At the start of this year’s Latino Heritage Month emerged a searing interview between Peabody Award-winning broadcaster and New York Times best-selling author, Krista Tippett and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and writer extraordinaire, Junot Diaz about what it means to be a child of the African Diaspora in the New World.
Tippett credits Diaz’s essay, “Radical Hope Is Our Best Weapon” as the reason for their encounter and the intense and incredibly layered conversation that ensued thereafter.
“Díaz’s hope is fiercely reality-based, a product of centuries lodged in his body of African-Caribbean suffering, survival, and genius,” she explained at the start of the latest podcast episode of On Being With Krista Tippett. “I can truly say that no conversation I’ve had in all my years has felt more searing, important, and eloquent than this one.”
Diaz’s opening statement fiercely set the tone for the near hour-long dialogue that explored everything from Dominicanisms, slavery, historical trauma, family origin, migration and spirituality, among many other culturally-significant themes:
“I’m a child of blackness,” he said emphatically. “Blackness was not meant to survive, and we have survived. And we have thrived. And we’ve given this world more genius than we have ever received.”
Here are a few more brilliant takeaways, but be sure to tune in for the full interview (below).
On religion and spiritual background:
“The Caribbean — first and foremost, this is a site of empire and a site of the starting point of New World slavery and all of the inhumanities and survival responses that that produced. And among those syncretic reactions was the religious universe in which I grew up, a universe ostensibly Catholic, but which was shot through, sort of subsumed in an Africanized, New World cosmology.”
On the historical disallowing of bodily autonomy:
“But in the New World, for those of us of African descent, we were living centuries ahead in our bodies. We were philosophizing centuries ahead of how bodies exist within, through, and alongside the numinous. And I have to tell you that, for people like us, for people who come out of the African Diaspora in the New World, simply to fall in love, when you have historically been denied love, the right to just connect to the body which you have chosen and that has chosen you, means that an act of love is not only revolutionary, it’s not only transcendent, but it is the deific. It is Godlike. It is a taste of the omnipotent.”
On silence as a mechanism for survival:
“Nothing has changed. What about this last few months has encouraged anyone who is an immigrant or anyone of African descent or anyone who has emerged from an authoritarian society to say, “Aha, this is something, now, we’re transcending. This is something we’re distancing ourselves — it is behind us”? If anything has been revealed in the last few months, it is that these strategies continue to be relevant, because we have not undone the nightmares that we’ve inflicted on this world during this New World project.”