In this podcast, we were more than lucky enough to speak to T. Geronimo Johnson about his novel ‘Welcome to Braggsville’, his writing processes, his persona; soundtrack, the challenges that he faces as a writer, and how egotistical penning a novel really is. We touched upon character development, the subversion of stereotypes, and why making his main character, who he’d always envisaged as Black,White.
We spoke about the superficial progression of race in the U.S., and we asked if the inauguration of President Obama has done anything for Black culture. One thing we dreaded asking, but did anyway, was how the Ferguson movement and the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ campaign dedicated to the memory of Eric Garner impacts how he feels as a Black male in America.
4th Estate: … Ferguson and the Eric Garner ‘I Can’t Breathe’ campaign. …Has this given you, not a negative outlook, but what kind of perspective has this given you on your existence as a Black male in America?
T. Geronimo Johnson: None at all, it’s had really very little effect on me. It’s been frustrating, it’s been extraordinarily painful – but it’s not news. For me it’s not at all news. …It’s an unfortunate news cycle, at the same time unfortunate that more people are aware of it, because black males and black females have had this reading of American history and contemporary American society for so long. People sort of look at us sideways, like ‘You’re being paranoid. The cops are here to protect and serve’ – but protect and serve whom? Or serve whom to whom? There’s the whole public school-to-jail pipeline; the fact that America’s gone from being a slave state to, you know, a Jim Crow country, to a carceral state. The notion of policing Black bodies has not changed at all since we first came to this country. These particular incidents, they rouse an anger in me, while at the same time they break my heart as they always do. But Ferguson, Garner; that was not at all news to me. That’s actually one of the things I’ve been writing about but it comes up more directly in different ways than the first novel, because the character in the first novel ended up visiting two inner-city morgues. And that ends up being a comment on this plague of the unconscionable premature deaths of all these black men. It’s not just black men of course, some of the police are just completely out of control: Black women, people of all races have been subject to undeserved abuse while being taken into custody. Braggsville touches on that a little bit too.
Welcome to Braggsville is out now
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