E. Ethelbert Miller at Busboys and Poets
Volunteer Karolina is enlightened by an evening of art and activism with E. Ethelbert Miller.
On Saturday, April 29th, I attended a book party for the memoir, The 5th Inning, which just came out in paperback and was written by a friend of mine, E. Ethelbert Miller. The event was held at the 5th and K Busboys And Poets just a few blocks from the Chinatown exit on Metro’s Red Line. When I got to Busboys and Poets, a waiter pointed me to a back room where the event was to be held. Tables and chairs faced a small stage. Each table was set with candles, and the room quickly filled up, creating an intimate atmosphere.
From a small table on the stage, Miller’s wife, Denise King Miller, interviewed her husband about his book, his life and his writing. Their interview was more like a conversation between them and shared with the audience. At the beginning of the night, Miller mentioned his first memoir, Fathering Words, in which he claimed he “saw himself as a witness” and needed to write his experiences. He noted, however, that in The 5th Inning, he was mining his life and felt the need to “dig deeper.” In the memoir, which is written in beautiful, poetic language and constructed around an extended metaphor about baseball, Miller both answers and asks questions about his life.
One theme of the evening that really struck me had to do with art and activism. Miller reminded the audience that it is very important to be “concerned about what’s going on in the world” because we are all so influenced by it and because we all have the power to influence it. He talked about how literature will change and be shaped by our times: we live in a world redefining friendship because of social media. More people, including more writers, are “on the move” and travelling internationally. Miller also claimed that in the next 25 years, “about 35 African American writers will change the literary landscape.”
Miller encouraged his audience that people who care about literature “need to be activists to support the arts and stand up for the arts.” He said, “being a writer is as important as being an engineer” because it is another way to “educate our youth.” After all, where would we be without the arts?
As someone who does not pick up a newspaper often enough, I have to say that this event made me rethink my role in society. As a writer, how can I not be influenced by the world around me? And if that’s true, then I really need to start paying closer attention. The event showed me how closely related different aspects of life could be—politics, sports, arts—and I could not help but think about how words have the power to connect them.