How Chris Jackson is building a black literary movement

Vinson Cunningham in The New York Times:

Jackson1-superJumbo-v4On an unnervingly balmy November day, the scene at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn was restless and expectant. Ta-Nehisi Coates was scheduled to appear on campus for a discussion about his best-selling book, ‘‘Between the World and Me.’’ Evers has a student body that is over 80 percent black, and interest in the event was palpable. Outside, on Bedford Avenue, a diasporic survey of music — reggae, soca, R.&B., trap — flew out the windows of rusted sedans as a slow parade of students filed into the building: a group of young men in near-identical oxfords and knit ties; a woman in a knee-length camouflage hoodie, black tights and Timberland boots; kids wearing mohawks, flattops, cornrows and uncountable Afros. Coates was running late, and the director of the school’s Center for Black Literature, a stocky man with yellow-brown skin, closely cropped hair and a heather gray goatee, was worried about the time. He turned to the man standing next to him: Chris Jackson, Coates’s book editor. ‘‘When do you think he’ll get here?’’ he asked. ‘‘We set up a greenroom for him to relax and have some water before the talk, but we’ve only got so much time.’’

‘‘He’s . . . ’’ Jackson said, trailing off. ‘‘He’s on his way. He had a thing right before this, and he’s got a thing right after. It’s crazy these days.’’ That was perhaps an understatement. That year, Coates won a MacArthur ‘‘genius’’ grant, was tapped to write a new installment of Marvel’s ‘‘Black Panther’’ comic series and saw ‘‘Between the World and Me’’ nominated for the National Book Award. Coates’s book — and his ongoing tour of the country to promote it — was the latest peak in Jackson’s career. Over the last decade and a half, Jackson has ushered into being the works of category-defying novelists like Victor LaValle and Mat Johnson, polemicist-experientialists like Coates and the civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and pop-cultural vanguardists like the chef-memoirist Eddie Huang and the rapper-entrepreneur Jay Z. To the extent that 21st-century literary audiences have been introduced to the realities and absurdities born of the phenomenon of race in America, Jackson has done a disproportionate amount of that introducing.

More here. (Note: At least one post will be dedicated to honor Black History Month throughout February)