A renowned author Jabari Asim said external and internal investigation, in which intellectuals and consistent efforts like Black Lives Matter engage, pushes for progress in the reality of race and inequality last Thursday at the University of Kansas.
In the form of a conversation with the chair of African & African-American Studies Clarence Lang, Asim talked about his works in relation to the 2016-2017 Common Book, “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for the Common Book event series. Asim, also the editor-in-chief of The Crisis Magazine, focused on politics, ideas, and culture. He referred to the African American culture as the aftermath of history ranging from slavery to the election of Obama.
“Reconciliation is a tough word but very much the embodiment of our experiences that we have to acknowledge and even pay homage to the people who have gone before us, who have suffered,” Asim said, “but I think we have to see it as a continuum.”
Asim said he looks at the process of people countering the negative African American experiences as a system of contesting narrative.
“I look at language as a battleground,” Asim said, “a battleground on which whites and blacks fight over the nature of reality.”
By describing their own experiences in writing, writers counter the black reality that white people have stereotyped with contesting narrative.
Furthermore, Asim, an author of 13 books, draws the idea from “Between the World and Me”, and said people should evaluate their own bodies that are moving through space that are abstract, metaphorical and actual.
“For me… the personal question is not living in a black body, but how to escape the imprisonment of my own delusion about the limitations of the black body that I internalized as a black man” Asim said.
Asim concluded that the mission of the humanity is to find moments of meanings from the chaos of society, and the conversation was followed by a question and answer period with nearly a full hall of audiences. Junior Quaram Robinson, who is an African American studies student, said it is interesting to hear from people like Asim , and it is inspiring that he does not write for a solution but write for headaches.
“ I think that the biggest thing I got from this is how we internally trap our own self in space, so how do we think about moving in a revolutionary sense when we ourselves aren’t really moving,” Robinson said, saying it is interesting to see that Asim started reflecting on the meaning of blackness through movements like Black Lives Matter.
Lang said Common Book program normally invites the author of the Common Book. However, because of Coates’ tight schedule, the committee chose Asim as the speaker because of the similarity between Asim’s and Coates’ works.
“Jabari Asim… wide ranging essayist, novelist, poet, public intellectual, so he is certainly someone, who we thought was of equal stature to Coates and who would have a lot to say not just about the book itself, but also about the broad theme that Coates is wrestling with, the meaning of black existence and what that tells us about humanity,” Lang said.
The program was co-sponsored by College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of African & African-American Studies, Department of American Studies and Langston Hughs Center. Asim also engaged in a conversation for students the next morning at 8:30 in the Sabatini Multicultural Resource Center.