Between the World and Me: A Conversation with Ta-Nehisi Coates at CAAM

On October 30, 2015, the California African American Museum hosted a book signing with Ta-Nehisi Coates, made possible by Eso Won Books. The atmosphere was electric, as attendees waited eagerly to hear Ta-Nehisi Coates share his insight and wisdom.

As a journalist and memoirist, Ta-Nehisi Coates brings personal reflection and historical scholarship to bear on America’s most contested issues. Writing without shallow polemic and in a measured style, Coates addresses complex and challenging issues, such as racial identity, systemic racial bias, and urban policing. In a seamless balance, he intertwines the present with historical analysis in order to illustrate how the implications of the past are still affecting people today.

Ta-Nehisi’s work recently granted him the MacArthur Genius Award and his latest book, Between the World and Me, is a New York Times Bestseller. Needless to say, the Los Angeles community came out in in full force to see the man of the hour in action and to revel in the ambiance of CAAM's draping exhibits and positive vibes.

During his talk, Ta-Nehisi raised some very thought-provoking ideas, of which were his embellishments on the concepts of race in America. He also expressed a disdain for being labeled the “Voice of Black America,” and outlined the irony of feeling American for the first time in Paris, France.

In Between the World And Me, Coates repeatedly stressed the significance of Howard University––which he refers to as The Mecca. He beautifully describes it as the bedrock of the Black experience where he saw the breadth and depth of the Black experience. These sentiments were ever present in his talk at CAAM, as he discussed the influence of his father, Paul Coates, and the importance of Black institutions. Ta-Nehisi explained that had it not been for his father’s publishing house, his wouldn’t have had the foundation that eventually led to his historic career as a writer. “Black institutions are very important for us,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates. Those words reverberated as it parallels the very direction in which CAAM is headed.

The California African American Museum, a cultural landmark, is currently on the rise, as it seeks to reimagine ways to serve the Black community. Recently, CAAM and the State Board of Directors appointed a new Executive DIrector, George Davis. As the museum navigates this transition, events like these are great for engaging new audiences. Hours before the event started, people started lining up to gain entrance into the museum. I spoke to a few people as they waited outside.

Tyler and Shanel Perry, a young couple from Orange County, said that they had been reading Ta-Nehisi Coates for several years and made plans to attend as soon as they heard about it. When asked about the importance of CAAM to the community, Tyler stated that, “the location of CAAM is very important. I didn’t know this, but more than half of those who founded Los Angeles were of African descent. There’s this deep history that all people should be aware of.”

Caroline Vera, a graduate student at UCLA, first learned of Ta-Nehisi Coates via social media. After reading Between The World and Me,she believed that his voice was important to larger discussions of race. When asked about why CAAM is so important to the South Los Angeles community she asserted that, “We need our youth up in here!”


With new leadership and a renewed commitment to the youth, CAAM is in prime position for growth and expansion. With events like the Ta-Nehisi Coates book signing and discussion, CAAM is sure to attract a range of people from across Los Angeles to experience all of the enriching exhibits that it has to offer.

For more photos of the event, see the gallery below..

All photos taken by Makiah Green and Tyree Boyd-Pates.

Selma at CAAM In LA


11800466_1033461986678941_3724557572329430917_n On August 9th 2015, the California African American Museum hosted its monthly Sunday cultural experience, Target Sundays. An event that brings in community members, contemporary artists, cultural historians, activists, and leaders to celebrate the diversity and achievements of the African Diaspora.

This month, CAAM offered a FREE screening of Ava DuVernay's Oscar award-winning film, Selma Movie. The atmosphere was live and joyous over the a love of art, culture, and live entertainment.


At the event I took the initiative to interview several Los Angeles community members about their thoughts on the movie Selma, #BlackLivesMatter, the effectiveness of marches and protests, and ultimately, their definitions of justice.


Not only did we have an amazing time under the stars, we carved out time to acknowledge the ones who've paved the way for us to be here. If you didn't make it out this month, come on out next time.  It's sure to be a wonderful time with family and friend that you won't likely want to miss!

THANKS AGAIN to Target and the California African American Museum for such a wonderful event!

 All photos + video were taken by Makiah Green.

cropped-cropped-p1130772Tyree Boyd-Pates is a man on a mission. As a writer, he aspires to expound on Black culture from a millennial perspective and unite and empower communities through journalism and social media. A Master’s in African American Studies, he also is the creator of#TheCut, a brand new podcast! You can follow him on Twitter: @Tyreebp.