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Dr. Elizabeth Alexander is an author, a teacher, a philanthropist and a scholar. But most people know her as a poet. In 2009, she performed her poem “Praise Song for the Day,” at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, reminding us of the ancestors who’ve led us to the progress we see today. She urged us: “Say it plain: that many have died for this day.”

Alexander is now the President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the country’s largest funder of arts and culture. This year, they’re working with a grantmaking budget of $500 million. Every dollar of that will go towards social justice projects, including the newly launched “Million Book Project” to bring literature to prisons across the U.S.

Recently, Alexander published an intense and beautiful essay in the New Yorker magazine called “The Trayvon Generation,” about her sons, and all the other young Black Americans who’ve grown up knowing the trauma of Black death — often captured on video, reposted over and over again on social media.

On Into America, host Trymaine Lee talks to Elizabeth Alexander about pain, about philanthropy, and, of course, about poetry.  

For a transcript, please visit https://www.nbcnews.com/intoamerica.

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