Casey Gerald: 2019 National Book Festival

Updated : Oct 25, 2019 in Articles

Casey Gerald: 2019 National Book Festival


>>John Haskell: Dr.
Carla Haden the Librarian of Congress just
told me to remind you that this is the best free
event in Washington DC. [ Applause ] And not only that, it’s better
than most of the ones you have to pay for; so welcome. The Kluge Center is proud to
be sponsoring three events here on the history stage,
including this one. If you don’t know
about the Kluge Center, its mission at the library
is to bridge the gap between scholarship and
the policy making community and the interested public
by bringing leading thinkers in the humanities and social
sciences to the library, for periods of residence to do
research in the collections. And by showcasing the
work of those scholars and other prominent writers in
public events and other forums. I want to highlight a few
of the events we have coming up this fall for the public at
the Kluge Center in the library. One is on the dynamics of the
presidential primary process with Amy Walter and Julia Azari. Also complicity and
accountability and the great recession. And Ron White will
address leadership lessons from President’s
Lincoln and Grant. Also I should point
out that in conjunction with the shall not be denied
exhibit at the library, the center will host an event
on 100 years of women voting, featuring Christina Wolbrecht
from Notre Dame University and Jane Jun from USC. Today the Library is
honored to have Casey Gerald at the National Book
Festival for a conversation on there will be
no miracles here, a memoir from the dark
side of the American Dream. Casey grew up in Dallas. He majored in political science and played football
at Yale University. Then while studying for an MBA from the Harvard Business
School he co-founded MBA’s Across America, which
is a movement of MBA’s and entrepreneurs
working together to reinvent business school
and revitalize America. Gerald has been featured
on MSNBC at Ted and SXXSW on the cover of fast company
and in the New York Times and other major publications. Casey is going to do a
short presentation followed by a conversation
with Colleen Shogan who is sitting to his right. She is the Assistant Deputy
Librarian for collections and services at the library. Colleen is also Vice Chair of the Women’s Suffrage
Centennial Commission. Join me in welcoming Casey
and Colleen to the stage. [ Applause ]>>Casey Gerald: Thank you John. Thank you all, beautiful people
for being here this afternoon. Not long after I finished
the manuscript for this book, I came across a conversation between Sonya Sanchez
and Luca Clifton. And somebody asked Ms.
Clifton, “So why did you write such and such a poem?” And Ms. Clifton said, “Well
this was a poem that wanted to be written, and
I was available.” And I felt very similarly
about this book, except a bit more strongly. This was a book that
kidnapped me and held me until the ransom was paid. And I began it simply because
I knew something was wrong with me. I had achieved my – my late 20’s
everything a kid is supposed to achieve in this society,
going from this little poor kid in my forgotten world
of Oakcliff, Texas. And done the whole Horatio
Alger song and dance. And despite doing it, or perhaps because of doing it I
was very cracked up. And I wouldn’t necessarily say I
was having a nervous breakdown, but I was not too far off. And I was awful sad either way. And a great number of my
friends were cracked up. And this was 2016, so as
you know the world was very cracked up. And so I set out
with this book just to trace those tracks
with words. And what came out on the page
was about as strange as I felt at the time and this
alarmed some people at first. I sent a few early chapters
to a very esteemed journalist who will remain nameless. And he wrote back and he said,
“When can you hop on the line?” And so we got on the phone and
he said, “What is this man? You’ve been hired to
write an autobiography. This is straightforward
exercise; it’s got a beginning
middle and end. It’s grounded in the
facts of your life. And by the way, there’s a great
tradition of autobiography in this country led by people on
the margins of society who right to assert that they exist. Go read Frederick Douglass man. Go read Mya Angelou. Learn from them because you are
going in the wrong direction.” Now I was so grateful for
my friend’s intervention because it helped me
realize very early that I had no interest in
writing that kind of book. I didn’t need to write a
book to know that I existed. And even though I had grown up
and lived grown a poor, black, queer, damn near
orphan – I hadn’t lived on the margins of anything. I thought of what the
great Kendrick Lamar, Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick
Lamar says on his mix tape as [Inaudible], section 80. He says “I’m not on
the outside looking in. I’m not on the inside
looking out. I’m in the dead fucking
center looking around.” That was the perspective from which I wanted
to write this book. And then the question
became to what end? One of my closest friends
from college who is like a little brother
to me, a few months after I began this
work took his own life. And he was the first
person that was close to me to commit suicide. And I felt a great deal
of guilt in some ways because I had helped recruit
him to Yale from St. Louis. I had been as any 20 year old is to an 18 year old,
something of a model. And so I didn’t know what to do. And a few weeks later he
came to me in a dream. And he was sitting in
a booth in a diner. And he leaned back and he smiled
and he said, “You know Casey, we did a lot of things that we
would not advise anyone we loved to do.” I knew exactly what he meant. I knew that if you looked
at it from the right angle, a kid picking themselves up by their bootstraps
looks just like a suicide. I knew that this American Dream
that we sell to young people in this country is a very
dangerous, dangerous, dangerous, dangerous thing. And so I began to think about
this book much like that warning on the pack of cigarettes. It says smoking can kill you. Now you can’t sell a pack
of cigarettes anywhere in this country without
having that warning on it. People are still going
to smoke, of course. But you at least have
to tell the people; hey this shit can kill you. And that is what I hoped to do
in part to the American Dream. To try to understand what it
would look like to truly live, to be whole, to be free,
to a better friend, a better brother,
a better lover. To know God for real, not just
some worthless ritual and fear. I thought of that
great interview that Little Richard did about
Jimi Hendrix in the 70’s and he said Little Richard
was a star when I got him. Little Richard’s first gig
was playing background for – I’m sorry, Jimi Hendrix was
first gig was playing background for Little Richard. And he says, “Jimi was
a star when I got him. Everybody is a star, the
only difference is you got to be placed into the dipper and
poured back out on the world.” I have no idea what that means. But I could feel it kind of. And so this book was in
part me being poured, placed into the dipper. And poured back out
on the world. And so I’ll read just
a very quick part of it that I think touches on many
of these things and since we’re in Washington it
includes the President. This book was changed
tremendously by a chance encounter I
had with George W. Bush at the Bush Library
in Dallas in 2015. I had just listened to him speak
and was rightfully enraged. And so I went up and there was
a dinner after his little talk and I was in the buffet line,
still enraged at George W. Bush, still swearing to never enter
the Bush Library ever again. And then I felt a
hand on my shoulder. And I turned around and
it was the President. And what I’m about to read comes
from that encounter and it gets to the American Dream. John talked about complicity
and the great recession. I was an intern at
Leeman Brothers in 2008, which I think is the
height of complicity in the great recession,
but here we are. I say all that to say, the
American Dream is real. Not that foolishness you
hear from politicians if you work hard and play by
the rules, you can do anything, be anybody in this country. I’m talking about the
real American Dream, the way the country
actually works. If you know the right people, they can help you do
anything, be anybody. Rules and hard work be damned,
as long as they like you. They do have to like you. And that takes a
good deal of work. This dream of course, cannot be
extended to 300 million people, and therefore cannot
be confessed to any. So despite the fact that
America is designed from Rooter to Tooter for most
of its citizens, to have nothing and
achieve nothing. The political version of the
American Dream is essential, kids like me are essential. Something and/or someone has
got to keep the esteem down. Perhaps that’s why this
crazy thing happened that I wasn’t going
to tell you about, since I think I’ve
made my point. But it’s one of those stories
that will make you want to die all over again if
you die without telling, so I’ll just tell it real quick. One summer evening not too long
ago as I stood near the end of a long buffet line in Dallas, I felt a hand rest
on my shoulder. I rarely like to be
touched without notice, so I just stood there a second or two hoping it might be a
phantom sensation before I glanced back. I saw then that the hand
belonged to George W. Bush. For some reason,
the 43rd President of the United States
had to stand in line for dinner just like
normal people. And also like normal people,
but unlike me, he did not want to loiter there fondling lint
in his pocket and pretending to appreciate the art on
the walls, which was his. The President wanted
to talk, fine. So we talked as we moved along
the line and put a few rows in potatoes and if I
remember correctly, a slice of salmon a
piece on our plates. The secret service or somebody
took the President’s plate once it was full. They did not take mine. So I held it between myself
and the President who squared up with me before we
went to our seats. “Let me ask you something”,
he said, scrunched his mouth. “Was your dad around?” This felt as out of
the blue to me then as it may feel to you now. Or six or seven minutes
the President and I had run a pretty
good gamut of gab, talked about his paintings
and his school days and his brother Jeb, who was
at that time campaigning poorly to be the 45th President. Yet after all that Mr. Bush
needed to know or wanted to know, I’m trying
not to speculate, whether I had grown
up with a father. And since I had mastered the art of giving people exactly
what I thought they wanted, which got me into a lot of
trouble, not all of it bad. I replied without even
thinking much, “No sir. Both of my parents were
gone by the time I was 12,” which was not quite true. But not entirely untrue either. I don’t remember what he said
right after, but I do know because there’s video
evidence that two years passed and I remained on
the President’s mind. He was sitting on the stage in
Beverly Hills being interviewed by a gentleman who had also
been famous for a long time. First for his success in
finance, then for the felonies which had, in part made
the success possible. And finally as is the American
way for his good deeds. The man wanted to hear about the
President’s latest good deed, a program that he and the
42nd President had launched around the time we met. And Mr. Bush seized
the opportunity, with a check this out,
flick of his hand. A case study. So I’m sitting next to a
young African American kid so I say, “What do you do man?” He said – he skips ahead. I said, “Where you from?” He said, “Dallas.” “Where?” “South Oakcliff.” The President lowers his
voice to tell this part. “South Oakcliffs, you
know on the other side of the Trinity River.” Then resumes. I said, “Wow did
you go to college?” He said, “Yeah I went to Yale.” Then he looks down,
continues, I said, “Interesting. You know you must have had
parents who drove you.” Then he looks up and
out at the audience. He said, “Not at all,
my dad died early. My mother is in prison. But I had an aunt
that focused me, plus I was a pretty
good football player.” He shrugs again and smirks. I said, “I didn’t know
Yale cared about football.” Then smothers the laugh line. “Anyway so he goes to
Harvard Business School and he applies to the program.” Now when I first heard the
President’s story I thought wow, that kid is impressive. Then I realized that the
President was talking about me. And so I felt a bit confused
and a little dirty too. But I was not upset at all. I couldn’t be. In our buffet line conversation
I had offered Mr. Bush a vague compelling story. The kind of story I had learned to tell years before
those shorter and more to the heartbreaking point. And he, being the world class
politician that he is took that raw material and
fashioned an even more pointed and compelling version
so inaccurate that it became a new
delicious story of its own. The kind of story a man needs if
he’s going to keep his subjects from despair or mass
unrest or most of all from the truth of their society. I imagine that is one
reason he became president and I reckon it is also why so
many people said nice things to me like “Casey you
are the embodiment of the American Dream.” But it took me many years to
realize that instead of smiling and saying thank you,
I should have wept. [ Applause ]>>Colleen Shogan:
Thank you Casey. You’ve written a beautiful
lyrical book that’s really about the American
condition today. Why write a memoir? Why not write a book a history
book or a book on public policy? Why did you choose
memoir as your genre to write this commentary on the American Dream
and the condition?>>Casey Gerald: Well to be
very honest I don’t really think about the genre of it. I find myself in a tradition
of confession, you see? Talk about complicity. And confession in the modern
sense has been kind of confuse with divulgent salacious detail. Whereas the kind of
confession I’m talking about is the confession of
the penitence center who says “I’ve really messed up.” And I need some help. And so I saw the exercise of
personal narrative to one more – most importantly to be
about a journey of healing. But also as it pertained to
the intervention I was trying to make, I felt that if
you went through the eye and you did it right and you
went through the eye tunnel, you’d come out on
the other side we. And that was the gamble. Almost a year later I
hope I’ve been right.>>Colleen Shogan: You make
a distinction in the book, I think really interesting one between religiosity
and spirituality. Why was this important for
you to make this distinction?>>Casey Gerald: Well I tell
people all the time I had to let go of the God I was
given to find the God I needed. And the most important spark
to that journey was you know, realizing as a young
person that I was gay. And it actually was
a great gift you see. Because there was
no reconciling it. My grandfather was an old
school Baptist preacher, pastor of a very large
church in Dallas. And when I was seven
my uncle died of AIDS, and I’ll never forget we went in the hospital the
night before he died. And you know there were three or
four men in our church who died, this was 1994 within
a few months. And they weren’t allowed
in the kitchen even at their own funerals
it was very clear that the eulogy was
they’re going to hell and anybody else along
these lines is too. So the – the – it did not
feel like a gift at first. I spent so much time trying to
get rid of the gift and it took such a toll that by the
time you’re a young adult, I didn’t even want to live. And I know so many queer
people have experienced this. And so the religion
was untenable. And it struck me that it didn’t
make a lot of sense to die in this life just to
avoid hell in the next. And so I said well
to hell with it. At first I took on
the stance of kind of a spurned lover you
know, he ain’t shit. I don’t need him anyway. You know, that kind of thing. And that got me a little ways. But then at a certain
point I got so sad. And I was so low. And at the lowest point in my
life I felt something grab me. And I called the something God. But a friend of mine
sent me a great sermon by Frederick Buechner. And he says if you really
want to know God, the best way to know God is to assume
you know nothing about God. And that to me, becomes
a great adventure. And so I know this thing
is realer to me than you or any other actual human. And I’ve turned it into an
excitement about that mystery, and I know that so
many queer people – and not just queer people,
but folks who feel abandoned or orphaned by their
religion of origin just because they’ve left the church
doesn’t mean they forfeited their spiritual lives. And that to me was very
important to differentiate.>>Colleen Shogan: As John
said, you were very successful as an undergraduate at Yale,
by all objective standards. You did very well,
got great grades, you were a Rhodes finalist,
you played varsity football, you started leadership
organization for black men on campus. But you wrote something
in the book that I want to ask you about. The sentence really
stood out for me. You said, When you were there
Yale was the loneliest place in the world for you. And I wanted to ask you
why did you write that and why was that the case?>>Casey Gerald: Well I wrote
it because it was the truth.>>Colleen Shogan:
That’s a good start.>>Casey Gerald: You know I
was lied to so much as a child and I think my generation
was lied to so much. I mean again I as
a summer intern at Leeman Brothers in 2008. And the first day they
fired 3,000 people. And the third day the
COO comes in and says, “Hey I know there’s been a lot
of noise about what’s going on out there, but let me just
assure you the fundamentals of this firm are strong. And we’ve been here
before; we’ll be back again. You’re going to have a
great career with the firm.” And he resigned the next week. I mean so – you know I have
such a violent hostility to lies that – that in a lot of ways
made this book difficult to write because there’s a
great tradition also in memoire, I think of lying so that
the book can be simpler and more sellable. But we’ll skip that. So anyway, I wrote it
because it was true for me and I’ll give you an
example of what this was. I went back a few years ago, this might have been
two years ago to speak to the freshman induction of
the Yale Black Men’s Union, which was a group I
started when I was there. And it was 50 some odd 18
year old black boys from all over the world who were
there in Battel Chapel. And the first – one of the first
black senior administrators of the college spoke
to them before I did. And he said “I’ve got
some advice for you. You may be a token, but just
be the best token you can be.” And I just wanted to lie on
the floor and weep in anger and heartbreak, because I knew
that that advice was a piece of the advice of so many
of our institutions, so many of the people
in our lives who say, hey we’ll give you the
keys to the kingdom. The right school, the right
degree, the right job, the right invitation will
let you on the right stage with the Library of Congress. In return you’ve got to leave
pieces of yourself outside. You’ve got to mutilate yourself so that other people
make sense to you. So you make sense
to other people. Be a stranger to
yourself, you see. And what I’m trying to say here
is that bargain is not worth it. And my Godmother who is a 40
year public school teacher called me a few weeks ago; I just released this essay
the Black Art of Escape in New York Magazine about
the 400th anniversary of – thank you. The 400th anniversary of
the first enslaved Africans who were brought to America,
what is now America 1619. And where we go from there, she
called and she said, “You know, Casey you can’t build your whole
career on alienating people.” With friends like this. And I said, “I’m not
alienating people. I’m – I’m creating
a new public.” And what has been very clear
through this book and through that essay and through
conversations with folks all over the country and
really the world, is that I am not alone
in having felt alone. And what is I think possible
if you do the literature right, is that you can create
what did Jesus say? “Low I will be with you always.” You can create a book that
creates that kind of experience.>>Colleen Shogan: Ask you about
some of – I really enjoyed some of your commentary about
football in the book. And this is fall and
people are starting to think about football. At one point in the book you
seem very critical of it. You say that it taught you
that if you – you are willing to endure personal
injury to yourself, there’s no heights
that you can’t reach. And then another point in
the book, you’re looking back on your days playing
football and you say that football was the
one true meritocracy that you experienced. So do you have – do you feel like there’s an ambivalence
towards football? And also what is the role that
football plays in this myth of the American Dream? Particularly for black
men in this country?>>Casey Gerald:
That’s a juicy one. Okay. Let’s see how
we’re going to take that. Couple things, one
to the last part of that question everybody
should read Bill Roden’s 40 Million Dollar Slaves. Full stop, that is the best
study of the intersection of athletics and injustice that
I think has ever been written. So I’ll leave that to Mr. Roden. Football in this book
is a couple things, one it’s a great deal of fun. I had one rule in this. I didn’t read growing up, not that I couldn’t
read, I just didn’t. And not that that means I
didn’t get vital information, but I didn’t really
begin to read in earnest until I was nearly 23
years old living here in Washington and
I had no money. And I went down Capitol
Hills Books and I saw all these
great books for $2. And I said, “Okay let’s go.” And so I had one rule in writing
this, which was don’t be boring. And football is just
a helluva lot of fun. And they’re not a lot of
folks who had written about it from the inside, so
I wanted to do that. My father is still considered
by a lot of people to be one of the greatest high school
football players in the history of the state of Texas. He went on to be the second
black quarterback at Ohio State, played for Woody Hayes,
won an Orange Bowl MVP. But by the time I was
nine, 10, 11 all I knew and all I was told was
that he was a drug addict. So I walked into school
one day in sixth grade and on the front page of the Dallas Morning News
was my father behind bars. And the headline was,
“Once the Pride of Texas, South Oakcliff star saw
his life sacked by drugs.” That was the only story I got. Well in writing this book I came to understand it
a little better. My father broke his
back in a game against Purdue his
sophomore year in college. And Ohio State continued
in the season. They were doing very well and
they made the Orange Bowl. And Woody Hayes comes to him and
says “Hey Roger we need you.” And this was the
kids whole identity. And he says he wants to play. He’s not totally healed. He agrees to play. Before that Orange Bowl game
somebody comes and says, “Do you want me to
give you something that will help you
play like a champion?” Hands my father, 20
years old an envelope. Inside of the envelope
is cocaine. He takes it. He had never taken it before. Had the game of his life. He was Orange Bowl MVP and he never played
another game without using. And from there when he couldn’t
afford cocaine there were other drugs. So you see, the whole
narrative that I got was that he was this dumb kid
that threw away his life. It was never the true story told
that he was also happened to – and I try to bring that reality
not to let him off the hook, but to put him in
a context you see. And so that as it
pertains to what I’m trying to do here is a bit
like Robert Carroll. What I love about
Carroll’s work is that he never lets his personal
feelings about Lyndon Johnson for example; get in the
way of him doing his job, which is to tell you
how the country works. I’ve lived America from the
very bottom to the very top and I thought that if I
just gave it to you straight and didn’t try to you know put
my spin on it, you’d be madder than hell enough and I
wouldn’t have to you know ->>Colleen Shogan: Last
question before we open it up to the audience for
their own questions. You’ve said many times in
interviews that we can’t know where we’re going in this
country unless we know where we are now,
where we are today. So I want to ask you
where are we today? How would you describe
the American condition? There’s obvious reasons
for concerns and pessimism. Is there also reasons
for optimism?>>Casey Gerald: I hope so. And I think so. I think the human record
is on the side of hope. That’s one. Where we are and that kind of
goes to the other reason I wrote about football so intensely. My freshman year at Yale
the team was horrible. I mean really, really bad. And there were a lot of freshman
who traveled with the varsity. And our first – maybe the fifth
or sixth game we played at Penn. And Penn embarrassed
us so badly. And on the bus ride back 12 of us freshman decided
to stage a coup. And we held a freshman
only meeting, 30 freshman which is unheard of. Freshman never have
anything to meet for. And so we met and we
said these guys suck. And we’re not going to deal
with this shit anymore. So we went from that day on
and we stopped listing to them. And we gave them hell
in practice and we tried to hurt them if we could. And we took over the team
and our sophomore year we won and Ivy League Championship
and we went on over the next
three years to be one of the winningest
classes in 30 years. And I tell that story because
at the end of the day people say to me all the time
“Well we got to get back to civility and politics.” And when are we going to
work across the aisle. And I laugh and I laugh
and I laugh because I say, have you read any history? Do you not know the – you know
the treasury secretary was shot to death by vice president,
what are you talking about? Do you not know that Mr.
Lincoln, who you want to look at as this very kind and
gentle soul said in essence “I will kill as many
people as it requires to answer this question
correctly.” I have no interest
whatsoever in sitting down for dinner with
the neo-Nazi. I think what we have to do
at this moment first of all, as I write in the
black art of escape. The most radical thing we can
do is marginalize people is to be well. I have no interest in
devoting another generation of black people or women
or queer people to die for this country or
for any other cause. I want us to live. And I want us to be well. And I want us to know
some real deep peace and some real deep joy
and in our free time, as a hobby we can perform
our duties as citizens, which I believe at this
urgent hour is to eradicate from public life every single
individual who represents and advocates for a retro-grade
vision of this country. [ Applause ] You know there’s no
– Michael Bennet, the Senator is a dear friend of
mine and I love him to death. But I say, “Mike you know you
got to – you got to you know, kick these men in the head. What are you talking about? You can’t just sit down and
have tea and crumpets with them. You’ve got to get them out.” So I’m a bit you know,
that’s why I’m not a senator.>>Colleen Shogan: Do
we have any questions? We do have microphones set up
if there are any questions. It looks like we
have one over here.>>Hi I just came in
and I appreciate some of the things that were said. I am the IP owner, the copyright
author of Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter and
Blue Lives Matter. It was my sermon and
I am Missionary Range. I have the question what happens when in society we develop
creative original works and false narratives overtake
and hijacked the actual meaning, the purpose, the moral
integrity of the work? And I guess I ask because of
course Black Lives Matter is mine, but Black Lives
Matter is supposed to work with Al Lives Matter. The two work together. They’re from my sermon
God Says All Lives Matter; we are our brothers
and sisters keeper. So my question is how do we
get back the true narrative because that work was a
peacemaker and the types of things that can heal all
people are found in that work when they work together.>>Casey Gerald:
Thank you sister. What happens when lives
are told, people suffer. I got in a fight with Vincent
Cunningham from the New Yorker, who I love dearly and
respect his work a great deal. He’s a big Peter
guy, the Apostle. And I’m more of a Paul guy. And I said, “Vincent
you’re full of shit man. I don’t like Peter at all. And I’ll tell you why –
and I’ll tell you why.” I said, “Here’s Jesus of
Nazareth” I’m not talking about totem pole Jesus. Here’s Jesus of Nazareth. And two people betray him. Jesus only goes into
church for two things to tell people they’re full
of crap and turn tables over. So two people betray him, his dear friends Mr.
Judas and Mr. Peter. And Judas has enough
guilt to jump off a cliff. Peter comes and says, well Jesus
is dead you all, I’m in charge and we’re starting a church. That’s nuts to me. So – so I think people suffer. But as it pertains to this
question of Black Lives Matter. I don’t want to get all into it. To be honest with you,
some of my dearest friends, I was just in Edenborough with Duray McKesson
who I love dearly.>>He is not my – he
is not my – my leader.>>Casey Gerald:
That’s all right.>>I just want you to know that.>>Casey Gerald: That’s all
right sister, I appreciate it. But let me tell –
this is why it’s so important this
conversation grounded in love. And I said “Duray
I care much more about you then I care
about the movement.” This is – this goes to this
thing about being well. I’m not interested in us spending another 50 years
fighting about this thing. I want us to really try to
figure out what it looks like to love each other,
to be well, to be alive. I have no interest in Duray
dying for Black Lives Matter. I have no interest in you
dying for Black Lives Matter. I have no interest in
another black person dying in this country for anything.>>Yes.>>Casey Gerald: So
whatever it takes to get there I support
you and I love you. And if we disagree,
I love you still. And that’s all, thank you.>>Okay and I’d for you
to tell Duray he needs to call me for permission.>>Casey Gerald: Thank you.>>Colleen Shogan: Okay we
have a question over here.>>So you started the talk
with the metaphor of – the joke of being a hostage
in terms of the process of this book and it read to
me like a process of healing and talk about being
well and well yourself. But I – the question
raised the loneliness aspect of it struck me that
this journey for you, and you mentioned
pulling up by bootstraps. That you’ve had to
do this yourself, but for others wherever
they are in their lives that have struggles and try
to come out the other end as you’ve worked to do. Do you recommend
therapists, friends and what – I can’t imagine you
did it all your own, or I hope you didn’t have to. And just what advice through
that process do you have for people in that journey?>>Casey Gerald: Absolutely, first off I would
say therapy for sure. Start there, and not in –
I go to a somatic therapist because so much trauma
is embodied. And you’ve got to heal
– I talk for a living. I can go and talk for 50
minutes about anything and not get anywhere, you know? I want to try to process
that internal trauma; so I would start there. I have a lot more thoughts on
this in the black art of escape, which is the essay and it’s
free, so I’m not selling it to you so you can just go to
New York Magazine and read it. But I talk very seriously about
what that process looks like, but I would definitely say
therapy is one of those things. And you have to remove as much as possible every toxic
force in your life. And sometimes I love that old
play I can do bad all by myself. Whether it’s my mother,
my father, my sister, my grandmother, my cousins,
my friends, whoever it is. You’ve got to be
willing to do that purge, but I’d hope you read
the black art of escape and take some more from it.>>Thank you.>>Colleen Shogan: Over here.>>Hi thank you for
this presentation. You mentioned how so many people
lied to you about what was real. Do you feel that the Library of
Congress lied to you in any way to get you to come here today? [ Laughter ]>>Colleen Shogan:
Boy I hope not.>>Casey Gerald: No, but now I’m
in intrigued by your question.>>Colleen Shogan: I am too.>>Casey Gerald: I hadn’t
been looking for the lies, but you know the lies are
a little bit like roaches, where there’s one there’s
a whole million of them. So no, I don’t think so. I love the Library of Congress.>>Colleen Shogan: We have
time for one more question. Yes?>>Hello, my name
is Anthony White. Mr. Casey, my question is
you said you had to let go of the God that you were given
to find the God that you needed and when you talk about
your intersectionality of being black, queer
and Middle Class. What God did you find? Since there’s no miracles.>>Casey Gerald: This is a
very pro-miracle book just to be clear. And I’ll answer your
question and then I’ll end with a very quick deal. It is the God of the Frederick
Beakner thing if you want to know God, the best
way to know God is to assume you know
nothing about God. God is just language for
placeholder of the divine, the luminous, the
universal whatever it is. I like short, what do you call
them, Germanic words God is – yeah I can get it in – I
can get in and out quicker than saying the universe
and what does it even mean? So that is it. A few books that
have been helpful to me one especially is A Return
to Love by Marianne Williamson who I know has run for President
to many people’s chagrin. But – but aside from
her political work, her spiritual work has really
changed my life and helped me to be on a path of
spiritual healing. So I would probably start there. As potential the
question of miracles and then we’ll get
you all out of here. This title comes from
an art installation by a Scottish artist
Napin Coley. And I just found it on
Tumblr back in 2013. I was in New Orleans
and found it and I said, “Oh that’s beautiful.” So I put it on my phone and then
sometime later I found the story behind it and it’s a
powerful story, a village and medieval France in the 17th
century or so – and the peasants in that village started
witnessing miracles sort of what we would
call mass hysteria and they stopped working. Put down their plows. And of course this pissed
off everybody in charge. And so they tried to get the
peasants to get back to work. They tried to cajole them and
convince them to no avail. And so finally the
folks in charge went to the King of France or help. And the King’s solution
was to have a sign placed in the village square that read
“There will be no miracles here by order of the King.” So this book is written from the
perspective of those peasants who say, that this deal does
not work for us anymore. Maybe they were experiencing
miracles, maybe that was just the most
efficient language to us to do what they were
trying to do. But I think we find
ourselves very often in the position of
those peasants. And all I’m trying to get us
to do a little more quickly, a little more easily, a
little less lonely is to put down the plows that
aren’t working for us. And to know that the king
is going to always say or the president or
whomever, you can’t do this; this is how it’s always been. You got to get back to work;
and here we are in 2019 and the King of France is dead.>>Colleen Shogan: Please join
me in thanking Casey Gerald. [ Applause ]

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