On Sept. 30, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs hosted its first-ever virtual Distinguished Carlson Lecture. A virtual sold-out crowd of 6,000 saw a Zoom conversation between Professor Ibram X. Kendi, best-selling author of “How to Be an Antiracist,” and MPR’s Angela Davis.
If you’re a morning MinnPost reader, you can catch an audio rebroadcast of their talk at 11 a.m. today (Tuesday, Oct. 6) on MPR News.
A prominent scholar and the person most responsible for making “antiracism” part of our national vocabulary, Kendi was recently named one of Time magazine’s most influential people of 2020. A National Book Award winner, he’s the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of BU’s new Center for Antiracist Research. In virtual person, he comes across as warm, engaging and human – someone you could and would want to talk with about any number of things.
Wednesday’s topics ranged from the presidential debate (which had taken place the night before the Carlson Lecture, though it now seems like eons ago) to the history of white parents adopting Black children, from what’s next after the killing of George Floyd to his children’s board book, “Antiracist Baby” (“some would say that’s probably the most important book that I’ve done”). Following are just four big ideas he left us with, lightly edited.
On hopelessness: “We have to believe change is possible, even when the odds are completely against us. When I was diagnosed with [Stage 4 colon cancer], a disease that kills 80% of people in five years, I had two options: Either I feel hopeless and say ‘I’m going to die,’ or ‘I’m going to try to survive this against all odds.’ I think Americans can say the same thing about racism, which has literally spread to every part of our body politic. That we only have one option, which is to fight for our survival. Because if we believe that we’re gonna die, our death is guaranteed.”
On the moment during the presidential debate when President Trump said the Proud Boys should “stand back and stand by”: “That was one of the most racist statements that have ever been uttered from the lips of an American president. Homeland Security and the FBI have both stated that the greatest domestic terrorist treat of our time are white supremacists. Can you imagine a president saying to al-Qaida ‘Stand by’? Can you imagine a president saying that to ISIS?”
On steps people in the Twin Cities can take to move forward and heal after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police: “What happened to George Floyd is a national problem. Why can’t we as Americans be asking that question? What policies and practices can we put in place that can eliminate police brutality and police violence? Why do we have to be thinking so small, what’s going to reduce it? Why can’t we think big? Because if we just reduce it, there’s going to be another George Floyd in Minnesota two years from now, if not next year, if not next month. We have to be thinking big about what can eliminate the idea that Black people are more dangerous, that their neighborhoods are more violent. How do we eliminate that widespread idea? To me, that is the most dangerous racist idea.”
On racism and denial: “When you look at the long story of racism, the producers of racist ideas have long denied those ideas are racist. Slaveholders, slave traders, Jim Crow desegregationists, Ku Klux Klansmen: You name the groups that Americans commonly consider to be racist. They commonly deny that they were racist. Denial is the heartbeat of racism itself.”
Arts for Biden-Harris holds a star-studded Zoom rally
With every budget he submits, President Trump tries to zero out funding for the arts and humanities, public television, public radio, libraries and museums.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden is a longtime supporter of the arts and culture. So is senator and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. (Here’s an article at Hyperallergic on where each stands on the arts.)
Perhaps that’s why there’s something called Arts for Biden-Harris but nothing called Arts for Trump. Chapters have sprung up in several states.
Arts for Biden-Harris Minnesota has joined with Iowa and Kansas to create Arts for Biden-Harris Minnesota-Iowa-Kansas, which will have its official launch this morning (Tuesday, Oct. 6) at 11 a.m. with a virtual Zoom rally. Register here to join. (If you’re reading this too late to stream it live, you can find a recording online.)
On hand will be Biden-Harris supporters, including Annette Bening, Ed Asner, Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Minnesota’s three-time Grammy winning Sounds of Blackness, Bill Kurtis, Poet Laureate of Kansas Huascar Medina and more surprise guests.
Sheila Smith, executive director of Minnesota Citizens for the Arts, is one of three co-directors of Arts for Biden-Harris Minnesota, with Pillsbury House Theatre’s Faye M. Price and former MCA board chair Ben Vander Kooi Jr.
“We’ll be urging people to get out and vote for Biden,” she said by phone on Monday afternoon. “Behind the scenes, large groups of all kinds of artists are mobilizing for Biden. There’s a theater group, a dancers’ group, and groups for visual artists, musicians, writers and poets. They’re all doing different get-out-the-vote projects.
“The poets have made a video of a collaborative poem. The dancers will do an event at Gold Medal Park where they’ll spell out the word ‘vote’ with their bodies, have a professional photo done, and use that on social media to encourage their friends and families to vote. The musicians are doing public service announcements. Visual artists are making templates you can drop your own artwork into.”
National leadership that cares about the arts is critical in a time when all the arts have taken a body blow from COVID-19. “There’s more and more evidence that this crisis is so intense that it’s going to be hard for organizations to survive our way through next summer,” Smith said, “when we’re hoping there’s a vaccine and people will be able to get started again.”
V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.
If you’re a fan of the American Craft Show, held each year in St. Paul around this time, you probably already know that this year’s show has canceled. It was previously scheduled for this coming weekend, Oct. 9-11. A celebration will be held online on Sunday, Oct. 18, to honor the winners of the 2020 American Craft Council Awards. RSVP here. The American Craft Show is presented by the American Craft Council, a national organization based in Minneapolis. Other annual shows are held in Baltimore, Atlanta, and San Francisco.
L Today (Tuesday, Oct. 6): Chamber Music Society of Minnesota presents Ariana Kim: “How Many Breaths?” Live Mini-Concerts. Last weekend, CMSM premiered a new multimedia work in memory of George Floyd. An original score by composer Steve Heitzeg, performed by violinist Ariana Kim, with narration by Penumbra’s Lou Bellamy and Sarah Bellamy, was set to a film by Kim. This afternoon, Kim will bring her violin and Heitzeg’s score – including a new movement, “Nine Crowns for George Floyd (Phoenix Rising)” – to three locations in the Longfellow neighborhood, where she’ll play the music live before murals of Floyd featured in the film. Times are approximate: 2-2:30 p.m. at 4021 E. Lake Street (Dogwood Coffee murals), 2:45-3:15 p.m. at 30th and E. Lake St. (Creatives After Curfew mural); 3:30-4 p.m. at 3822 E. Lake Street (RAL86 mural at Milkwood Coffee). If you want to see the film in its entirety, here it is.
V Tonight (Tuesday, Oct. 6) in the Icehouse courtyard: Krissy Bergmark and Special Guests. Two sets of creative music curated and led by tabla player, percussionist and composer Bergmark, of multiple commissions and grants from the Cedar, the Jerome Foundation, MRAC and MSAB. For set 1, she’ll be joined by Paul Metzger, whose specialty is improvisations on modified banjo. For set 2, she’ll perform with Anthony Cox (bass), Nathan Hanson (saxophones), Tom Nordlund (guitar) and visual and performing artist Lara Hanson. 7 p.m. showtime, $20 cover. Wear a mask.
V Wednesday (Oct. 7) on Zoom: Talking Volumes: Sarah Broom. MPR’s Kerri Miller speaks with the author of “The Yellow House,” a memoir set in a shotgun house in New Orleans that became a New York Times bestseller and won the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets (pay-what-you-want, $0-$20).
V Wednesday (Oct. 7) on Zoom: UMN English Writers Series: Alison Bechdel. The bestselling author of the graphic novel “Fun Home” (later made into a Tony-winning Broadway musical seen here at the Orpheum in 2016) and the comic drama “Are You My Mother?” has a new book coming out next spring, “The Secret to Superhuman Strength,” a personal history of her lifelong love of exercise. The MacArthur Fellow might tell us something about that when she delivers her Esther Freier Lecture in Literature and English. 7:30 p.m. Free. Register here.