We Need Gentle Truths for Now
Black Lives Matter - Ghosts Can't Tell Stories
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!
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).
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