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tv   Unbound Book Festival Panel Examines Life of James Baldwin  CSPAN  June 18, 2017 12:45am-1:54am EDT

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>> your washing book tv, television for serious readers. you can watch any program you see here online at booktv.org. >> now, to programs for the recent on bound book festival in missouri. first up, a discussion on notes of the native son author, james baldwin followed by a panel of authors on wartime stories. [applause] [applause] >> like many of you, i was deeply moved by the film, i am not your negro at this year's film festival.
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at the april 12 the service of james baldwin, his moment is now. it does seem that in 30 years since his death baldwin has not been more widely read and review since the world and me, "the fire this time", and a new annual journal devoted exclusively to baldwin. and of course the release of the academy award winning documentary, i am not your negro. today, we have a panel to discuss james baldwin, the literature of further implications for assault. today, our moderator is stephanie, chair of the department of black studies, please german welcoming our panel. [applause]
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>> a morning. very happy when not your negro was screened during the film festival there is a great deal of excitement there is a real hunger to kid into the concepts that were depicted in that film. i hope it becomes one of the way which we can deconstruct some of the product provocative ideas it leaves us with as actually to do the work with others, there's to my colleagues from the university of missouri. we will also will also save time for a conversation with you all.
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let me introduce the film guy first includes of the sundance fake it so we'll 2011 that he has added over a dozen features including an exit, by alex rex. those by amanda rose weiler has the spirit of words nominated christmas again in 2015 by charles. >> robert writes about documentary this is the
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filmmaker and chief at the university of missouri. the book i i might colic his associates professor of english at the university of missouri and part of the departments program. he's also affiliate a black studies and i'm really proud of having him on our website and in our community. his particular specialties are 20th to 21st century african-american literature. in postcolonial series. in addition to his book, spirit of dialogue the born to diane african-american literature his work has also appeared in the prestigious journal.
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congrats the african-american review, african literature today and he is at work on another book i'm excited about and it is tentatively tied it, kindred spirits very excited to be here with these two gentlemen. why stephanie called me and i said of course i will do this is that it's a very special place in my heart. i grew up in nigeria and was first introduced to characters, none of whom told me anything of who i was. so it was not until i met -- and then baldwin and i started
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understanding who i was and later on toni morrison. so to me the promise of black studies. it became fruitful for the ways in which i would think about identity and music. i think my music all the time. i wanted to start with asking robert christopher to just reflect on the importance of baldwin. why are we here this morning and then will move to discussions about film and literature. i'm no expert, but and i read a bit and eyes refresh with the
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people on those skills. i grew up white, obviously in the south and in missouri is sort of the south. i lived in new york for many years, new york city and a lot of people pretend there's not racism in new york city. but where i grew up it was obvious all of the time that there is racism. in fact, that became a part as white people are black people or any person of color in my own sort of identity and what baldwin's work does for me is that a pros through all the thoughts i might have about identity. you tend to intellectualize these things as you get older. you tend to turn, not that i have grown up in a place where there were literally wars as we
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were called them in seventh and seventh grade where people would punch each other in the face all of the time and i would stay home because i was to start geared to get involved and when you get through that and identify yourself as a southern white person who moves to new york city which is a choice to make, my grandmother was jewish and it felt like coming home you create a construction in your head about what this means. this cuts right through that. i wrote a year and peace for sight and sound praising the film and i just called it baldwin's signature refined rage. rage is a difficult word to use. it is fraught with these clichés
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and dangerous stereotypes. there is something about his urbain quality and also that he seems more sophisticated and yet angrier and more forceful and direct than his words and am standing right about race and identity. that's why think the film landslide does. it cuts right through. and you think you've intellectualize yourself out in your back to this basic feeling like when i try to explain ferguson to my daughter she's just like, what how can that have happened so brings you back so is magical than what happens but the force of his words are unique. >> and then we'll talk about it more specifically in terms of --
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even with samuel jackson those very careful choice but i like it when you start with your not an expert on james baldwin and i don't think anyone can ever be because having read all of his work i was blown away by the film. i should have known all of that every time you take on baldwin there is a new mayor that is unveiled. so chris, you're not an expert? >> no, i'm not. but i come out baldwin and this is almost -- years ago as an undergraduate student. and i was in my american literature class. and engage both intellectually
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and the connection that people have to slavery. like what is the connection to black america. black people and to look at that complexion of it. and the clarity of his vision and what it has been called in to assist with brotherhood and what he has meant to articulate the connectedness and here i am to be brought back again in the u.s. and i have to teach baldwin. what has happened to me from
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those is an understanding that some of the confusions i have that are somehow orchestrated. and then baldwin's speeches defies how predictive he was. he met a lot. he lived until his 60s but also the very idea that his very courageous and fearless that you can actually have the college to articulate the confusion was quite sobering so i'm hoping that in the course of the conversation we can talk about notches baldwin, but also
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connections a lot of people don't know that is like his father. we think about it it was so profound. and hopefully we would get into. >> so i love the idea of a baldwin's prophetic vision. and robert, you mentioned ferguson. and as i reread baldwin and i watch the film this is a really wonderful way to help us think about the current moment. and we're questioning who we are and who is allowed i wanted to
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ask you both to talk about the reach both as a prophet and as a critic. robert, if you would talk about his reach in terms of the generational reach, how can baldwin speak to this generati generation? and then with chris his reach across, how can we as africans understand who we are? so maybe we serve with you. >> sure. a lot of times were talking about the influence to the old -- up less us all.
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also you have african writers who have derived. [inaudible] some of this writers who are now venturing into the form and also trying to find form through baldwin. what he has done was breech some of the divide. he realized it was safer africans and african-americans and what he tried to clarify for us was how both africans on both sides were victims of what he has termed the european construction of the myths. . .
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>> >> this he did not quite love himself. and trying to tell the congregations about loving himself. to know that white this was not the virtue. and ben baldwin adopts the call of the wipers and the critics ask why did you do that? is being put a wrist trying to articulate to me
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of what is called the mitt of the civilization and supremacy to be so destructive so it is coming-of-age and then tried to resurrect him. >> wonderful. >> and then also the focus of the characters in this interesting because they are completely flawed but even that connects them. >> in terms of his relevance would you are describing so
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that complexity of his writing of his expression, you could never contain him to as a black political writer because he was also gay and he talks openly about the french ships with white people and he speaks into the voice of people he is not which is very controversial but this is intersection all. he is a thinker who refuses to play by the myth that he has been critiquing. in all senses. but that is very relative to day when you hear black lives matter and the leaders
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in the movement that is the revolution that was black liberation or freedom so when i came here refer semester as a professor i saw myself getting a major education you don't spend as much time with young people and i have children and in my work guy was not around 20 somethings and the education that i got in terms of what it means to say white supremacy was a major education. you can see where baldwin would be relevant. but what is disconcerting is i don't know how much you paid attention to the box office documentary's.
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as a filmmaker very much care about that but it is a great movie but there is something dark about that to me but if you think of him as a complex character isn't the best depiction of baldwin you to look get a five hour film you did to the complex -- the complexity of his character about what we see is the black experience in america is a bad experience cut to ferguson. it is part of his motta of communication. and am not saying it is overly simplistic but it is direct but that is making money because we need to
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hear that again which is horrifying and naturally it is terrifying and if we could have that direct discussion in the '60s and '70s actually having a much more complex version so the words used to criticize so that was disconcerting so looking at white supremacy my first instinct is to say these are young people speaking indian people language.
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and then i realized that is reclaiming a term because it is necessary so of makes sense that baldwin would be in that culture so that is probably necessary. >> so that is working is intersection of but to hear the critique of the film and a bald man with the least
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complex way in some of my friends were upset it did not touch on his sexuality and all. site under stay and your frustration with that. sold to talk about form or content but the least complex about baldwin isn't it good that it did get out? but don't think your guy on the street even i have trouble getting through balled with. is books in his thoughts are beautiful but you have to read a sentence, i do anyway
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, you were brilliant. [laughter] but i don't think america is ready for herb baldwin complex i would not say it is a critique but it is a decision why hasn't there been a james baldwin film before now? and one of the reasons is to say basically that is really complex so we pushout that complexity and that means yeshis entire
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discussion of bette davis for example, the emergence of his section morality but nevertheless there are choices to be made so as say documentary character what does he look like? he has bette davis eyes. he is small. his words are compact and his body is compact and his eyes moved when he speaks the key is waiting for somebody to call him now at on his shit. [laughter]
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but on the field ec his television appearance that is one of the big parts of his character is to challenge everything around him. but there is a feeling of survivor's guilt. like he was not killed like malcolm and he made it out he left the states and came back and left again and to read in different circles for a while. sold the complexity isn't in the presentation of him as the subject but then the difficulty is the was assessed with movies he worked in hollywood but he never broke into the, there is a piece would you dream
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of? he said going to make experimental films. but the scripts that he wrote were too vivid and he could not transform because of the poetry that he wrote so how does of film handle that? so with said neil jackson you cannot recognize him so all of these critiques of the blackmail this. so he is speaking as in then to suck you in.
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and then touse speak his own words. to say it is james baldwin but it is not james baldwin and. there is movie clips and then there is modern footage so i guess the point i am making there is the very basic version of the message to say something along the lines of what you said.
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so now when he makes the film so with the depiction of the film itself of complexity is there. so what does it mean to have a long beautiful landscape shot? so what does it mean of how that contradicts what we see? this. >> when baldwin published, one of the reasons on the of homosexuality the nation and
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was not ready. but also remember we can also call him bisexual he had a relationship with women. actually he threw his wedding ring into the river. in then with this said kennedy so with that the identity identified with masculinity but it was this idea to be the sexual
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innuendo sparkle . the with at homosexuality so it is crucial to cut not of the word homosexual to have the fullest so why should somebody legislate? so yes. id they were trying to work on a book like malcolm x.
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so they have compensated. >> i think they are great companion pieces. >> so it is interesting to me samuel l. jackson was the choice so with that complex sensuality if you think of "the avengers", he is bad as you do not mess with "the avengers." so there were two of things about were interesting that
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they decided they would not put samuel l. jackson up like it was his name not up until the end because he was so pared down but my son was 16 and his friend was excited i had to tell them and then they said let's go. so that was the antithesis of this complex man the you can imagine and also has taken that message to the 14 year-old boy so i have multiple questions but now want to move to the content
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so robert you mentioned your grandmother was from their so what about that concept of home? so right now we should all be thinking about that to claim this space as home. so baldwin said in the united states we all have a birth rate and inheritance and keep in mind for many years even the writer of the "star spangled banner" felt that black people should go back to africa the only way they were valuable was from faraway the yet baldwin says this is our home and we are here.
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even donald trump said, i have to mention him said college should go back to africa this is not his home so what about the insistence he should be afraid -- we frame of the space for all. >> the reason why we get upset is because he is the immigrant the people who don't realize they are immigrants are the most frustrating americans. that is always the case and to not realize because what pulled with is speaking
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about is america has an idea even though he and his ancestors were there against their will it is a place to help to fix that in justice. so that is what he is referring to such talk about that mythology of identity that is the essential america. there were native people that is the birth this story of america and know what their way to look at it.
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so with those dominant cultures it is their job to maintain sabir unique in that sense but what is unique about this country it is so young and the possibility to be an idea or to conceive of that as an idea to say this is our home is radical. >> what strikes me about baldwin is so rand paul then comes of age -- baldwin
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comes of age so they take on that identity the african-american and studying in the war. so you had a lot of liberals of north but paul blanch felt regardless of how much african-americans had done it was say play gone the nativity to just understand
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to define quite this. so how would they be here? but to have limits as to what i can achieve but then to realize his love of his family. and then help to alleviate the family's poverty. they did not have a lot of money. so when you compound that with liberalism.
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[inaudible] but then there is a similar version he goes to in stempel -- in stubble in then to make sense when he found day variation it of that in that opportunity so
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holding his metaphysical in the iconic idea ted baldwin wanted to claim his home and then he pushes for the separatist. black people do not have land. women to deal with deal with colonization and then to
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give them what they are entitled to. so given that black situation of immigrants. in the day deal of america as coming back to harlem. and then to realize what they had missed. ended the ways that were unique to harlem. and then when the hero of mine leads america. that the u.s. is not friendly to so many ideas that causes people to leave. but that power of coming back and that is the
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idealism one of the most beautiful places on north. >> and then to prepare nothing is going on. and then with the civil rights movement. but then to stay away so on the one hand so what should
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be the function? and then to get involved in the social movements. but then baldwin house to come home and then he would just sit back and watch. >> then that comes back to the film why it has to be the way that it has to be. so watching in those pleasures of the complexity
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and that could be immensely pleasurable. >> so talk about art my favorite favorite right team is this one but it is only in his music the negro in america that is right nobody should ever say so go to new itunes and then tour take very seriously so a?
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thought on that?. >> but he was introduced in this gets him company the music was something with the spirit and the strength in the cultural production to say it is the american identity with the prophetic
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vision so with that characterization so as teachers are looking for something to read and then to apologize but then also have to deal with those who try to tell him that the identity so what are baldwin's quarrels? that was the very arabia was a black male or a man? so
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that is to make a the latter point but also the idea to be who you are. >>. >> but also that it was totally stolen and reconfigured by other groups exactly like led zeppelin but that larger point of the role of the artist so the film has been critiqued there is a reclaiming of the of blues and by this point
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it means a certain thing. and i find it very refreshing and then it is courageous to make that right choice. enjoy it. co2 open up to the audience of what i hope comes out is the idea of that provocative statement like the story of the negro in america. and that there is a cloud of witnesses.
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but the last one but then as baldwin is speaking we would like the black face to be blank if it is not white. so asking us why is this different than any other build? he puts the responsibility back on us. so how do you do that? sold come to the microphone if you have a thought or a question.
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>> [inaudible] one of the basis is the review and that his argument
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in with that sentimentality. and then to rouse the motion. so there is a way that they presented that is a young black boy. with that cushion. but somehow like federalism
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so richard wright when he read that it was like, of. [laughter] so along the way this was baldwin's critiqued. >> so i have a question i have been thinking about this term the were prophetic that has come up here a few times but i have been
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thinking about it negative you're talking so if something was true then it is still true now does that make it prophetic? and want to pick apart that term that is the truth. >> so it isn't just like the of profit jeremiah but his sense of where he was when he spoke so that is in a more complex way.
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but i cannot speak for baldwin. so the prophecy comes true in the continuation but it is also more convoluted. that is what i'd think about it. >> so dat is this is baldwin's moment that is a knowing because when was it not? so what that means there is cultural currency to his complexity or in the case of the film, that will fold reduction. and so the of prophecy has to come from a deeper
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meaning but there is something to this idea now when all comes true. you can look at footage from 1983 to say here is the prophecy coming true there. it is more complex which is really why what is interesting about the film why it is so popular now. what does that mean? especially with of white liberal audience to pat themselves on the back? it seems to be cutting through that on some level because they try to make money with that audience that they fail
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but this is not failings of the prophecy coming true is the providence of his message which is a knowing but also understandable. >> and then he says the white one will be true you. -- be trade you. but his father told him your faith in the nation he was resistant this is what he pushed back against. but if you didn't have your house in order to because it comes in goods and cycles so
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that in this nation it does not do right you could lose. so that is another way to look at it. >> but it allows baldwin's voice to connect the dots sold at any of those moments we go back to baldwin to see what they are talking about. >> good morning. they next to all previous this is great. i am hoping my question will help so i am thinking when i
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saw the movie it struck me how interesting it was to ring gauge with baldwin as an oral text instead of written and the idea of the simplicity of his character and persona presented to us through the film. so how much does that simplicity speak to a failure of america to read baldwin like a failure to pick him up and also the failure to get past our desire of a literary celebrity to gauge did these theoretical ideas? because those essays presented to us are not simple and the call to action to re-read american history is not
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simple so i fake it speaks to your question of how much is about white failure. >> bb robert you can start? is a legitimate question how much of the success in the millions the film is making but they are not picking up a baldwin because that is the dude from the film festival is so sophisticated? [laughter] so that is a great way. >> every heather has a great introduction into baldwin's so if you are educated but
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one of the theme is the film plays on it is important to think of the manuscript part of the film that plays is there the idea there is a famous writer but you have not heard everything but most people haven't so that is the hook to say it is unpublished and what does that mean? so that is just a the hook so it is about his celebrity because when you think about bald when you think about his words but you only do that because use only famous for how he says his words so yes it could be over simplicity and to say beings are pared down
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but in terms of putting him back into the spotlight is a cinematic way which is the function of the movie, it has gotten people to pick up books and read them which is why his message is so compelling that you see where he comes from. >>. >> i have never spoken with q&a before and i have gone to a lot of them but this moves me to do that not to ask a question but share an anecdote that i grew up in new york in the forties and fifties and lived there over 50 years putting college i
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had a number of black professors who went to france for a while specifically and would stay if they were on sabbatical to come back to say i was a minor celebrity. not that they were not patronized but it was a different feeling of just being a person but one professor was so stylish and smart and personable but in france she felt it was recognized but that was not the anecdote that i wanted to repeat to. [laughter] but this stayed with me over 60 years. my dad worked in the main post office in lower manhattan even with people with a college education who
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were not successful and he said a lot of things that i didn't listen to but one thing and never had forgotten was there are more black ph.d. looking at the post office in new york bay and teaching at colleges and universities and that is exactly what he said and it was true then in the '50s. it was true. >> he worked for the post office but he got laid off. [laughter] >> but a date your anecdote helps us to think about why we need to a specially look and encourage black ph.d..
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>> yes i cannot tell you how many students have come to me that african-american students but he was trade here at the university of florida so he can understand those ways and those complexities i have never heard anything but high marks. [applause] i think the tragedy my dad conveyed was there was all of this wasted talent that could have been shared that was so much to be given it was shared with the other clerks obviously because he knew they had a ph.d. but not with the world. >> the university of
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missouri's to do a better job. [applause] so can she just ask a question to think about?. >> it was two parts. the first part was obviously the authoritarian is not helping but does liberalism help or hurt is that the only option in the second part is how to remove from black history to simply history with films like i am not your negro, all of us are richer for that experience and that history. it is american history it is not strictly black. >> yes. >> of course, the problem is
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we cannot trust the academy to include black history has history so we must do black history. [laughter] [applause] [inaudible conversations]

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