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In Praise of Toni Morrison’s Enduring Legacy

In collaboration with the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY, we hosted an evening of readings, music, reflection, and gratitude in celebration of the life and legacy of Toni Morrison.

Music by Craig Harris, Vincent Chancey, Jay Rodriguez, Omar Kabir, Richard Fairfax, Lee Odom, and Peter Lin.

Readings from her work by Dr. Brenda Greene, Kia Corthron, Nicole Dennis-Benn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, Keisha-Gaye Anderson, Tyehimba Jess, Glory Edim, Monique Truong, Simeon Marsalis, Idra Novey, De’Shawn Charles Winslow, Regina Porter, Mahogany L. Browne, Mariam Bazeed, and Tiphanie Yanique.

The event was held at The Center for Fiction at 15 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn at 7pm on Wednesday, August 14th.

Toni Morrison Remembered

Click below for an interview with Erroll McDonald, Chair of the Board of Directors of The Center for Fiction, about Morrison’s legacy, her love of the music, and Wednesday’s tribute.


    The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY

    The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY

    Founded in 2003, the mission of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College, CUNY (CBL) is to expand, broaden, and enrich the public’s knowledge and aesthetic appreciation of Black literature. The Center is a nationally respected resource for Black writers and the general public to study the literature of people from the African Diaspora. It is the only center devoted to this in the country. The Center was also established to institutionalize the National Black Writers Conference (NBWC), founded by John Oliver Killens in 1986 at Medgar Evers College.

    To achieve its core mission, CBL partners with local high schools, Medgar Evers College, as well as with literary, community, and cultural arts organizations nationwide. With our partners, we present public and academic programs to youth, high school students, college students, and the public. Our offerings include author readings, literary workshops, writer retreats, conferences, symposia, and a biennial journal.

  • Stairwell Toni Morrison

    Toni Morrison

    February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019

    Toni Morrison

    February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019

    “Toni always maintained that every one of her novels is a love story. Perversely, I enjoy the difficult pleasure of regarding her body of work as comprising an encyclopedia of love. Even as she fearlessly confronted its intricacies, complexities and ironies, she was never one to idealize it. Often I find myself brooding on this passage — a keen, if brutal, observation toward the end of The Bluest Eye: ‘Love is never any better than the lover. Wicked people love wickedly, violent people love violently, weak people love weakly, stupid people love stupidly, but the love of a free man is never safe. There is no gift for the beloved. The lover alone possesses his gift of love.’ Here is as bracing a thought as I know.”

    Erroll McDonald, Vice President and Executive Editor at Alfred A. Knopf

    “Toni Morrison wrote to us again and again, exhorting our beauty, making us grapple with our pain, reaffirming our humanity. Her every word a caress, her every sentence an embrace, her every paragraph, a cupping of her hands around our faces that said: I know you, I see you, we are together. She loved us when we prayed and sang and made love and danced. She loved us when we lied and sliced throats and disowned our children. She loved us at our best and our broken. She called us forth in her pages and made us experience and understand ourselves with kindness, with deeper knowing of all we had survived, all we had not, all we had made, all we had unmade, all we had become, all we could be. How she knew us! How she sang us to the world! And now that she is gone, how we weep for our Beloved!”

    Jesmyn Ward

    “Toni Morrison once told me a story about going on Oprah for the first time. When she arrived at the studio she was told that the format of the show had been somewhat changed from what she had been led to expect. She raised this with Oprah, who replied, with a big smile, ‘Yes, Toni, but I rule.’ Toni said, ‘I had never heard any woman speak that way, let alone a black woman.’ As we mourn the loss of this giant of American literature, we can agree that Toni Morrison, too, ruled. She led and we followed, and she showed us the beauty of the language, and the power that was unleashed when that beauty was allied to a great heart and a ferocious mind.

    For me, it was Song of Solomon, back in 1977. From its first words (‘The fathers may soar / And the children may know their names’), the story of Milkman Dead and Guitar had me in thrall. Later, in 1992, I interviewed her for British television when she had just published Jazz. In that program Cornel West put her on the level of Melville and Faulkner. A. S. Byatt called her the equal of Dostoevsky, George Eliot and Thomas Mann. She spoke to me about jazz as a metaphor for black lives, their improvisational nature, their brilliance and the hard work that took. And perhaps this is a thing to say about her today as we grieve: that as well as Faulkner and Dostoevsky, she was also the peer of Ella and Miles.”

    Salman Rushdie