Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Legacy of James Baldwin

The recently published collection of essays, The Fire This Time, edited by Jesmyn Ward, includes 18 essays that reflect on similar themes that James Baldwin addressed in The Fire Next Time, written over 50 years ago.  Yet, as J. Ward writes in the introduction, "Replace ropes with bullets.  Hound dogs with German shepherds.  A gray uniform with a bulletproof vest.  Nothing is new."  The essays all explore race in America and are divided into three sections based on the historical, current, and future context (called legacy, reckoning, and jubilee).  Representing a diverse group of voices from academics to activists, The Fire This Time is essential, thought provoking reading. Some interesting perspectives and comments:

"If I knew anything about being black in America it was that nothing was guaranteed, you couldn't count on a thing, and all that was certain for most of us was a black death."  - Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah
"It seems the rate of police killings now surpasses the rate of lynchings during the worst decade of the Jim Crow era."   - Isabel Wilkerson
"And we must know deep in our bones and in our hearts that if the ancestors could survive the Middle Passage, we can survive anything."- Kiese Laymon
"...when my Grandmama hugs my neck, I'm going to tell her that when no one in the world believed I was a beautiful Southern black boy, she believed."  - Kiese Laymon
"...the wrongheaded question that is asked is, What kind of savages are we?  Rather than, What kind of country do we live in?"  - Claudia Rankine

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