By: Skylar Locke
On October 3, 2019, at 4:30 PM, I attended the Toni Morrison event-panel discussion titled “Toni Morrison, American Writer: The Language of Moral Clarity”. Before attending this event, I never encountered any of Toni Morrison’s work and sadly, I had no idea how inspiring her words are. After attending this event, I now know who Toni Morrison was and the impact her and her words left in this world. She was an American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor. She was the winner of a plethora of prizes such as the Nobel Prize in Literature, Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Her most popular novels consist of “The Bluest Eye,” “Sula,” “Song of Solomon,” “Beloved,” and “A Mercy”.
At the beginning of this event, there were two quotes by Toni Morrison that I found to be inspiring. The first quote was “if there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it” and the second quote was “you wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down”. Both of these quotes are raw, truthful, and uplifting. The panel members discussed her books, the impact her words have on their lives, and the powerful themes she confronts in her literature.
The first-panel member to speak was James Felton from the institutional equity and inclusive office. He focused his discussion on how Morrison helped him come into his blackness in America. He brought up this idea that books have the ability to help others accept themselves. I believe that he is right. Books are extremely powerful and the words within them stay with us forever. In a way, the words themselves are almost immortal. Mr. Felton stated that he first became conscious of this emotional rollercoaster regarding race and racial issue in America because of Morrison. He experienced blackness not only through her writing but her presence. He concluded his discussion by saying that “[he] did not know how much [he] needed her writings”.
The next panel member to speak was Professor Savonick from the English department and the title of her presentation was “We Was Girls Together – Toni Morrison and the Aesthetics of Female Friendship”. She discussed Morrison’s book Sulu which is about the paths and possibilities of four black women in the 20th century. Professor Savonick described Morrison’s literature as “a mysterious and enchanting world urging us to let go and allow the music of words to captivate us”. When we open her books, we are accepting the unknown and allowing ourselves to embrace the pure words on the pages. The central question of her presentation was “what is friendship between women when unmediated by men?” There are so many important relationships in our lives such as girl friendship. Instead of women competing against each other as society teaches us to do, women need to unite and collaborate together. Professor Savonick ended her discussion by stating “bonds between women are some of the most transgressive and electrifying there is”.
These are only two people out of so many who have been touched and inspired by Toni Morrison and her words. For Mr. Felton, Morrison helped him embrace his blackness and understand what it means to be black in America. For Professor Savonick, Morrison helped her see the power and beauty of girl friendships. I am very grateful to have been introduced to Toni Morrison and her impacting words through this event.