Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam In Conversation With Lelina Chang
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In this special edition 88 Cups of Tea podcast episode, we feature National Book Award Finalist Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam of The Exonerated Five in conversation with 88 Cups of Tea guest-host Lelina Chang, an advocate whose work is focused on the intersection of racial equity and environmental justice.
In 1989, Dr. Yusef Salaam was just fifteen years old when he was tried and convicted in the “Central Park Jogger Case” along with four other Black and Latino boys. The Exonerated Five spent between seven to 13 years behind bars, until their sentences were overturned in 2002. Since then, they received a multi-million-dollar settlement from the City of New York for its injustice and were profiled in award-winning films, including The Central Park Five documentary from Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon and the award-winning Netflix limited series When They See Us, written and directed by Ava DuVernay.
In our podcast episode, Lelina interviews Yusef and Ibi about their newest co-authored novel in verse Punching the Air and how the book came to fruition. Yusef talks about the power of self-purpose and hope and how his spiritual journey was mirrored through the main character Amal while Ibi shares how she embraced and holistically weaved Yusef‘s stories and philosophies to craft a story told from a young Muslim, Black boy’s point of view. Further in, they break down and analyze two influential poems in the novel that speak to Yusef’s experience being boxed in with his thoughts and his own devices in his jail cell, and the power DNA has to tie individuals to the collective injustices of the past. Ibi shares how crafting her poems in different shapes and forms helps bring to life the meaning of the poems on the page. And later, they discuss what it means to bring about diversity with diversity and the crucial work that still needs to be done to create a holistic representation of communities of color in the literary world.
Head over to their shownotes page at https://88cupsoftea.com/yusef-and-ibi/ to find the resources and books mentioned in their episode, tweetable quotes, and the timestamps of highlights throughout the entire conversation.