On a recent Wednesday night in early November, my cousin Naomi surprised me with a free ticket to join her at a City Arts & Lectures event in SF. The conversation would be with Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me, The Beautiful Struggle, numerous articles for The Atlantic and his most recently published book We Had Eight Years in Power. I was so excited! I bundled up on the first rainy day of the season and finished Between the World and Me while riding BART into the city.
What transpired over the course of Ta-Nehisi's interview and question/answer section was inspiring, thought provoking, real and reflective. He recalled his own adolescence, of discovering hip hop and having a world open to him that captured the truth of his lived experience, for the first time, and in a way that inspired him to become a writer. In 90 minutes Ta-Nehisi told of his rage, disgust, passion and curiosity about our nation's false historical narrative, the ways in which we routinely gloss over the atrocities of our violent, racist past as if everything's better now, and then point at and blame the very people who've been held down and "othered" by that history because they show, they live the understandable marks of that trauma.
The interviewer Alexis Madrigal, also of The Atlantic magazine, asked Ta-Nehisi "What is exciting your curiosity these days?" Without missing a beat, he shared that now that he has experienced some fame and success, he is asking himself the question "how will I stay true to what is important to me? None of this can become rhetoric, I need to stay connected to my roots. But I am invited to elitist events, invited to be flown here and there to frolic--how can I accept such an invitation?"
Ta-Nehisi inspired me with this curiosity. His ability to turn his questioning on himself, to somehow observe the changes in his life but simultaneously push against those changes, and stay open and aware, demonstrates his integrity and a fierce curiosity about his and others' experiences. In our work with schools we are often tasked with staying open and curious when things get really tough; but here is a man who also recognizes how important it is to stay equally curious when things get easier--he appears to be fueled at all times by the heat of CURIOSITY and the desire to be awake and aware no matter what the circumstances.
Follow this link to hear a short piece from Ta-Nehisi Coates on Asking Questions That Have No Answers. Enjoy, and I encourage you all to keep wondering.
Emily Marsh, Director of Clinical Intervention