Last post, I wrote about the some of the episodes I’ve recorded for “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 three more episodes from season two. These episodes include conversations with Monica Miller, Sho Baraka, and Melanie Morrison. We talk about a wide range of topics from Lillian Smith, of course, to Southern literature to the role of art in our society to impact that Smith had on generations of activists. 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 16: Monica Miller
In this episode, I spoke with Dr. Monica Miller. She is an assistant professor of English at Middle Georgia State University. We talked about teaching Lillian Smith to adult learners, Smith’s place within the Southern literary canon, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and much more. Dr. Miller is the president of the Flannery O’Connor Society and serves on the editorial advisory board for the Flannery O’Connor Review. Her book, Being Ugly: Southern Women Writers and Social Rebellion, explores the ways that Southern women writers such as Margaret Mitchell and Monique Truong “employ ‘ugly’ characters to upend the expectations of patriarchy and open up more possibilities for southern female identity.”
During our conversation, Miller talked about “Lillian Smith’s Vision of Justice,” a course she taught as part of the Laura & Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program at Case Western University. The course description for the class, in parts, reads, “this remarkable woman whose legacy of social justice has been too often overlooked.” Along with this, she spoke about how many don’t know about individuals and spaces such as Myles Horton and the Highlander Center. Miller says that the reason this lack of cultural knowledge is that “there is a master narrative that the Jim Crow South existed [and] part of it may be that stories can only handle a couple of main characters. . . . So we have Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King and the two of them together made the Civil Rights Movement happen. White students came down from the North and helped with the voting rights crusade and eventually, as some of my students like to say, ‘and now we don’t have any racism.'” What Miller gets at here is something a lot of the podcast episodes have gotten at, the narrative that we tell, rounding out the edges and condensing, and the larger narrative, unrefined and bulging, that encompasses the myriad of individuals who made history happen. It’s a counter to the “nine word problem.”
Episode 17: Sho Baraka
In this episode, I spoke with Sho Baraka. He is a rapper, activist, writer, husband, father, and more. We talk about art, creativity, and his book He Saw That It Was Good. Sho Baraka has spent years traveling the world as a recording artist, performer and culture curator. He is well as an original member of internationally known hip-hop consortium 116 Clique and record label, Reach Records. His overseas work has ranged from leading seminars about race relations in South Africa to establishing artist hubs in Indonesia. He is a co-founder of Forth District and The And Campaign. He also taught a class at Wake Forest School of Divinity.
Over the past few years, I’ve really been thinking about the adage, “No one is born a racist” or “No one is born to hate.” While at its core I feel this is the case, it is not completely true. Sho Baraka writes, “We are shaped by our stories, and we are given our stories by our tribes. There are no blank slates.” This statement sums up the ways I have started to think about the ways that people hate and the racism they enact. It centers on stories. Initially, we may be that “blank slate,” but once that pen hits the birth certificate and marks the boxes for “race/ethnicity,” “gender,” or anything else, the stories and constructions around those choices form us. Sho Baraka continues by pointing out that in order for us to grown we must begin by “questioning the stories we were given about ourselves, about the world, about God.” This is the same thing Lillian Smith and others talks about. She writes, “We who write know, though we may not confess it, that always we have held in our minds and hearts, since childhood, a little script that we are forever revising.” Over the course of the episode, Sho Baraka and I talked about the ways that we craft stories and the ways that those stories impact us daily.
Episode 18: Melanie Morrison
In this episode, I spoke with Dr. Melanie Morrison. She is the founder and Executive Director of Allies for Change, “a network of anti-oppression educators who share a passion for social justice and a commitment to creating and sustaining life-giving all relationships and communities.” Currently, she is working on a manuscript entitled Letters from Old Screamer Mountain. Her mother, Eleanor, along with some friends stayed a weekend with Lillian Smith on Old Screamer Mountain in 1939, and that weekend “was an unforgettable turning point” in the eighteen-year old’s life. Dr. Morrison’s manuscript contains letters that she penned to her mother when she made a pilgrimage to the Lillian E. Smith Center for a residency in 2012. Today, we will talk about Allies for Change, the impact of Lillian Smith on Dr. Morrison and her mother, and more.
One of the things that I always enjoy about the podcast is talking with people who have a direct connection to Lillian Smith, Paula Snelling, and Screamer Mountain in some way. Morrison is one of those individuals. Both of her parents knew Smith’s work. Her mother went for the weekend to visit Smith and Snelling at the camp with a group of college students in the 1930s, and her father reads the journal that Smith and Snelling published from 1936-1945. When they met, they bonded over Smith and eventually married. Morrison says, “Because I had grown up my whole life hearing stories about Lillian Smith, Laurel Falls Camp, and the groundbreaking work Smith did in the South. Her photograph hung in the family home, and her name was spoken with reverence. When people asked if she was kin to us, my father was fond of saying, ‘Well, Lillian Smith is not a biological ancestor, but she is part of that great cloud of witnesses that helps us to carry on.'”
What are your thoughts? As usual, let me know in the comments below, and make sure to follow me on Twitter at @silaslapham.