From Poetry to Art with Kevin Young | Black America


♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪>>>HELLO AND THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US TODAY. I’M CAROL JENKINS. THE PROGRAM IS “BLACK AMERICA.” OUR GUEST TODAY IS THE FAMED POET, KEVIN YOUNG, WHO STEPPED INTO THE POSITION AS DIRECTOR OF THE SCHOMBURG CENTER FOR RESEARCH IN BLACK CULTURE, THE AUTHOR OF TEN CELEBRATED BOOKS OF POETRY INCLUDING “BLUE LAWS: SELECTED AND UNCOLLECTED POEMS FROM 1995 TO 2015.” AND “THE BOOK OF HOURS” AND MANY, MANY MORE. HIS NONFICTION “THE GREY ALBUM: ON THE BLACKNESS OF BLACKNESS” EXPLORES BLACK IDENTITY AND IT WAS A NOTABLE “NEW YORK TIMES” BOOK IN 2012. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE TODAY. >>THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. >>AN INTERESTING CHOICE OF PUTTING A POET IN CHARGE OF THE SCHOMBURG. A LOT OF US SAID, WHAT? BECAUSE WE WEREN’T USED TO THAT KIND OF LEADERSHIP OVER THERE. BUT KNOWING A LITTLE BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR HISTORY, IT MAKES PERFECT SENSE. >>YEAH, I MEAN, I THINK POETRY AND HISTORY ARE INTERTWINED VERY MUCH, ESPECIALLY IN AFRICAN-AMERICAN POETRY. POETS HAVE WRITTEN OUR HISTORY, HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT OUR HISTORY IN BROAD WAYS. I DON’T THINK OF MYSELF NECESSARILY AS A HISTORICAL POET THOUGH I DO LOVE THE SORT OF HISTORY OF MUSIC AND THE MUSIC OF HISTORY AND THINKING ABOUT THOSE THINGS TOGETHER. SO FOR ME, I ALSO SPENT THE PAST 12 YEARS IN AN ARCHIVE AT EMORY HELPING BUILD IT, HELPING GET PAPERS LIKE LUCILLE CLIFTONS DOWN THERE, NOW THAT’S ONE OF THE TOP FIVE USED COLLECTIONS. >>75,000 VOLUMES. >>NOT IN LUCILLE’S COLLECTION, OF COURSE. IN THE LIBRARY I WAS CURATING, YES. >>IT’S SO CLEAR YOU CAME WITH SOME SKILL SETS. >>YES. LUCKILY I DIDN’T HAVE TO UNPACK ALL OF THEM. MOSTLY UNPACKED BY THE TIME I GOT THERE. BUT THAT WAS A WONDERFUL LIBRARY CALLED THE DANOWSKI POETRY LIBRARY THAT IS REALLY EVERY BOOK OF POETRY FOR THE 20th CENTURY. EVERY EDITION OF EVERY BOOK. THAT KIND OF COMPLETENESS I REALLY LOVE IN THE SCHOMBURG CENTER TOO. WE’RE REALLY SORT OF THE LIBRARY OF RECORD FOR BLACK ARCHIVES AND BLACK MATERIAL. CERTAINLY FOR THE 20th CENTURY AND GOING BACK AND GOING AHEAD TOO. >>RIGHT, RIGHT. IN DOING THE RESEARCH FOR YOUR COMING HERE I LOOKED OVER THE MATERIAL FOR THE SCHOMBURG AGAIN. SOMEHOW IT ESCAPE ME THAT LANGSTON HUGHES’ ASHES ARE ACTUALLY IN THE SCHOMBURG?>>YEAH. >>I KNEW IT WAS NAMED FOR HIM BUT I DIDN’T REALIZE I SHOULD BE LOOKING FOR ASHES AS WELL.>>WE HAVE THREE SORT OF SEPARATE BUILDING STRUCTURES THAT ARE COMBINED. AND THEY’RE SORT OF BRIDGED BY THIS LANGSTON HUGHES LOBBY AND AUDITORIUM. IN THE LOBBY IS A BEAUTIFUL THING CALLED THE COSMOGRAM, JUST A GORGEOUS DESIGN. UNDERNEATH THAT COSMOGRAM IS ARE — LANGSTON HUGHES’S ASHES. >>I’LL HAVE TO PAY MORE RESPECT TO PASSING OVER THAT.>>I THINK HUGHES WOULD BE TICKLED. I ACTUALLY HAPPENED LAST NIGHT TO BE IN HIS HOUSE, HIS VERY HOUSE, WHICH IS ALSO IN HARLEM. TO HAVE HIS PRESENCE THERE. IT’S NOT JUST HIS ASHES, IT’S HIS SPIRIT. >>SURE. >>THAT IS REALLY IN THE SCHOMBURG. AND IN THAT LOBBY SPECIFICALLY, WE HAVE POETRY EVENTS AND OTHER EVENTS. WE RECENTLY HAD A POETRY READING, ABOUT 500 PEOPLE CAME. REALLY THE COSMOGRAM WAS A GIANT CIRCLE. AND IT BECAME SORT OF THE CIPHER OF THE READING. PEOPLE WERE STANDING THERE IN THE SPOTLIGHT WITH LANGSTON NEARBY. AND I THINK IT MEANS A LOT TO ME, IT’S A SACRED SPACE. >>SURE, IT IS A SACRED SPACE. TALK TO US ABOUT WHERE YOU PLACE YOURSELF IN BLACK AMERICA, READING ABOUT YOU THEY GIVE LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, A LOT OF CREDIT. >>YEAH, I’M TRYING TO SUPPRESS WHAT I’LL SAY. I WAS BORN THERE. MY PARENTS WERE FROM LOUISIANA, MET AT SOUTHERN UNIVERSITY, HBCU. ALWAYS A GREAT THING. >>RIGHT. >>SO MY FATHER WAS IN MILITARY, THEY MOVED AROUND A LOT. ONE OF THE PLACES THEY LANDED AFTER WHEN THEY WERE STARTING TO GO TO SCHOOL, THE FIRST IN THEIR FAMILIES TO GO TO COLLEGE, MY FATHER BECAME A DOCTOR, MY MOTHER BECAME A Ph.D. IN CHEMISTRY. CERTAINLY ONE OF THE EARLIEST IN NEBRASKA. THIS WAS THE ’60s. SO I WAS BORN THERE. THE LINGERING EFFECT OF THAT WAS THE CORN HUSKERS FAN GROWING UP. WE MOVED AROUND A LOT. SO I MOVED SIX TIMES BEFORE I WAS 10. AND THEN LANDED — I LIVED IN CHICAGO AND BOSTON TWICE AND SYRACUSE, NEW YORK. AND THEN WE ENDED UP IN TOPEKA, KANSAS, WHICH IS WHERE I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL. TOPEKA IS NOT WHERE YOU THINK OF MAYBE AS THE CENTER OF BLACK AMERICA. BUT THERE’S A DIRECT CONNECTION TO THE SCHOMBURG, ACTUALLY, WHICH IS THAT LANGSTON HUGHES LIVED IN TOPEKA WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER. AARON DOUGLAS WHO DID A LOT OF ILLUSTRATIONS AND PAINTINGS. >>SURE, RIGHT, RIGHT. >>IN FACT, THE MURALS HE MADE ARE HANGING IN THE SCHOMBURG CENTER NOW. JUST THE OTHER DAY WE GOT A COPY OF HIS FIRST ILLUSTRATION MADE FOR THE TOPEKA HIGH YEARBOOK. HE DID THE COVER WHICH IS JUST A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE SUNFLOWER. HERE IT IS. WE HAVE THIS EARLY ONE AND THIS LATE ONE. 70, 80 YEARS. >>TOPEKA AND LINCOLN, I’VE BEEN TO LINCOLN, NEBRASKA, THE ONLY PLACE I’VE EVER SEEN PEOPLE, BEING A NEW YORKER, WHEN THE LIGHT IS RED, THEY DO NOT BUDGE. DOESN’T MATTER IF IT’S 5:00 IN THE MORNING. YOU JUST WAIT. >>YES, YOU WAIT. YEAH. YOU WAIT. >>BEFORE YOU CROSS THE STREET. SO FROM TOPEKA TO HARVARD?>>YEAH, THAT HAPPENED, YEAH. >>YEAH, THAT HAPPENED.>>I MEAN, GROWING UP IN TOPEKA, IT WAS A FASCINATING PLACE. BECAUSE LINDA BROWN, BROWN V. BOARD VERSUS TOPEKA, LIVED THERE. SHE PLAYED PIANO AT MY CHURCH. REVEREND BROWN, WHO FILED THE LAWSUIT WITH OTHERS, OF COURSE, YOU KNOW, WAS THE MINISTER THERE BEFORE I GOT THERE. SO YOU HAVE A LEGACY. TO ME, HISTORY WAS ALWAYS EVER-PRESENT AND RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU. JUST A FEW FEET AWAY. AND I LIKE TO THINK SINGING. AND THAT IDEA OF SORT OF SINGING HISTORY IS SOMETHING I CARRY VERY MUCH IN THE SCHOMBURG CENTER. AND I’M REALLY INTERESTED IN THE EVERYDAY ASPECTS OF HISTORY. SOMETIME WET THINK OF IT IN THESE BIG, HUGE WAYS. BUT HOW CAN WE TALK ABOUT IT IN THE SMALL WAYS, IN THE PERSONAL WAYS?>>I KNOW. YOU’VE GOT 10 MILLION ITEMS THERE. >>RIGHT.>>SPEAKING OF THE SMALL, OF THE GLOBAL BLACK EXPERIENCE. >>THAT’S RIGHT. A GLOBAL BLACK EXPERIENCE, OF COURSE, IS MADE UP OF LITTLE MOMENTS, PERSONAL MOMENTS. WHETHER IT’S SOMETHING SOMEONE’S GRANDMOTHER KEPT OR A SCRAP OF FABRIC OR, YOU KNOW, A LETTER MAT COME X GOT OR WROTE. ALL THESE ASPECTS OF THE COLLECTION. MAYA ANGELOU’S PAPERS. TO SEE HER HANDWRITTEN DRAFTS OF THE INAUGURAL POEM SHE READ. >>RIGHT. >>TO SEE HER EDITS AND THINKING ABOUT THE INCLUSIVENESS SHE WRITES ABOUT, THE BREADTH OF BLACKNESS IS ALWAYS PRESENT THERE. >>YOU SCREENED THE DOCUMENTARY ON HER LIFE, AND PRESIDENT CLINTON AND MRS. CLINTON WERE THERE — I SHOULDN’T SAY MRS., THERE’S A THROWBACK, SECRETARY CLINTON.>>YEAH, YOU KNOW. THEY BOTH WERE THERE, IT WAS WONDERFUL TO MEET THEM. AND THEY’RE REALLY — OBVIOUSLY THEY HAD BEEN UPTOWN WITH THE FOUNDATION FOR SOME TIME. >>SURE. >>SO IT WAS REALLY WONDERFUL TO SEE THEM CONNECT WITH THE FELLOW KANSAN MAYA ANGELOU. >>HOW DO YOU RELATE TO THE NEW MUSEUM IN WASHINGTON, D.C. NOW? BECAUSE YOU TALK ABOUT THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN DONATED. IS IT A COMPETITION NOW BETWEEN YOU AND THE NATIONAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY AND CULTURE IN WASHINGTON AND THE SCHOMBURG?>>YES, EXACTLY. I’M NOT SURE WE’RE COMPETING WITH THEM. I THINK OF US AS COMPLEMENTARY. WE HAVE BEEN DOING IT 92 YEARS. WE’VE BEEN THERE A LONG TIME. ALSO, WE’RE AN ARCHIVE AS WELL AS A CULTURAL CENTER. SO I LOVE THAT THE SCHOMBURG IS CALLED A CENTER. I LOVE THAT. SO MANY ARCHIVES ARE SMALL LITTLE PLACES THAT PEOPLE FEEL LIKE THEY CAN’T BE WELCOME. WELCOME IS VERY MUCH PART OF OUR ENERGY AND CERTAINLY OF MY ETHOS. WE NEED PEOPLE TO– WE HAVE THIS MATERIAL SORT OF IN THE PUBLIC TRUST. WE WANT PEOPLE TO COME AND VISIT AND VIEW AND EVEN TOUCH. WE’RE NOT A MUSEUM IN THAT WAY. SO IT’S A LITTLE BIT DIFFERENT. IT’S ABOUT INTERACTING WITH THE MATERIALS, LEARNING IN A VERY DIFFERENT WAY, I THINK. WE HAVE ARCHIVES. >>I KNOW, I’VE USED THEM. THEY’RE FANTASTIC. A WORK CALLED “BLACK TITAN.” THE SCHOMBURG — THE PEOPLE THERE, THE RESEARCHERS, WERE JUST PHENOMENALLY HELPFUL. >>GREAT, I LIKE TO HEAR THAT. >>IT’S A GREAT, GREAT, GREAT PLACE. YOU’VE GOT LIKE 10,000 PEOPLE COMING THROUGH YOUR DOORS ON A MONTHLY BASIS?>>YEAH, YEAH. THAT’S ABOUT RIGHT. I THINK WE HAD 12,000 IN JANUARY ALONE. NO, SORRY, 22,000. >>22,000?>>YES, I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT. IN 20 DAYS. >>OH MY GOODNESS.>>REALLY A PLACE THAT PEOPLE COME AND VISIT. PART OF THAT WAS THE BLACK COMIC BOOK FESTIVAL. ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS TO SAY. GROWING UP I WAS VERY MUCH A COMIC NERD AND READ EVERYTHING. AND I TRY NOT TO TELL PEOPLE TOO MUCH.>>YOU DID PRETTY WELL. MY 7-YEAR-OLD GRANDDAUGHTER, THEY CALL THEM GRAPHIC NOVELS. >>YES. BUT I WAS READING THEM WHEN THEY BECAME GRAPHIC NOVELS. THEY WERE SORT OF GREAT COMICS. UNDER MY COUSIN’S BED. I WOULD PULL THEM OUT AND READ “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” OR WHATEVER. TO BE HERE YEARS LATER AND SEE THE INCREDIBLE PRESENCE THAT BLACK COMIC BOOK MAKERS, ILLUSTRATORS, THINKERS, COLLECTORS, PEOPLE DRESS UP LIKE THE BLACK GREEN LANTERN. IT’S AMAZING. WE HAD 5,000 PEOPLE COME OVER TWO DAYS. >>WE TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE BOOKS AND THINGS, CREATING YOUR OWN COMICS. I LEARN HOW TO CREATE COMICS BY GETTING BOOKS FROM LIKE THE LIBRARY. LIKE CHARLES SCHULZ “PEANUTS.” JUST — I WOULD COPY THAT STUFF. THAT’S HOW I STARTED TO TEACH MYSELF. THEN I STARTED WRITING MY OWN STUFF, DRAWING MY OWN STUFF. IT’S REALLY AS SIMPLE AS JUST GOING — IT SOUNDS MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT IS. IT’S REALLY SIMPLE. JUST, I WANT TO DO THIS. >>INCREDIBLE. NOW YOU’VE GOT THE BLACK POWER EXHIBIT UP. >>YES.>>SO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT. STOKELY CARMICHAEL, WHO INVENTED THE TERM, GAVE IT TO THE WORLD. >>YEAH, YEAH. HE GAVE IT TO THE WORLD. YOU PROBABLY KNOW, IN GREENWOOD, MISSISSIPPI. I’VE ACTUALLY BEEN TO THAT SITE. WHICH IS JUST A LITTLE PARK THERE THAT HE SAID IT AT. AND PEOPLE I THINK FORGET THAT BLACK POWER AND EVEN THE BLACK PANTHER WERE CREATED IN THE SOUTH. IN THE AMERICAN SOUTH. AND I THINK THAT ASPECT IS REALLY INTERESTING IN THE EXHIBITION. AND IT’S TRAVELING BY POWER AND THE BLACK PANTHER SYMBOL TO THE WEST COAST, INTERNATIONALLY. ONE OF MY FAVORITE IMAGES IS OF THE ABORIGINAL PANTHERS IN AUSTRALIA.>>AND HERE WE HAVE A PICTURE OF SONIA SANCHEZ, QUEEN MOTHER MOORE, WHO WAS HARLEM — THE MOTHER OF HARLEM, ACTUALLY. >>YEAH, YEAH. YOU SEE HERE JESSE JACKSON. >>YEAH, GREAT. >>AND SISTER SAMUEL, A TREMENDOUS POET AND THINKER AND ACTIVIST. I THINK THE SHOW SHOWS YOU THAT. THE WAY THAT POETRY WAS A CENTRAL PART OF BLACK POWER AND THE BLACK ARTS MOVEMENT. SOME PEOPLE SAY, AND THE EXHIBITION TALKS ABOUT THIS, IT WAS REALLY AN ARTISTIC MOVEMENT WITH SOME OTHER THINGS ATTACHED TO IT. SO CERTAINLY ITS INTERNATIONAL QUALITIES AND YOUTH MOVEMENT EQUAL TEES ARE SOMETHING WE’RE EXPLORING. >>HOW DID A BLACK BOY FROM TOPEKA BECOME ENGAGED IN THE WORLD OF POETRY? DID WE MISS THAT POINT?>>HOWDY GET FROM? FOR ME I TOOK A CLASS IN THE SUMMER. IT WAS A LITTLE SPARK. WHERE THE TEACHER WOULD ASK US TO WRITE THINGS AND WE WROTE POEMS. I USED TO WRITE LITTLE STORIES ALL THE TIME. WRITING THE POEM WAS A NEW THING FOR ME. AND IT WAS BACK IN THE DAY WHERE YOU HAD TO — HE HAD TO HAVE IT TYPED UP, MIMEO’D, WHICH SPELLED SO GOOD->>EVERY DAY WHEN I FACE MY COMPUTER I SAY, OH, TO HAVE A TYPEWRITER. >>EXACTLY. PURPLE INK. SO IT WOULD COME OFF THE PRESS. THERE WAS MY POEM. MY FIRST POEM I WROTE WAS THERE. WITHOUT MY NAME ON IT. HE WOULD JUST PASS THEM BACK ANONYMOUSLY. AND THAT I THINK WAS EVEN THE KEY. IF MY NAME HAD BEEN ON IT, OH, LOOK AT ME. INSTEAD IT WAS THIS SECRET THRILL. SO POETRY BECAME THAT FOR ME, A SECRET THRILL. I STARTED READING AND READING, WRITING AND WRITING. BY THE TIME I GOT TO COLLEGE I STARTED WRITING ABOUT MY FAMILY IN LOUISIANA. AND I LEARNED THAT POETRY WASN’T THE SORT OF AIRY THING BUT WAS REALLY ABOUT THE DIRT AND THE MUD AND THE EARTH. FOR ME TO WRITE ABOUT MY GRANDPARENTS AND — SOUTHERN LOUISIANA, FARMERS, LIVED LIKE MANY FOLKS DID IN THE SOUTH, WAS A WAY TO KIND OF THINK ALOUD AND TALK ABOUT THIS HISTORY AND CAPTURE IT. BEFORE IT KIND OF DISAPPEARED, IN MANY WAYS. A LOT OF THAT IS GONE. SOME OF THOSE TRADITIONS, THE FOODS WE ATE AND LOVED, NOT EVERYONE LOVED CHITLINES THE WAY I GREW UP EATING. RARE OCCASIONS. BUT ALWAYS A SPECIAL TREAT. THAT KIND OF CONNECTION TO THE EARTH AND THE LAND IS HOW I STARTED WRITING. I ENDED UP WRITING ABOUT THE LATE PAINTER JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT. BLUES POEMS AND REALLY STARTED THINKING ABOUT THE BREADTH OF BLACKNESS. >>RIGHT. AND AT HARVARD YOU HAD SOMETHING OF A MENTOR IN SEAMUS HEANEY.>>HE WAS GREAT. HE OF COURSE WON THE NOBEL PRIZE A FEW YEARS LATER. THE GREAT IRISH POET.>>I’M SURE YOU HELPED HIM A GREAT DEAL. >>NO, AT ALL. HE WAS REALLY A TERRIFIC FORCE. HE IN A WAY GREW UP LIKE MY GRANDPARENTS AND PARENTS HAD. HE HAD THIS RURAL PAST. AND IN HIS FIRST BOOK HE CAN WRITE ABOUT THAT AND WRITE OF OTHER THINGS. FOR ME I ALSO WAS IN 18 THING CALLED THE DARK ROOM COLLECTIVE WHICH WAS A BLACK WRITERS COLLECTIVE BASED IN RALSTON. THERE WAS THIS INTERESTING RAB OF INFLUENCES FOR ME THAT I HOPE I CARRY AROUND. >>YOU’VE GOT A JAZZ FESTIVAL GOING ON AT THE SCHOMBURG. >>WOMEN IN JAZZ FESTIVAL, IT’S EVERY MONDAY IN MARCH. WE HAVE GREAT SINGERS. IT’S A LONG TRADITION THERE. AND YEAH, I HOPE PEOPLE COME THROUGH. WE THIS YEAR HAVE A PANEL TOO TO TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS. AND THIS ONE, THIS SEASON IS IN HONOR OF ELLA FITZGERALD WHO PERFORMED IN THE SCHOMBURG. SO IT’S WONDERFUL TO HONOR HER LEGACY UPTOWN.>>ALL RIGHT. SO AFTER GETTING BACK TO THIS GREAT MIX OF THE SCHOMBURG AND KEVIN’S WORK AND LIFE AND WHATEVER, SO FASCINATING. AFTER WRITING ALL OF THESE POETRY BOOKS, BOOKS OF POETRY AND BEING CELEBRATED AND GETTING ALL KINDS OF HONORS AND FELLOWSHIPS AND ALL OF THAT, THEN YOU WRITE A BOOK PUBLISHED IN 2012. “THE GREY ALBUM.” WHICH THE NONFICTION THAT BECOMES A HUGE HIT. TALK TO US ABOUT THAT TRANSITION AND THE IMPACT OF IT. >>I’VE BEEN WRITING A LONG TIME. I’VE BEEN THINKING ABOUT WHAT I CALL THE BLACKNESS OF BLACKNESS. I WAS TRYING TO TALK ABOUT THE WAY THAT AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE WAS AT THE CENTER AND DEFINITIVE TOWARD AMERICAN CULTURE. AND THAT OUR PRESENCE HERE, YOU KNOW, IS REALLY CENTRAL. AND SO TO TALK ABOUT THAT TOO, I ALSO TRIED TO TALK ABOUT WHAT I CALL STORYING. WHEN I WAS A KID GROWING UP, IN LOUISIANA YOU COULDN’T SAY TO SOMEONE, MUCH LESS A GROWN PERSON, YOU LIE. YOU COULD SAY, YOU STORY. RIGHT? TO YOUR DOES SIP OR WHATEVER. SO I START THE THINKING ABOUT THAT AS A KIND OF IMPROVISATION. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN, THAT IMPROVISATIONAL QUALITY OF BLACK CULTURE? I STARTED THINKING ABOUT THE STORIES WE TELL, ALSO THE WAY LOUIS ARMSTRONG’S SOLO CAN TELL A STORY EVEN IF IT’S WORDLESS. TRYING TO TRACK THAT TRADITION OF TALKING TO EACH OTHER, SPEAKING AS IN THE SPIRITUALS. BUT ALSO THE CODES OF HIP-HOP AND MODERN LIFE. SO I REALLY TRY TO TRACE THIS INFLUENCE OF BLACK CULTURE ACROSS AMERICAN HISTORY AND TIME FROM SLAVERY TO THE PRESENT.>>YOUR REVIEWS THERE, EQUAL PARTS BLUES SHOUT, CHURCH SERMON, INTERPRETIVE DANCE, T.E.D. TALK, LIT-CRIT MANIFESTO AND MIX TAPE, THE POET KEVIN YOUNG’S FIRST NONFICTION BOOK THE GREY ALBUM: ON THE BLACKNESS OF BLACKNESS, IS AN AMBITIOUS BLAST OF FACT AND FEELING. A NERVY PIECE OF PERFORMANCE ART. THAT’S A PRETTY GOOD — THAT WAS DWIGHT GARNER WHO WROTE THAT IN “THE TIMES” ABOUT YOUR WORK. >>YEAH, THAT’S NICE. YEAH. I MEAN, I REALLY WANTED TO — IT’S A BROAD BOOK. IT REALLY — I DON’T KNOW IF I’D WRITE ANOTHER ONE. THERE’S A LOT IN THERE. BUT I WAS REALLY TRYING TO TALK ABOUT, SAY, LANGSTON HUGHES’ LEGACY WHAT HE INSPIRES IN ME. A POET LIKE BOB KAUFMANN, A SOMEWHAT OBSCURE FIGURE BUT AN IMPORTANT BLACK BEAT POET WHO REALLY IS A TREMENDOUS FIGURE. HE USED TO GET PICKED UP ON VAGRANT CHARGES AND BEAT UP. HE’S STILL WRITING FROM JAIL AND TRYING TO THINK ABOUT HIS LIFE. AND HE HAPPENS TO BE FROM NEW ORLEANS. SO I ALWAYS FELT A CONNECTION TO HIM.>>AND THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT THE BOOK TOO IS THAT YOU TALK ABOUT THE SHADOW. WHAT HAPPENED TO RALPH ELLISON’S BOOK THAT NEVER GOT — ACTUALLY DID GET PUBLISHED. >>YES, TRUE. >>IN A DIFFERENT SHAPE OR FORM –>>I WAS REALLY INTERESTED IN WHAT I CALL THE SHADOW BOOK, BOOKS THAT AIRPORT THERE BUT THAT WE THINK ABOUT AND INFLUENCE US. RALPH ELLISON’S NEVER-COMPLETED SECOND NOVEL. JAMES BALDWIN WROTE AN EARLY BOOK ABOUT CHURCHES IN HARLEM. THE TEXT IS GONE, WE DON’T KNOW WHERE IT IS. HOPEFULLY IT WILL TURN UP. I THINK THAT’S ALWAYS THE THING ABOUT THE SHADOW BOOK IS YOU HOPE YOU’RE GOING TO FIND IT IN AN ATTIC. >>I HAVE A YOUNG FRIEND WHO’S PUBLISHING ANOTHER FOUND JAMES BALDWIN BOOK TOO. IT’S BETWEEN HIM 20 YEARS TO GET PERMISSION TO DO IT. >>OH, GREAT. >>HE’S GOT IT.>>”I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO,” THE DOCUMENTARY, IS BASED ON VERY MUCH A SHADOW BOOK, A BOOK HE DIDN’T FINISH, ABOUT MARTIN MALCOLM. WE WISH WE HAD THAT WHOLE THING.>>I TELL YOU, HOW POWERFUL WAS THAT?>>A GREAT FILM. WE SCREENED IT AT THE SCHOMBURG.>>I KNOW YOU DID, RIGHT. THAT WAS MY FAVORITE FOR THE WHOLE OSCAR SEASON.>>”MOONLIGHT” WON IN THE END. IT TOOK AWHILE.>>THE BEST ENDING EVER OF AN AWARDS SHOW.>>THE FINALE OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH. >>I KNOW. WE’RE GOING TO HAVE THE HONOR OF HAVING YOU READ SOMETHING FROM “BLUE” IF YOU COULD HONOR US, THAT WOULD BE GREAT. >>ABSOLUTELY. >>I’VE BEEN CARRYING THIS BOOK AROUND WITH ME. IT SO IS BIG.>>IT’S NOT SMALL. THERE’S A NUMBER OF ODES AND BLUES IN A BOOK I WROTE CALLED “DEAR DARKNESS.” THEY VERY MUCH ARE ABOUT LOUISIANA AND ABOUT THE PLACE WHERE MY FAMILY’S FROM. I STARTED WRITING THE ODES AFTER MY FATHER DIED. AND WAYS OF CONNECTING TO HIS — WELL, YOU’D ALSO SAY TO THE FOOD WE USED TO EAT TOGETHER. AND WE DIDN’T — I MISSED. SO I MISSED HIM. AND IT WAS A WAY OF TALKING ABOUT THAT.>>GREAT. >>SO I’LL READ THIS ONE. “ODE TO CATFISH.” OLD MAN, DESPITE YOUR BEARD AND BALD HEAD, YOU STILL AIN’T OLD ENOUGH TO BE DEAD. YOU SWIM BACK, SLIPPING THROUGH MY HANDS INTO THE DARK, AND I WAKE. EVEN IN DREAMS, YOU ARE DEAD. YOUR FRESH, CERTAIN SMELL. CORNBREAD BATTER FRYING IN THE PAN, MORNING STILL FILLS MY FACE AND I AM GLAD. NO MATTER THE PAIN IT TAKES TO HOLD YOU, YOUR BARBED AND BEARD, YOU SUSTAIN ME AND I WANDER HUMMING YOUR HUNDRED NAMES. BROTHER, BULLHEAD, PAPERSKIN, SLICK. REMEMBER THE DAY PO BOY YOU FLAT OUT CATFISHED WITH GRITS FOR BREAKFAST. YOUR MOTHER AND SISTERS SURROUNDING US. AND YOU DECLARED IT PERFECT. SWEET JESUS, YOU WERE RIGHT. FISH HOOKS IN MY HEART. MY PLATE FULL OF BONES. I’M SCARED TO SWALLOW.>>WOW. WOW. THAT IS JUST BEAUTIFUL.>>THANK YOU.>>JUST WONDERFUL.>>I WAS TRYING TO WRITE ABOUT THAT FORM AND THAT FEELING THAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EAT A GREAT MEAL, YOU KNOW, AND I REMEMBER VIVIDLY BEING IN LOUISIANA, HIM SAYING THAT. MAN, THIS WAS PERFECT. IT WAS. FOOD IN LOUISIANA OFTEN IS. BUT HOW DO WE GET BACK TO THAT? HOW DOES MEMORY COMBINE WITH FOOD? YEAH, THAT’S PART OF OUR CULTURE, THAT’S PART OF OUR THINKING TOGETHER. AND ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT TO THINK ABOUT SCHOMBURG TOGETHER IS RACE AND FOOD AND MEMORY. WE HAVE THE GREAT EVENT THE OTHER DAY WHERE ADRIAN MILLER, WHO’S JUST WRITTEN A BOOK ABOUT THE BLACK COOK IN THE WHITE HOUSE, CAME AND TALKED ABOUT THAT. THAT’S PART OF OUR COLLECTIVE MEMORY, BUT ALSO THE SPECIFIC MEMORY THAT TALKS ABOUT AMERICA AND THINKS ABOUT IT THROUGH THE INTERESTING LENS OF FOOD. SO THAT’S, YOU KNOW, IN A SMALL WAY WHAT I WAS TRYING TO DO WITH MY POEM. >>RIGHT. I THINK YOU SUCCEEDED. YOU SUCCEEDED. IN TERMS OF THE STRATEGIC PLAN, I MEAN, WHEN YOU CAME TO THE SCHOMBURG, DID YOU COME WITH A PLAN? I’M SURE THAT’S HOW YOU GOT THE JOB.>>YEAH, I MEAN, I HAVE SOME IDEAS. I HAVE SOME THOUGHTS. VERY MUCH ONE OF THE THINGS I WANT, MY FIRST THREE GOALS ARE ACCESS, ACCESS, ACCESS. I REALLY WANT US TO HAVE PEOPLE BE ABLE TO FIND WHAT WE HAVE, TO DISCOVER IT EITHER ONLINE OR IN PERSON.>>HOW ARE YOU DOING WITH DIGITIZING EVERYTHING?>>DIGITIZING — THERE’S DIGITIZATION, AND THEN THERE’S DIGITIZATION. YOU CAN’T PHYSICALLY DIGITIZE EVERYTHING, BECAUSE OF COPYRIGHT AND LABOR AND TIME. BUT I DO THINK WE DIGITIZE ABOUT 100 VOLUMES OF OUR RECENTLY REQUIRED LIPITIS COLLECTION, TRANSATLANTIC SLAVERY, THAT GETS A LOT OF USE ALREADY. THAT’S OLDER MATERIAL THAT PEOPLE WANT TO DISCOVER. I WANT THEM TO BE ABLE TO DISCOVER IN AUSTRALIA OR IN ALABAMA, WHEREVER THEY ARE. I ALSO THINK ACCESS IS ABOUT MAKING PEOPLE COME THROUGH THOSE DOORS. SCREENING FOR THE COMMUNITY, “I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO.” PROVIDING EXHIBITIONS THAT ARE RELEVANT FOR FOLKS’ LIVES. YOU KNOW, WE’RE IN AN INTERESTING TIME. WE HAVE BLACK LIVES MATTER. THERE’S BEEN A WHOLE — WHICH AS YOU KNOW STARTED ONLINE. YOU KNOW?>>RIGHT. >>HOW CAN WE ARCHIVE THAT? SOME OF MY TEAM HAVE ALREADY DONE AN IMPORTANT ARCHIVING FERGUSON PROJECT. SO WE’RE NOW THINKING ABOUT, HOW DO WE DO THAT IN THE DIGITAL AGE? FOR ME AT THE SCHOMBURG, WHEN SCHOMBURG BECOMES THE DIGITAL SPACE FOR AFRICAN-AMERICAN CULTURE, THAT WILL BE AN EXCITING MOMENT. THAT’S PART OF MY THOUGHT MOVING FORWARD. >>RIGHT. WE ALWAYS ASK OUR GUEST TOWARDS THE END OF THE PROGRAM TO FINISH THE STATEMENT, THE POWER, THE STRENGTH OF BLACK AMERICA LIES IN? HOW DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?>>I THINK IN CREATIVITY. IN OUR BREADTH. IN OUR DEPTH. IN THE WAY THAT WE ARE FACED SITUATIONS WITH OUR OWN FLAIR AND CULTURE AND TREMENDOUS FAITH AND TREMENDOUS INNOVATION. YOU KNOW, I SEE THESE FACES BEHIND ME AND AROUND THE STUDIO AND I THINK OF THAT. I THINK OF MAYA ANGELOU’S MANY FORM RECORDS FORMS. SHE DANCED, SHE SANG, SHE WAS A GREAT COOK BY ALL ACCOUNTS. THAT WAS ALL PART OF SURVIVAL AND TRIUMPH.>>AND YOUR NEXT PERSONAL WORK? YOU’RE WORKING ON ANOTHER BOOK? YOU HAVE A BOOK COMING OUT IN THE FALL?>>I DO, A BOOK COMING OUT IN NOVEMBER CALLED “BUNK.” VERY MUCH ABOUT HOAXES AND LIARS. THE GOOD SIDE OF LYING, THE STORYING, THIS IS THE BAD SIDE. THIS IS ABOUT THE WAYS THAT TRUTH — WE’RE IN THIS POST-FACTUAL ERA, THERE’S FAKE NEWS NOW BEING THROWN AS AN EPITHET.>>YES, YES. >>IT’S NOT NECESSARILY TRUE BUT IT’S — YOU KNOW. I SORT OF TRACE IT BACK FROM THE 19th CENTURY AND P.T. BARNUM, WHO HAD ALL THESE HOAXES. HIS FIRST HOAX WAS A BLACK WOMAN WHO HE SAID WAS GEORGE WASHINGTON’S NURSEMAID, WHICH WOULD HAVE MADE HER 161. AND PEOPLE BELIEVED IT. AND CAME AND SAW HER, BIG CROWDS. THEN SHE DIED AND HE, YOU KNOW, EXPLOITED THAT. SO EVERYTHING –>>THERE’S A LOT OF HISTORY. AND YOUR BOOK IS BEING PUBLISHED AT EXACTLY THE RIGHT TIME. >>APPARENTLY IT BECAME RELEVANT. I WORKED ON IT ABOUT FIVE YEARS.>>OKAY. KEVIN YOUNG, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR BEING HERE TODAY.>>THANK YOU. >>AND GREAT LUCK AT THE SCHOMBURG. IT’S ON 135th AND LENNOX AVENUE. SO MANY, MANY WONDERFUL HOURS THERE. DOWNSTAIRS ASKING FOR BOOKS. >>COME BACK. >>I DEFINITELY WILL. GOOD LUCK AT THE SCHOMBURG ASK ALL YOUR PERSONAL WORK. >>THANK YOU. >>THANK YOU SO MUCH OUT THERE TOO FOR SHARING THIS HALF HOUR WITH US. WE WILL SEE YOU THE NEXT TIME. I’M CAROL JENKINS. THE PROGRAM IS “BLACK AMERICA.” ♪ [THEME MUSIC] ♪

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