March 13, 2018

A Points South essay from the 100th issue. 

“For more than three decades this maddening story of Evers’s murder and the question of Beckwith’s guilt or innocence has been told again and again, in conflicting voices and varying contexts, with no conclusion. Facts have been rearranged, deleted, added, interpreted differently. Yet one fact remains undisputed: the man responsible for one of the most notorious murders of the civil rights era remains free. Who is he? It is as if we are driving in rush hour traffic in a rusty Valiant with an expired tag. Alongside us sits an old and familiar white supremacist. We hear the ticking of a bomb in the back seat. The old man grins. Where is it we are going?”

May 26, 2017

Foreword to a collection of personal narratives by the junior class at New Orleans’s George Washington Carver High School.

I’ve read the essays in this book at least ten times each, not because I have to, but because I don’t think there is another book like it in the world. The really terrifying thing is that I need this book even more now than I needed it as an eleventh grader. If every American book published in 2018 were written to the eleventh grade at Carver High School in New Orleans, the world would be less violent. If every American book published in 2018 were written by eleventh graders at Carver, the world would be more loving. Though these young folks are rarely written to in American literature, they know who they are. And they know who the folks are who refuse to see all of their complexity. “We are rare and powerful,” the younger writers tell us in the introduction.

May 15, 2017

The introduction to a previously unpublished poem by Margaret Walker. 

Nearly twenty years after her death and seventy-five years after the publication of For My People, this magazine sent me a previously unpublished poem of Walker’s. The poem, “An Elegiac Valedictory,” is a work that remembers, with comic clarity, the words, food, time, and space she shared with the likes of Toni Cade Bambara, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and Audre Lorde.