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sirjoshbennett sirjoshbennett

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Joshua Bennett  writer. Harvard Society of Fellows. abolition. black study. Author of The Sobbing School (Penguin, 2016).


Sincerest thanks to the kind folks over at the Pingree School for inviting me to serve as their 2018 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speaker. It was an honor to share the space. A number of my conversations yesterday reminded me of a line from June Jordan’s timeless essay on King: “We are not gods. But we are many.” To be sure, these are turbulent, terrifying times. But I am convinced, more so each day, that our present moment is also one in which we can find new, ever more innovative ways to imagine freedom, and to enact the worlds we dream. Whenever I have the chance to talk to a group of young people, as I did yesterday, it reminds me of how high the stakes are, how pressing the need for a vision of a more beautiful world, one with space for all of us to flourish. It is one of the great joys of my life that I get to do that sort of dreamwork with you all. Thanks for making room, and for listening to me try to make music from the pictures in my head. It means more than you can know.
#thesobbingschool #booktour #YonkersStandUp #SweaterGameStrong #ShoutOutToUniqlo

Finally settling into my standard look for the new year, which I like to think of as some combination of fresh-faced high school History teacher, folk singer, and reliable neighborhood carpenter that just moved in from the Midwest & repairs everyone’s cabinets & dining room tables for the low

Photo credit: @mvrandsh8kr

Went out for drinks with my big sister to celebrate the holidays last night, & to my great delight ended up staging an impromptu “Wintertime in the Wilderness” themed photo shoot. I am still somewhat unclear on the reasoning behind this choice—apart from the fact that we both believe deeply in the notion that you never pass up on good lighting if it’s available—but am overjoyed with the results nonetheless. All of which is to say: happy holidays, everyone. I hope wherever you are there is wonder, & good memories, & someone you love that can make you smile for no reason at all.
#HappyHolidays #YonkersStandUp #SiblingLove #YuleTideLooks

Photo credit: @mvrandsh8kr

Whenever I work with Rog, I always end up with at least one photo that makes me think of some alternate, altogether wonderful, relatively feasible version of my life. Here, I am the pastor of a small, storefront church—The Redemption Center, let's call it—ride a motorcycle, & also have a large, gray dog named Ajax the Great, who I call by that exact name whenever I enter the house. Oh, & I also coach the neighborhood's middle school chess team, mostly because I think that the game is beautiful, & that we all deserve a measure of beauty while we are here on the planet together, working things out, unabashedly alive.
Photo credit: Rog Walker

Self-portrait when you're dressed to go out & party with your friends, but also kind of tired because your sleep schedule isn't great right now, so you have to sit there for a moment & weigh the ethical cost of staying in, pulling up an episode of Stranger Things, & casually dropping that "idk man it's kinda cold outside" text into the group chat without any further context or the slightest hint of shame
#tbt #LiveYourBestLife #BeardGang #NetflixAndNaps

Self-portrait once you have played the fourth consecutive round of laser tag at your nephew's birthday & finally come to the realization that eight-year olds don't actually get tired the way larger human people do, & so there is literally no amount of Powerade, or stretching, or prayer, that could have prepared you for this moment beloved

#tbt #lasertaglife #imtoooldforthis #butmyteamstillwon #GreenTeamAllDay

There are reports that when I first saw Carvens touch the stage in his Broadway debut as George Washington I yelled, quite loudly, "LETS GO CARV" and then pointed directly at him, as if to clarify my affirmation's aim. I can neither confirm nor deny any such claim. What I can confirm, however, is that this man was born for this part, and that he carried himself that way from opening number through closing scene. It was one thing to know, in my own mind, that Carvens had achieved this long-held dream. It was another thing entirely to see him operate in his gifts at such a high level—and with such joy!—in real time. During intermission, the couple seated behind me asked how I knew him, and I said "That's my younger brother. He's a star!" It wasn't the first time I had ever had that thought. But it did feel good to share it with someone new.

This last leg of the book tour took me to five cities in five days. I started off the week with a reading at the Harvard Book Store, flew to Charlottesville the next morning for an engagement at UVA, then rounded things out with a brief stop at the alma mater—as well as an incredible night at the Harrisburg Book Festival—before coming back to NYC to see family, recharge, & rest for a bit. Shout out to all of the fantastic poets that I had the chance to see & read alongside this week, as well as every single person that came through, posed a question about craft, picked up a book, made a joyful noise or shared a kind word. I say some version of this as often as I can because it's true: as a young person, I never imagined making a living, making a life, from the writing & teaching of poems. Before you all made it possible, I didn't know to dream of it. It's been almost ten years since my first college show, and the chance to create & share this work is still what makes me feel most alive. It is still a major part of what pushes me into each day with a renewed sense of purpose, & an intractable joy that is all my own. I'll be back on the road again in a few days, but for right now am just thankful for the constellation of friends & strangers alike that continue to support this dream. It's been an amazing ride thus far. I look forward to whatever unexpected, unthinkable beauty is just around the corner.
#thesobbingschool #booktour #YonkersStandUp #blazergamestrong #igotitfrommypops
Photo credit: @jenesisfonseca, @alexbru21

Portrait of the artist at Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Medal ceremony with LL Cool J on a Wednesday night in October because it really is true what they say: you never know where the poems, short stories, and obscure battle raps you write in your spiral notebook at 16 might bring you one day.

To commemorate the one-year anniversary of The Sobbing School, my dear friend Jamil dropped by to take a few pictures, walk around the city, & talk with me about the people & places that inspired the work. It was a wonderful time, as well as a welcome reminder of just how filled with joy, & gratitude, this past year has been. Back in early 2016, this book was still just a .pdf file on my laptop. Now, somehow, it's living a whole new life in college classrooms, on bookstore shelves, & in the homes of friends, family & strangers alike. All of this to say: the support you all have shown has brought something grand & irreplaceable into my life. My first book dropped & my folks showed love. You showed up & showed out. You wrote reviews, bought copies for loved ones, & sent words of encouragement on the days I needed them most. Thank you for treating me, & this work that I cherish, with such care. For making this journey an unforgettable one.
#thesobbingschool #anniversaryweek #YonkersStandUp #INeedABrownstoneLikeThisSomeday
Photo credit: @juh_mile

My cousin Kev & I came up together. As kids, we would slap-box, play freeze tag, & yell at each other during high-stakes Mortal Kombat tournaments in the South Bronx that could take up an entire afternoon. His wedding was earlier this month, & it's difficult to describe how beautiful it was to see a man I have known since we were children walk, and dance, with such joy into his new life. I'm immensely proud of him, & can't wait to see all that he accomplishes in this next phase. Oh, & special thanks to my Uncle Levi for the photo. He always looks out. #lategram

Portrait of the artist when he hasn't been sleeping super well the past few days but can feel that a breakthrough is around the corner, i.e., as soon as the final drafts of these next two articles are finished he is going to take multiple naps, race bikes with his nephew, & re-watch Friday Night Lights seasons 3-5 in their entirety because he is learning to look after himself much better nowadays & knows that self-care is key.
#NewBook #AlmostThere #BeardGang #cleareyesfullhearts #insomniaistrash
Photo credit: @julianknxx

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