On writing and social justice -Ta-Nehisi Coates, Toni Morrison, & Sonia Sanchez

History was made when the literary greats, Sonia Sanchez, Toni Morrison, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, gathered on a Broadway stage in New York to discuss social justice, art and activism.

They talked about how writers use their voices to tell untold stories.

“We are the ones that tell the truth and it’s something that society has got to protect.”—Toni Morrison

They each discussed why they write:

“I began not because I wanted to write. It was because I wanted very, very much to read. I was a reader and always had been. But from the time I was 3 years old, and my sister who was a year older taught me how to read, we would write on the sidewalks with those little stones. And then one day, we decided to develop our vocabulary. There was a word about 100 feet away on the side of a house. We decided to repeat it and write it.” -Toni Morrison

” I never knew of it as any sort of choice. I grew up in a household surrounded by books. There were books everywhere. My dad was a publisher; he published books. My mother was a teacher. My mother taught me how to read and how to write. When I got in trouble my mother would force me to write essays about what I had done. But in spite of all that reading and writing, I was interested in doing all that outside the classroom. So if you put a teacher in front of me, sat me at a desk, put me in any sort of classroom, I would almost immediately cease to be interested in reading and writing. Reading and writing was something that belonged to me, that didn’t really belong to the classroom.” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

When I began to write, I wanted to tell how I became the woman with razor blades between her teeth. What made me want to power others through my bloodstream, what made me want to rise up to tell my story and… all our stories, I guess it must’ve been something underneath our skirts, girls… Something accented, unaccented in my and your walk and talk. Jimmy Baldwin wrote, ‘For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new. It must always be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell. It’s the only light we’ve got in all of this darkness.” – Sonia Sanchez.

After the discussion, each of them received the Marlon Brando Award for excellence in the arts and commitment to social engagement from The Stella Adler Studio of Acting.


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