James Baldwin: Artist on Fire

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( This speech was given on January 15th,1979 in Berkeley, California )

James Baldwin is one of the finest writers America has produced. I have posted numerous articles about him & it never gets old as I always discover some new insight in his writing & speeches. This clip has a number of thought-provoking gems to include his freedom from some of the more troubling assumptions embedded in the English language. Starting with a dry, mild questioning of phrases like “black as night,” “black-hearted,” and “black as sin”, Baldwin turns quickly to a critique of the name of the civil rights movement itself, which he suggests would be more accurately described as a slave rebellion.

The logic and eloquence with which Baldwin makes his case is much better savored than explained. What really struck me powerfully was at the 8:36 mark when he said:

..a very brutal thing must be said. The intentions of this melancholic country as concerns black people….& anyone who doubts me can ask any Indian…..have always been genocidal. They needed us for labor & for sport. Now, they can’t get rid of us. We cannot be exiled…& we cannot be accommodated. Now something’s got to give. The machinery of this country operates day in & day out, hour by hour until this hour, to keep a nigger in his place. 

Good Lord! The man saw right though the dark, diseased heart of the Beast & held nothing back!!  Shit, he also gave us the intellectual & spiritual ammunition to slay the m*f*er!!

Let’s get to work!


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