FREE and by “Free” we Mean “Free”

The Year of James Baldwin on the occasion of what would have been the author’s 90th year, presented in partnership with Harlem Stage, Columbia University School of the Arts, New York Live Arts

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I love giving this wonderful literary tip.  If you have not had the pleasure of reading anything by the great James Baldwin, I am suggesting that you start with Giovanni's Room which is Baldwin's second novel (1956).  It's a bold, romantic and brave story about the price of feeling and fighting for love.  

Baldwin focuses on the events in the life of an average American man living in Paris and his feelings and frustrations with his relationships with other men in his life, particularly a stunning, Italian bartender named Giovanni whom he meets at a Parisian gay bar.

I didn't want to place a big, yellow highlight marker over the word “gay” because the characters and the exploration of the pursuit of love, love lost, love found and love lost again—is just one of the elements that make this powerful story so powerful. It’s bold!

Baldwin is bold. I repeat that word again and I want you to listen to how it sounds, in your head: bold, bold, bold! 

Giovanni's Room is noteworthy for many reasons and for the LGBT community, he is applauded for it’s honesty and complex representations of homosexuality to a reading public with empathy and artistry, thereby fostering a broader public discourse of issues regarding same-sex desire.

It’s more than that!  It’s “romantic” and dare I say, hopeful.

David, a young American man whose girlfriend has gone off to Spain to contemplate marriage, is left alone in Paris and begins an affair with an Italian man, Giovanni. The entire story is narrated by David during "the night which is leading me to the most terrible morning of my life," when Giovanni will be executed.

If that has moved you to explore or if you are already a fan, brilliant---because the FREE series (Baldwin-Lorde) Ancestral Witnesses will explore the intersections of religion and African American literature produced during the social upheavals of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements and their aftermath. 

The panels will feature papers that examine how black writers engaged religion in their efforts to imagine black liberation and human freedom, as well as how black religions have shaped African American literary visions. We define “religion” broadly to include not only Islam and Christianity, but also African-derived practices (i.e. voodoo or hoodoo) and new belief systems (i.e. Rastafarianism and the International Peace Movement Mission).

Our capacious understanding of religion is reflected in the writings and life experiences of literary figures themselves: James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.

While will be the focal points for this event, panelist will explore how religion figured in the life and work of a range of other black writers. Alongside the formal presentations, there will be choreographed readings from selected texts and possibly musical performances, given music’s centrality to both African American literary and religious traditions alike. 

Panelists at the event include:

Rich Blint, Columbia University

Alexis De Veaux, Author & Activist

Imani Perry, Princeton University

Moderating: Josef Sorett, Columbia University 

Musical performances by:

Marti Newland, Singer, Ph.D. candidate in Ethnomusicology, Columbia University

Brandee Younger, Harpist

This conversation is a part of the year-long, city-wide celebration The Year of James Baldwin on the occasion of what would have been the author’s 90th year, presented in partnership with Harlem Stage, Columbia University School of the Arts, New York Live Arts, with collaborators: The New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, the School of Media Studies and School of Writing, the National Black Theater, the Harlem Book Fair, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

This event is sponsored by the Institute for Religion, Culture, and Public Life; Columbia University School of the Arts; and Harlem Stage. 

It’s free please read below: 

This event is free and open to all. A ticket is required. 

Reserve your tickets here: RSVP TODAY