I have never read anything by James Baldwin. I know of who he was and what he represented by the masses of people who claim him to be a genius, but I have never felt the urge to pick up his works.
That is until of course, today.
In recent years, I’ve been reading more scientific or health-related journals than I have books and I’ve missed having that in my daily routine. I’ve also wanted to go back to story writing and maybe even expand on ideas of the past. Now I am in no way a trained writer, but I am finding it more difficult to write and I think a lot of it does stem from not reading as regularly as I used to. Reading has always been the fuel behind my creativity, so it’s no wonder that I keep hitting these walls so often.
So as I’m sitting under a hair dryer earlier today, I decided to do a quick Google search for a PDF of James Baldwin’s Collected Essays and I came across Notes of a Native Son. To say that I was captivated by every sentence would be an understatement. It resonated. I felt and understood what he was saying not because I have ever experienced anything close but because of the universal truths his words held.
It began to seem that one would have to hold in the mind forever two ideas which seemed to be in opposition. The first idea was acceptance, the acceptance, totally without rancor, of life as it is, and men as they are: in the light of this idea, it goes without saying that injustice is a commonplace. But this did not mean that one could be complacent, for the second idea was of equal power: that one must never, in one’s own life, accept these injustices as commonplace but must fight them with all one’s strength. This fight begins, however, in the heart and it now had been laid to my charge to keep my own heart free of hatred and despair.
I can’t tell you when I first realised that bad things were a natural part of life or recall an event that shifted the floor from underneath me. I believe that I have somehow been able, from a young age, to decipher social truths from what I observe around me. The world has always been grey to me and although I’ve accepted that life comes with certain perils, I’ve always felt this responsibility that I have to help people faced with injustices because I am able to. That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have the power to take on the big bad wolf, but I’m able to start setting traps so to speak. I can start small with my community or begin to mobilise like-minded people for something bigger.
Too many of us are filled with resentment and hatred, which are incredibly paralysing in our journeys of life. Being part of change comes from a place of seeing the monsters for what they are…people. No matter how vile or offensive, the actions of people stem from something deeper, something more human…of course there are exceptions to this but I won’t go into that in this post. In order to see clearly we need to see our pain as a natural process and not allow it to stop us from moving forward.
We live in a world where the cries of people are only heard if they are white. We live in a world where people are forced out of their homes and the world’s strongest nations stand with the perpetrators. We live in a world where bombs fall on innocent boys and girls. We live in a world where slave trades exist and genocides are happening underneath our noses. Beautiful people, we live in a world that is overwhelmingly on the side of money, majority and power instead of morals and justice. We live in a world where media reports based on “importance”. We live in times where the balances weigh in favour of those who stand for themselves, but some storms come to destroy us and others come to wake us up…
It’s time to fight because God forbid we were given this gift of life for nothing more than being consumed by capitalistic wants, temporary fulfilments and vacating hobbies. If we’re doing nothing, what does that make us? What are we honestly doing because I refuse to believe that we’re alive simply to work.
I thank James Baldwin for igniting in me something that I haven’t felt in a while… I feel like I lost the young girl who vowed to be the voice for the voiceless and it’s overwhelming but in the best way!