Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Coates: Storytelling Must be Used to Ignite Social Change

Americans must fight for their right to imagine a better future, Ta-Nehisi Coates said at a March 22 event in Gaston Hall. 

The event, titled “A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates,” featured a reading by the award-winning journalist and author, a conversation with Angelyn Mitchell, a Georgetown University English and African American studies professor and a question and answer session with the audience. The Georgetown University Lecture Fund, a student-run organization that brings speakers to discuss a wide variety of topics, hosted the event.

Coates also discussed his work on the script of an upcoming Superman reboot, which will feature a Black Superman, as well as his previous books “Between the World and Me” and “We Were Eight Years in Power.” 

Throughout the course of his career, Coates has worked to write truthfully and emphatically about the deep flaws in the United States he experiences as a Black man.

Ta-Nehisi Coates | Award-winning author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates told Georgetown community members about the power of storytelling in social justice.

Coates said that he finds community and empowerment in the tradition of Black writing, which is tied to Black liberation.

“When you are in the tradition of Black writing, you’re in a tradition of people who have always tied that feeling to the idea of liberation, when those two things can’t be separated,” Coates said at the event. “And so there’s a feeling of you’re not just writing to introduce something beautiful in the world, but you’re writing because you believe that beautiful thing. And sometimes even don’t believe that beautiful thing depending on where you are, where you sit in the tradition, but that it has some sort of impact on the liberation of a group of people who sit at one of the bottom rungs of society.”

White supremacy has been an integral part of U.S. institutions, and recent movements are an attempt to uphold that power structure, according to Coates. 

“What these people are trying to do is erect an entire safe space for white straight men in this country,” Coates said. “Education is never safe. Imagination is never safe. And if we lose the right to imagine a future, or if we ignore the fact that we’re losing the right to imagine the future, and we focus simply on preserving our main vote, we will look up and we will very quickly find that we actually have nothing to vote for.”

The Jan. 6 insurrection, which was embedded with racist and bigoted rhetoric, marked a direct assault on the U.S. democratic process. Meanwhile, in the past year, widespread political efforts attempted to ban critical race theory from U.S. classrooms. 

At the core, the legacy of slavery deeply affects all aspects of American life, which is a difficult but important message to get across to audiences, according to Coates. 

“The crime of enslavement is at the root that extends through the branch and out into the branches and into the leaves of this country, and you cannot get away from it. You think you can, you can’t,” Coates said. 

When asked about the importance of writing to express emotions, Coates said that storytelling is a way to find peace in deeply troubling, angering times.

“What I’m always trying to do is channel that anger into some sort of productive thing,” Coates said, “And the thing that gives me probably most relief, or most sense of safety, or most sense of peace, is if I can explain to you in the most specific, haunting and precise way possible what I’m pissed about. And that’s really kind of all I’m trying to do in various forms.”

Coates called on the audience to find their voice and commit to working toward a more just society. 

“And I always tell people that you have to find the thing you love first and think you would be doing anyway,” said Coates, “And you got to figure out how to do that in a way that brings more justice into the world.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hoya

Your donation will support the student journalists of Georgetown University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Hoya

Comments (0)

All The Hoya Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *