SCHOLAR, ACTIVIST, AND AUTHOR KEEANGA-YAMAHTTA TAYLOR IS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES AT PRINCETON UNIVERSITY.
By Gabriel McMoreland
On November 22nd, we will celebrate scholar, activist, and author Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor as she receives the 2019 Thomas Merton Award for her visionary work towards peace and justice. With brilliant clarity, Keeanga burns away the fog of history and calls for rebuilding our world around racial, economic, and gender justice. She recently released the book Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership, following her acclaimed previous books From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation and How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective.
Since 1972, the Thomas Merton Award has honored people transforming not only our world, but our imagination of what is possible and our understanding of ourselves. Keeanga joins the list of past awardees whose interrelated work transforms our world, including Angela Davis, Dick Gregory, Vandana Shiva, Howard Zinn, Amy Goodman, Malik Rahim, and Daniel Berrigan. TMC welcomes nominations throughout the year and awardees are selected annually by the Board of Directors.
At the Thomas Merton Center, we know we cannot wrap our hands around political issues as though they are disconnected lab samples existing in their own petri dishes of intellectual analysis and catchy modern branding. Solutions to nuclear war, the climate crisis, and wealth inequality all flow from the wellspring of racial and gender justice. Keeanga’s words bring this vividly to light over and over again.
“Today, above all, we are learning from our black feminist sisters about the oppressive and exploitative vice of capitalism. We are learning that when black women are freed from this vice, our society will be fully transformed. Their liberation will require – their liberation demands – a complete unraveling of society as we know it.”
“There is a movement afoot for justice. I believe its revelations will compel all ordinary Americans that what is necessary is a radical reconstruction of this country on the basis of solidarity, justice, and genuine freedom.”
“150 years after emancipation the country still requires a movement that makes the most basic of claims, that black lives matter. The question must be asked then, whether or not the United States is actually capable of transforming the platitudes of freedom into actual rights for whom access is not determined by race or class status. On at least some level we have to consider that if our government were actually interested in freedom for the vast majority of black people, it would exist. But the promise of freedom assumes that it actually existed in the United States in the first place. In fact, black people were not freed into a just society; black people were not freed into an American dream; we were freed into what Malcolm X described as an American Nightmare.”
Gabriel serves as director of the Thomas Merton Center and welcomes all readers to contact him anytime at Gabriel@thomasmertoncenter.org
NewPeople Newspaper VOL. 49 No. 8. October, 2019. All rights reserved.