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tv   Author Discussion on Poetry and Activism  CSPAN  August 19, 2021 7:02pm-7:51pm EDT

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it is excellent they're all sorts of things going on in the news i should not mention. he really gets into your head. shouldn't a woman be writing about her? he makes you feel when you are behind. i have a thing about her for some reason. let's not just about fdr but supposed to be about her that is when actually reading when i sit down tired. i'm also going to sit through this 1200 page dauphin. >> were so grateful he came and spoke to us. we'll send a follow-up e-mail to tonight's attendees with more information from you to support your local bookseller.
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the final program of the season will be held on friday may 14. for more information about our programs, membership and more thanks a lot for joining us. >> thank you very much it was a pleasure. >> weekends on cspan2 are an intellectual feast defined events with her nations past on american tv. on sunday but tv range of latest in nonfiction books and author. weekends on cspan2. >> if you choose to research the origins of a topic being
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discussed frequently called critical race theory. you'll find the name derek bell professor bell died in 2011 is one of the principal of these discussed subjects. derek bell appeared on bookshelves to discuss his book faces at the bottom of the well the permanence of racism". >> the late derek bell harvard law school first tenured professor on this episode of book notes plus. or anywhere you get your podcast. >> i am laurie, councilmember and your host for this presentation. before we get started a quick plug to support the authors purchasing their book from the
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wonderful bookselling partners. one of american's premier independent bookstores. we have links to purchase in the presentation description given all we've been through over the past year is so important to support local jobs and a local economy. i also want to extend a big thank you to her 2021 featured sponsor david and michael boyer familyy foundation for their generous support. okay, let's get started. to date we have with us for acclaimed poets to discuss poetry's role in social justice throughout history. with work spanning the pre-civil war to the modern era, their latest books grapple with the long road of patriarchy and other social
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issues. words of joseph himself urges readers to walk beside doctor martin luther king jr. from montgomery to memphis, and fire hoses and listens to his thoughts, hopes and fears. he is the author of four books ofof poetry in the los angeles times. he has received multiple multiple pushcart nominations little review poetry prize for his poem was the mother of god. by broad potomac sure, great poems from the early days of
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our nation's capitol by kim roberts is an anthology of poems by a well known and overlooked poets working on living in the capitol 1930. walt whitman and frederick douglass as well as the work of lesser known poets. kim roberts is the author of eight literary guide to washington d.c., walking in the footsteps of american writers from francis scott key and five books of poems. most recently the scientific method, political af arrays collection by campbell is the hybrid chapbook of poetry and prose. the collection focuses on topics such as race,
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corruption, son violence, police brutality, confederate monuments, reproductive freedom and the sexual harassment of abusive women. he is a writer, teacher, fellow in fiction editor at barrel house. she received her msa from american university and has been moved to the author of the novel and three other collection, derksen bicycle, midnight and cabinet of wrath a collection moderate the discussion between three powerful poets is e ethel berg miller award-winning literary activist and author of two memoirs and several poetry collections. he house the morning radio show, with e ethelbert miller
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which received 82020 kelly award. his latest book is god invented baseball, was awarded the 2019 literary award for poetry by the black caucus of the american library association. as i turn it over too all of you, the only regret i have is that we are not celebrating your work in person. we look forward to doing that next time so for now welcome joseph, kim, kara and ethelbert rick. >> it's very nice to be with you. let's begin with you. january 6 the attack on her capitol. immediately many people made reference to the war of 1812.
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take us back to 1812 and talk about some of the writers that have read in your book. but the historical insight in what we saw happen this year. >> my anthology starts with 1800 when d.c. was founded. a lot of the early poets i was surprised to see how many of them were making political statements political commentary about government and the role of government in our lives. i started from those earlier poets looking specifically for writers who were bringing up issues that would rest ignite with us today. writers who were writing about
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war and conflicts, about race, gender, economic inequities, cultural a differences and you will not be surprised to know there were just a number of poets who were actively engaging with these political issues. i would say especially if you are looking at 1812 and some of those earlier errors, some of the most fascinating poems in the book to me were about how the country was wrangling with race, identity and specifically about slavery and abolition. dcu may orr may not be aware is
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the internal slave trade in the country. it was also a major center for the abolitionist movement. i don't know, there is a poet who was also a religious leader a reverend, if you look at them thinking of a specific poem of his called the anthology of freedom. i will not read the whole thing and as long. you get some of these sense if i just read maybe one stanza because it is just so powerful.
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the altars of bondage are blazing with fire the slave in its chain is a grim sacrifice. the tones of the priest rise higher and higher is god now and conflict regards not his crowd the merchant and fear bring gifts to the altar the statesmen and jurists bring laws all in vain. demigod accents and doubt begins to falter though union is sounded again and again. the heavens grow thicker with core tents of dread to oppression week soul and almighty truth flashes brighter and quicker while terrific reason still role. the earthquake is shattering their prisons into pieces amid the eruptions of volcanic speech while whirlwinds and torrents in fury increases
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alternately pursed. >> thank you kim. i want to begin with you to provide us aal historical backdrop. i want to asksk a question it is forve everyone. that is, if you look back you all have books that appear in 2020. i feel the country change in 2020, the world changed in 2020. what difference did the black lives matter movement have on your life as a writer? and have you begun totr view this country in a different way? >> yes. actually the black lives matter movement introduced some cognitive dissidents for me and how do i even discussed race because as a mixed race person my skin iss light enough to walk through
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the world and i don't face all of the obstacles that my black cousins and darker skinned siblings might face. and so that made me think about how we a even talk about these things is an obstacle. people like myself are not necessarily part of thatss discussion and we are both. and so i had problems with how do i even start a sentence in the certain context. because i myself am not they want at particular kind of risk necessarily. mi we or they and the circumstance? it made me think about her own language and how even the language is a barrier to coming together in this context. it may be think really deeply about how we even began to talk about these things.
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>> before i have joseph respond to it, why don't you read your poem the trouble with pronouns? >> this column came about because of this very problem. i would have p conversations and i would not know how to start my sentence because i did not know if i should be talking about we or t they in this particular. context. i wrote my way out of it, through, or into it, however you care to define that. this is called the trouble with pronouns. >> that is exactly why my lips and tongue freeze. another arm armed black man dead. i want to be clear that my pronouns are a mess because i am mixed race and mixed up trying to explain and black and white how we and they might bridge the gap.
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why do my lips sometimes lack the confidence, these lips speaking out in girls who are in the mainstream middle-class two-parent home and alaska attended a multiethnic school and watching gilligan's island and get smart. where he hot overalls and played with donny and marie dolls. how am i even black enough? i have no history with colors or church i don't feel like singing. i actually have the bluest eye and my dreams are not deferred. they are affirmatively actionable. have i actually earned the right to say we? how could my tongue insist upon meeting this toad switching tongue offering by choice trying to untangle
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scholarships and reverse racism in my classmates comments. we will earn them did not? one drop coursing through my veins into uncomfortable plot with certain boyfriends mothers. spending too many years with rollers in my hair. smiling at the swanky lack coolness how can i not fear for my daughter law meant do not hesitate to say they. my lips and tongue freeze and the debate rolls on. all mixed up in black and white. >> thank you. how has the black lives matter
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movement influenced you? >> it has influenced me a lot. it has influenced my writing and it has influenced many of the poems. one of the important ways it influenced me is through my students, my high school teacher in washington d.c. and i watch these young people walk through the world that does not think they matter much. they worry about the threats they face, read the fears they have in their essays and poems. we try to understand that i am personally married to an african-american man and so the black lives matter movement and its concerns live in my house. i live with those concerns all of the time.
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in terms of poems and king i discover even some of the language of black lives matter in the poems, a couple of them tried to step into the voice of coretta scott king or doctor king and i am mindful for the potential dangers in that. almost unconsciously of a black lives matter language shows up there. and i suppose what i want really is those two things converge. the truth that black lives matterp shows up in the poems, doctor king did not use that
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phrase, that movement was not here then, obviously in itsio current formulation. but there would be no daylight between his view of the world and his complex and thoughtful critique of america and much of what black lives matter the movement is saying and is about today. >> i want to link this and ask a question in this context. we think of king we think of king and the dream. we looked at langston and i know you are an expert, in addition to your new book you told how whitman's reputation is waxed and waned. come to its happening january 6 should we look at women to restore belief in america or should we look at
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it different? >> that is a fascinating question. part of the reason why his reputation waxed and waned is because he is someone who wee have traditionally invested so much of her own interpretation in. certainly his record in supporting people of color is really mixed. yet he is anor icon for lgbtq plus people. how much we read him as the hold mixed picture as opposed to picking out different parts, changes depending on where we are at politically as well.
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i think you also have to recognize we are in perfect human beings. from the poetic forebear i think whitman is a great example of that. and i did u he is one of whitman's poem that comes directly from him. part of the way i want to respond to this is a non- whitman answer.
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when you put together an anthology you are doing so very consciously again. yes of course i'm thrilled to have whitman in the book. one ofhe the reasons i wanted to put the book together was actually to increase the number of women writers, writers of color, working-class writers, who's just as good. some of those bigger names we recognize who are not for various reasons it being remembered, and read, and taught in schools. >> want you to explain your new words. when you wrote for you this is
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not that wish you make you build so you have joseph and kim how are we supposed to respond? >> that particular image was directed at a particular person who has very prominent for approximately four years. it is indicative of the american promise that has the package to appeal to the 1%. this is the myth the rest of us are supposed to trust strive for and aspire too. as we know better we can take a better look at the role models of the past as complete
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human beings with all of their flaws, all of their strengths, and the idea to come to a deeper understanding. that quote is removing the scale from their eyes. you can see it for what it is and make our weight in a more informed manner. so yes it is part of this discussion of removal of monuments in the street names changing, so on and so forth. surprisingeen a for me of resistance. because once you see what that person has stood for, i am talking about cases that even exceed, there is a standard in terms of what someone would have reasonably been expected to believe at the time for the point taking historical time into context.
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there are i people that exceed those limits and humanity. andas even in those cases, there is resistance to changing names and monuments for various reasons. that statement is all about saying to folks you have been sold in impossible dream. let's re- calibrates and hold people to account. >> joseph, this is april 2021. fifty-three years ago martin luther king was assassinated in memphis. what lessons can we learn from king? >> goodness, a lot. my mind immediately goes to i think some of his thinking that the dream language the march on washington speech in particular is commonly known language really sort of
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ignores what people refer to as the whitewashing of king. think about his critique of american culture and what he calls the giant triplets of militarism, poverty and racism. most americans have no idea of the complicated, thoughtful know what's critique of the american culture and really in some ways the international order that he makes through those three doors of militarism, consumerism and poverty. andd racism. there is a ton they are to think about, to read, and to learn from. and i think that provides us a lens through which to seeee our own country and see the world. and some ways just describing a little more honestly and a little more accurately.
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we can make a better cultural decisions about who was a statue we put on a pedestal in a circle. or who we name a building after. i have always been struck by this. i don't know if doctor king ever wrote this or said this explicitly, but why do we think we can't critique our country and leavitt at the same time is just maddening to me. it seems to me that doctor king had it exactly right. in fact loving your country requires a a critique and insistence to make things better. the flip of that is some kind of america, love it or leave it which is just foolish. it's anti-intellectual, it is not thoughtful. we have to do better than that. >> share with us one of the poems from your book breaking king. >> assured thank you. well and one of the poems you suggested i may be read as a
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short little poem called it takes time. there are three sections where they respond to excerpts from the three of his books. and this poem responds to something he wrote why we can't wait which is about the violence of 1963 it is his second book. doctor king wrote we made it clear who would not send anyone out to demonstrate who had not convinced himself and us that he could accept and endure violence without retaliating. this poem is called it takes time. it takes time to learn this. it must be proven in the light of day that you will look him in the hand and love his fist to death. : : : doctor king's teaching in the heart of his christian faith is his deep deep belief in non- violence.
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and i think that comes through in the book of poems and "raising king" is about nonviolence, he was much more about that but that he deeply believed that would be the most a up a method for change for them. >> let's talk about teaching, you are all teachers at one time. i want to ask you in terms of this. in teaching, are there certain writers you return to? also with your most recent book, are there certain writers, lesser-known writers, they are very important so why not you respond to that. >> sure, there are certain writers i turned to but
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increasingly they seem to be writers or less well known. for example, i've been teaching nelson who always gets overshadowed by her much more famous first husband dunbar and her work, especially her poems, better known for in her lifetime dated so much but her poetry continues to gather. a lot of their writers got their start during the harlem renaissance. , a lot of the writers who are best known to us now tend to be male writers who moved to new
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york. so many writers of the movement were here in d.c. so people like georgette douglas johnson who i adore, i feel we need to widen the discussion more. if there is time, i'd love to read a poem by esther shaw -- >> go-ahead. >> okay, do it now? okay. after one of the harlem renaissance siders, she published under her maiden name and this poem is called flag. i pledge allegiance to the flag, they dragged him naked through the muddy streets of people find it black boy and the assault upon an asian woman of the
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united states of america, 1 mile like a sack, a rope around his neck, buddy here left dangling by the patriotic hand of nordic, of boy of 17. to the republic for which it stands, then they hanged his body to a tree below the window of a county judge, battered human flesh stifled by the howells of men and d boys and women brought out to see the blood a spectacle of murder, 3000 strong, they were. one nation indivisible to make the tail complete, they built a fire. what matters that the stuff they burned was flesh and bone and hair and wreaking gasoline with liberty and justice, they cut
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the rope and passed them out for souvenirs among the men and boys. b no doubt on holding chains about the favorite next of sweetheart and daughters, mothers, sisters, babies for all. >> thank you. >> i love the way the pledge of allegiance is there, a lot of contemporary writers are looking back at these fundamental texts doing the same writing. it felt so contemporary to me. >> thank you for sharing. any writers you return to? >> i'm sorry, i was muted. this question foror me is a tangent because myy primary form is fiction. secular fiction in particular, i can speak in terms of broadening
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the aperture of what the goal is. it was a history much more limited than the people actually writing it. so talking about in terms of figures overshadowing other folks doing the work as well, i'd like to let people know wep was riding speculative fiction as well that can be sci-fi as well so writers i come back to our making this case by not making explicit say necessary but they are making the case by existing. one writer whose work i lovee breonna -- he's playing at the edges of literary and fantastical fiction, on a product erratically and is
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created a whole town to play in in terms of his fiction so i'll always found myself coming back to his stories again and again. >> what about you, justin? >> for several years i've been teaching american literature and given a lot of freedom so but the course of frederick douglass who in some ways, i've discovered the last 20 years which is absurd but i grew up, no teacher or professor ever said the name frederick bliss or harriet tubman in a classroom until i was an undergraduate so we do a lot of frederick douglass reading narrative, reading several of his n speech, happy to see kim's books, he's certainly not known for poems.
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i love to introduce students to george moses, his poetry is amazing, very 19th century for line sandoz but also very clear and crisp about his experience as an enslaved person. his biography is the most distinctive thing in american lit that students will experience. he used to drive a vegetable wagon from the t plantation to e newly founded university of north carolina at chapel hill sundays so the masters vegetables. eventually he began writing poems for students, girlfriends, umc students to get their girlfriends as he would talk with them and they would realize he's a poet, became friends with the faculty professor's wife who helped get him his first couple books published and eventually he asks the master if he can
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live in chapel hilliv and work n his poems. the slave owner agrees as long as he pays certain amount of money a day, which he does so he lives until emancipation off the plantation, off-campus sort of, it's the most amazing storyf . unfortunately he's not freed until emancipation when he goes to i think philadelphia and marries and has children and we end up with i think three books of his poems, amazing. i always return to the poems of clifton, especially at the end of chronological survey of american lit. >> i have to retain when you say off-campus plantation -- [laughter] on a serious note, this is very important, are taught having
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this conversation about u.s. history, black lives matter movement but while we m have ths discussion, the major concern right now in our country is attacks against asian americans. i have seen some people say we need to know more about asian americans, koreans and japanese and in your own work as teachers and research, how much are you highlighting the work of asian americans? >> i begin with you, kim because when we go back and this is why i have so much admiration for you, when i was trying to create the program for historical colleges, you are the first personir, i always saw you workg communities and i was wondering,
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would youri become a model for asian american writers and the contribution to american literature? >> it points out so much about inequities of the publishing industry. i do not include single asian americannc poet in mind becausen those early euros i'm looking at was really not open to asian americans in a way that would encourage people writing to share their work in a more public way so while i include a couple of american indian writers in my survey, there are no asian americans. however, that does not mean
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asian americans were not actively writing. they just were not publishing mainstream newspapers and journals and i think knowing that history of having that foundation behind you is crucial work so i think you have some excellent points that we need to startd looking at specific communities and doing that research, building on that and in my ownce teaching, i teach a lot of contemporary asian american writers whose work i love and specifically if people are looking at a place to start, i would suggest tamika hahn in
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maryland in particular but doing that digging, we don't just appear as contemporary writers, we stand on the shoulders of those people who come before us. >> did you want to comment on my last question? >> i have to say, my approach has been more holistic, like whole picture and i have not focused specifically on asian or asian-american offers. the one thing i do like to do when i teach science fiction process is focused on writers of color and women and a good resource for that, i'll mention two books. f new son is anthology edited by saul that focuses specifically on fiction by writers of color.
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there is also american science fiction and fantasy theories, that's an annual series since 2015 and that started as an answer to certain groups of people trying to the field very white and very male and floating down women with the hugo awards. this anthology series has and i to elevating the work of women and people of color so those are two sources i draw upon, specifically i will go through and make sure, try to be representative in my classes in terms of what work i put in front of students. >> thank you did. >> i underline the concern and
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for me, as a high school teacher, it ties into what kim was saying about who gets published where and what anthologies will include what writers. in the american lit classes i teach, we have tamika hahn maxine kingston especially but that is not enough. an american novelist who wrote convenient store hormone, not japanese-american. i don't remember her name but the book is amazing. i have been limited in some ways with who shows up and it's recent, a body of anthology is as big as something like norton to have choices of asian hoamerican authors in american t and anthology is very recent,
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like the last ten years so we have to do better, i have to do better at that. >> my last question to all of you would be something that is tied in with langston's work from talkk about social justice. if you could dream a world, what kind of world would you dream? what you feel is essential in terms of moving to mars or should we make sure we get it right this time? [laughter] >> i guess i would go back to the importance of hearing the widest range of voices, we need literature for two reasons. we need literature that exposes us to things outside of our own experience and take us to new worlds and we also need what
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reflects our experience. a thorough literature only reflects the experience of a tiny segment of the american population, then we have failed. i think continuing to open a canon, continuing to educate ourselves is crucialci. >> i think my answer is a little basic but to better direct our fear because fear is a powerful tool for survival, we fear fire when it's coming for us but we shouldn't fear folks for looking different or acting different or any reasons we've been told we should fear people so if we could better direct our fear to truly productive things we do need to look out for to survive,
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i think that would be a root cause. >> could you perhaps close this session with something from king you find inspirational, something we should take with us as a reminder, something to keep us warm? winter in america. [laughter] >> i would be happy to. this plays on langston hughes construction so the first poem in the second session is called 1963. doctor kingg begins why we can't wait, describing a boy sitting on his stoop in harlem integral working afield and alabama and goes on to reflect from their about hopelessness. this is 1963. a boy sitshe on his stoop, the house means hopelessly as he is,
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they know him from nowhere to go, nowhere to be, he dreams of nowhere. when he wakes up after dreams of nowhere, he goes nowhere. the school forgets, he forgets them. is he a dream? has this country differed him? can nowhere explode? it girl sits on her stoop, a home older than her grandmother but not as dirty. the field where her parents worked, as filthy as she esplanade is angry. shee sits in a field because death about, they shout more fury from the book. three, this is the year young people will sing fear and a melody that hurts, a rhythm that burns, a flame so hot fire hoses shove against walls of their
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water, their judges, county clerks, their governor and their country cannot extinguish anything. >> joseph, tara and kim, i want to thank you. i will close down by saying why are we still waiting? i would hope people pick up your work to provide a path to the future which will be filled with might and joy. thank you for being here. >> thank you. >> thank you, joseph, kim, tara and ethel. i was a really interesting conversation and we are having uncomfortable conversations about dismantling systemic racism and devising plans to racial equity here, i just want to go


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