I Have a Story to Tell
I remember when in 2003 Ruth Simmons, the first Black president of an Ivy League school, launched an investigation into Brown University’s toxic ties to slavery. That illuminating and inspiring effort began with questions: What do we know? Who is visible in history? What stories are missing or suppressed? What is owed? Harvard just released a report revealing its own links to America’s original sin—one illuminating contrast is the names of the wealthy and the powerful (Increase Mather, Governor John Winthrop) alongside the human beings they enslaved who bore a single name or no name at all: Juba, Cesar, Venus, “The Moor.” What are their stories? What wisdom and richness is denied? Tara Betts, thinker and creator, mentor and teacher, author of the poetry collections Arc & Hue, Break the Habit, and the forthcoming Refuse to Disappear, joins me Under the Tree for a conversation about poetry, teaching, and the need for radical repair in this urgent moment.
“If you are troubled by the cruelty and violence and lovelessness you see around you,” Rich said, “if you want to live in your time and not in some Hollywood or videogame fantasy, if you’ve seen people around you pushed around or crushed …
“If you love language and see it being betrayed, if you feel a huge gap between what you’re told is going on and what you actually see and feel on your nerves — then this is the material of your art, there’s no escaping it.”
Where do you or could you find a light in dark times?