In that place with a tour of the night shade and blackberry patches from their roots to make room for the Medallion city golf course. There once, There once, There once was our neighborhood. He felt only the bite of a nail in his boot, which pierced the ball of his foot whenever he came down doing that. I waited for Sula to look up at me any minute and say one of those lovely college words like aesthetics or rapport, which I never understood but which I love because they sounded so comfortable and firm. A Toni Morrison comes along once every, you know, 200 years. The fantastic beauty of her work is that she does give us a lyrical equation, you know, to measure our life span. Winner of the 1993 Nobel prize of literature, Toni Morrison is the author of a prodigious body of work including 10 novels, children’s books, nonfiction books essays, plays and librettos. Her numerous awards include The Pull-It Surprise in 1988 for BELOVED and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012. In the dedication to her sons in the novel SULA she writes “It is sheer good fortune to miss somebody long before they leave you” This documentary SHEER GOOD FORTUNE provides excerpts of the tribute to Toni Morrison literary legacy held at Virginia Tech and hosted by Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Jovan Gabon. Writers, artists and scholars read passages from Morrison’s work and speak about how her writings have affected their lives, their teaching and their own creative imagination. I have a great respect and love of Toni Morrison. At that time I read SULA and I was so moved and entranced, enchanted and strengthened by that book. That in the midst of my misery, I wrote a letter to Toni Morrison, we hadn’t even met at that time. But I wrote a letter to her to say thank you. Thank you very much for not only seeing me and naming me somebody else that’s alright, but seeing me as an African American women seeing me and loving me this is what this women has done to ten books loving, respecting, appreciating the African American women and all that she goes through. For this in Beloved, the Bluest Eye whatever it is. So, I love the fact that I am here tonight, to be here to respect and show my respect and my delight, my love for Toni Morrison. I thank you for your genius. I am going to be reading from Song of Solomon. And it’s a passage, a very descriptive passage which is about the great lake region and what it smelled like at that time to live in this overly industrialized part of the country and what that smell was like at night and how it takes everybody into a space with a Kemp of dream and at the same time ache. And I’m using that because first of all because of it spoke to me coming from the, I know, this smell, I know that feeling and also the bravery it took describe something that isn’t particularly pretty and it isn’t exotic in kind of way. On autumn nights in some parts of the city the wind from the lakes brings us sweetish smell to shore. An odor like crystallized ginger, or sweet iced tea with a dark clove floating in it. There is no explanation for the smell either, since the lake on September 19th, 1963 was so full of mill refuse and the chemical wastes of a plastics manufacturer that the hair of the willows that stood near the shore was thin and pale. I would like to read a passage from the end of Toni Morrison’s Jazz. I envy them their public love. I myself have only known it in secret, shared it in secret and longed, aw longed to show it — to be able to say out loud what they have no need to say at all that I have loved only you surrendered my whole self reckless to you and nobody else that I want you love me back and show it to me. That I loved the way you hold me, how close you let be to you I like your fingers on and on lifting, turning I have watched your face for a long time now and missed your eyes when you went away from me. Talking to you and hearing your answer that’s the kick. But I can’t say that out loud, I can’t tell anyone that I have been waiting for this all my life and that been chosen to wait is the reason I can. And Toni Morrison might deny that there is anything of herself in that passage that it’s simply the book speaking to the reader but I think it is the writer also. That’s how it speaks to me. I am going to read from SULA. They thought of their son newly killed and remembered his legs in short pants and wondered where the bullet had gone in. Or they remembered how dirty the room looked when their father left home and wondered if that is the way the slim young Jew felt. He who for them was both son and lover and in whose downy face they could see the sugar-and-butter sandwiches and feel the oldest and most devastating pain there is. Not the pain of childhood but the remembrance of it. Wow that, that is exactly where this great writing is that is the remembrance that’s where it is, the end. It’s not the remembrance for me. This the amazing thing and I hope I can describe it. It’s not remembrance of any an event that isn’t the remembrance that she is talking about. She is talking about the remembrance of the body and the mind and the soul and the emotions in space, in time, there. I am reading the last two paragraphs of sister Toni’s Bluest Eye. We tried to see her without looking at her and never, never went near. Not because she was absurd, or repulsive, but because we were frightened, but because we had failed her. Our flowers, our flowers never grew. I was convinced that Frieda was right, that I had planted him too deeply. How could I have been so slovenly, so we avoided Pecola Breedlove forever. From Tar Baby. Hurry, hurry she urged him they are waiting. Waiting? Who is waiting? Suddenly he was alarmed. The men, the men are waiting for you she was pulling the horse now moving out, you can choose now you can get free of her they are waiting and the hills for you they are naked and they are blind too. I have seen them their eyes have no color in them but they gallop they raise these horses like angels all over the hills where the rain forest is. Where the champion Daisies trees still grow, go there, go there, choose them. From the Bluest Eye. I am gonna read the opening of the Bluest eye. And the reason I am reading that is there is a passage where you hear the main character talking about how whenever she would get sick whenever any of the kids of the family would get sick the older people look at them like, How dare you? We don’t have time for you to be sick and I remember that feeling when I was growing up like people like, put your shirt on. Or you know, if you sneeze or if you’re walking around barefoot in the house, it’s like, what are you doing you’re gonna get sick like as if it’s your fault when you get sick. People all the while that they are taking care of you. If we cut or bruise ourselves they ask are we crazy. When we catch colds they shake their hands in disgust at our lack of consideration how they ask us, do you except anybody to get anything done if you all are sick? My mother comes. Her hands are large and rough and when she rubs the Vicks salve on my chest, I’m rigid with pain. I’m covered up with heavy quilts and ordered to sweat, which I do, promptly. So, when I think of autumn I think of somebody with hands who does not want me to die. I’ll be reading from SULA 1937 when she returns to the bottom. What was taken by outsiders to be slackness, slovenliness or even generosity was in fact a full recognition of the legitimacy of forces other than good ones. They did not believe doctor’s could heal. For them none ever had done so. They did not believe death was accidental. Life might be, but death was deliberate. They did not believe nature was ever a skew, only inconvenient. Plague and drought were as normal as spring time. From the Bluest Eye. These particular brown girls from Mobile and Aiken are not like some of their sisters, they are not fretful, nervous or shrill. They do not have lovely black necks that stretch as thought against an invisible collar; their eyes do not bite. These sugar brown Mobile girls moves to the streets without a stir. They are sweet they are sweet as sweet and plain as butter cake, slim ankles long narrow feet they wash themselves with orange colored Lifebouy soap. Dust themselves with Cashmere Bouquet talc, clean their teeth with salt on a piece of rag. Soften their skins with Jergens lotion. They smell like wood, news paper and vanilla. They straightened their hair with dixie peach, and part it on the side. At night they curl it in paper from brown bags tie a tie a print scarf around their heads, and sleep with hands folded across their stomachs. They do not drink, smoke or swear, and they still call sex nookey. She understands music through language, you know. And for the singers if they really earn to being what I call singers who understand that singing is just as much acting is not then you are telling a story, so she knows how to tell story. From Song of Solomon. She said she wanted her work to impact somebody like hearing a black sermon. And ultimately, when you read Toni Morrison, you know, you get that sprit. You got a home too. Grab it, take it, hold it, my brothers make it, my brothers shake it, squeeze it, turn it, twist it, beat it, kick it, kiss it, a whip it, stop it, dig it, plough it, seed it, rip it, rent it, buy it, sell it, own it, build it, multiply it and pass it on, can you hear me? Pass it on. It’s a deep honor for me to be here. To even be considered a person worthy of sharing stage with all of these people. And I told my mother back stage that I believe this happened because I have been asking God since to be able to sing this song in front of Toni Morrison. So, I’m in college and I got the Bluest Eye and I read the Bluest Eye and I understood it better like I was be able to like comprehend, reading better. And when I closed the last page, I’m not saying anything anybody does it know, but you know how, Toni Morrison’s writing is like a long poem the whole book is like a long poem; her, her, her rhythm. So, I closed the book and this song totally just came out. I just thought I want to sing this song for her some day. This is called not afraid of the dark. Thank you. I am gonna read something from Paradise. I open up Paradise and for some reason I turn to a section of Paradise where the brothers talking about love, what is love? You know, and I thought I would read that section. [music] Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love. Love, love, love let me tell you about love. That silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you. Or whether you can put up for somebody and wanted to get something or some palace you want or you believe it has to do what how your body response to another body like Robins or Bison or maybe you believe love how forces of nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if doing so it for your own good. Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it not in Robins or Bison or in the banging tails of your hunting or not in blossoms or suckling fold love is divine only and difficult always if you think it is easy you are a fool, if you think it is natural you are blind. It has a learned application without reason or mode if you accept that it is god, god, god, god, god, god, god, god, god, god, god, god. Jadine could not find her tongue. She was staring into the mirror at his hair. Last night sitting with Valerian in the soft light of the dining room it had looked merely long and unkempt. Here alone in her bedroom where they were no shadows only the glimmering unrelieved sunlight, his hair looked overpowering, physically overpowering like bundles of long whips or lashes that could grab her and beat her to jelly and wood. Wild aggressive vicious hair that needed to be put in jail. Uncivilized reform-school hair. Mau Mau, Attica, chain gang hair. [sil.] From Home. Frank left the diner, pausing suddenly when he heard a trumpet screech. If anything could match his mood it was that sound. He preferred bebop to Blues. After Hiroshima musicians understood as early as anyone that Truman’s bomb change everything and only scat and bebop could say how. Inside the room small and thick with smoke a dozen or so people faced a trio. The tub was the newest feature in the tiny shotgun house and milk man sank gratefully in to the steaming water. Sweet brought him soap and a boar’s-bristle brush and knelt to bathe him. What she did for his sour feet his cut face his back, his neck, his thighs, and the palms of his hands were so delicious. He couldn’t imagine that the love making to follow could be anything but anticlimactic. Afterward he offered to bathe her, she said he couldn’t because the tank was small and there wasn’t enough water for another hot bath. We played by the creek. I was there in the water. In the quiet time, we played. The clouds were noisy and in the way when I needed you, you came to be with me I needed her face to smile I could only hear breathing, the breathing has gone only, her teeth are left. She said you wouldn’t hurt me you — she hurt me. I’ll protect you I want her face. Don’t love her too much. I’m loving her too much. Watch out for her she can give you dreams she choose and swallows and fall asleep with her braids, your hair, and when she braids you hair she is at laugh I am the laughter I watch the house, I watch the yard. She left me daddy is coming for us how hard to think beloved you’re my sister, you’re daughter, you’re my face, you’re me I have found you again you have come back to me you’re my beloved, you’re mine, you’re mine, you are mine. Cee laughed and spread jam on another biscuit. See what I mean? Look to yourself. You free. Nothing and nobody is obliged to save you but you. See it your own land. You young and a woman and there’s serious limitations in both, but you are a person too. Don’t let Lenore or some trifling boyfriend and certainly no devil doctor decide who you are. That’s slavery. Somewhere inside you is that free person I am talking about. Locate her and let her do some good in the world. Cee put her finger in the blackberry jar, she licked it. I ain’t going nowhere, Miss Ethel. This is where I belong. I just think that passage kind of, encapsulates the whole essence of what Morrison was trying to get at in this novel called Home. It’s about freedom, it’s about personal freedom. There is a subtext of, you know, signifying on slavery, and the legacy of slavery. And also signifying on the fact that, you know, you belong to the land, it is your land, you know, your legacy has built up this society, this culture, this world. I think it really speaks too today and it’s an empowering kind of statement. And she says I’m not going anywhere. I belong here. This is my home. Desdemona. Barbary, Barbary come closer. How I have missed you. Remember the days we spent by the canal? We ate sweets and you saved the honey for me eating none yourself. We shared so much. We shared nothing. What do you mean? I mean you don’t even know my name. Barbary, Barbary is what you call Africa. Barbary is the geography of the foreigner, the savage. Barbary equals the sly, vicious enemy who must be put down at any price, held down at any cost for the conqueror’s pleasure. Barbary is the name of those without whom you could neither live nor prosper. So, tell me what is your name? Sa’ran. Well Sa’ran, whatever your name, you are my best friend. I was your slave. She has people who love her. And at the time that we gathered that we circled these wagons and put some love around just to let her know. Instead of a big house. Instead of a big house. And a great big car. And a great big car. Instead of long trips. Instead of long trips. Porter. Porter. In a clean white boat. In a clean white boat. No.. No.. Instead of picnics.. Instead of picnics.. No.. No.. And fishing.. And fishing.. No.. No.. And being all together on a porch.. And being all together on a porch.. No.. No.. This is for you girls.. This is for you girls.. Oh yes.. Oh yes.. This.. This.. This.. This.. This.. This.. Is for you. Is for you. [sil.] I think, I really think this is — yeah, I think it is the first time, I have been rendered speechless. [sil.] This is an extraordinary event. But, let me tell you if nothing ever again happens in a crowd for me, it doesn’t matter. [sil.] This is as good as it gets. For a writer, for someone who began to write the kind of love what would be a good idea for me to read. So, I worked a little story with some other writers in Washington. They, sort of, liked it, some of them, and some of them didn’t. And then I left the city, went away, got another job, 3, 4, 5, 6 years later, I take that story and I began to build it into something else. The something else really has quotes, because I didn’t really know what it was about. I knew what the story was, but not the meaning. Then, something happened. I was familiar with the poets, of which there are many represented on this stage, certainly in the audience they were first. And they said powerful, interesting, complicated things. They talked about love and courage and bravery, and one another. And then, there was the novel. I read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. [sil.] I had not seen that kind of contemporary clarity, honesty certainties that were more than what happened but how and meaning. And then there were others. There is Paul Marshall. There is Alice Walker. There were novels that repeating to come. And I took sustenance from that collection. That was me as a contemporary editor at a publishing house, was kind of support system. I had never read anything quite like that, so wasn’t of those books, it was not a question of like imitation it was something that door was open. The door was open. So black women writers step through, that’s it. [sil.] And what was interesting to me is unlike contemporary African-American men, powerful writing men, I mean, really Ellison and Wright and Jimmy Baldwin, et cetera, one of the things that was important to them as writers, legitimately important to them was a confrontation with oppressor. What was interesting about women writers, is even not interested in that. Once you get the white man out of your book, the whole world opens up. [sil.] Truly, once that’s gone, you can begin to think about real things not about you know constructed necessary responses to some stereotype that you did not invent. The world is over here. So that seemed to me to be true, very strongly among African-American novel writers and of course some poets as well. But, for me, since I’m not a poet, it was important that kind of thing existed in the novels. And I, you know, sit here listening to different voices, read words that I wrote many years ago or even recently, giving them the meaning even a new meaning and a new sound, I cannot tell you how delightful that is to have ones words move like that through another intelligence, through another creator’s spirit, through another tongue and hear it come back to you in different colors, you know, but still you are the so-called author of it, but it no longer belongs to you, and that’s the magic, and that’s beauty. [sil.] Toni Morrison is a writer of the 20th and 21st century. She came given us a gift of words. She is – was a healer. She is an innovator. She is a woman who put African-American women and men on a world stage, that says simply listen to what we have to say about this story in this place call America, listen and learn, that what it meant really to in spite of what happened to us that we remain human. That is an amazing accomplishment, you know, for a writer to show us that even though she has shown us insanity at some point, but you know that’s part of being human in America is that you taste insanity in the family at some point but you keep on moving, you keep on walking, you keep on being. Toni Morrison in her novels poetically chronicles the tragic and sublime of our American experience over 300 years. She manipulates themes and literate tropes that allow readers to see the complexity of our national story. well, it’s the simple kinds of thesis she has. For example, in this book it’s about love. It’s a book about love; even better than her last most recent novel about love. The power of this is always so moving. But, it’s not simply a theme or thesis that she is developing, it’s her style in her structure, her love of language as well as of people and her language is a vehicle for exposing or exploring and examining the soul. And that’s what I’m very awed by, and it’s the use of language in a way that happily this incomparable by any other living American, all African-American poet. I call her a politic realist, because she used this language in a poetic manner. She works on different levels. And on one level, she is very delicate with language as a poet would be. So, I think — you know, I think, as human beings we are drawn to poetry naturally. You know, the Nicaraguan have this great saying that we all are born poets, you know the society did — kind of takes that away from us and it’s our role, our job to take it back. So, I think at the base of her writing, you know, she is a poet, and people are automatically drawn to that, they transport it into different places and times and experiences. On another level, I mean, it’s just the basis of all literature, all art. It’s about dealing with the human conditions, so these are timeless stories. You know, on an another level, you know, four oppressed people, you know, and people of color. When I say oppressed people, there are — oppressed people all over the world, white black whatever, it’s that story we can all relate to it’s the familiar. As a critic, I love the way she creates narrative. She creates it as a puzzle almost, where you put together the pieces. And when you finish the novel, you understand that the pieces fit so well together. I enjoy her language because it’s poetic, because it’s laying with music, because it has its own unique style. That leads us to understand that she has taken large themes and she has concentrated those themes in the characters of people like Sula and Seth and Nel Eva Peace, these characters that ring in our souls. Toni’s language is magical. Her — I mean, of course, her creation of characters is amazing, but it’s the language you fall in love with first I think. That’s certainly what I fell in love with. Sula was the first Toni Morrison novel I read. And I read it over and over and over again, because I couldn’t believe the language and what she was doing with it. And the way that she is preoccupied with relationships and with the way that all of us grew up and live our adult lives missing something or having lost something, her ability to use language to create characters who have experienced that kind of loss and the way she explores, how they deal with it, how they confronted it. She writes well. She — for example, playing in the dark which are the essays, which are brilliant. Do you know? I mean, I absolutely — they stimulated me to wanna read other people. Do you know what I mean? She writes well. She understands language. She understands how to put things together. Do you know what I mean? To keep the mind and the heart and the emotion, you know, going. [music] Spirituality is often thought of as religion. But, what she’s dealing with is something that’s not religion, it’s much broader, deeper and inclusive. She caps into and shows to us the broad, define, underlying energies of the universe that are available to all of us as a resource of a power and for good. And she is able, because she had the upbringing, the experience in her own life of rich African-American culture that showed her the power of science and ways of knowing beyond the five senses. So, she’s able to combine that with her craft as a novelist to present the manifestation of a — in character’s life, so that we can understand it, find it in ourselves and then enjoy it in her work, but also use it in our own lives. It always seem to me that her central interest in her novels in many ways has been a kind of correction of history or rewriting of history using fiction as a tool to engage the reader and re-educate the reader about issues that are close to her heart, because she said before I think many times actually that she started writing these books, because they weren’t out there for her to read. So, she wrote the book, so she could read them, and of course people she cared about could read them and profit from them. I mean, those people are my students. And I always think of W. E. B. Du Bois, when I think about her position in the firmament, because he was of course the great black historian sociologist – it’s so much for racial uplift at the turn of the century and then in the beginning of the 20th century. Since Du Bois decided to go back and rewrite the history the way he saw it and that is a classic of our historiography of latter reconstruction. I see Morrison doing the same thing in her novels. And again, she is like August Wilson, another great writer who decided to re-inscribe history in the form of plays. He wrote ten plays before he died. Each one devoted to one decade of the 20th century. In all of his character, African-American struggling to get a grip on the conditions that they’ve been presented with and some of them do triumphantly. And this is something that we see Morrison doing too in her novels. And I think they’re almost as many novels now as there are plays by Wilson. But she didn’t do it the way he did it, she didn’t just pick arbitrarily decades, she went to historical notes there are crucial in the history of the race, the nation and indeed the world. Toni Morrison has often lamented the fact that we’re losing our folklore. It’s being taken over in the culture by others. People are growing up not knowing the stories and the songs and the aspects of folklore that are so important in Black culture. And she has actually said that one of her main goals as a writer, in her novels is to reinforce that folklore. And she does it in such a marvelous way. There is not a novel of hers that doesn’t focus on many aspects of African-American folklore. No matter how many books you’ll read on Black culture, on Black music, on Black speech, on Black rituals, on Black believe, you don’t get that sense that you’d get of the lived experience with Toni Morrison. The way she makes use of magical realism is based in folklore. It’s based on what we as a people have — had passed down generation to generation to generation from ghost to people willing to cut their fingers off to show you just what they’ll do to people born without navels to some of these most grotesque and extraordinary things. These things are the kinds of things that we might hear about on the front porches at any house in Shreveport, Louisiana, where I’m from. So because of that, there is some sort of believability, there is something to us that wants to know more about that story, because it hits us somewhere in our soul, somewhere in our memory, somewhere in the memory that’s there before we are here. And she’s very aware of folklore and of the history of our people in this country and on this planet. Morrison uses community in many ways. It is — in many ways her character’s illustrate that some of their characters, some components of their character are adopted from their communities. She uses it as a way for her characters to show their differences in the world and either to be accepted within the group or to be rejected by the group. And she shows the consequences of acceptance or the consequences of rejection. She shows some people who are unable to fit in to the community, that’s always a theme that resonates with college students, and with the adults too. For example, she shows, make and did Junior as a person who while he appears to be very much in the community because he has, he has wealth and his father has status, but as an individual he is really empty. And so, we see everyone else in that community with many problems, but we finally see, and this is a powerful message in that book, when he comes into his sense of self and his understanding of family, he also comes into community. And it’s interesting that those things don’t coalesce until he finds out who he is through his ancestors, then he can easily fit into the community. With any great writer it’s the specificity of the experience which can — allows our readers to become more intimate with whatever is they’re reading. I mean, you know, James Joyce only wrote about the Irish experience in the double news, Stephen Dedalus. And it’s because of what’s universal is in the specifics. And Toni’s work has always been about the specificity of experiences between individuals who are a part of larger community but a distinct as persons in themselves and if you can do that as a writer then that makes what you, what you done universal usually guess the assumption as the universal means to have to speak from the general and that way you come us more little bit I think the way works is that the more you speak in a singular way, is specifically about human beings the more it becomes something that can resonate for a large group of people even if they are not from that experience because emotions are universal. Toni Morrison’s work helps you see the past that you have a left, one of the reasons that we remember the place that affection evokes is that she invest those places with history, so we know the histories of the people who given up place and that means that we got to know that place and so many writers thing that they have to you know do several chapters of study and Morrison’s work out for as we don’t have to do that the studies can be very deftly sketched but we have the histories of the people who lived in those places we have a sense of what those places actually signify. [music] There are so many taboos about women’s culture that she seems to be addressing. So, for example, the very statement, the very famous statement that Hannah makes when she says I love Sula, but I don’t like her. I think that a statement like that in a book written by a Black woman demands that we pay attention to what it is that we are supposed to say about our daughters or our mothers or what we are supposed to feel about them, whether or not we are allowed to admit that there is a complexity in our relationships that for a very long time even black women were not allowed to think about those is it possible to think about your mother as an imperfect being, is it possible to think about your daughter as someone who is not like you. And so, maybe her presence in your life is more troubling than gratifying. You know, are we permitted to ask these hard questions and still admit that we are all worthy people? I think, it’s difficult to convince young women who come out of, who are existing in a world that is so full of denial, to say you know maybe there is something important about doing that kind of thinking and then writing about it. The one thing she does which both excites and irritates people, she dumps you right into the story. You open that book and you hear you see baby sucks and you said whose baby sucks, you think your baby, you think there is a baby in cradle or somewhere and suddenly you realize after few pages she’s talking about the grandmother who is dead incidentally. So, it’s that technique that in which she dumps you into the story and she says to read it, find it, read this and find out what’s going on here. Don’t expect me to tell you a Twinkle Twinkle Little Star story. Go to it and find out what’s in it. And I admire that a great deal. People — I have done a lot of that in my poetry. I don’t know if it works all the time. And I don’t think it works for her all the time. But, it is a magnificent way of getting first of all what I call literary writing, writing that is mature and it’s not full Dick and Jane sentences. And also writing that fascinates the reader and pulls the reader in if the reader is willing to be pulled. A lot of, a lot of young people, lot of older people as well they are on lift by her work say no it’s just too difficult isn’t that but they don’t understand that good writing, good literature required the just you know a passive reading of something shallow reading or something you have to go back and it’s take time it’s not like you gonna a breeze throw it in, I think okay I got it you know you could be reading books throughout your life span and always get something new you know it’s like a, it’s like a Lotus, writing is like a Lotus flower just continues to you know yield stuff and blossom. She trusts us to understand that human experience is difficult, she trust us to stick with her as a guide to these difficult species and we do we are, we are so taken and by the story we want to understand okay what led her to figure home, what led him to kill this woman he loved her, what you know who is wild and where is she and how did, how did we get from this more than this in South to this place in Harlem and what is Harlem become so these are questions that are resident in our bodies already when we listen to Coltrane, when we listen to think of your favorite jazz artistes who ever fill in the blank what is the congeners has a story of something that this difficult to when we are hearing my favorite things , we mixed in and changed in through a part and and it is dizzying and that was language it is I think she trust us to stick with her into the difficulty and trusts us that they will land with her and this place of our own understanding I love the fact that she doesn’t tell me what she I think about what she’s saying. We have to fall in love with what is difficult. And if we can do that, then we will never deprive ourselves up someone else was genius just because of we are to make an effort to achieve that with them so I would say that to include her that you have to include her because I can think of his one other single individual writer who has brought quite a complexity of, of looking, of seeing the American landscape and the Afro-American landscape I can think of any person who was done that as obviously, as consistently and with this much love as. Several writers and artists bear witness to the life changing influence at Toni Morrison’s challenging work has had on their own writing and their lives. I knew everything I want to talk about, about race and I still didn’t know where to go for that you know how to go how to find out who could validate that from me and, and blue stack came out in 1970 and we not read the book I was you now it just felt like I found a mother I will you know this brave, brave woman who said you can write whatever you need to write you know write about these things that are hard, that are ugly, that are you know because I really felt the greatest fear I had this way this was really the greatest fear I had it is not that not that they creates wouldn’t like my work but the black people will like my work that I would be shunned that was my greatest fear and when I read the book bluest eye I knew there is a one-person and not only one person but one great writer who said do whatever the hell you need to do to tell the truth that you feel you need to tell show that teach my life I began to write about self-loathing and about the complexity of color and class and it not only make me feel like I could do this as a writer that somebody as manufacture personally knew me and I did send her my work and she did you know as you doing the right thing you know but she also helped me to understand the importance of being a mentor and of helping of saying that the Black Riders where we can do anything we need to do to, to make greater heart and great heart has everything in it. I would say the impact of Dr. Morrison’s work on my work is that I’m challenged now from within to be as pure with the characterizations that I’m creating as possible. And as an actor, to bring a certain level of honesty to the people that you are playing regardless of how different they are is mandatory now whereas it wasn’t when I was younger. And I read these characters that are created by Dr. Morrison and others and to get the opportunity to create these people on stage you know there is no way in the world you can do that with half energy with less than 150% commitment because these are the version characterizations of beautiful people. I imagine there’s not a educated person that reading Tony Morrison so you have to they must surely be a cross overs you know that go back and forth and because Toni is incredibly well read so you know is that it goes back but where I have seen the input, the-the what you actually see as use Toni Morrison where the thing as if she is favor with this stuff is not this generation not us but the one behind because now you have books of poetry you call dreams of you know electric sheep or something they say a book dealing with Precola and her dreams that is a collection of poetry similar to but not the same don’t misunderstand what we did it with her full surprise winning collection of looking at that those two people so all of sudden not all of us sudden but I think there were you see the impact of the novelist back on the poetry is not with the contempt is to again plan logically we are not but artistically we are contemporary what you see in the younger generation and they have read, we have read and held it they can now handle back in sculpture they can hand it back in paintings and certainly the powers are now handling get back poetically. One of the biggest impacts that I believed Tony Morrison had has had on my work still has on my work has to be possibly the poetry and the lyricism in the elementary in in her writing you know my first inclination was to you know one be a fiction list your fiction writer for some reasons you know the use of poetry got me headlock in you know I became poet’s but you really can see that she is the poet you know how work is poetry and I think that’s why so many people drawn to it and I think that’s was sticks to with me that is was in my site psyche you know her to share the beauty of the language. Well on the sentence by sentence level I think I have really learned from her use of matter for that part of part of what writers sees and in his or her mind can be made more clear with vehicle of something that you know the reader knows about I mean better forces simply saying something like this is bad and easy metaphor you know the linebacker was a bear well we understand just how big and ferocious the linebacker was because we are afraid of bears that kind of thing has been really of used to me but also what infection they call magical realism and in poetry what we just simply call that the real the ability to see a thing, see a person and to allow it supernatural that we know exists in this natural world that seems to be two of the most wonderful things about her writing that I tried emulate in my own work. [music] The art of teaching Toni Morrison’s work comes and creating a learning environment that explores both the exterior and interior spaces of human experience and his spends easy assumptions and understanding them. In her very first novel The Bluest Eye 1973, that first sentence quiet as it’s kept there were no marigolds in the fall of 1941, okay, a simple sentence like that, and then she goes on to say and we thought it was because Pecola was having her father’s baby. But, say that — take that first sentence, you have the marigolds and you have all the connotations of fall and 1941, war and all of the rest of that. But, she sees immediately almost invoked the whole universe, the whole cosmos and see that kind of invoking of the whole cosmos, the universe of energies, it’s just there from the very beginning and everything that she does. And I think it gives it weight, it gives it credence. I think if I could analyze why it works, then it wouldn’t work. You know, I mean, you can take something apart and say, okay this is how and look how she uses this word and look she moves from a pure description and engages all the senses and then it slips into the action, that’s the how, but that’s not the why. The why is really the magic and it’s a mystery of every great of every great writer I think that in the end there’s something that still knocks you breathless. You go, wow every time you read it because you know I can read her over and over again, it still be not breathless. And I had such a ball trying to, you know, pick a passage, because I was just reading books over and over again that gave me a chance to do that. But, I do think that one of the things that has been really wonderful in her work that is in terms of teaching other writers is to show by that example how very specific you can get into someone’s interior life who has nothing to do with you and quoting to all of the stats, I mean who doesn’t look like you isn’t your gender, who doesn’t coming from the same class or anything like that and yet and yet you feel in any of Toni’s works that you are right inside of their head, looking out feeling the stuff and I have seen it happened with very privileged preppy young white boys, you know, reading this in the class and I have seen it, you know, happen with people from other countries. It’s something there, but that’s part of the magic. It really and I do think there is a bit of magic in there. As a theater professor, I would introduce Dr. Morrison’s work for the purposes of introducing a world to students that not many have ever entered or thought about in a tangible sort of way. I used to tease my students here at Virginia Tech that at the beginning of the semester I shared with them that by the time they left me at the end of the semester they would have climbed into the feet of Latino or Latina, and African-American and Native American and I shared with them that I wasn’t able to explore an African-American voice in theater until eighth grade. And everything I read, everything that was taught to me was done from an Anglo perspective. And so, I felt like my job while teaching was to open those windows for these students. And it was magical to watch these kids allow themselves to be opened up that way and playing African-American women in the short scenes that we did and playing Latinas and playing, you know, Chinese characters it forces you to look at yourself and look at others and figure out where and how that void can be compacted. Toni Morrison’s work, I think, in teaching it introduce the students to things that they would to assumptions that they have, but she undermines or subverts those assumptions. And so, for me, that was always the value of teaching Toni’s work as that she overturns all of the convenient assumptions that students would comes to her work with. I think her work lets read fine themselves, locate themselves locate their heads and it’s a elementary text book into who am I.