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Study Group with Trymaine Lee: The Stories We Tell: Race and American Fictions

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By Institute of Politics

Thursday, September 16, 2021 4:30pm

Trymaine Lee

Event Dates

Thursday, September 16, 2021 4:30pm

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Join us on Thursday, September 16 at 4:30pm ET for a Study Group with IOP Resident Fellow Trymaine Lee. Trymaine Lee is a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning journalist and correspondent for MSNBC and the host of the “Into America” podcast, where he explores the intersection of politics, race and justice through the lens of the Black experience in America.

The stories we tell ourselves as individuals, as communities and as a nation have the power to shape our identities and our fates. The great power of storytelling has been weaponized by American media, exploited through our politics and used to shape policy. Various (a)historical  narratives, passed through the generations, have been key in building mythologies of greatness and exceptionalism, but also pathology and otherness.

But who controls the narratives? Whose stories get documented and whose are forgotten and why? Who gets to interpret history? What lies are told about who we are? Which myths are so baked into the collective American mind that our view on the truth has become jaundiced? And how does all of this play out in the real world?

The stories that America tells about itself, of who we are versus who we have always been, is a masterwork in controlling and distorting narrative. Certain histories have been fictionalized or disregarded altogether to maintain power and control. Facts have been misshapen. And the truth has been under constant attack. 

Few core themes of the American story have been more thoroughly molested than the role that white supremacy and violence (as one) have played in shaping nearly every aspect of social and political life in this country. 

Throughout history there’ve been efforts to correct the record. And in more recent years, through uprisings and racial reckonings, a pandemic and political upheaval, the veneer on the lies we’ve told and been told is wearing thin. Journalists, thinkers, advocates, historians and policy makers are working to center the narratives of those whose American stories have been silenced, deemed too dangerous to the status quo, or unimportant in the formation of the nation. 

The stakes of finally telling the truth in this moment couldn’t be higher. Yet, there’s been a vicious and expected backlash.

In this study group we’ll talk about the power of the stories we tell and those we don’t. We’ll talk about the political implications therein and the everyday folks whose lives are framed by our great American fictions. 

*The Institute of Politics is strictly observing all HKS COVID health and safety protocols. HKS buildings are closed to the public and attendance will be limited to the room capacity. You will be asked to show a Harvard ID prior to entry and doors to the space will open 10 minutes before the start time. Unvaccinated persons should make every effort to practice social distancing. Everyone must wear a mask indoors. No eating or drinking is permitted at indoor events.

*RSVP by 12:00pm ET by Wednesday, 9/15. You must register through this form and a limited number of seats will be allocated for in-person participation. We will notify you the evening before the study group via your Harvard email whether you will be joining in-person or via Zoom. 

*AUDIENCE: These conversations are open to members of the Harvard community. Please RSVP with a valid Harvard email address.

*OFF-THE-RECORD: In keeping with our long tradition at the IOP to ensure honest and candid discussions of politics, all IOP study groups are off-the-record.

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