Gregory Thompson is a scholar, writer, and artist of diverse creative background whose work focuses on race, religion, hospitality, and democracy in the United States. He serves as Executive Director of Voices Underground, an initiative to build a national memorial to the Underground Railroad outside of Philadelphia; Research Fellow in African American Heritage at Lincoln University (HBCU); and as Creative Director of Star & Lantern, a new Cocktail Bar in Kennett Square, PA whose story centers in the African American freedom struggle and the Underground Railroad (Opening June 2021). He is the Co-Creator of Union: The Musical, a soul and hip-hop based musical about the 1968 Sanitation Workers’ Strike, Co-Author (with Reverend Duke Kwon) of Reparations: A Christian Call to Repentance and Repair and is currently writing a work that explores the role of love in the work of Martin Luther King. He holds an M.A. and PhD from the University of Virginia.
Reparations: A Christian Call to Repentance and Repair by Gregory Thompson and Duke Kwon
Vanessa: Greg, it’s so wonderful to be with you today. Thanks for being with us.
Greg: My pleasure and glad to see you.
Vanessa: Well, I would love for you to start with you sharing a little bit about the justice work that you’re involved in, and then some parts of your own personal story that led you to this work to begin with.
Greg: Sure. Thanks. So my vocation bears witness to a confused mind. I’m doing a lot of different things in terms of the race and equity space right now. Some of the listeners will know that I’ve written a book on reparations which came out last year and that’s a good theoretical framework to understand everything I’m doing, which is really an expressing of reparations. Particularly this category called reparations truth where right now my work really revolves around public storytelling around African American cultural history and trying to promote that history in places where it has been forgotten.
So I’m the executive director of an organization called Voices Underground which has really taken the language from God’s words to Cain in Genesis, where he said, “I heard your brother’s blood crying out from the ground.” The idea is that there are all these African American cultural history stories that are just buried around us and a lot of my work is to try to understand those stories and then work with communities to resurrect and tell them.
To that end, I’m building the national memorial to the underground railroad. That’s the largest scale project right now. But in general, trying to promote African American cultural heritage in this place called Chester County, Pennsylvania. So that includes, creating a new Juneteenth festival, opening a restaurant and cocktail bar based on the history of black cocktail, making things like that. My work is generally around public storytelling and race and I see it as an expression of reparations.