Sankofa Video and Books had an event (hosted at Metropolitan AME Church) with Ta-Nehisi Coates in conversation with Kojo Nnamdi to discuss Coates' new book, We Were Eight Years in Power. It's not unusual for DC to experience a little summery weather in early October, but the day (and the day before, to be honest) had threatened rain without rain actually materializing which meant the humidity was quite high, and let's just say, there were lots of fans going in that church.
Nnamdi started off by asking Coates to talk a little about how the book threads together Reconstruction, the Obama presidency, and Coates' writing career. Coates said that he felt people wanted to view the Obama presidency as a symbol of forward progress and that to his mind it was part of cycle that we saw after Reconstruction. He also talked about how during the Obama presidency that there seemed to be a lot more opportunity for black writers to talk about all sorts of things. He did touch on the idea that some black writers who had found success perhaps a generation before felt boxed into specific topics, but that he hadn't felt that. He also mentioned Nikole-Hannah Jones had been an award winning journalist but now there are plenty more people ready to listen to her. It wasn't that she wasn't doing the work all along.
Coates' spoke about his concern with the bootstrap mentality that Obama had sometimes espoused. He talked about being invited to the White House twice and gearing himself up the second time to ask a serious question and dive in on it. Touching on a recent article that implied that Coates was just as bad as white nationalists, leaving centrists with nowhere to turn, he said that he was not interested in seeking common ground with white supremacists. A lot of folks claiming to be in the middle are ignoring the fact that white supremacists want to kill people, this is a war, not a discussion point.
There were audience questions, including one from a women who felt Coates was the person with the platform to talk to folks about COINTELPRO and political prisoners. Coates said he didn't think he was going to get to that. That he already had ideas and things he wanted to tackle and that each one required tons of research and reading so he could properly account for the points he wished to make, and the historical context he wanted to put it in. And that what we really needed was an army of writers tackling all the things.
The interview was aired on a local station but also recorded for the Kojo Nnamdi show, so it should soon be available for others to listen to.