We Need Gentle Truths for Now


Black Lives Matter - Ghosts Can't Tell Stories

Season 1, Ep. 15

This emergency episode was made quickly during a time of uprising following the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other African Americans by police.

We hear readings of “A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay.  

perhaps, in all likelihood,

he put gently into the earth

some plants which, most likely,

some of them, in all likelihood,

continue to grow, continue

to do what such plants do

Fellow-AIDS scholars, Drs. Jih-Fei Cheng and Nishant Shahani (co-editors with me of the book AIDS and the Distribution of Crises, Duke 2020) make resonant connections between ecology, blackness, strength, and violence. How plants, earth, and seeds center rather than scatter us. This reminds Nishant of the daily bounties of the earth, the mundane and sustaining connection to the food we grow and eat, another poem: Eve Ewing’s “I saw Emmett Till this week at the grocery store.” 

The histories of violence written into plants and fruit—seeds, tobacco, and viruses—and attendant histories of pleasure, labor, medicine, and colonial and global capitalist theft will then focus Jih-Fei’s reflections, also borne from poetry and protest.

Eric Garner and Emmet Till were silenced by violence. But their stories persist -- voluminous, angry, peaceful, and mundane -- through the words of poets and critics. In this way, we connect to the hardtruth #69 written for the online primer on digital media literacy, “ghosts can’t tell stories” by Quito Zeigler

Poems are not a solution but rather an invitation and an invocation to act and do a little differently, perhaps as plants do: help us breathe so we can engage together to better the internet and ourselves. Join us in the change!  

Read or respond to a poem or hardtruth found at the online primer of digital media literacy, #100hardtruths-#fakenews or fakenews-poetry.org.

To read Jih-Fei and Nishant's full pieces of writing on which this episode relies, please see "Following A Small Needful Fact," by Jih-Fei Cheng and "Thinking about Small, Needful Facts," by Nishant Shahani on the Duke University Press blog: Dispatches on AIDS and COVID-19: Continuing Conversations from AIDS and the Distribution of Crises (Dispatch Three).

Organize your own Fake News Poetry Workshop.

Reach out with questions or content @ 100hardtruths@gmail.com.

Twitter: @100HardTruths

Instagram: #100HardTruths

YouTube: 100 Hard Truths


More Episodes


Black Lives Matter - Speak and Spell, Teach and Tell, Count and Swell

Season 1, Ep. 17
This emergency episode was made quickly during a time of uprising following the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless other African Americans by police.Poets, educators, and friends Chet’la Sebree and Margaret Rhee worked with me on two Fake News Poetry workshops on race and the media. The first was in May 2018, with poets of color in Brooklyn; the second, in November at the home of Claudia Rankine and John Lucas, where we translated some of the poems written in Brooklyn into video-poems.Now, in a new moment of insurrection and distance, they reflect upon poetry, media, race, safety, and beauty. Each shares a poem. Then they speak together. “How do we render humanity?” Chet’la asks Margaret. By co-articulating, gently and powerfully, the relations between place, politics, poetry, and power.In so doing, my colleagues also enact the #100th, and final, HardTruth from my online primmer, a call to poetry: “speak and spell, teach and tell, count and swell.” These simple rhymes set forth the hard ideas and warm feelings that unroll here, spoken with intimacy and care by two women of color poets and teachers. Speak and spell about love. Teach and tell about friendship. Count and swell our writing and conversation in a time of continuing distance and proximity, all in honor of a very simple truth: Black Lives Matter.Join us in the change!Reach out with questions or content @ 100hardtruths@gmail.com.Twitter: @100HardTruthsInstagram: #100HardTruthsYouTube: 100 Hard Truths#BlackLivesMatter

Resist How We Are Framed

Season 1, Ep. 16
In this episode, we rely on poetry to resist how we are framed. A HardTruth of the same name was written for my online primmer on digital media literacy by the writer Hugh Ryan. In 2017 he offered up words of our queer heritage as one response to the dishonorable and controlling vernaculars of the internet.Hugh believes that we are “hampered because we fight using language that is stacked against us.”So, he provides something else, the poetry and wisdom of our elders. Adrienne Rich, David Wojnarowicz, and Audre Lorde. Three young people in my family read selections of their writing, learning and reading with us and from our elders. The episode ends with Hugh’s reading of Lenin D’s poem written at a Fake News Poetry workshop with the disabled writer’s troupe, Poets of Course: one more voice, or is that two, in a noble legacy of frame-breakers we have listened to and learned from here:I felt I was in the moment of silence because I was shy, a little bit socialand my identity has been changing for the better and worst of me.I was never rejected not because I have a disability,I just didn't want to talk to people in high school.Poems teach, and in so doing prove that art-making, connected to our experiences of identity, community, family, disability, and truth, can be one small part of a shared way out of, or perhaps through, our terrible troubles. So, change the internet with us! Engage in art answers to phony questions by volunteering to read a poem, a HardTruth, or your own response. Organize your own Fake News Poetry Workshop.Reach out with questions or content @100hardtruths@gmail.comTwitter: @100HardTruthsInstagram: @100HardTruthsYouTube: 100 Hard Truths

Practice Strategic Contemplation

Season 1, Ep. 14
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