Sunday, March 02, 2008

John Edgar Wideman


Last week I attended a lunch and later a reading with writer John Edgar Wideman. For those who don’t know his impressive bio, he is the second African American to win a Rhodes Scholarship, and has twice won the PEN/Faulkner Prize, among other honors. He has 13 books of fiction and nonfiction, including The Homewood Trilogy, God’s Gym, and Brothers and Keepers, which is burning a hole on my nightstand waiting to be read.

On this particular day, Babson celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of activities (our students are on break when the country typically celebrates MLK). He spoke with us informally at a luncheon, and later, more formally, to our campus community as our keynote speaker. Here are a few thoughts from the day.

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Wideman said that he felt language has been corrupted. “Sloganized.” It has been used to exploit weakness and create “spin.” “As a writer, he and others who believe in the power of the word “have the opportunity to do something other than sell something or lie.” Writing is a form of defense against the determination of the language.

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Martin Luther King Jr. used his words to point out racism and inequality. He was in the unique position of being a beacon of hope. Wideman felt that King saw the answer to these problems as activism, but he also saw the future in the hands of young people.

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Wideman was enthused that so many of today’s youth are paying attention to politics, and he felt that maybe there is a way out from the past. He said, “Every single life is a chance for glory, for peace, and for hope.

2 comments:

Ananda said...

tyou for sharing about wideman. i love his words - "Every single life is a chance for glory, for peace, and for hope.' it inspires me to keep moving forward. hope is in us. we just have to shine it and allow it to be. i hope your husband is doing better. i am sending kristi and her daughter love and light.

January said...

Thanks Ananda. I'm just waiting to jump into Brothers and Keepers.

Thanks for the kind words about Kristi--she really appreciates them. And so do I.

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