A letter to James

Hello Mr. Baldwin,

I just finished your book, The Fire Next Time. It’s also Black History Month. A wonderful adaptation of your book If Beal Street Could Talk is in theaters. Also, it’s 2019.

Nothing has changed, basically. The struggle continues. Only we have an ungodly amount of entertainment to go through while waiting for death. It used to be church, booze or needles on the stoop. That was your world. It is now “memes”, “likes” and a “feed” on the way to a mind-numbing job.

You asked the question: do I really want to be integrated into a burning house? Well, the burning house is now our whole planet, which is suffering from our stupid tenacity to stay ignorant and greedy. You know the deal. So integrated or not, the house, the property, our only property is in flames. It’s not a good look.

Love, as you mention it in the terms of tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth, is even less alive these days. We’re in the realms of ironoia, a term coined by Ian Bogost, which in essence is a failure to be earnest or true to oneself. You can understand that this is not helping with love. At all.

You would not believe the lengths to which people go to so that they can hide their hearts. It’s disheartening and a really tough problem to solve.

So we lose a fair amount of time, on everything. We dance for moons and nothing happens, really. We did get a black couple to rule the White House for eight years and you can accurately imagine how magnificent that was. But the fire is here now. It was there then too. We were just too busy smiling to acknowledge it.

Compounding effects led most people to do nothing between when you were writing and the world I’m living in. Black culture has exploded in popularity though, which is good? Consolation prize, I guess.

So, we continue. We stay focused. We work, relentlessly. We avoid, organically. We chill, seriously.

I am realizing how equally twisted our lives are: you moved to France, I moved to the US. You needed a break from racism, I needed space, which is kind of the same.

I write what I want to write, so you did. They say you wrote about bitter truths and I kind of do it as well, except that it doesn’t pay in my case.

You died of stomach cancer. I’m very active and in great shape but I feel like this world is burning my heart at great speed. Faster than it should, you know? The situation I am in is so intense I feel like apnea is occurring every five minutes.

Nonetheless I feel having a limitless amount of energy, hope and dedication to what I believe. Even though like 120% of black folks I am sick and tired, like we say these days: “but I’m here, bitch”

Godspeed James.

Your long distance nephew,

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