Time and again over the last few years we’ve heard it, thought it, felt it: “History is being made, right now.” Meaning, the sort of history that becomes far more than a footnote in a future book on this decade. The sort of history that becomes its own library of books, not only because it is prominently newsworthy in its day but because it marks a turning point or new precedent, or its ramifications will have ramifications on ramifications. This is such a tentacled moment, and in a sea of other tentacled moments you may not know what I mean, so let me be clear: I’m speaking of the murder of George Floyd on May 25th in Minneapolis, and the element that made his death–and the deaths of countless other Black Americans–part of a much larger picture of racism in this country.
“[H]istory is written by the winners,” attorney general William Barr recently said of another subject, and an LA Times article pushed back: Writers across the board hold power in documenting the truths of their time.
My mother-in-law, with a passion for genealogy, recently did a deep dive into my family history. One of the many gems she unearthed was an opinion piece that my grandmother wrote in 1965 about “[t]he recent horrible beatings and murders in Alabama over civil rights and the basic right of every American citizen to register and vote…” I feel such pride reading her letter, and I’m so very glad that she took the time to document her thoughts, that she troubled to see her letter published, and that the press obliged. It’s history that reveals herstory. I know how she’d feel about what is going on in this country now. I know what she’d say. I think I know what she’d write.
Not everyone is comfortable with politics, and I’m not here to shame the silent. But I am here to highlight some who’ve chosen to add their voices to this moment, to help record and hopefully shape the history of now, and to show how many ways this can be done.
I’m beginning with WU contributor and friend Nancy Johnson, whose Facebook post resonates with power, and then will follow with other posts that showcase the various ways writers are using their platforms, from documenting the moment to amplifying the messages of others. In some cases, you may need to click through to read a full message, but all posts are public.
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My heart hurts, and yet I feel hope. I wasn't alive in 1968, but I know the protests and unity of people demanding #racialequality changed the world–for the better. As #protests against systemic racial injustice sweep the globe, even as my heart breaks for those who have long suffered at its hands, I'm daring to hope that that #change might be happening again. Imagine.
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Reposted from @brendadrakeauthor #repost @nicstone ・・・ Doing something next week. Monday through Friday, 8pm EST. ⠀ Special guests: @pete_forester – Editorial Director at StockX @jodipicoult – #1 NYT Bestselling author of like a jillion books, one of which is explicitly about race/racism and based on a true story (#SmallGreatThings) @brendankiely – NYT bestselling co-author of #AllAmericanBoys @tiffanymjewell – Antiracist educator and author of my current favorite antiracism 101 handbook, #ThisBookIsAntiracist @dwatkinsworld – lecturer and NYT bestselling author of some of the littest nonfic I've had the pleasure of reading (if you pick one to read before Friday–and you should–pick #WeSpeakForOurselves) ⠀ #ItsGonnaBeGood #WeJustBoutToBeTalkin #ReallyJustToEncourageOtherPeopleToGetToTalkingToEachOther #HumaningTogether #VulnerabilityOnDeck #MoreQuestionsThanAnswers #AndThatsAllRight #ComeThroughAndGetHunanized #WeInThisTogether #ThisIsAmerica #LetsTalkAboutIt – #regrann
I wrote about being a Black parent in this moment, and how my children are both respite from all the tragedy transpiring in the world, and a reminder of how high the stakes are to build a better one. https://t.co/F0MjGEP49U
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) June 1, 2020
“I see no color” is not the goal.
“I see your color and I honor you. I value your input. I will be educated about your lived experiences. I will work against the racism that harms you. You are beautiful. Tell me how to do better.”
… That’s the goal.
— Carlos A. Rodríguez (@CarlosHappyNPO) May 23, 2020
This. And if you are white and would like to educate yourself (because it's NOT the responsibility of Black people to teach us), I recommend getting a copy of WHITE FRAGILITY by #RobinDiAngelo or WAKING UP WHITE by @DebbyIrving. https://t.co/zeEGPLfW7h
— Jodi Picoult (@jodipicoult) May 31, 2020
— Jessica Faust (@BookEndsJessica) June 1, 2020
BLACK. LIVES. MATTER. Inequality will persist until we’re equal under the law and in our hearts. We don’t just need to do better. We need to be better. 🖤#Repost @brownestate “The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torture… https://t.co/Sa9iM6hIjA pic.twitter.com/CddsLU8vLP
— Julia Whelan (@justjuliawhelan) June 2, 2020
— Jacqueline Woodson (@JackieWoodson) June 1, 2020
This week has been brutal. 💔 America is breaking my heart.
Reminder: thoughts & prayers don’t work against racism and police brutality.
So, white folks, *show* us what you are *doing* to make things better. Please.
LEAVE A COMMENT with the ACTIONS you’re committing to. 👇🏽
— Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson (@ayanaeliza) May 29, 2020
I donated too, and hope you will as well. https://t.co/Kjx5KzHerP
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) May 31, 2020
— Julie Klam (@JulieKlam) May 28, 2020
Tonight, Mayor Melvin Carter speaks so well, and he speaks for me. @MayorCarter
— LaurenBaratzLogsted (@LaurenBaratzL) May 30, 2020
— shonda rhimes (@shondarhimes) May 31, 2020
It's easy to feel sad, angry, and powerless. But we do have power. Use it! Amplify protesters; promote Black authors, journos, scientists; give to @MNFreedomFund, @BlackVisionsMN; Call your Reps; follow @ayanaeliza @NancyJAuthor @miabirdsong @ClintSmithIII #BlackLivesMatter https://t.co/PYxJ5mnTha
— Julie Carrick Dalton (@juliecardalt) May 31, 2020
— Natalia Sylvester: pre-order RUNNING (@NataliaSylv) May 29, 2020
I feel helpless and yet I know I have power. But…How do I best deploy it? I wanted a list of concrete things, so I asked Google. If you are in this place with me, I found this article helpful: https://t.co/zCfvGDMIl7
— Joshilyn Jackson (@JoshilynJackson) May 29, 2020
I saw A LOT of this over the weekend 👉🏾 “If your takeaway from a story about racism is that it’s unfair to you, you might want to think about why you’re more upset about being held responsible for racism than by, you know…actual racism.” https://t.co/dBaAfC18p7
— Tracey Livesay (@tlivesay) June 1, 2020
— GrubStreet (@GrubWriters) June 1, 2020
We'll be reading and discussing one fiction and one non-fiction book a month.
— Alison Hammer (@ThisHammer) June 1, 2020
It ends with justice, compassion, and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets. I pray we all have the strength for that journey, just as I pray for the souls and the families of those who were taken from us.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) May 29, 2020
— Heather Webb (@msheatherwebb) June 1, 2020
Media: In an extraordinary interview on the street in #Minneapolis, @sarasidnerCNN has relayed the #GeorgeFloyd family's questions to @ChiefMedaria, who removes his service cap and says re: the other 3 officers: "Being silent and not intervening? You're complicit." #ICantBreathe pic.twitter.com/b4uIRbEvNf
— Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) June 1, 2020
— Dictionary.com (@Dictionarycom) June 1, 2020
We are the voices of this moment in time. This history is ourstory. And it matters beyond our own generation–what we stand for, what we speak for, what we work for, and what we leave behind.
My grandmother’s opinion piece was written to remind people about the power of the vote, “the simple device of signing their name and pulling down levers on Election Day,” and to share both her despair that so many didn’t bother and her hope that that would change in order to make change. Back in 1965, there was no internet, no easy way to share a link to encourage people to register to vote, but I think my grandmother would be glad to see a link included here today.