20 Questions with…Chris Edley III ’02

Chris Edley III ’02 has been a starving artist, a gardener, a writer, a musician, a woodworker, a designer for films, an organizer, and an activist. He has lived in Portland (Oregon), Oakland, Missoula, Vermont, and Brooklyn. And he’s now settled in High Falls, New York, where he and his wife run a progessive strategy and communications consultancy. Spend five minutes and twenty questions getting to know him better.

  1. What is your favorite Commonwealth memory? Walking into the Cafegymnatorium to find Eli Spindel ‘02 playing Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”
  2. What was your favorite Commonwealth class? Bluestein’s English, which taught me to write under pain of death, or Davis’ Bible class, which was incredibly chill and largely just about being in Eric Davis’ presence.
  3. What does your ideal afternoon entail? Looking for birds and mushrooms with my wife and toddler in the woods behind our house while somehow simultaneously throwing a huge barbeque.
  4. Whom do you most admire? I admire most people because life is very hard.
  5. Which word or phrase do you most overuse? Disambiguate!
  6. What is your favorite aspect of your career? Working with behavioural psychologists on research around language and motivation and then translating that work into actionable, understandable definitions has been really gratifying. Plucking concepts out of the intuitive and practical ether and then working to succinctly and sufficiently define them hits a lot of my brain’s pleasure points at once. Especially when those concepts can help to undermine racist cis hetero patriarchy.
  7. How do you define success? Success, to me, is doing whatever you can with whatever you have and whatever kindness you can muster to help others however they need.
  8. What book(s) have you re-read? One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka, which is about farming in an incredibly brilliant and lazy way; A Theory of Justice, by John Rawls, for some reason; Discourse On Colonialism, by Aimé Césaire, because politics should be poetic.
  9. What book do you wish you had read sooner? The Big Red Book aka Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, because legalistic analysis is a great point of entry to systemic understandings, for me at least.
  10. Who are your favorite authors? Octavia Butler, William Carlos Williams, Aimé Césaire, Mike Davis, Bashō…. This is a tough question.
  11. If you could have dinner with one person—alive or dead—who would it be? Maybe Amílcar Cabral? But maybe Du Bois once he was a communist? 
  12. What is your favorite museum? Studio Museum of Harlem.
  13. What is your favorite mode of transportation? Walking slowly.
  14. What is your favorite paradox? Democracy.
  15. If you could live as a local for 48 hours anywhere in the world, where would you go? Hokkaido, because I covet their seafood. But also maybe Singapore, also for the food. Maybe Dakar, again, also for the food.
  16. If you could join any past or current music group, which would you join? The Sun Ra Arkestra
  17. What song are you most embarrassed to love? Who has time to be embarrassed for loving?
  18. What is the best gift you have ever given? I built my wife an office in our backyard, which I say is a gift, but she says is payback for buying a fixer-upper. 
  19. What is the best gift you have ever received? My friends gave me a huge tub of Vietnamese fried sweet-and-spicy anchovies and a video CD of Esan ceremonial dance from Edo state in Nigeria. That really showed they know me deeply. I cried.
  20. Who would you want to play you in a movie of your life? The hot guy from Bridgerton, but I don’t know if he has the range.
  21. Bonus: What is your motto? Try and pay close attention.

This feature was published in the Summer 2021 issue of Commonwealth Magazine.