James Baldwin died long before I could read, and decades before I’d find his work and be permanently changed by the encounter. Through him, I found Countee Cullen and so the poets and writers and artists and musicians and photographers of the Harlem Renaissance. Through him, Lorraine Hansberry. Through him, my own voice.
Finding your voice is one thing. Using it is another.
“There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.” — James Baldwin in Faulkner and Desgregation collected in “Nobody Knows My Name”
“While you're living, dealing with other human beings, people whom you love, all you can do is have passion. The bottom line is this: You write in order to change the world, knowing perfectly well that you probably can't, but also knowing that literature is indispensable to the world. In some way, your aspirations and concern for a single man in fact do begin to change the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter, even by a millimeter, the way a person looks or people look at reality, then you can change it.” — James Baldwin quoted in John Romano, “James Baldwin Writing and Talking,” New York Times (September 23, 1979).