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Noted authors Dyson and Mosley speak in Boston

Kelley C. Chunn
Noted authors Dyson and Mosley speak in Boston
Acclaimed writer Walter Mosley addressed the theme of the literary life during a talk hosted by the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. (Photo: Allan E. Dines/ Northstar)

It was a moveable feast of books and ideas as two of the most talented writers and thought provoking public intellectuals of our time recently spoke at separate events in Boston.

The Friends of the Libraries at Boston University hosted an evening with celebrated author Walter Mosley. The writer of more than 34 critically acclaimed books, Mosley’s most recent work includes “The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey,” published in November 2010 and the third novel in his Leonid McGill series, “When the Thrill is Gone,” published in March 2011.

Mosley confirmed that he is working with Academy Award-winning director Jonathan Demme to pilot an HBO series based on the McGill character. He also said — although it’s unlikely — he would like to reprise the roles that  Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle played in the movie “Devil in the Blue Dress” which was adapted from Mosley’s bestselling mystery series featuring Easy Rawlins.

The author, who lived in Boston many years ago, talked about the literary life and his love of writing. He said, “Writing is the heart and soul of me … My motivation is telling stories and my success is a total surprise to me.”

Mosley started writing in his 30’s while working as a computer programmer. He said he comes from a family of storytellers and described his dad as his best audience, noting “he always listened — no matter how I stumbled through my thoughts to tell a story.”

Mosley, who writes three hours every day, said to be a writer “you must be uncomfortable in your own skin.”

He noted that writers often are reaching for something they do not understand. And he stressed the critical importance of editing your work. He said, “The greatest lesson is editing yourself or you will fail as a writer.”

He also offered encouragement to aspiring and struggling writers, “Language is the root of all things human and everything is a story. The literary life is everything that we are and can be.”

At Simmons College, Michael Eric Dyson delivered remarks that focused on social justice in support of the 35th anniversary celebration of the Haymarket People’s Fund.

Based in Jamaica Plain since 1974, Haymarket has distributed more than $25 million to social change work throughout New England.

Dyson, an ordained minister and author of more than one dozen books including “Debating Race,” said Haymarket’s strength rests on the transformative power of  its grass roots organizing against racism and oppression, challenging authority and holding the power structure accountable. “If the rest of America could catch up with Haymarket,” he said, “it would be a beautiful thing.”

He also noted the “tremendous paradox” of our time: a black president and former community organizer who is “mute” about the loaded topic of race. Dyson argued that white people helped to elect President Barack Obama so that the country would not have to talk about race. Dyson challenged America to have an “official” conversation about race. “Oppression undermines who we are as a nation,” he said.

Dyson joined Haymarket in honoring three extraordinary community leaders: George Pillsbury, one of the founders of Haymarket People’s Fund and the Funding Exchange of New York; Linda Berkel whose work in socially responsible investing helped to sustain Haymarket;  and Ronald Chisom, executive director and co-founder of The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond in New Orleans.

The People’s Institute addresses individual, institutional and cultural racism and teaches the principles to combat it.

More than 160 people attended the 35th anniversary celebration and fundraiser for the Haymarket People’s Fund. It uses grant-making, fundraising and capacity building to support grassroots organizations that address the root causes of injustice. Haymarket also organizes to increase sustainable community philanthropy throughout the region.