✨ southern style
Because there's something about the southland in the springtime.
📎 EYES ON THE SOUTH
I was born in Fulton County, Georgia just a few months after the state’s only President moved back home. Springtime, 1980.
Carter is the only president in the modern era to return full-time to the house he lived in before he entered politics — a two-bedroom rancher assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside. (Washington Post 2018)
Growing up in the South I always felt like an outsider. I ached to leave. And once I crossed that Mason-Dixon line, I never seriously considered moving back. But the South lives in me. And the sins and the complexity of the South metastasize in all of us.
Saddle up to the bar and listen to UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Tressie McMillan Cottom teach over a whiskey why we should all keep our eyes on the South:
We like to look to the horizon instead of to the soil because we bury the people we do not care about in the South. It is where we have put migrants and poor people and sick people. It is where we put the social problems we are willing to accept in exchange for the promise of individual opportunity in places that sound more sophisticated. But the South is still a laboratory for the political disenfranchisement that works just as well in Wisconsin as it does in Florida. Americans are never as far from the graves we dig for other people as we hope.
I keep my eyes on the South for a lot of reasons. This is my home. It is the region of this nation’s original sin. Nothing about the future of this country can be resolved unless it is first resolved here: not the climate crisis or the border or life expectancy or anything else of national importance, unless you solve it in the South and with the people of the South.
Highly rec reading the whole damn thing.
📎 A VOW FOR BETTER
In the spring and summer of 1913, all eyes were on the Fulton County Superior Court where Jewish American Leo Frank was wrongfully convicted of murdering a teenage girl who worked at the pencil factory he supervised. This tinderbox of white supremacy, racism, and antisemitism tangled up with the grief of a young child’s murder led to Frank’s lynching, the creation of the Anti-Defamation League, and the resurgence of the KKK. Precisely the Southern microcosm that Dr. Cottom urges us to engage with.
There’s no easy way to summarize, or sit with, the story of Leo Frank. It is gut-wrenching on every level and has too many parallels to the present, but I know I promised you/me inspiration…
What got me through this week is Ben Platt (Leo Frank) and Micaela Diamond (Lucille Frank) on repeat, singing about hope despite it all in the new Parade revival. We are the stories we tell over and over. If Lin-Manuel Miranda can get America interested in the first secretary of the treasury, may Jason Robert Brown’s musical tune us all into fighting hard against the recent rise of antisemitism. This is not over yet.
📎 TALK GOOD, WITH OTHERS
My buddy Biz lives in the South now. She’s a transplant; a Northerner putting down roots near Birmingham, Alabama. We talk weekly about what is happening in her garden and all the social seeds she’s sowing. She sends me snapshots from tabling to Stop Cop City outside queer dance soirees. I look forward to updates on what is happening with the trees. I’m grateful for her generous, tenacious, and tender spirit.
During a December conversation on inviting darkness, we learned about how seeds adapt at molecular levels to prepare for winter—and I had a breakthrough that led to writing again. This week we talked about taste. We went deep on everyone’s specific hyper taste—the area where you have developed a refined sense of what you like. We discussed how one might cultivate a taste in anything and which tastes are privileged/marginalized. We talked about wine, fiddle tunes, bold floral prints, and (of course) trees.
If you are open to very-likely-unique conversations that will engage your vitality and abundance I hope to see you at a future session. Sign up to join a Good Talk.
📎 IN BLOOM
My daughter and I drove south last weekend to visit family. The farther we drove, the greener the trees. It was life-affirming to see nature in bloom, again. And I will never tire of seeing the world through my daughter’s eyes.
📎 TURN IT UP
In our Good Talk about taste this week, music came up frequently. Prof. Tressie has an unabashed hyper-taste for country music. (See her exquisite profile of the reigning Black queens of country in Vanity Fair.)
Passing along this cherished gift, the professor’s six hour hand-picked playlist.
Throw open the windows to the springtime air and turn it up.
Have a great week.