“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” James Baldwin 1924-1987
There is perhaps no greater prose in American literature than that written by James Baldwin. His insight on the conundrum of Black identity, the Church and sexuality in America was seamlessly blended with realism and a call to action. With classics like Go Tell it on the Mountain and The Fire Next Time, the writer and activist held a mirror up to the darkest parts of this country, as well as the redemptive quality of our collective will to survive, despite everything. And for Baldwin, that everything was more than just racial constructs and poverty; it was a digging into a kind of love seemingly always just outside of our grasp but ever beautiful. It was a need for something outside of language that lingered on pages and on sidewalks in Paris that he often roamed.
Baldwin would have been 90 years old this year, and his words are still as poignant and relevant today. This month, New York Live Arts will kick off a city-wide celebration of Baldwin’s life in the festival “Live Ideas: James Baldwin, This Time!” The 18 events will take place from April 23-27 and include theater work Nothing Personal, based on the 1964 collaborative book by James Baldwin and Richard Avedon, an original video installation, inspired by the writings of Baldwin, by contemporary visual artist Hank Willis Thomas and daily readings of Baldwin’s classics by artists such as Komunyakaa and Suzan-Lori Parks.
Many of the events are free, and are sure to be revelatory to both Baldwin followers and newbies alike.
Said Bill T. Jones, Executive Artistic Director of New York Live Arts, “James Baldwin is a unique and indispensable voice in twentieth-century art and ideas. He continues to shed light on the painful truths of our society, engaging us as almost no other figure does in the intractable conversation at the intersection of class, race, sex and violence. There were other powerful artists and social justice thinkers in his era, but what set James Baldwin apart was his ability to address, in terms at once poetic and visceral, what we can only call ‘Americanism.’