by Gyasi Hall
BWR 47.2 Nonfiction Contest runner-up
Two summers ago, Otterbein University, my undergrad, gave me five hundred dollars to travel to Alabama to visit the Richard Hail Research Center for African American Studies. Toni Morrison, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the bones of James Baldwin had co-written a new book titled Fine Already, You Lazy Muthafuckas: Here’s the Hope, You Happy? The book was literally just the word “Hope” repeated thousands of times in different fonts and sizes, but it was still a New York Times Best Seller. The Hail Center was one of the last stops on an international book tour. I had seen videos online of a few of the talkbacks and Q&As they had hosted after reading from the book at various bookstores and conferences and university auditoriums, rooms mostly full of white allies nodding solemnly while Coates answered yet another question about the N-word and a well-meaning grad student worked a series of ropes and pullies to get Baldwin’s bones to sign half scribbles on pristine books, Weekend at Bernie’s style, as the line for autographs wrapped around the block…
Gyasi Hall is an essayist, poet, and general Writer of Stuff™ from Columbus, Ohio. Their work has is forthcoming, published, or otherwise featured in Hanif Abdurraquib’s 68to05 Project, Thoughtcrime Press, and Get Lit!, among others. Their debut poetry chapbook, Flight of the Mothman: An Autobiography, was published by The Operating System in spring 2019. They are the lead nonfiction editor for The BreakBread Literacy Project, and they currently reside in Iowa City where they are pursuing their MFA in creative nonfiction.