Vanity Fair UK - September 2020
English | 228 pages | PDF
LAST YEAR CHICAGO POET Eve L. Ewing published 1919, a volume that channels her city’s Red Summer into blues. It is a magical work. The voices of
housekeepers and stockyard hands are summoned. The thoughts of trains carrying black people north are conjured up. The doom of a black boy is told to the rhythm of a jump rope. The centerpiece of this bracing work is “True Stories About the Great Fire,” a poem inspired by the belief among white Chicagoans that the rst Great Migration to the city was “the worst calamity that had struck the city since the Great Fire” of 1871, which took hundreds of lives and burned out the heart of the city. The implications of this equation are haunting. Once a people become a “calamity,” all means of dealing with them are acceptable. I have not yet watched George Floyd’s murder in its entirety, but I have seen enough of the genre to know the belief in black people as disaster, as calamity, as a Great Fire upon the city, has not yet waned.