The Power of Witness: Remembering Willie Louis

If there is a public aspect to the word “witness” then Willie Louis, once Willie Reed, beautifully embodies it. As an 18 year-old, sharecropper’s son, Willie Reed was walking to a store, in 1955, near Drew, Mississippi. A Chevy pick-up truck passed him with four white men in the front, a few black men inContinue reading “The Power of Witness: Remembering Willie Louis”

Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2014: Poems of Provocation & Witness

Split This Rock Poetry Festival is one of the best things to happen in American Literature in the last ten years. This festival, began in 2008, and held every two years in Washington, D.C. has drawn some of the country’s best poets for readings, workshops, community-buildling, and even public protest. Split This Rock is dedicatedContinue reading “Split This Rock Poetry Festival 2014: Poems of Provocation & Witness”

TURN ME LOOSE: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers by Frank X. Walker

1963 was an ugly year in America. Medgar Evers was killed in Jackson, Mississippi. The 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls. President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas. In TURN ME LOOSE: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, Frank X. Walker’s poems redeem some of that ugliness.Continue reading “TURN ME LOOSE: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers by Frank X. Walker”

The Gifts of Teaching

It’s hard to believe this, but I just completed my twenty-fourth year of teaching. Fourteen of those years I spent in high school classrooms and ten in college classes. These years include eight years teaching in Notre Dame’s Freshman Writing Program, ten years directing the Writing Center and teaching at Carroll High School in Washington,Continue reading “The Gifts of Teaching”

“I Am A Man” Photo Comes to Washington, D.C.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis twice in 1968, to assist the city’s striking sanitation workers. On his first visit, a demonstration turned violent and he vowed to return to help them do it right. Tragically, on his second visit, he was killed. The campaign in Memphis became known as the “I AmContinue reading ““I Am A Man” Photo Comes to Washington, D.C.”

Age, Youth, Love, & Loss in Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles”

“The worst thing about getting old– is losing your words.” Tana Hicken as Vera, laments to her grandson, Leo, this particular sadness about aging. Amy Herzog’s play “4000 Miles” enters the space between a grandmother, presumably in her 70s or 80s, and her 20-something grandson. The Studio Theater has done a remarkable production of thisContinue reading “Age, Youth, Love, & Loss in Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles””

Brian Gilmore’s “Chocolate City Review”

We live in a world of a zillion blogs. Some rant, some merely crank out one opinion atop another. But the good ones, the truly reflective and insightful ones, stand out for their careful thinking, good writing, and humble assertions. Brian Gilmore’s “Chocolate City Review” has all this. It’sĀ among the best blogs I know. BrianContinue reading “Brian Gilmore’s “Chocolate City Review””

45 Years After Dr. Martin Luther King: How Are We Doing?

Forty-five years ago today, Dr. King was back in Memphis. He had been in the city weeks before to support the city’s black sanitation workers in their “I am a man” campaign. The black sanitation workers were on strike against the city’s unequal pay practices; they were paid less than their white counterparts doing theContinue reading “45 Years After Dr. Martin Luther King: How Are We Doing?”