Black History Month Q&A: Donovan Livingston

Donovan Livingston was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University graduate school of education. He is now a Ph.D candidate at the University of North Carolina Greensboro.

If you could pick any figure central to Black History to have dinner with who would it be? If given the opportunity, I would very much enjoy spending time with James Baldwin. As an author, Baldwin was especially adept at capturing the racial, economic, and socio-political sentiments of his era. In many ways, Baldwin was ahead of his time. He so brilliantly used language as a kind of crystal ball, to analyze the present and predict the future. As a poet and lifelong fan of his work, I am drawn to an excerpt from his acclaimed piece, The Fire Next Time, which states: “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without, and know we cannot live within.” With that in mind, I hope to learn more about how he envisions the path social justice amid such political unrest.

What does Black History Month mean to you? For me, Black History Month exists as an opportunity to publically and unapologetically celebrate my cultural identity. In doing so, my Blackness — at least for a short while — is normalized. In school, I would look forward to Black History Month because it meant that I would gain intentional exposure to people of color throughout American history, learning of our timeless social, economic, and political contributions to this country. As an educator and poet, I have found great joy in providing students with opportunities to express themselves through African-diasporic traditions — dance, drumming, spoken word poetry, storytelling, etc. The arts, in a sense, challenge people to think about race and how it has come to shape our society. Black History Month has come to represent the start of a much larger conversation about how far we’ve come and how far we must go.

What do you love about North Carolina? North Carolina is a special place because of its diversity. Be it race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation, North Carolina is reflective of an evolving global citizenship. To be a North Carolinian, is to be connected to the rest of the world. Aside from its natural splendor (mountains, beaches, etc.), the true beauty of this place resides within the people. I love this place because its capacity to evolve. When I think about living here and working here, I do not have the luxury of focusing solely on my needs and the those of my family. Rather, I am compelled to care about the livelihood of those around me. The undocumented student hoping to pursue their higher education, the soldier returning to Fort Bragg after a tour in Afghanistan, and the recent college graduate working in RTP, matter to me — because in some way, I know they each make this state a better place.

Where would you like to see our state go from here? From here, I hope we can work to restore our image as progressive leaders in the south. In recent years, we have seen our share of regressive policies that have, in many ways, turned back the clock on our progress. Be it voting rights or civil rights, I believe taking a courageous stance for all vulnerable populations — poor, unemployed, formerly incarcerated, etc. — in the state, will send a clear message to industry, that North Carolina is a place committed to equality and social justice. And thanks to new leadership within our state, I believe wholeheartedly in the reality of our socio-political restoration.

This month, we’ve been collecting stories about what Black History Month means to North Carolinians across the state. Throughout the month, we highlighted stories from different North Carolinians. Thank you for all your submissions.

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