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Philmont hosts discussion group on Baldwin

James Baldwin. Photo contributed

PHILMONT – The Philmont Library sponsors a 4-part series of “Read and Discuss” talks entitled, “James Baldwin’s America,” on the second Wednesdays of every month from February through June at 7 p.m. The program is funded by Humanities New York and hosted by Columbia County poet Karen Schoemer.

A diverse group of 25 people – life-long Philmont residents and recent transplants, women and men, Black and white, younger to elder – participated in the introductory session on February 8. All had read Mr. Baldwin’s writings (some several times) and all looked forward to reconnecting with the author.

James Baldwin was a controversial, gay, Black man. He was a prolific writer of novels, non-fiction, plays and essays, reaching his literary peak in the mid 1950s. No matter the genre, Mr. Baldwin wrote uncompromisingly about American racism and its deleterious impact on not only African-Americans; but, also, on its proponents and enablers.

Ms. Schoemer told the group that it was apropos to revisit Mr. Baldwin’s writings, especially in light of current attempts to suppress critical race theory scholars and to dilute high school level African-American studies. Referring to the current controversy in Florida regarding a proposed AP African American studies course, Schoemer lamented Mr. Baldwin’s absence from the list of approved writers.

She also noted that although the program is called “Read and Discuss” it was very important “to listen” to what Mr. Baldwin has to say.

Each participant received two hard copy books, “Baldwin: Collected Essays” and “Baldwin: Early Novels and Stories,” each in excess of 800 pages.

After general introductions and protocols for the program, participants read aloud from the essay, “The White Man’s Guilt,” each taking a paragraph. This was followed by an open discussion about people’s reactions, thoughts and feelings.

Mr. Baldwin was raised in Harlem but at age 24 sought refuge from America in Paris where he lived for 9 years. Mr. Baldwin returned to the U.S. during the height of the Civil Rights movement in 1957, using a profound clarity of thought and unadorned yet poetic language to advocate for Black Freedom.

Perhaps this singular focus cost Mr. Baldwin major American literary recognition. The handout distributed to the group notes that Mr. Baldwin never won a Pulitzer or a National Book Award.

According to the schedule, the agenda includes two works of fiction, “Another Country” and “Giovanni’s Room,” and two works of non-fiction, “Nobody Knows My Name” and “The Fire Next Time.”

The next meeting is March 8. For more information go to https://philmontlibrary.com/

TSL shows collection of films about James Baldwin

HUDSON – Time and Space Limited (TSL) is showing the film “James Baldwin Abroad” a collection of 3 shorts shot from 1968 -73. The films include “James Baldwin: From Another Place,” a 12 minute, black and white film when the author lived in Istanbul, Turkey. “Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris,” the only color film in the trio of works. Its running time is 26 minutes. The last work is “Baldwin’s N*****,” set in London, where the author and fellow activist/comedian Dick Gregory, address West Indian students about the similarities between racism in the United States and Great Britain.

Future screenings are Saturday, February 18, at 2:30 p.m. and Monday, February 20, 5 p.m. TSL is located at 434 Columbia Street. Tickets are $7/members and $9/ general public on Saturday; $5 and $7, Monday. Both on and off-street parking available. – Lorna Cherot Littleway

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