Civil Rights Era Poet Shares How to Create Civility in Today’s Society
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Written By: Kristina Puga
Writer and activist Eugene Ethelbert Miller discussed his love for writing and history by stating:
“I wanted to be involved in every aspect of writing about it,” says Miller about the politically-charged time, as sharply and energetically as if it were just yesterday. “It was just like now – with the Woman’s March and Black Lives Matter…”
Miller, who goes by “Ethelbert” spent his college years immersed in black history.
He attended college (Howard University) in the same year that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. This, among other events (such as the assassination of Robert Kennedy, and the Vietnam war) led him to began a career as a poet. He explained: “I wrote many love poems,” says Miller. “I wanted to leave behind poems that were similar to Pablo Neruda’s work.”
Millers’ family consisted of a postal working Father, and a seamstress mother. He explained that college was “a strain financially.” Therefore announcing that he would be a writer to his parents was a bit of a misunderstanding. He later explained all of the different opportunities his writings afforded him: “When I look back on my writing, it took me to places that I couldn’t have gone otherwise,” says the poet, mentioning the U.S. State Department sponsored some of his trips. “I went to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, people would send me to all sorts of places.”
Miller continues with more inspiring anecdotes for writers of all backgrounds leaving us with this piece of life advice:
“I think what I’ve learned now are two things: We have to practice deep listening. We have to understand what [people] are afraid of, what they’re suffering from. Then the next level is compassion.”
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