Photo James Baldwin on Freedom, Identity and Love

James Baldwinon Freedom, Identity and Love

 

James Arthur Baldwin was an American novelist, poet, and activist. His work touched on issues like sexuality, race and class in ways that were far ahead of his time. Baldwin made his life’s mission to highlight the nuances of what it was like to live in the country that was built by black people but not for black people. His novel “Giovanni’s Room” written over a decade before the Stonewall uprising, famously offered an empathetic representation of homosexuality to the general public. Baldwin’s essay on police brutality written in 1966, sadly, still reflects our reality in 2020.

Baldwin’s voice became one of the most powerful voices not only for black and LGBTQIA+ people and communities but for all of humanity.

Photo James Baldwin on Freedom, Identity and Love
James Baldwin by Bettmann

Here is his voice:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”


“You have to decide who you are and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.”


“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”


“I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.”


“The purpose of education…is to create in a person the ability to look at the world for himself, to make his own decisions.”


“To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.”


“There are so many ways of being despicable it quite makes one’s head spin. But the way to be really despicable is to be contemptuous of other people’s pain.”


“I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am, also, much more than that. So are we all.”


“Love takes off the masks we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within.”


“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity.”


“Societies never know it, but the war of an artist with his society is a lover’s war, and he does, at his best, what lovers do, which is to reveal the beloved to himself and, with that revelation, to make freedom real.”


“Nakedness has no color: this can come as news only to those who have never covered, or been covered by, another naked human being.”


“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle. Love is a war. Love is growing up.”


“To accept one’s past—one’s history—is not the same thing as drowning in it; it is learning how to use it. An invented past can never be used; it cracks and crumbles under the pressures of life like clay in a season of drought.”


“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”


Top picture by Richard Avedon.