The Welcome Table: John Murillo III

School of Humanities at UC Irvine
24 min readAug 27, 2020

In this episode of “The Welcome Table with Sydney and Tatum,” literary journalism majors Sydney Charles and Tatum Larsen interview alumnus John Murillo III (B.A. English ’11), assistant professor of African American studies at UCI, about sci-fi, Black cinema and the future of Black academia.

Tatum Larsen (0:10-0:11): Hey guys, my name is Tatum.

Sydney Charles (0:11–0:13): And my name is Sydney.

Larsen (0:13–0:23): And welcome to the second episode of “The Welcome Table.” Today we are joined by Professor John Murillo, who is a professor of African-American studies at UCI. Hi, John, how are you?

John Murillo (0:23–0:26): I’m doing pretty well, all things considered.

Charles (0:26–1:09): Well, to help everyone get a little bit adjusted and to help our audience get to know us a little bit more, we’re going to do a show and tell. I’m going to go this week. So, I brought not my first newspaper clipping, but one of the first newspaper clippings that was published at the New University [University of California Irvine’s official student-run newspaper]. Three years later, I’m now one of the campus co-editors along with Tatum. It’s just very symbolic of my journey at UCI; how I started as an intern and then I progressed to being a staff writer and editor. I was looking at it and I was like, “You know what? This is good for everyone to see.” So, yeah, I love this paper and this is my piece there. I don’t know if you can see it.

John Murillo (1:09–1:21): That’s great, congratulations. From when I was an undergraduate student there, it’s good to see that the New University has some new editors involved. I’ll leave it at that.

Charles (1:21–1:25): What did you bring?

Murillo (1:25–3:28): So, I can show you a number of things. Some of these will get me in trouble, some of these won’t. I just ordered this copy of The Colored Museum and they only have a hardback print of it, so it has a really cool cover. It’s significant because when I was an undergraduate student, there was a grad student named J. Austin Williams who worked in the drama department. She worked very closely with the theorists in the AfAm department, so Jared [Sexton] and Frank [B. Wilderson III]. Mostly Frank because Frank was also in the drama department at the time. All her plays, all her Black plays, have this inflection of this Afropessimistic sensibility, but she made it into art in a way that took the theory into an artistic medium that we hadn’t really considered.

You know, Frank is a writer. His first book was a memoir. His second book is a theory book. And his most recent book is a combo memoir-theory book. That’s what he does. That’s what most of us do. Having someone make a play that was grounded in the visual and physical representation of these things and to make these, like, this twist on a play that wasn’t intended to be that way.

It’s not like George C. Wolfe is an Afropessimist. It’s just what J. did with it and how she staged it. How she was able to do that was one of the most transformative things that happened to me as an undergraduate student, trying to figure out my footing with Black studies and Black politics. It was my first year as a really active member of the BSU and I was on board my first year, which is a bad idea, as a first-year being on board. So all that was happening at the same time. And I was getting my sort of political bearings. And then I see this play and it just sort of throws you into a new world that you didn’t really imagine was there.

Charles (3:28–3:45): That literally takes us right into our question, which is basically your field, Afropessimism, Black physics. So very unique. So very interesting. So what three or four words would you use to describe your field of study?

Murillo (3:45–3:50): Black space-time is weird. I’ll say that.

Charles (3:50–3:56): Black space-time is weird.

Larsen (3:56–3:58): Is that a haiku?

Murillo (3:58–6:34): You could probably make it into one. It’s a weird collection of things, for sure, but I think it’s not too far-fetched once you start reading into what I write and why I’m saying what I’m saying. Because there are so many colloquial examples of time and space not working right or in the same way for Black people.

We make jokes about “C.P. time” [colored people time] and being late to things all the time. Different things like that. Or it feels like things haven’t changed, things have stayed the same, which is a temporal plane. [For example] it feels like it’s 1845. You know, those moments where we announce this idea that time hasn’t moved the right way for us is pretty much everywhere.

And the thing that set me off about it was the Michael Brown murder and the protests about his murder, specifically. Not just him dying at the hands of a police officer, but a lot of the protests were these “die-ins.” They would do “die-ins” around the country and then the protests would be these peaceful four point five minutes exactly “die-ins,” because his body was out there in the sun for four point five hours.

And so time was a problem, right. It wasn’t just that he died, but it’s also the time that went by as his body was outside in the sun. That was a fixture for things. There are also other people. Eric Garner was another really earth-shattering one for me because of how many times he repeated, “I can’t breathe,” over and over and over and over again. It’s like this loop, this temporal loop over and over again.

So my early ideas came from, like, real events. And then I also wanted to keep a lot of my personal interests alive in my work. So I grew up wanting to be an astrophysicist and I had devoted all this time to studying the planets and stars. When I was in elementary school, we did this “I-search” interview thing where we had to interview a professional in some field. I interviewed this astrophysicist from Cal State Long Beach, and he gave me this astronomy book. It was like an early intro class college level book. And I was like ten or nine years old. And I was like reading this book when I’m like in fourth grade or whatever and was just finding all this cool stuff. Also, my own personal [interests]. I like space, I like science fiction, I like all these things. I want to find a way to hold all those things with me when I write something.

Charles (6:34–6:41): You wanted to combine them, the intersectionality of those things, how you were able to find that. Yeah, that’s super amazing.

Larsen (6:41–6:59): Right. Yeah, that’s really cool. In that sense, you’re talking about your interests in astrophysics and sci-fi and I was just wondering, how did your interests change as you moved through your academic and also your self-education throughout your life?

Murillo (6:59–7:03): Well, if you ask Frank, he remembers this.

Charles and Larsen (7:03-7:09): Frank, oh, Frank. We know Frank!

Murillo (7:09–9:10): If you were to ask him, he’ll tell you that there was this one meeting, the first time I really ever met him in a classroom setting. It was this weird, three-hour-long mixed seminar with grad students and undergraduate students from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Wednesdays during my sophomore or junior year. It was held by Chuck O’Connell. I don’t know. He’s still a professor on campus, I think. I’m not sure. I see his thing on the faculty profile, but I haven’t seen classes from him in awhile, so I’m not sure. He was my superstar professor. I took every class with that guy. I was super into the Vietnam War and sociology and Marxism and Palestinian justice. A lot of the things that I was super into, but I didn’t have any footing in my own Blackness at the time. Race was a feature of my analysis, but I was really into class and Marxism at the time. So I was really annoying to a Black theorist who didn’t think those things.

I was also very arrogant. So I thought, “What do these people have to teach me? I already know!” He would tell you I was a very annoying, very stubborn-headed Marxist for a long time. I’ve always been kind of like that. When I was in high school, I was a super crazy environmentalist. I was always into something, very deeply, but none of it was really inflected by Blackness until I met Frank. And then I was in the BSU and had this conversation with one of my co-board members, Ryan Davis, and he sat me down and was like, “You need to read this stuff.” And then at home I go and read all this stuff and then I graduate and go to grad school and realize, “Hey, he was right the whole time. I should have been reading this my entire college career, my whole life.”

Larsen (9:10–9:15): What did you study in grad school?

Murillo (9:14–9:28): Well my Ph.D. is in English. And now I’m pretty stalwart about what I believe and think. It always used to be like, read something new and be like, “Man, I had no idea that I missed something so easy to understand and it makes so much sense.”

Charles (9:28–9:38): Everyone can always learn some more. I feel like you’re really passionate about the subject or the field that you’re currently in right now. I’m curious to know how the field has been affected by COVID-19.

Murillo (9:40–12:16): I mean, it’s both made things easier and harder to do. It’s freed up some time to the point where every three weeks, we have this conversation on Zoom with like 20 different people from different countries.

Some of them are heavy hitters from the United States who are Black scholars that are really important. Saidiya Hartman is involved. Frank is involved. One of the new leading voices, Zakiyyah Jackson. I don’t know if you know her, but she’s just got her book that just came out called, Beyond Human. And it’s just, it’s one of these books that when you when you read it and when you read people’s responses to it, you know it’s going to just change the direction of Black studies as a whole.

There’s also a lot of people from different countries like Spain. There’s this Spanish scholar who just reached out one day a couple of years ago about trying to start a reading group and we never had time before. Like, it kept getting put off and then we canceled. It seemed like it wasn’t going to work. And now suddenly because of COVID-19, there is time to do that. And so we get these discussions that weren’t available to us before, mainly because people are at home more and the schedule is more fluid. You got hours where you can just talk to people. And that’s been really good and that’s been helpful, I think. I don’t know what impact it will have on the field, but it’s been helpful because it’s putting all these people together that don’t normally have time for each other to have conversations about stuff that clearly everybody had either misunderstandings about or curiosities about that they were afraid to ask otherwise. So it’s been pretty good that way. But negatively, it’s like hard to imagine what’s going to happen. I mean, I know several people who were up for jobs. They finally got an interview, finally got in the door and then they had to cancel the position because, “they can’t hire anyone right now. We’re in a hiring freeze right now.”

And so I don’t know how that’s going to affect certain people because those are young scholars. Those are people that are going to be the next generation of scholars in the field. If they’re being crowded out because there’s no room to hire them this year and they say maybe, “Well, I can’t do this. I got to go join some other career path,” do we lose them in the future and lose their minds, lose their work, lose their writing?

Could that have a negative impact on the field and how negative would it be? I don’t really know, but I think something’s going to come from that. I’m hoping more good comes out of these conversations than the bad that comes from all these schools cancelling positions and all that stuff. So I’m hoping.

Larsen (12:16–12:41): It’s good to have that sense of community because we’re all going through the same thing. Especially having a group of scholars that know the plight of what it means to be a scholar, the struggles, especially being a part of a marginalized community. And in that sense, how have you made strides within this career path and, how do you think, going forward, are scholars going to continue to make strides with everything going on?

Murillo (12:41–15:08): For me, the central feature is the teaching and you can’t just do it in the design of the class where you have assignments and you have particular books you assign because not everybody is going to read everything. Not everybody is going to do all the work. People are going to cheat. These are just facts of school. I know that from being in undergrad with people who did those things.

So you have to go deeper and make it your pedagogy, your practice as a teacher every day has to be inflected by something essential. And for me, it’s just generally care for Black life under disastrous conditions. And how do I do that every day in the classroom? But there’s also ways to be involved. You want to be in hiring committees. Like I was on a hiring committee for a Black studies position in the English department this past year. That affects who gets picked. It’s extra labor, you don’t get paid any more, you just have to go these extra meetings all the time.

You can have the opportunity to, say, for example, we didn’t do this but if you have the opportunity to hire a Black trans scholar and you have now a tenure track Black trans scholar in the English department or the Black studies department, all of a sudden now you have this footing for a Black trans student or a trans student to come in, or a Black gender queer student, or whatever, someone who is gender non-conforming, to come in and see that there’s somebody there. Someone who not only does the work and analyzes the position, does the queer studies, and that’s the academic stuff, but also has the life experience like them. That can matter; just one hire can change everything. That kind of stuff. I’m the adviser of the BSU. I feel compelled to be part of that too. I help that group along but try not get in the way either by being too heavy-handed, just to be a part of it and offer them any help they need, even if it’s just to vent to me or whatever. So being available and caring are the ways that as a person in the field is the best way to contribute. It all boils down to the question(s): Do you care about Black life? Do you care about Black people? Do you genuinely do that? Not just in a career path kind of way, but does that matter to you?

Charles (15:08–15:50): I mean, for example, in my childhood, I didn’t have a single Black instructor. That really does affect the way you perceive yourself and the way you perceive the world. I had to learn about everything that I know about Blackness today mostly at home and then when I got to college. Thank goodness my mom is an English instructor, so she was able to give me a good grasp on it.

But it was difficult growing up without a prominent Black figure that I got to go to school every day and see. On that note, in your adolescence, higher education, undergrad, was there anyone that was extremely influential to you in your career?

Murillo (15:50–18:16): I had no Black teachers almost my entire life. Not until undergrad. I had maybe a few in undergrad, which is like the first time ever. It went from zero to several and it was a big, dramatic shift. It was a marked difference because you don’t see people. But it does help you psychologically to feel like someone like you is doing something that you can aspire to. It won’t save the world but it could get you through the next day or the next year.

And finally you get to undergrad at UCI, there are some professors that aren’t there anymore. One in particular, Arlene Kaiser, she was amazing. One of the main connections I had with her was as a Toni Morrison lover because she was a Toni Morrison scholar. She knew everything about Toni Morrison. She could talk to you for as long as you wanted about any book that Toni Morrison read or wrote or essay or anything.

Having her be a resource on campus was one of the best things that probably ever happened to me intellectually and just psychologically. Once I met Kaiser, I met Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who’s still there. That guy is a Nobel-class writer and having that resource there is another crazy thing to have all of a sudden when you don’t have anybody for eighteen years.

Then, who else was there? Then there was Frank and Jared. I met them at the end of my undergraduate career. I met Frank and Jared and really got to know them at the end through the Undergraduate Critical Theory Conference. I think that’s what it’s called. This is where they have undergrads red their research papers. I was sort of last-minute involved with it. They were the ones to introduce our panel in particular. They hadn’t been in any of the other ones and they decided to introduce our panel.

I remember reading my Toni Morrison paper that I used to apply to grad school and Frank told me later that he was really impressed by that. That’s kind of what made him start reaching out to me.

Larsen (18:16–18:24): I’m actually like Sydney in that I never had a Black professor or a Black teacher growing up. And you’re going to be the first Black teacher I’ve ever had.

Murillo (18:24–18:26): That’s a lot of pressure.

Larsen (18:26–19:08): I’m taking your Black T.V. and Chill class and I’m so excited! Like, seriously, I’m so, so excited. I was just relating to you guys this whole time because I’ve never experienced having a Black teacher. And it’s going to be great to be in class with somebody like you, who’s so socially aware and has so much background knowledge. I guess that leads us to our next question: Growing up, did you have a particular draw to film or television? In that respect, what was your perception of Blackness in film and television at that time?

Charles (19:08–19:11): Wait, what’s the name of the class?

Larsen (19:11–19:12): Black T.V. and Chill.

Charles (19:12–19:14): Black T.V. and Chill. Ok.

Murillo (19:14–19:54): Yeah, this is my second time teaching that class. First time went great. My first time was a really fun experience so hopefully it stays that way with doing it over Zoom.

When I was growing up, I was a huge comic book nerd and sci- fi nerd. I watched all the Power Rangers, so mostly like nerdy comic book things. I mean, everybody growing up the ’90s loved the X-Men cartoon. I think with Kids WB there was also “Batman Beyond” and “Batman: The Animated Series.” Those are some of the best shows.

Stuff like that. Also weird, I started getting into anime and stuff when I was in high school.

Charles (19:54–20:00): Oh, did you hear that there’s an African American anime studio?

Murillo (20:00–22:25): Yeah, yeah. Actually, that’s the second one I’ve heard of, because there’s a small one called Colanut Productions that my wife’s cousins, they’re two brothers, they came up with this African anime that they call “Red Origins.” So seeing that and then seeing that Black-owned anime studio in Japan, it’s just really cool to see stuff like that now.

But before, yeah, so I was just a generic nerd. I didn’t have a huge particular announced relationship to Blackness. Before it was like, “Let’s shield you from this racist world by making it so that you think, or you say things like, ‘There’s only one race, the human race.’” Stupid shit like that. Bad arguments like that.

I said that in a class once and I’ll never forget how bad I felt. I said it in a sociology and race class. I actually dropped the class the day after I said this. I was in discussion and I said it and this Black girl next to me looked at me like, “What is wrong with you?”

She said something and I was ready to say, “I have this comeback” — I got the best statement. Yes, with the Birdman hand rub.

I’m just waiting and waiting to say it. And then I raised my hand, I’m one of those people that was always raising their hand in class, so I was used to getting ready to be the smart guy in class. Then I say it and hear crickets. And then the girl next to me was just looking at me like, like that. And she kept looking at me and I was looking out of the side of my eye.

Then I said, “I can’t come back to this. Ever again.”

That was a dumb comment. But still, yeah, my upbringing was like that. All I cared about was like nerdy stuff like: Pokémon, anime, Power Rangers, X-Men, Batman, that type of stuff, you know. It was just nerdy stuff. And then eventually, I had my Black person wake up call. And then I started looking at other things.

Charles (22:25–22:45): Talking about the modern film industry, I suppose, in your opinion, what movie do you feel is a good representation of Black art, activism and the intersectionality that we were talking a little bit about before? What examples can you think of?

Murillo (22:45–25:36): Things recently, like things that Ava DuVernay puts out are probably a nice catch-all for recent films that do good work. “Selma,” a very emotionally powerful movie, very useful movie. However, there are political misgivings I have with how they characterize certain people and certain organizations in the film in order to highlight and make the story of Martin Luther King Jr. more compelling. Even though the entirety of Ava DuVernay’s work does that kind of, like, her whole film organization is called AFFRM. The studio’s called AFFRM, and it does. It’s very affirmative work. It affirms people and certain trajectories of our history and politics. Her work in general is good at that, but it also has a certain “mechanism.” Let’s call it a flinch, a political flinch, where they sort of pull back on something, either intentionally or not, or unintentionally, to kind of be more appealing and less controversial, or controversial in a palatable way. But hers is probably the upper limit of what we have right now.

The best film, though. I think the best, well, not best, but I feel like most radically Black film I’ve probably ever seen is called, “Bush Mama.” Haile Gerima, he is just a very, just a great film director. That film is the only Black film I’ve ever seen, other than his other film, “Sankofa,” that does not flinch about what its politics are and it doesn’t give you this, “ I’m trying to make sure I get considered for an Oscar, or I’m appealing enough to not get the studio defunded because I said something too crazy.”

Like he doesn’t care. He’s an independent filmmaker and he’s good. So those kinds of works are the kind that will push the boundaries of Black film. Then people who are more mainstream, as radical as they are, Ava DuVernay and Issa [Rae] on T.V. You even have Donald Glover with “Atlanta,” and more mainstream directors that are less radical but interesting like Ryan Coogler, so there’s a lot of people doing great work. It’s just hard to imagine a truly radical Black cinema, a Black film that also can mass appeal in a way that will get you an award, so it’s hard to say who’s doing the best work or anything but there’s so many people doing good work, great work. And we’ll have to wait and see if it amounts to being revolutionary or not.

Larsen (25:36–25:46): It’ll be a couple years down the line, probably. In that regard, what makes a film or television show pro-Black or anti-Black?

Murillo (25:46–28:43): I mean, everything is going to be inevitably, to some degree, anti-Black. There’s no way, including Black people, you can’t buy your way out of this. You can’t make it. That’s the terror of it, is that it is everything.

How do you then create something, when all the materials are anti-Black, that is pro-Black — all the filmic strategies, all the narrative strategies, all the tropes, all the symbols. They’re all built on the same Black bodies that everything else is, so some element of this is always going to be imbued with Black blood and dying.

Very intentional usually, moves to sort of challenge or confront that problem. If you’re self-aware about that and then you still make the film, there’s a different kind of critique that’s happening somewhere in the structure or the narrative or the content of the film. Or all of them. For a cinema or a cinematic experience to be pro-Black, it would have to do those things, not just like content-wise. It doesn’t have to be a story about revolution or a revolutionary movement or something for it to be a pro-Black revolutionary film. It can do certain things narratively or structurally or in its casting, in its lighting. There are all kinds of movements that are radical disavowals of the way things are now.

But if all your strategies are pushing back and sort of undermining the way things have been made before, then maybe you can start to build what you might call a pro-Black film.

So I don’t know what a pro-Black film —completely without argument, without analysis and interpretation to justify it or rationalize it some kind of way where you’ve got to twist it to make it fit —I don’t know what that looks like, but I know that these things are trying to do that. They’re just like, clear problems and limitations.

Yeah, it’s tough because the other part of this is that we’re having these conversations publicly with other people involved. And you can’t, you need to have these conversations among Black people, I think. You can’t be having these conversations with Variety Magazine where you’re talking about whether or not “Black is King” is radical. I don’t care what they think. Like, I need to talk to the activists on the ground and I need to talk to the Black imaginaries and creators that do this other work and filmmakers and sound engineers and all these people, scholars.

Let’s have an intramural private conversation that is not displayed for everybody to see about these kinds of things, because that’s how we advance ourselves. Otherwise —

Larsen (28:43–28:46): It becomes a public distraction at that point.

Murillo (28:46–30:34): I don’t need to air out my dirty laundry with white people looking on, not because I care about what they think, but I don’t want them to have any extra weaponry or any place so they can peek their head in and take advantage of the moment to swing some other people more conservative or swing some more people to their side or something like that, I don’t need that to happen. And they don’t need to use our weapons and our language.

I don’t want them to have that knowledge because it’s not theirs. So, like, let’s have this privately. Let’s have this conversation privately. And also, how much are we willing to give up of the world? Are we really ready to give up the whole world and everything in it? None of it is redeemable, but are we willing to really act upon that idea? Or are we just like, “Oh, I still kind of feel like I want that bag or those shoes.”

I’m an NBA head. I love basketball. I watch basketball. I play basketball all the time. I work out, all my workouts are basketball, but I have to recognize that the NBA and the entire system of the NBA and the way it’s structured is derived from slavery and it’s not owned by the athletes, it’s owned by these white owners. As much as I like basketball, I can’t uncritically watch it and just assume, like, “Oh, if we have a revolution, I won’t be able to have the NBA on too while I’m watching TNT.”

I can’t have both things and I want the other thing. I want to keep that. And me wanting to keep that is the problem, because I’ll find a way to try to rationalize keeping this thing. But it does not fit in whatever unimaginable world that we’re trying to build, at least not in the form that it’s in right now.

Charles (30:34–30:45): Going back to your teaching, I feel like I wanted to ask you, is there anything that’s consistent in its anti-Black rhetoric?

Murillo (30:52–32:55): If it’s publicly available, everything has to go through a channel of approval. So you want an article published by the the L.A. Times and the New York Times or even a small publication or a bigger publication or New Yorker or BBC America or whatever, you have to get it approved by an editor, it has to go through these layers of what end up being mutilation before it can become whatever it is going to be for the public.

Like if they made a show about immigrants, immigrants from anywhere, from the diaspora, African immigrants, Caribbean immigrants, the more commonly thought of immigrant is the Mexican immigrant or the Latinx immigrant but like there are so many Black immigrants. So if you have this show about Black immigrants and then their relationship with ICE. And then it just shows ICE in this negative light and it hates ICE and it makes you want to burn every ICE vehicle and every uniform and every weapon or whatever to the ground, that show is not coming out. You’re gonna have to have a episode or two or have one of the main characters that actually gets followed in the show be an ICE officer who’s conflicted and difficult and having a hard time because they feel like they have to do their job and there is that little flinch, right? There’s the anchor for the person who is anti-Black to psychically and psychologically identify with the show.

And that’s how you get published. That’s how you get your thing out. Unless you go through an indie press or an indie film or something else. And even those aren’t necessarily the best channels. But if you do that, you also limit how much you’re going to reach anything. Right? So either you get mass appeal and you get widely accepted and wide acclaim and widely discussed or you get not any of that. You may be able to, it’s not even guaranteed, but you may be able to preserve the integrity of the politics in the artistic quality of the film or the T.V. show, film or music or book or whatever.

Larsen (32:55-33:01): Even considered revolutionary or edgy.

Murillo (33:01–34:54): It’s edgy, but then it’s edgy to a limit. There are ways to get around that. There are ways we’ve done that for centuries like “code talking.” Visual code, like if you were on T.V. show. You could not say or announce anything, but you could have secret little stuff, like if someone is paying attention, they’ll notice it. And it won’t get you in trouble, but it also will be enough where you can send your real message into the scene.

I can’t identify moments like that right now. I don’t really know offhandedly, but I imagine that’s one way you could sort of interrupt that problem. Like you could sneak it through. One of my friends, he’s white, but he makes kids’ T.V. shows for Australians. Him and his wife are from Australia and do kids’ T.V. shows and comedy shows. And one day we were having this conversation and I was like, “How does that work?” He’s like, “Well, usually one of the ways I do it is I have some other thing that’s really stupid or shitty and it’s in there on purpose so that they look at that and they’re like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to change that.’

And they don’t notice the thing that they might want to change, like this other secondary thing that they wanted. They want me to change the name of the character, right, but I made this so, like, this whole plot line doesn’t make sense over here. So they’re like, you got to change that plot line and maybe change this guy’s name to Jeff. As long as you change that plot line because it’s such a major problem, they don’t really remember that they wanted you to change the guy’s name to Jeff.”

So they did this on purpose. He was telling me and I was like, “Wow, that’s pretty great.” Like these little tricks you have to learn to do that. He’s a white guy, so imagine these Black filmmakers and stuff that want to say something radical or potentially damning for the entire world and what kind of strategy you’ve got to do to make sure you sneak your little message in there.

Larsen(34:54-35:09): So as the grand finale question, we wanted to ask you if you could choose any piece of Black art, whether it be a book, a play, a movie and adapt it into a film or television show, which one would it be and why?

Murillo (35:09–36:10): Ok, that’s actually really a big question, because there’s so many things. I would want to redo “Beloved;” to be honest, I hate that movie. We can talk about this some other time but Oprah’s hand on things is not great to me. So her being so involved, I mean, I know she really loved Toni Morrison, but that love didn’t produce a work that was that great to me. So I would want to do that. That’s my favorite book. That is probably the most transformative book I’ve ever read. It singularly shifted me from being completely committed to science and math, to being committed to English and literature when I read that in high school.

That’s probably top of my list, I think, to redo that, because I don’t like the way it came out and I think it can be done a little bit more nuanced.

Larsen (36:10–36:19): That’s awesome. Nice. Well it was so fun to talk to you. We learned so, so much. Thank you so much for taking the time and coming on our new web series. We’re so excited.

Charles (36:20–36:23): We’re so excited for everyone to hear what you have to say.

Murillo (36:23–37:11): It was a pleasure. It was definitely a welcome breath of fresh air during this madness outside. I’m glad I had the opportunity to talk with you guys. Please buy my book when it comes out, it’s not out yet but it comes out in January. Right now it’s scheduled to be coming out on my wife’s birthday. So that’s kind of cool.

But, yeah, it’s called Impossible Stories: On the Space and Time of Black Destructive Creation. And, yes, all the stuff we talked about, some part of that is in there. It’s all in there.

Larsen (37:11-37:16): Okay, well thank you so much. I will see you next quarter.

Murillo (37:16-37:23): In a couple, a couple of months or a month and a half I think. That is really soon.

Charles (37:23–37:25): Okay, thank you, John!

Murillo (37:25–37:37): Yeah, no problem. Bye!

Larsen (37:37-37:43): Well, thank you guys so much for watching episode two of “The Welcome Table” and a special thank you to Professor John Murillo. We are so excited to have this episode come out with such an enlightening discussion.

Charles (37:43–37:46): Very much so. We’ll see you guys next time. Bye!

Watch all episodes of “The Welcome Table with Sydney and Tatum” here.



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