Healing for Black America

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Deck of cards where one is turned over to show the guest Kiese surrounded by green flowers and trees and another guest Ibram in the right corner

Listen to this week's episode to hear our host Tonya Mosley and Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir, unpack the question: "How are black Americans expected to overcome and thrive in this country without the necessary mechanisms of healing?" This question comes from actor Boris Kodjoe, who you may have seen in shows like "Code Black," "Station 19" and the movie "Brown Sugar."

Kodjoe was born and raised in Germany, and ever since he arrived in the United States he’s thought, “I never understood how African Americans were expected to thrive.”

Laymon said he found the answer in Mississippi where he was born and raised. “I actually think that our healing mechanisms – and this is scary – are a little bit better than white folks,” he said. “At least down here in Mississippi.”

Mosley and Laymon’s conversation flows through topics like mothers and children, isolation and protests. And, of course, it ends with therapy.


“What I need to do is be able to accept with equal vigor the harm I've done in my life to people close to me,” Laymon said. “And also I need to accept the joy that I've brought to human beings close to me. At my best, I'm able to do that. And at my worst, I'm completely incapable of doing it.”

Ibram X. Kendi, who wrote "How to Be an Antiracist," offered a really helpful framing for the conversation. Splitting the results of trauma into categories of material and internal effects, he notes that healing from both takes significant effort from both black and non-black Americans. “And it's going to take a tremendous amount of time,” he said. “But I don't see any other option.”

Episode transcript can be found here.

Episode Guests:
Kiese Laymon, author of "Heavy: An American Memoir"
Ibram X. Kendi, historian and author of "How to Be an Antiracist"

Recommended Reading:
"The Case for Reparations" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
"The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning" by Claudia Rankine

Recommended Listening:
"1619" podcast from Nikole Hannah-Jones and the New York Times
"Scene on Radio," a Peabody-nominated podcast from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Have a question for the show? Email us at truthbetold@kqed.org, call us at (415) 553-2802 or use the hashtag #AskTBT. Follow us at @truthbetoldkqed on Twitter and Instagram.