THE BEAST SIDE: LIVING AND DYING WHILE BLACK IN AMERICA
AUTHOR TALK AND DISCUSSION WITH D. WATKINS
Searing Dispatches from the Urban Zones Where African American Men Have Become an Endangered Species
To many in the age of Obama, America had succeeded in “going beyond race,” putting the divisions of the past behind us. And then seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by a wannabe cop in Florida; and then eighteen-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and then Baltimore blew up; and then gunfire shattered a prayer meeting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Suddenly the entire country awakened to a stark fact: African Americans—particularly young black men—are an endangered species.
Now the country’s urban war zone is brought powerfully to life by a rising young literary talent, D. Watkins. The author fought his way up on the east side (the “beast side”) of Baltimore, Maryland—or “Bodymore, Murderland,” as his friends call it—surviving murderous business rivals in the drug trade and equally predatory lawmen. Throughout it all, he pursued his education, earning a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, while staying rooted in his community.
When black residents of Baltimore finally decided they had had enough—after the brutal killing of twenty-five-year-old Freddie Gray while in police custody—Watkins was on the streets when the city erupted. He writes about his bleeding hometown with the razor-sharp insights of someone who bleeds along with it. Here are true dispatches from the other side of America.
“Firing off dispatches from that part of the America we left behind, D. Watkins is making a definitive argument for so many men and women ruthlessly marginalized by a society that fails to measure itself on any humane terms. This is a Baltimore voice in angry service of other unheard Baltimore voices, and The Beast Side is, by extension, a blunt, eloquent argument for the forgotten in our cities. He has arrived, and by the sound of things, he is here to hold us all to account.” —David Simon, author of The Corner and creator of HBO’s The Wire
“D. Watkins is a very sharp young talent who transformed himself from a dealer on the streets to an adjunct professor, and most important, to a leading voice of his generation who is determined to see justice for the black community. The Beast Side is raw, intelligent, and at times humorous—and a necessary narrative in these challenging times!” —Michael Eric Dyson, author of The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America
D. Watkins is a columnist for Salon. His work has been published in the New York Times, the Guardian, and magazines, and he is a frequent commentator on NPR, CNN, and elsewhere. He holds a master’s in education from Johns Hopkins University and an MFA in creative writing from the University of Baltimore and teaches writing at Coppin State University in Baltimore. He was the winner of Baltimore magazine’s “Best Writer” award in 2015.