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Fiction by Norwegian Women

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hello, America...My Name is Jimmy Baldwin

Even before I read Sonny’s Blues in my 9th grade English class with Mr. Ronald James, I had met James Baldwin many times before. Not in person, mind you, but his intellect, his passion and his uncompromising commitment to social justice were a palpable presence in my home and many others. There was a time, in the African-American community, regardless of class or level of formal education, when we knew our literary writers, our public philosophers and the platforms of our political leaders.

My father thought Baldwin’s short stories and novels conveyed too much anger. My mother, an avid collector of his essays, thought his tone, insight and activism brilliantly matched the monsters he battled. And my Aunt Sarah, an energetic theatre supporter, thought his plays were honest, dark, and, too often, underrated. Between the dissonance of everyday challenges, my home was filled with the glorious dissonance of words on a mission, of competing ideologies and of the faith placed in ideas and action. James Baldwin was, on many occasions, in the center of this.

I finally did reap the privilege of meeting James Baldwin, almost thirty years ago at Williams College. He not only met with the college community as a whole, but he met with a small group of African-American students as well. I literally sat, along with Dale and Herve, at his feet in Dodd House and I knew immediately I was in familiar company.

I cannot accurately capture the magnitude of James Baldwin’s genius. I can offer this suggestion, which is a grand one. Read his The Price of the Ticket; Collected NonFiction, 1948-1985 , which is filled with his singular, exacting analysis. You will appreciate, too, why he is, indeed, one of the world’s preeminent essayists.

Hello, America…My Name is Jimmy Baldwin is a play by Robert H. Miller that I will see tonight with my daughter and son. I am hoping Mr. Miller delivers on rendering just a glimmer of Baldwin’s magnificence to my children.

Hello, America…My Name is Jimmy Baldwin runs tonight at
The Moonstone Arts Center
110A S. 13 Street( on 13th, between Chestnut and Sansom Sts.)
Philadelphia, PA

*Drawing by France Belleville

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