Just Buffalo Literary Center’s THE CIVIL WRITES PROJECT continues with non-stop programming leading up to Nobel prize winner Toni Morrison’s BABEL appearance on November 9th at Kleinhans Music Hall. This historic event marks the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "The Future of Integration" speech here in Buffalo--50 years to the day on the exact same stage. For more information go to www.justbuffalo.org or call 832-5400
The Future of Freedom with Alexis De Veaux
By: Kevin Thurston
In anticipation of this momentous event, award-winning author Alexis De Veaux will facilitate a conversation on “The Future of Freedom” at Canisius College’s Montante Cultural Center, 2001 Main St, on Thursday, November 2nd, from 7:00-9:00 pm.
Using Dr. King's "The Future of Integration" as the inspiration for this conversation, De Veaux hopes to focus the discussion on what the word "freedom" means in the current moment. “We can barely imagine the so-called Founding Fathers, and they most certainly couldn’t imagine us today,” said De Veaux in an interview last week. In her award-winning novel, Yabo, expressions of freedom are everywhere, and overlapping--the freedom to express gender as one sees fit, the freedom to pursue sexual pleasure (with consent), the freedom to simply be in the body you are born with or choose to alter, all-encompassing freedoms that are both simple and complex, prosaic and poetic.
It would be foolish to think that De Veaux loses site of the Black body and how it has even farther to go towards achieving freedom. In Yabo one of the characters, a professor, requires her students to sit in a dark classroom, chairs so close together that knees touch, hands in chains, with sounds of the ocean waves hitting a boat, so that they can better understand what people actually went through, what happened to their bodies. However freedom, for De Veaux, would require everyone to be free, which includes, for example, white people being freed from being tools of racial oppression.
Sounds like the right person to lead a community conversation about the future of freedom? We think so too. When asked what to expect at this event, De Veaux said, “I do not want to be 'the expert' up there who gives a lecture and then takes a few questions.” So what should people expect? “I have a few prompts if things slow down, but I really feel this is a conversation that many people want to have. We’ve seen, since Trump, that there are a lot of people still invested in having their freedom at the expense of others. But we have also seen many people come forward who never have before, and who want to work together to figure out tomorrow,” De Veaux said. “Now, I’m not so foolish as to necessarily believe or have hope that this will happen quickly—what is hope anyway?—but I do think we would be foolish not to try and work together on building tomorrow.”
Alexis De Veaux was born and raised in Harlem, the product of two merging streams of Black history in New York City–- -immigrants from the Caribbean on her mother’s side and migrants from North Carolina on her father’s side-–who settled in Harlem in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. As a freelance writer and contributing editor for Essence Magazine in the 1980s, Alexis penned a number of socially relevant articles, traveling on behalf of the magazine to Zimbabwe, Kenya and Egypt.
She was chosen by the magazine to go to South Africa in 1990 to interview Nelson Mandela upon his historic release from prison, making her the first North American writer to do so. As an artist and lecturer she has traveled extensively in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Latin America, Japan and Europe. Alexis published a second award-winning children’s book, An Enchanted Hair Tale (1987) before moving to Buffalo, where she finished graduate school, earning a doctorate in American Studies in 1992. A project nearly ten years in the making, her biography of Audre Lorde, Warrior Poet (2004) has been the recipient of several awards, including the Gustavus Meyers Outstanding Book Award (2004), the Lambda Literary Award for Biography (2004), the Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award, Nonfiction (2005).