“Some of us, white and black, know how great a price has already been paid to bring into existence a new consciousness, a new people, an unprecendented nation. If we know, and do nothing, we are worse than the murderers hired in our know.
If we know, then we must fight for your life as though it were our own – which it is – and render impassable with our bodies the corridor to the gas chamber. For, if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.” – James Baldwin
The other day I mentioned to a friend how excited I was to have finally received my copy of The Cross of Redemption by James Baldwin in the mail. My friend – an incredibly intelligent, compassionate, and astute person – calmly confessed that he didn’t know who James Baldwin was. I mentioned a few titles hoping to jog my friend’s memory and he replied, “Oh. Well, I don’t read many poems.” This was a valuable moment for me.
We can never take James Baldwin’s contributions for granted. We cannot afford to assume that everyone knows what he did (and continues to do) for us. Fortunately, Randall Kenan (a brilliant novelist & essayist in his own right) has brought us The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin. This is our opportunity to re-learn & re-read Baldwin’s intellectual contributions to our continued struggle.. this is our chance to introduce those contributions to people around us.