Speaking about race

imgresYears ago I read a slew of books around race issues from The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver to The Promised Land by Nicholas Lemann.  I felt then as I feel now that we have done a terrible disservice to blacks in America just because the color of their skin.

We are now watching the world that they have lived in on a daily basis.  Most of these acts have been sheltered from the public eye.  Because on every one of our mobile devices there is a camera that can capture the terrible wrongdoings and share it with the world with a click of a finger the issues that they face have risen to daily conversation.  I hope with that change will take place.

I have read all of Jesmyn Ward’s books but this last one should be read by everyone.  The book is called The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race.  She used James Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time as her guide to put together a group of poems and essays from some of the most important black writers of today.  The book is broken into 3 parts.  The first is about history, the second is about the environment at large and third is about hope for a better future.  The pieces are powerful and hit you write between the eyes.

I felt compelled to go back and watch Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing that was released in 1989 after finishing her book.  I found the film more powerful today than I did when it first came out.  Perhaps because Lee showed us what it was like living as a black person in America in 1989 and now we all see what he showed us every single day through social media.  In the movie there is anger, frustration and violence when a cop kills a young black man in the neighborhood.  That was 25 years ago.

There are countless movies coming out in the next year around black history that many have never learned in school because that history was not part of the curriculum.  There are countless books and essays being written such as Ward’s including books such as The New Jim Crow around the injustice we have done to young black men in America.  These books, movies and articles are forcing all of us to look into the mirror and come to terms with our past and hopefully move forward into a much brighter future.