E. Ethelbert Miller Receives Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award
On Oct. 15, 2022, the Peace and Justice Studies Association (PJSA) honored poet E. Ethelbert Miller with the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award. In the award letter sent by awards nomination chair Sheherazade Jafar to Miller, “This award is given for outstanding lifelong contributions made to the field of peace and justice studies. We are grateful for your decades of literary activism and how you have served as an inspiration for so many through your ideas and writing.” Miller shared the comments he made at the awards banquet.
Comments on receiving the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award (October 2022)
By E. Ethelbert Miller
I want to thank PJSA for this lifetime achievement award. It comes as we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Howard Zinn’s birth. When Zinn died in 2010 I was still working at Howard University. I think Black colleges and universities are important institutions when it comes to educating many of our nation’s African American leaders. These institutions not only educate students but they also employee important teachers. Howard Zinn had a important influence on Black students when he taught at Spelman College in Atlanta.
I would like to think while directing the African American Resource Center at Howard University from 1974 to 2015 that my life in a small way touched the lives of such people as Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jelani Cobb, Greg Tate, and April Silver.
Yet when I look back on my life, I must thank the people I met when I became associated with the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). I credit IPS for broadening my awareness and understanding of peace and social justice issues.
I want to thank PJSA for inviting me to Ohio to receive this award. Ohio is the birthplace of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Toni Morrison. As an African American writer it’s important I remember to live the legacy. As a literary activist it’s important that I continue to help document and preserve African American literature and culture.
In receiving the Howard Zinn Lifetime Achievement Award, I am reminded by this conference that people make history.
In receiving this award, I want to encourage scholars and activists here to master the art of listening, and to respect the lives and stories of others and, perhaps, even move beyond storytelling to the difficult task of developing blueprints for living and building a better world.
The future demands that we find a new vocabulary, compile a new dictionary, and write a new narrative.
We know the train is moving, we cannot remain neutral . . .
But let us not be overwhelmed by the motion of history.
Let us learn to turn the face of history to our own face.
Let us see our own beauty reflected in the future.
As the poet June Jordan once wrote, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”
Thank you for this honor and my opportunity to honor you.
E. Ethelbert Miller
E. (Eugene) Ethelbert Miller was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1950. He attended Howard University and received a BA in African American studies in 1972. A self-described “literary activist,” Miller served as board chair of the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive multi-issue think tank and as director of the African American Studies Resource Center at Howard University. His collections of poetry include Andromeda (1974), The Land of Smiles and the Land of No Smiles (1974), Season of Hunger / Cry of Rain (1982), Where Are the Love Poems for Dictators? (1986), Whispers, Secrets and Promises (1998), How We Sleep on the Nights We Don’t Make Love (2004), When Your Wife Has Tommy John Surgery and Other Baseball Stories: Poems (2021), and How I Found Love Behind the Catcher’s Mask: Poems (2022). Bio excerpt from the Poetry Foundation.