Richard A. Bailey’s talk at Buffalo Humanities Festival will focus on contemporary American author Wendell Berry, a true renaissance man as seen in the wide range of topics covered in his writing. For Bailey, Berry serves as a modern-day prophet, whose calls for repentance are lamentations we should consider seriously, especially in communities, such as Buffalo, intent on “reviving.”
Wendell Berry, a Kentucky writer, has published more than sixty books (in poetry, fiction, and non-fiction) over the last sixty years. The agricultural and local community themes found in his writing carry through into in his life; Berry lives on a farm in Kentucky near where he grew up. Also an activist, Berry has protested, written, and spoken out against nuclear power, war, and environmental degradation. He is a strong supporter of local economies and local sustainability; his 1977 book The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture made a case for eating local decades before the farm-to-table movement became a restaurant trend.
How might Wendell Berry’s vision of environmental sustainability and support of local economies be applied to Buffalo’s current renaissance and revitalization movements? In June 2015, The Buffalo News reported that Buffalo Niagara remains one of the most segregated metro areas in the country. In 2015, a study identified Buffalo as having one of the highest minority poverty rates in the country. Can sustainable agriculture and access to locally grown food help alleviate a racial and class division in our area? Or are there ways that the “Support Local” conversation can still exclude members of our community? What can Berry offer us in his decades of activism, experience, and writing as we think about who and what revitalization appeals to, and how to define revitalization in our local Buffalo communities?
You can read Berry’s essay, “The Idea of a Local Economy,” in Orion Magazine and an interview with Berry in The Guardian. And we hope you join us for Professor Bailey’s talk, “Wendell Berry, Renaissance Man” on Saturday, September 24 from 11:00am-12:00pm, Rockwell, 204.
Richard A. Bailey is Associate Professor of History at Canisius College, where he teaches courses on early American history, race and religion in America, and fly fishing. The author of Race and Redemption in Puritan New England (2011), he is currently working on a book-length study of Wendell Berry.