Home Creative writing The 12th annual film festival kicks off with an author’s perspective on diversity

The 12th annual film festival kicks off with an author’s perspective on diversity

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Jerald Walker reads his essays. / Photo by Alberto Guzman

UPDATE October 26: YourArlington intern Jingfei Cui attended the kickoff of the 12th annual Arlington International Film Festival (AIFF) on October 4 as acclaimed writer Jerald Walker spoke at the Boston Public Library. Here are his reports and descriptive commentary on the event:

It might have to do with my paranoia, or my recollection of school events organized by Emerson’s international student office that only international students, a small proportion of the student body, attended. Making efforts to promote and celebrate “diversity” in the real world is more or less like inserting an extra after-school class into an already busy schedule. Therefore, I didn’t expect huge crowds when it comes to events titled “international,” especially when the conversation started with less than 20 attendees in Rabb Hall at the Boston Public Library; then I found out I didn’t need it.

The Arlington International Film Festival has a tradition of celebrating the arts in its various forms, while this event was a celebration of creative writing “which has the ability to lift us out of ourselves and allow us to see and understand others,” April Ranck, the festival’s executive director, said at the kickoff.

Ranck presented Walker, a former professor of mine at Emerson College, who, as I know, dedicates his life to writing and teaching writing. Walker spoke about his experience as a determined writer – and the importance of not letting the unfair aspects of reality enslave his mind. As the event progressed, humor and candor filled the air.

‘Dragon Slayers’

Walker read an excerpt from his essay “Dragon Slayers“, which figured both in his memoirs, street shadowsand in his most recent book, How to Make a Slave and Other Trials. In the story, Walker describes how he was at a Christmas party talking with a white man who said he believed Walker should hate “all white people” because they are his “oppressors”, as the insisted the man.

Walker read: “I looked around the room, just as one of my oppressors passed by. She was holding a tray of canapes. She gave me one. I asked the man if, as a remedy, I should take two. This evoked one of the many waves of laughter in the room. Nevertheless, people were serious about the content of the event; several participants had notebooks in hand and frequently wrote things down.

Sitting in the largely vacant room, I thought that a larger group would have found enlightenment in this way of approaching racial issues? Is the ‘big group’, as I have phrased it, aware of the variety of ways to communicate about diversity?

The Arlington Film Festival is set to present its 12th annual Thursday, Nov. 3 through Sunday, Nov. 6 at the Capitol Theater in East Arlington.

The event moderator was Arlington resident Crystal Haynes.

Arianna Stoughton poster, 2022

Walker’s past

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Walker has seen his work published in magazines such as Creative Nonfiction, The Missouri Review, The Harvard Review, Mother Jones, The Iowa Review and The Oxford American. It has been widely anthologized, including five times in America’s Best Essays.

Walker is the author of Street Shadows: A memoir of race, rebellion and redemption, recipient of the 2011 PEN New England/LL Winship Award for Nonfiction and named best memoir of the year by Kirkus Reviews. He also wrote The World in Flames: A Black Childhood in a White Supremacist Doomsday Cult.

His latest book, How to Make a Slave and Other Essays, was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award in Nonfiction, and it won the 2020 Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction.

ACMi interviews Walker:

He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the James A. Michener Foundation and, in 2022, the MacArthur Foundation.

Walker’s doctorate is in interdisciplinary studies, combining the fields of African American literature, African American history, and creative writing.

Before coming to Emerson College, where he is a professor of creative writing, he was an associate professor of English at Bridgewater State University. He was also a visiting professor in writing and humanistic studies at MIT and in the MFA in nonfiction program at the University of Iowa. Her teaching honors include the Favorite Faculty Award and the Martha D. Jones Award for Most Outstanding Dedication to Students.

Crystal HaynesCrystal Haynes

Haynes, the moderator, is an Emmy Award-winning reporter and weekend anchor for Boston 25 News.

His Prices and equity in education The series won Northeast Regional Emmy and Salute to Excellence awards from the National Association of Black Journalists. She is the creator, producer and host of the award-winning series Boston’s Black History: Inspiring Our Future series.

Haynes is an Arlington resident. She is the event task force leader at the Arlington Human Rights Commission, a member of the Boston Association of Black Journalists, a member of the NAACP, and a part-time lecturer at Northeastern. University.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College and a master’s degree in media advocacy from the College of Arts, Media and Design at Northeastern University.


This news and opinion mix was published in August 2022 and updated on October 14, 2022, to add comments from YourArlington intern Jingfei Cui. On October 26, it was moved to Your View, the site’s blog, where the opinion is posted.