Contact: Tanika Davis
As part of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore series “Talking About Race,” New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow discusses current race-tinged events, and also Fire Shut Up in My Bones, his memoir about growing up poor and black in rural, segregated Louisiana. Shawn Dove, director of Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement, will moderate the discussion.
7 p.m., Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Enoch Pratt Free Library
400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore
Charles M. Blow is an award-winning columnist at the New York Times, arguably one of the nation’s most well-respected newspapers. His weekly columns about hard-hitting issues, such as race, equality, politics and identity, are dissected by millions of readers.
But at one point, Blow was simply the youngest child in a family growing up in dirt-poor Gibsland, La. He came of age in that segregated town, raised by a loving, but no-nonsense, mother and a philandering father.
Blow’s extraordinary life story is detailed in his debut memoir, Fire Shut Up in My Bones. In it, we learn in poetic language how Blow’s mother, a poultry-picker, shot his cheating father and how Blow was sexually molested by a cousin—experiences that left him confused and angry. And running through the moments that shaped Blow’s life: the electric currents of race, violence, poverty and sexuality.
One review of Fire Shut Up in My Bones said, “Charles’s escape from that world—first to a nearby state university, where he joined a black fraternity despite brutal hazing, then experienced a social and sexual privilege that seemed at first like everything he ever needed—is a searing, redemptive story that will work its way into the deepest chambers of your heart.”
Another said Blow’s book is, “a powerfully redemptive memoir that both fits the tradition of African-American storytelling from the South, and gives it an indelible new slant.”
As a part of OSI-Baltimore’s series “Talking About Race,” Blow will discuss the high- and lowlights of his life in Louisiana, how he worked his way from there to the New York Times, and how his childhood and upbringing help shape the provocative and status-quo challenging perspectives he shares in his weekly columns. Blow has written several columns, for example, about the killing of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, who is black, by a white police officer—a situation Blow will dissect at the event.
“A true racial dialogue is not intra-racial but interracial,” he wrote in an August 20th column, Constructing a Conversation on Race. “Histories and systems must be laid bare. Biases, fears, stereotype and mistrust must be examined.”
His perspective, then, is perfect for OSI-Baltimore’s well-attended series on race. At the talk, Blow will add his thoughts on Brown’s killing, race matters in Ferguson, Mo., and other current events. Shawn Dove, director of Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement, will moderate the discussion.
The free and open-to-the-public forum is a part of OSI-Baltimore’s “Talking About Race” series, co-sponsored by the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The series has been addressing race from different perspectives and exploring why it is important to discuss the topic openly and intelligently.
OSI-Baltimore has a number of must-see events coming up this fall, including:
Oct. 6 – Cracking the Codes
Race-more than any other demographic factor-determines levels of individual educational achievement, health and life expectancy, the possibility of incarceration, and wealth in the United States. And we need to talk about it. OSI-Baltimore will do just that during a screening of Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity, a film that explores the difficulty of talking about race in a meaningful way, and a community dialogue with filmmaker and racial justice educator Shakti Butler. This event is co-sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Baltimore Racial Justice Action and the YWCA Greater Baltimore.
Oct. 27 – Big Change Baltimore 2014
Back by popular demand, OSI-Baltimore is bringing back last year’s standing room only ideas-fest, Big Change Baltimore.The event will feature an afternoon of provocative speakers who will inform and challenge. Speakers include:
- Piper Kerman, author of Orange is the New Black, which inspired the award-winning original series for Netflix.
- Bill Keller, former executive editor of the New York Times, and now editor-in-chief of The Marshall Project, a nonprofit, non-partisan news organization focused on crime and punishment in the United States.
- Ian Haney López, one of the nation’s leading thinkers on how racism has evolved in the United States. In his most recent book, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, Ian lays bare how conservative politicians exploit racial pandering to convince many voters to support policies that ultimately favor the very rich and hurt everyone else.
- Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, president of UMBC, one of the nation’s most prominent educators.
To learn more, visit bigchangebaltimore.org.
As the only field office for the Open Society Foundations’ U.S. Programs, Open Society Institute-Baltimore focuses on the root causes of three intertwined problems in our city and state: drug addiction, an overreliance on incarceration and obstacles that keep youth from succeeding both inside and outside the classroom. We also support a growing corps of social entrepreneurs committed to underserved populations in Baltimore. Before we make a single grant, we analyze the root causes of a problem and examine research and innovative practices aimed at tackling the problem. Because we aim for lasting, sustainable solutions, we engage public and private partners from the start. It is only then, with a clear picture of the problem, that we begin to focus our approach and diligently craft a road map for change.