In the last post, I wrote about the first three episodes of “Dope with Lime,” the Lillian E. Smith Center’s podcast series that I have been doing this past year. Today, I want to share with you the last three episodes of season two. These episodes include conversations with Karen Branan, Chuck Brown, and Marie Cochran. We talk about a wide range of topics from Lillian Smith, of course, to the ways that culture terrorizes our psyches to comics to Martin Luther King, Jr. The conversations I had with each of these guests has been enlightening and invigorating.
Note: the following is the short piece I wrote for the latest issue of “A View from the Mountain.”
“Dope with Lime” Description
“Dope with Lime” is a production of the Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont College. Through interviews with scholars, artist residents, readers, and more, “Dope with Lime” discusses Lillian E. Smith’s life, work, and continued legacy.
“Dope with Lime” was a column that Lillian E. Smith wrote in the pages of the literary journal that she co-edited with her partner Paula Snelling. Colloquially, the phrase referred to cutting the sweetness of Coca-Cola with lime juice. In her columns, Smith would us satire and bite to comment on Southern life and letters. The column was, for all intents and purposes, blog and podcast like, relaying Smith’s thoughts in a conversational and witty manner.
Episode 10: Karen Branan
In this episode I spoke with Karen Branan, a journalist whose work has appeared in publications such as Life, Mother Jones, The Atlanta Journal Constitution, and more. Her book, The Family Tree, details her investigation into the horrific lynching of three Black men and one Black woman in 1912 in Harris County, GA. Today, we talked about her book, her personal journey, and the role that Lillian Smith’s work has played in her life and activism.
There is a lot that stuck out during my conversation with Branan. She talked about being at UGA in 1961 when Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the first African American woman at UGA, started her career at the college. She talked about Paula Snelling and the lynching of Anne Bostwick in 1912. Bostwick’s murder occurred when Snelling was a teenager, and Branan speaks about the impact it had to have had on Snelling. Along with these moments, Branan spoke about growing up and being “terrorized” by the culture that raised her. Branan’s use of “terrorized” stuck out to me, specifically because she was speaking about the effects that growing up in a racist society had on her psyche.
Branan’s comments made me think immediately of Lillian Smith, specifically what she wrote in “Growing into Freedom.” There, Smith said, “I began to see that in trying to shut the Negro race away from us, we have shut ourselves away from the good, the creative, the human in life. The warping distorted frame we have put around every Negro child from birth is around every white child from birth also. Each is on a different side of the frame, but each is there.”
Episode 11: Chuck Brown
In this episode I spoke with Chuck Brown, co-creator and co-writer of the Eisner award and Ringo award winning Image Comics series Bitter Root and creator of Image Comics On the Stump. He has been self-publishing comics for over 18 years, and as well as writing for Image Comics he has written comics for Dark Horse Comics, Zenescope Entertainment, and more. Today, we talked about his work along with Lillian Smith’s speech “Role of the Poet in a World of Demagogues.”
Again, just as with the other conversations I have had on “Dope with Lime,” there is a lot that I could write about. Brown and I discussed comics, the role of the artists, hope, and current issues. He broke down aspects of Bitter Root and On the Stump that constantly made me think. One thing that stood out here were his comments on Thunder Bearer. (You’ll have to listen to see what Brown says.)
We talked about Lillian Smith’s speech, and in talking about her speech, Brown spoke about the importance of the humanities and of empathy. Smith says, “For the big, dangerous problems confronting he world today are not those the scientist can handle. . . . These dilemma come from our deepest roots, from the shadowy, unconscious part of our nature.” While science and technology are important in moving humanity forward and solving problems that affect us all, we must have empathy and thought as well. Scientific knowledge without compassion breeds power grabs or leaves one blind to the effects of the scientific discovery. This is why the humanities are important. They teach all of us empathy and understanding.
Episode 12: Marie Cochran
On January 15, 2021, what would have been Martin Luther King, Jr’s 92nd birthday, I spoke with Marie Cochran at the LES Center. Marie is a visual artist, writer, and activist. She is the founding curator of the Affrilachian Artist Project which celebrates the intersections of cultures in Appalachia and highlights the unique perspective of people of African descent in the region. She is also the 2020-2021 Lehman Brady Visiting Professorship, at Duke University, Center for Documentary Studies and UNC–Chapel Hill, Department of American Studies We discussed Martin Luther King, Jr., Lillian Smith, and Marie’s ongoing work.
During our time together, Marie and I talked about of lot of things. The overarching theme, though, that arose from our conversation was the importance of memory and education. We spoked about why we need to know what occurred underneath our feet. Why we need to know what occurred in the buildings we frequent. What occurred alongside the roads we travel. These things are important, and until we remember them, all of them, we will be stuck repeating them.
By looking at the links between Smith and King, and others, we counter the “reduction,” as Marie puts it, of history. We expand our understanding of history and the events that occurred, moving beyond the sound bites and quick lessons from media. All of this is important, and all of this reminded me of Ernest Gaines, also born on January 15, and his work. Gaines strove to give voice to those who had no voice, and he did that through his writing. He showed how rural, Black Louisianans experienced the Civil Rights Movement, not by marching or by sits ins but by living through the period and the backlash that arose from the whites around them. These are some of the things that stood out during my conversation with Marie.
There are three more episodes to discuss, so stay tuned in the future for more posts on “Dope with Lime.” Until then, what are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on Twitter at @silaslapham.
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