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Someday We'll All Be Free by Kevin Powell
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Jun 25, 07

Read in August, 2007

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast region of the United States in late August 2005, writer and activist Kevin Powell knew he had to do something. He personally traveled to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Houston to interview and help survivors. He organized large truck shipments to the affected region by staging two major New York City benefits in the span of three months. He co-created Katrina on the Ground, which sent over 700 young people, mostly college students, to the devastated area as an alternative Spring Break in March 2006. And Powell wrote the bulk of his seventh book, Someday We'll All Be Free, in the midst of this national tragedy, including the third and final essay, "A Psalm for New Orleans."

"This is the hardest book I've ever written," Powell says, "because it was born in the midst of a great catastrophe, and in the aftermath of that catastrophe, with little time for me to deal with my own trauma, pain, and sadness around what happened in New Orleans. But I felt compelled to write because we have to document this episode in the American journey honestly, with the hope and determination that it will never happen again."

Using the Katrina calamity as his inspiration for truth-telling, Powell decided to add a previously unpublished essay about the 2004 presidential election ("Looking for America") and a long meditation on September 11th ("September 11th") to Someday We'll All Be Free (the book title comes from the classic Donny Hathaway song). The result is Powell's most distinguished work to date, three literary sermons that bring to mind the raw brilliance of James Baldwin, the iconoclastic musings of Norman Mailer, and the stinging political sobriety of Joan Didion. While Someday We'll All Be Free is about specific times and specific situations in American history, these pieces transcend these times and situations and become a virtual town hall meeting on the enduring quest for freedom and democracy in America, and on this planet, in these early days of the 21st century. Indeed, these coolly observant essays-essays that tackle difficult topics like war, terrorism, poverty, the American identity, leadership, religion, patriotism, and the cooptation of hiphop-firmly establish why Powell is widely considered one of America's brightest leaders and thinkers.

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