November 13, 2015
The hero caught reading Citizen on camera during a Trump rally
by Julia Fleischaker
Have you seen the beautiful images of the woman sitting and reading a book directly behind Donald Trump during one of his—presumably—angry and racist rallies? In case you missed it, the woman was reading Claudia Rankine‘s Citizen, a book of poetry described by its publisher Graywolf Press as, “a provocative meditation on race,” one that “recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media.”
Was it planned? How did she end up on camera right behind the candidate? And how did she decide on the right time to pull out her extremely relevant reading material?
The woman has been identified as Johari Osayi Idusuyi, a twenty-three year-old writer and student at Lincoln Land Community College. While she’s not a Trump supporter, she attended the rally with an open mind and “genuine intentions” of seeing the presidential candidate in person.
Jezebel‘s Kara Brown talked to Idusuyi about the rally:
How did you end up right behind Trump?
Basically, ask and you shall receive. I asked if anyone was sitting there and I didn’t know it was the VIP section. I just asked one of the volunteers and she said, “No, it’s VIP.” Then a gentleman approached us after I left the original volunteer and he said, “Would you like to sit in VIP?” and I said, “OK.” I mean, why not? I think we were chosen for obvious reasons. We are minorities and there weren’t a lot of minorities there. He also instructed us to sit in the middle, so we kind of already knew what this was.
Idusuyi’s tolerance for the event shifted when she saw the way that the crowd treated the few protestors who showed up. “The way the supporters treated the protestors was really unbelievable and that’s what made me mad,” Idusuyi told Brown. She went on to describe the scene:
There was just a lot of bullying going on and I didn’t like that. And some people were cheering. To hear 10,000 people cheer for something so disrespectful is what made me so mad. And that’s when I was like, I am now genuinely not interested in your speech. I wanted to leave, but I came, I’m in the middle, I’m on camera, so I might as well read because I don’t have anything else to do. I’m not going to waste my time listening to somebody who I can’t respect anymore, so I started to read.
Idusuyi didn’t let Trump off the hook for the behavior of his supporters. “The way Donald Trump said, ‘Get them out of here’—when you say those words, that activates your supporters to be able to be the same way.” And so she seized the moment: “Then I was like, I’m in the middle, I’m on camera, so why not use the opportunity to promote a great book?”
You can read the whole interview at Jezebel.
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.