In April 2011, the International Writing Program launched " Writers in Motion", a study tour of the Mid-Atlantic and the American South, where eight international writers are exploring the theme of "Fall and Recovery." The writers are traveling to Gettysburg (April 3-5), Baltimore (April 5-6), New Orleans (April 6-8), the Gulf Coast (Morgan City, the Achafalaya Basin, Lafayette, April 8-11), Birmingham, AL (April 11-12) and Washington, D.C. (April 13-15) to examine some of the challenges presented by historical crises and upheavals, both natural and social.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Today, a creative writing student at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, told us that in her family, as in most white families in Alabama, there used to be members of the Klan. But we don't talk about this, she added coyly. When we asked the class if they'd written about that, if they thought it important for an Alabama writer to face that recent Birmingham past, one student said that she was afraid to say the wrong thing. Another student replied that she preferred to write about the good things in Alabama. Like going to church. Like her grandmother's chicken gravy. I noticed that there were no black students in the class --no future black writers to write about the Birmingham future, or past. As I listened to the students, I couldn't help remembering the photo that I'd seen this morning, on the front page of The Birmingham Times, of a black man hanging from a tree. A supposed suicide. The family of the dead man disagrees. Either way, no one in this class is going to write the story of a dead black man hanging from a tree. Maybe none of them even know about him. In this country, one student was still saying, we prefer to move forward, and not dwell on the past.