Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

A Conversation on Race with Michele Norris and Lena Waithe Wednesday

Journalist Michele Norris will be in conversation with Lena Waithe at The Ebell of Los Angeles on Wednesday evening at 7:30 p.m. on her latest book “Our Hidden Conversations.”

NPR journalist Michele Norris is returning to LA for a book tour through Writers Bloc Presents with her latest book, “Our Hidden Conversations, What Americans Really Think About Race and Identity.”

Norris will be at The Ebell of Los Angeles on Wednesday evening in conversation with her friend, actress, writer, and producer Lena Waithe founder of Hillman Grad, a media company created to empower and provide industry access to underrepresented artists and amplify the stories of diverse, historically marginalized communities across all industries.

Years ago when Norris worked for the Los Angeles Times, she lived in several LA neighborhoods including the Miracle Mile.

“I love LA,” Norris told the Buzz. “The diversity of the city is the future of this country.”

Over fourteen years ago, Norris started the Race Card Project asking Americans to describe their race is just six words. She began by leaving postcards in all kinds of places like coffee shops, post offices, etc. To her delight, people started to write back. To date, Norris and her small team have archived more than 500,000 stories with tens of thousands waiting to be catalogued.

When we asked Norris, what surprised her the most over the years of the project and writing the book, she replied, “I am surprised all the the time that people took the time and send their stories,” said Norris.

And, she added, “As a person of color, I tend to focus on focus on blackness. I had assumed many of the stories would be from people of color and mainly black people, I was wrong, a lot of the people who wrote as Latino, Asian, Indigenous person, someone from blended families and mixed race families.”

There was a lot more diversity than she expected and she was also surprised by the level of candor. People shared incredibly personal stories, so much so that it seemed as though she had given people a much-needed invitation to talk about what it feels like to be a minority.

Now, the stories are collected on the Race Card website and the majority of entries are from white Americans. It could be the times we live in, speculated Norris but she’s delighted that she’s encouraged white Americans to tell their stories.

Her new book examines those conversations and hopes that readers will become more educated by learning from each other’s stories.

“This is an opportunity to look at the tough stuff, that’s really personal,” explained Norris. “To do so, you might need to be willing to listen to people you don’t agree with.

But she’s quick to point out that she doesn’t have all the answers and what might work in one place might not work in another.

“This work of individual people telling their stories is not a panacea but it can help you understand the wound that is still throbbing in America,” said Norris. “What can you do to fix it if you want or at least help you understand what is going on.”

Norris is very proud of the photos and graphics in the book beautifully illustrated by artist Kadir Nelson.

“This is a jewel box of a book,” said Norris. “I really wanted to make the book pleasing to the eye and the mind, it’s like a coffee table book with lots of pictures. I wanted the humanity to jump off the page.”

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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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