Thursday, December 15, 2011

WHAT DOES THE E STAND FOR?

E. Ethelbert Miller asks: "What new things about your life might critics and readers learn by going to the e-channel? What questions (sent to you) were questions you didn't want to answer? Why?"


 As this year-long E-Channel project draws to a close, Ethelbert's question today is appropriate in terms of our summing up this unique literary project. E-Channel is the most intimate, candid, and revealing record (or transcript) of a writer's life, heart and mind that you will find outside of an official biography, or an autobiography. I have a very fat folder of his questions, and I counted them last night. By my ballpark estimate, he asked me 403 questions, and of those I've so far responded to 214. For those who have kindly followed these posts for a year, it's probably clear by now that the off-stage, "invisible" person asking these questions---"probes," as he once called them---brings a rich and nonpareil background to his queries. Indeed, he should be on the receiving end of a year's worth of questions himself. So let me take a moment to reflect upon this very special poet and activist for the arts who conceived and sustained the E-channel adventure for a year.
 
 
  It is difficult to find someone who has not been influenced by Ethelbert Miller's unselfish contributions to American literary culture since the late 1960s. A Washington Post feature on Ethelbert once referred to him as "Mr. 411," the man who you contact if you have a question about literary artists in this country. That nickname is appropriate because he is a walking Rolodex. For two generations now, he has devoted himself, year in and year out, to the support of other writers, young and old, even lobbying for them to receive jobs. In the literary world, he is as ubiquitous as air. It is extremely difficult to find someone in literary America today who has not met or heard of him, or received his help and generous support at one time or another. Because of all that he has done for so many of us in the arts, I often call him "Mr. Wizard." At other times, I just call him "BrerBert." (And as of this year, I've been calling him "BuddhaBert.") Listen: he is the reason I and eleven other black writers appear on stamps issued in Ghana and Uganda and, of course, Ethelbert never thought of including himself among the writers he selected for this honor. That is not his Way. And it is shocking (even alarming) to me when I think about the fact that he does not keep an updated curriculum vitae. 
 
 
 The general public may not know all that Ethelbert Miller has done (his karma is vast, wide, and deep; the professional hats he wears are numerous), but I suspect that the Almighty does and keeps this poet's c.v. updated for him. If kept properly, it would probably run for hundreds of single-spaced pages, for he is always on the road to deliver another speech or reading, teach another class, appear on another television program as a public intellectual, or lend his support to yet another arts event. He has a heart as big as all outdoors. Unlike so many writers I've met since the 1970s, who were self-absorbed, narcissistic, vain, egotistical and always self-promoting (and uninterested in the work of others), Ethelbert unfailingly puts others first. For him art is spirit-work. He is always imagining ways to honor his kinsmen and kinswomen in the arts. In the era of Hip Hop, he is an Old School black man, one steeped in (black) American history, one who works to realize the "beloved community," here and abroad, that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of so eloquently. I think he is also much influenced by the emphasis that James Baldwin placed on the importance of bringing love to race relations. He channels Langston Hughes and Coltrane's "A Love Supreme." He works as indefatigably as W.E.B. Du Bois or ML King Jr., and his work is always in support of social justice and bringing to the community of literary artists on this continent (and other continents) a spirit of cooperation, not competition; compassion, not indifference; and idealism, not cynicism. He understands human suffering. He cares about everyone.
 
 
 Since 1974, he has directed the African American Resource Center at Howard University. He chairs the board of the Institute of Policy Studies, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C. A poet, memoirist, prose writer, editor, and arts ambassador-at-large, he should have long ago received, in my humble opinion, a MacArthur fellowship (I'd wager that he would use that money to financially help other writers and small presses.)  In point of fact, he is deserving of a National Medal of Honor for the countless ways he has enriched literary culture, and for the way he has done this which, to my knowledge, has no parallel in American literary history.
 
 
 Ethelbert's intention with E-channel was to help students, readers, and scholars better understand my life and work. Here, one should find information about my childhood and family, the theory and practice of my art, my individual passions, my career as a professional cartoonist/illustrator and journalist, my 20 years of work as a screen-and-teleplay writer, 33 years as a college professor, my life as a trained philosopher (and life-long martial artist), my commitment to Buddhism, and even personal anecdotes that I previously have never shared with others in print. So this project he created makes visible aspects of my life's journey that were most likely "invisible" before. But one consequence of this year-long project for me is that, even though we first met in the 1980s, I believe I understand Ethelbert Miller with somewhat greater clarity now. And that is a blessing for which I am thankful. Without seeking reward or recognition, he works daily for the betterment of not only our literary culture, but also for the betterment of our social lives in general. Thus, it was inevitable that while he asked me a remarkable range of questions, many of those 403 queries focused on matters of race and politics. To the best of my ability, I tried to respond to questions on those subjects. But generally I gravitated to the questions about subjects that I have studied for a lifetime, or the ones where I could speak from direct experience. For readers curious about the questions I never got around to answering, here is a sampling:
 
 
1. You will become a grandfather in 2012. How does this compare to your literary career? What types of dreams and hopes do you have for your grandchildren? Will you encourage him/her to follow the path? What first lessons will you teach?
 
 
2. As a prominent writer how often are you asked to sign political petitions? Is this something you would rather not do? If so, why?
 
 
3. We know you like dogs. Are you a strong advocate of animal rights? Can animal rights ever come before human rights?
 
 
4. Would you donate your sperm to a lesbian couple that wanted to have children? What new moral and ethical questions might this raise regarding sex and family?
 
 
5. As a writer, do you think paper is dead?
 
 
6. I'm reading your chapbook about libraries and was curious as to whether you had the same feeling about bookstores. Recently Borders closed its doors. Do you think a way of life might die if bookstores continue to vanish? Do you have any favorite bookstores? I guess I will always be in love with City Lights in San Francisco.
 
 
7. You were recently one of the National Book Award judges (for fiction). did you notice any trends in contemporary fiction? Were you disappointed or excited by the many books you read?
 
 
8. Do you believe there might be life on other planets? How might the discovery of this other life form redefine what man is?
 
 
9. How should writers use libraries?
 
 
10. Can a good fiction writer be a poor script writer? If so, why?
 
 
11. Are there stages to human love?
 
 
12. When and why might a writer change publishers, editors or agents?
 
 
13. Herbert Marcuse had a significant influence on the philosophy student Angela Davis. What is your opinion of Marcuse's intellectual work? Did the Angela Davis case affect you back in the 1970s?
 
 
14. How important is a good cup of coffee on a writing day? Do you have a special brand?
 
 
15. How do you feel Obama has been treated or presented in political cartoons?
 
 
16. Do you feel color is still an issue within the Black community? Can we move beyond it?
 
 
17. As a philosopher what advice would you give to people in the Middle East pursuing democracy in their countries? What are the elements of democracy? Is there a Western or Eastern approach to (or view of) democracy? What role should (or can) religion play in helping man govern his society better?
 
 
18. I often read about the historical relationship between Christianity and Islam. What about the historical relationship between Buddhism and Islam? Have you spent time studying the Quran?
 
 
19. What is your opinion of memoir writing? Is it something you feel you could teach even though you've not written a memoir?
 
 
20. During my college years everyone was reading Albert Camus. Should we return to our Camus? What might this writer teach a young generation?
 
 
 Anyone can see that Ethelbert invested a remarkable amount of time and energy in formulating questions for me to answer over twelve months. Really, this was a daunting challenge. He had to go through my novels, stories, essays, public addresses, comic art, the volumes of literary scholarship published about my work, and much more in order to individuate the questions he sent to me. Just for the record, I have to say that we never had a serious argument during this year-long journey. Nothing fatal, at least. And I rather suspect the reason for the ease with which the E-channel project happened can be traced to the fact that we, as black men and artists, have made much the same cultural and existential odyssey across the racial landscape of America from the end of World War II to the dawn of a new century. We speak the same language. We know the same things, and so we could talk the way the late August Wilson and I did for 15 years here in Seattle.    
 
 
Ethelbert, thank you for these twelve months of spirited conversation about Everything.
 
P.S. Ethelbert should use his own photo as an illustration for this post, but how much do you want to bet that, in his modesty, he won't?
 
 
 

24 comments:

  1. a channel needs publisity . so you must need essantial show for every ages and persons . you can add funny show , hourly update news. thanks. freelancing park

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good recommendation is typically bound to grow to get ignored,can see my blog tozca leather several a few other

    then that is no motive to never provides it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. the article notes that provide information of interest to visitors and make this blog became famous on the internet produsen jaket kulit

    ReplyDelete
  4. The first thing to visit this blog is useful information and add our insight and knowledge for us all thank you admin..toko jaket kulit visit my website

    ReplyDelete
  5. add insight into a broad and obtain useful information thanks admin.http://jualjaketkulit.co.id visit back my website

    ReplyDelete
  6. many places to add useful knowledge, such as a visit to this website thank you admin..jaket kulit murah visit my website

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for one’s posting! I quite enjoyed reading Your Post; you could be a Very great author. I will make sure to bookmark your blog now and will eventually come back in the foreseeable future always. I want to encourage you continue your great writing Skills, have a nice evening!
    Indian Escorts In Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  8. We are very happy to see your important post.Waiting for your next post buy facebook likes......................................

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you for your participation in such an incredible campaign. Call Girls in Dubai I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog. Certainly a fantastic piece of work. Dubai Models Escorts Thanks for posting this. Your blog is so interesting and very informative. Looking for other posts also. Keep it up. Escorts in Dubai
    Indian Escorts in Dubai
    Dubai Call Girls

    ReplyDelete
  10. Thanks for Posting in such an incredible campaign. Escorts in Dubai this certainly a fantastic piece of work I must say that overall I am really impressed with this blog. Dubai Escorts Definitely Your Blog is so interesting and very informative superbly written and well explained Keep It Up.
    Call Girls in Dubai
    Indian Escorts in Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  11. All our escorts in Dubai are always ready to do anything for the client. We have here huge collection of Indian escorts in Dubai form Indian’s beauty which is never compare with others and Pakistani call girls in Dubai. We will arrange a special meeting for you and you can as well take out your favorite Indian call girls in Dubai on your favorite destination. Now feel free to contact us and get our best Dubai escorts services. We are sue you will like our services and our call girls in Dubai will not disappoint you.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey guys Its me your princess Nisha escorts in Dubai . I am loving, exciting and very open to new things. I offer 5 star escorts service and fantasized fetishes at rates that are competitive. My p images are 100% real and recent and I'm 100% independent Indian escorts in Dubai. My services are always un rushed and discreet!! No games! No drama! it's all your satisfaction and pleasure. Hard day at the office, long trip on the road? Put yourself in the hands of a strong, strict, confident Dubai escorts who knows just what her men need. I'm the one to call when you're in need of a break from reality and enjoy the romantic night.

    ReplyDelete
  13. good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts. Your blog is so interesting and very informative.Thanks for sharing. Any way I'll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you post again soon.
    Indian Escorts in Dubai
    Dubai Escorts

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fantastic and awesome stuff as usual keep up the amazing work here. Escorts in Dubai I truly enjoy looking through on this site. Indian Call Girls in Dubai Be absolutely determined to enjoy what you do. Pakistani Escorts in Dubai I am wondering how I might be notified when a new post has been made.

    Cheers friend.
    Indian Escorts in Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  15. Call Dubai Escort Provide you the Cheap Escorts in Dubai we have Pakistani and Indian Call Girls in DubaiOur Services are not limited to dubai we also provide services in Sharjah,Dubai,Abu dhabi,Our beautiful Pakistani Call Girls in Sharjah have high demand in UAE because of our best Dubai Escort Service

    ReplyDelete
  16. We have long list of high class escorts in Dubai +971569772862. But the in these days most famous and demanding escorts are Indian escorts in Dubai. Now if you willing to take our hot ad sexy escorts so touch with us.
    Indian escorts in Dubai
    Dubai escorts

    ReplyDelete
  17. On the other hand, your full efforts and working day and night for your business require a break as you are mentally and physically tired. Companionship of Independent Kolkata escorts gives you a peaceful and refreshing break. You must spend some time in her companionship so that you can heal yourself from depression and frustrations.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I really appreciate your hard work on this blog in which all articles very informative, Dubai Royal Escorts agency is known one of best escorts agency in Dubai, our all Escorts in Dubai provide you escorts services in Dubai as you want from them, they knows how to make satisfied and pleasure their clients.
    Indian Escorts in Dubai

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks E-channel for this very important post.If one want to learn about Social Media Marketing Servicesvisit our website.

    ReplyDelete
  20. i love indian models in dubai. that provides best envirement for entertainment. you can b contact us +971561616995 adn visit this site
    Entainment in dubai

    ReplyDelete
  21. Awesome article, Great, & Informative..Wonderful article you wrote..
    بلغارستان و روسیه سالانه میزبان هزاران هزار گردشگر است که به این کشورها سفر می کنند
    تور ارمنستان
    تور دبی
    تور تایلند
    درباره تایلند
    درباره ارمنستان
    درباره دبی
    تور بلغارستان تابستان 96
    تور روسیه تابستان 96

    ReplyDelete