. If we could do that we'll finally get to see what we've been fighting for this whole time to get free. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter where you go. Often imitated. Never duplicated. Always underestimated. Cash money generated. Fear, love hated. Especially the highly-educated or the ones from the bottom they thought never would have made it. Which we never tolerated being so degraded, lands invaded. Soon as oil and gold mines raided, incarcerated, socially castrated, separated at birth from the very root they gave it. Still feel the pain. We self-medicated. Stay faded from the projects to communities is gated. I won't overcomplicate it. I simply state it. Look, the world is in trouble. We going to be the ones that save it. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter when you go, there you are. No matter where you go, there you are. No matter where you go. [ Applause and Cheering ] >> Eve Ferguson: I know it's hard to ask a question after that [laughter], but let's open it up. Any questions? Yes. >> You talk about travelling through Bangladesh and doing this work and taking my message to other parts of the world. Do you envision that continuing, and how do you take that message to parts of Europe? My grandchildren are in Finland where Fins have one of the highest educated populations in the world from the [inaudible] -- >> Gabriel Benn: Correct. >> They all have a high percentage of suicides. So, tell me how this can apply in other parts of the world. My son has an interest in children and hip-hop and -- >> Gabriel Benn: Well, I mean I've been to Finland. I've travelled to -- I've been to 24 countries doing this work. But what I've always found is that hip-hop specifically is kind of that voice for people who feel voiceless, for people who don't feel like they're being heard loud enough. They take to that culture and that music because it's kind of the underdog culture, underdog kind of music. But I use it as a platform for youth to tell their story. So, for example, in Bangladesh we're working with youth whose parents, whose families are telling them this is a fruitless endeavor. Don't do it. I want you to go to school. This is -- culturally it won't help us. They have all of these pressures around them telling them not to engage in, to hip-hop. What they're trying to say is, this is saving my life. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for this. I wouldn't have the opportunities. I wouldn't have the support system. I wouldn't have the worldview that I currently have if it weren't for this. If I lose this I will have nothing is what they were trying to tell their parents, because they didn't feel empowered to do that. Our job -- well, I took it upon myself just for the ones who were with me, was to give them that platform to write and to tell their story, and to say it to their parent or elder who's around them. Ironically enough, at the end of the workshops we did a culminating show in the National Theater. It was standing room only. All of their families came out, and a lot of the families afterward were coming up to -- I would observe them speaking to their youths. Some of them came up to me or some of the other people who were facilitators, and they were like, "Thank you. I needed to -- it gave me a different way of looking at my child." To be honest, I kind of sympathize with it because my father didn't support me making music for a long time. It wasn't until my dad was in Japan and I called him and I said, "I'm doing a show in Japan next week." My father saw me perform for the first time in another country. But it was the first time he had ever seen me perform. I think, for him, it was like, "Wow, well this is different than I thought it was [laughter]." You know what I mean? But it was how you do it. I've been trying to tell you forever. So here it is. Other kids say that. It was empowerful. It was as impactful. I'm not from Bangladesh, but we could still relate on that thing. In Finland, whether it's in Senegal, South Africa, wherever, we all have a common story, and that common story is what we share through the culture. Whether you're Finnish or Dutch or what have you, there are certain things that we all have in common, and the key is to find where do we intersect? Where's that thing that we both can share, that we can talk about, and relate to? >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: For me, I think we always have to know that everything black people create as a healing process, whether -- what you have to be very concerned is about the Africans in America who did not debate their freedom, did not give anybody the jurisdiction, including [inaudible], because everybody says your master was nice but I ain't a slaves is the discussion there. So, to me, there were Africans who would never accept the very idea of slaves. Even now, [inaudible] would say slave. Slave means genetically slave. But enslavement is the grammar most progressive Afrocentric people put out to correct this idea of my slave father doesn't even sit right. So black people have to know in America it is unfortunate. I don't want to be -- they have to be as greedy as white people when it comes to producing, archiving their intellectual property, because in those days, the imagination of a people. The kind of world they want to see. So, for me, whatever you label it, it could get lost in the American shuffle. For me, don't ever forget Menendez. Study Fort Mose, John Horst. They're black people. I'm going to go to Mexico to interview their descendents from Florida within the whole black African and Native American, Seminole, [inaudible]. Those people never needed the sanctioning of American historians. They continued for 100 years. They continued to commemorate their historical journey. What is very important is whether it's -- underground railroad is very, very important. But you have to know that there is another movement that did not include white people, and all gutsy people, white or black, have to endorse those people for their qualitative contribution to change America. They were very violent, as violent slavery was. It's hard to sometimes to choose for people who are trying to say, look at the past and instead as a uniter but as a divider, it's very hard for them to look. I am very impressed for me and my African friends when I go to a panel discussion in Africa, in South Africa. I tell them, yeah, [inaudible] in the United States of America. This was from Virginia all the way to Florida, Mississippi, Alabama. Their history is critical because -- a little kid says, if he says, "Abraham Lincoln liberated me," that is not liberation. That is mortgaging, eternal enslavement, because you're saying to me, "Somebody had a lock to my freedom." In that whole drawing, the very drawing -- that image, visually, that "Free me." It is a burden to blacks; it's a burden to white kids, to reallocate the idea of freedom to another human being. That debate has to die in America. That debate of saying, "I freed you," for every ignorant white person to go around accusing black people, well, you don't seem to be responsible to enjoy the freedom I gave you." That's every violence against blacks. Free black people says that. So I'm saying change the narrative. Everything good black people invent could also be poisonous. My brother's amazing. But I'll tell you, some of the [inaudible] that is enriching Sony and et cetera and et cetera is not trickling down to black economic transformation. Black people now cannot economically produce their own anything. That's the [inaudible] we're inheriting now. >> Hafiz Shabazz: True. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: It's very difficult. Book publishing -- Haci, [inaudible] Press, Black Classics, three black people. Even then, they don't even have the money to really show you how many black people are writing. In this kind of situation you can't be flimsy at the expense of black people, especially to me. I'm a foreigner. I'm here as a guest to black people as far as I'm concerned because they embraced me when racism tried to mess with my mind. They embraced me. They called me brother when I didn't even know the meaning of brother. Therefore, I can't compromise black people. I will not make a movie if I have to compromise black people, and every deal that would come to me is to compromise black people by saying, "Do another<i> Driving Miss Daisy </i>. >> Haile Gerima: Miss Daisy. >> Bahiyyah Muhammad: Do another <i>Barbershop 22 </i>. Do them. No. I will not buy that. To me, every black person who does, it's their business. But I will not be in that position. So, for me, this is fantastic and positive first. But where do you take it? Do not lose, do not take everything black -- don't go take it and take the tooth out just because it's a piece of -- or it creates a career for people. As far as I'm concerned no living black person, including black people in America, have no right to compromise the history of black people. >> Gabriel Benn: Thank you. [ Applause ] I think it is a big issue doing that. But the -- I have hit robots myself as a teacher. When you have black history and Black History Month comes around and you have students who say off the top, "I don't want to talk about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks and George Washington Carver and the peanut issue." They say that. I hear that every year. I hear students -- somebody complains, somebody says that -- and it is. It's on us to show a broader aspect. What I tend to do is not -- I mean, I can't -- you can't skip the past. You have to talk about the past. But what I tend to do is try to show it in the context. Context is everything. So even like what the brother was saying about hip-hop artists. I take the same position he does where I don't work to compromise the integrity of my people in my heart, so I don't do that. Now, will that make me pay? Probably not. I can't sustain a living off of it but that doesn't mean don't make the art. So I still do that, but I guess the -- to answer your question more directly, it has to be put in a context of present and future. It can't just be past. It's the past, and how do we take the past when it's happening, and what does that mean in the context of white male? Then how do we take the past and what does that mean in the context of what could be? But not -- what we tend to do is we just focus on the past and say, "Never forget." But the application in the synthesis of what we learn from about the past is what is going to give the students the context for why we are asking them to learn this and why we deem it important even if they don't initially. Because once you put it into context, then they can see why it's so important. So like for example, this whole -- this started happening with Trayvon and Mike Brown, all of these youth that are getting killed. I'm talking about it in a elementary school on the South Side of Chicago. It's right around the corner from a street called Emmett Till Road, right? So we're talking about Mike Brown and Trayvon on Emmett Till Road. When I ask, "Do you know who Emmett Till is," some of them knew, some heard about the name. They didn't really know the story and why -- in context that is so pertinent to right now, and so you have to -- like I say, if you're going to do it -- first of all, it can't just be in February. That's number one. Number two, you have to put it in a context where you can see what's -- how it relates to right now, how it's going to happen. I mean how it relates to the future, and then also using the film and all the other arts because that's what builds these images in our psyche. If you're going to change our psyche, you have to use the media that's created to do that, and we don't use it. It's being made, but we're not using it strategically to change that. So that's a lot of the work that I'm looking forward to doing in the future and partnering with people who do, because the media of literacy is a big part of this literacy conversation. How do we contextualize this media and use it to our benefit? That's a longer story, but, yeah. >> Beverly East: I am not in the education system, per se. I would not have the patience to teach. My personality does not allow it. Somebody would be dead and it wouldn't be me [laughter]. I think a lot of our history has to come from our home, from the parents. I know everybody's busy, but I think it comes from the home. Your self image comes from your home or somebody. It doesn't necessarily have to be your mother. It can be your grandmother. It can be somebody. Then black history's every day. Every day something is created. I was just asked am I going to write about my father. My father is in this book. My father's story is in the other book. His people died and the Jamaican government -- at the time we were not an independent island. We were under village rules so it was all hushed up and covered. So when I went to Jamaica to write that story, everybody thought I was some kind of spy or what has she come to do? What she really come to do? So I think especially -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] >> Eve Ferguson: Press the button on the bottom. >> Beverly East: Just press this? >> Eve Ferguson: The button on the bottom. >> Beverly East: On the bottom. Okay. >> Eve Ferguson: It's on the side. >> Beverly East: On the side. I just think individually we have to make it our duty to speak, speak up when we see something. I have a son who's 23, and when he was a teenager I used to watch -- I can't remember the name of it now. Nine-o-two something. >> <i>Nine-o-two-one-o </i>. >> Beverly East: Yeah. Thank you. I used to watch that 10/15 minutes a day so I knew what he was listening to and what he was -- what he enjoyed. So one day I'm in the car and I said to him about Little Wayne, and he says, "Mom, mom, stop, stop, stop." But at least I knew who Little Wayne was. But he was -- but I felt the only way I could reach him when he was 12 was through rap music, and so my mother, who is 80-something years old, she started to listen to Jay Z and everybody, so when her grandson came to London she knew what he was listening to. So I think it's an individual road for all of us. When I see young black men on the street I speak to them. If they've got earphones on, what are you listening to? They look at me like well, huh, huh? I tell them to pull their pants up. Pull your pants up. Pull up your self-esteem. It helps. It helps. >> Gabriel Benn: Especially from a woman. >> Beverly East: Yeah. My son would always say, "Mom, don't, don't, don't do -- don't tell me what I can't do." So -- >> Hafiz Shabazz: I just want to dovetail what Beverly is saying, is that all of us, when you speak about history, we should journal our daily lives, everything we do every day. We should write it in a journal. I don't need that. Write it in a journal, day by day. Then you actually record a living history. So when your children and other people want to know what's going on in the lives of today, you have a journal. Actually write it down. That's what I tell my students. Each day write it in your -- a journal. Then it's going to turn into a book where you can sell it, but that's not important because no one is going to actually tell our lives. >> Beverly East: I [inaudible]. >> Hafiz Shabazz: No one is going to do that. So you have to do it yourself. >> Eve Ferguson: Okay, we're going to let Dr. Madhubuti have the last word. We started with him, so we'll end with him, and that means we've come 360 degrees. >> Haki Madhubuti: Haile Gerima and I are of the same generation. So we come at this really in a liberated way, all right, that we're not asking permission for doing that stuff. That what he does in his film and what I do in my books -- the way he does this thing [inaudible] create an institutional structure in D.C., and what we do is try to fill [inaudible] school. We need to liberate a zone. We need these zones so we can come and talk and share and not hold back and tell the truth because we do have traitors among us, and then we have to be very clear about that. So we have been stopped by people who going into secret meetings after they leave us, and, therefore, we cannot move. What I think that we need to really begin to understand that we do not have in our community that we need -- we need wealth. We need wealth. I mean, even this meeting required some money to get [inaudible]. Where did it come from? It came from us, [inaudible]. We need wealth ourselves. Well, we can't even get past it in this kind of economy because most of us do not [inaudible]. Thanks so much. But like this young man is [inaudible]. >> I'm not blood. >> You're not? >> Haki Madhubuti: He ain't but [inaudible]. >> Gabriel Benn: That's my brother. >> Haki Madhubuti: That's his. >> Gabriel Benn: That's my mayor. >> Haki Madhubuti: That's a national program right there. That's an international program. I'm so glad you [inaudible]. We are international people. >> Gabriel Benn: Yes. >> Haki Madhubuti: All right? We're not just right here in Washington, D.C. or the South Side of Chicago. We travel all around the world. But the point is this is our home base, right? He's not a foreigner. He's my brother. >> Gabriel Benn: That's right. >> Haki Madhubuti: You don't ask permission. You hear that? So the key point now -- always when we leave here today is what will we do tomorrow? How do we, each of us, involve ourselves in creating these liberated [inaudible]? All right? So we can't move in [inaudible]. And, finally, this is very important. We're going to pay for it. We have to pay for it. If you think you're going to create anything that's going to represent us with a grant for MacArthur [laughter], we [inaudible]. All right? That means that you come out of your pocket, you pay dues just like you pay that 10% at your church. Then this is a liberated zone church, right? When [inaudible] says give me $200 so I can get a new jet, I said I'll give you $200 for a new jet if you just get away from here, leave, don't -- [ Laughter and Applause ] >> First of all, I want to thank you all for coming here, and I know that you've come from many different areas of the country, so thank you for being here and for being here the whole day. I want to thank our speakers. They were marvelous. I know that we're all here because of them, because they've added so much to our knowledge, to our enthusiasm, to our division here, and to the Library. I want particularly to thank Dr. Maria Fenton. She has been the initiator. She has been the flame that started this, and I want to recognize the work that she has done. So, thank you, Maria. [ Applause and Cheering ] I want to thank our own Dr. Sibyl Moses [applause]. She has been extraordinary working and organizing and putting together this program. Our own Eve Ferguson who has just been fabulous and has [applause] also worked very, very hard. Our Marita Harper who has been there [applause] night and day, working on this program. Behind the scenes we've had the people who've put together the sound system, the film people who have been standing here the whole day [applause] filming us. So thank you. Thank you for being there, and they're always there. They're always doing the work together. I want to thank the Library, and by the way, we were not involved in money. Believe it or not, there was no money that put this together. It was just the goodwill of everyone working very hard and wanting to have this event [applause]. So, thank you, Dr. Madhubuti. Thank you all for being here. >> This has been as presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at loc.gov.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h National Park Service (2013-11-02). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
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