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Photo by George E. Joseph

A Celebration of James Baldwin with Carolyn Forché and E. Ethelbert Miller

Carolyn Forché, poet and professor of English and director of the Lannan Center, Georgetown University; E. Ethelbert Miller, poet, literary activist, and director, African American Resource Center, Howard University. On September 11, 2014, for the first lecture program in National Gallery of Art history to be held in the East Building Atrium, celebrated poets Carolyn Forché and E. Ethelbert Miller shared their personal reflections on the legacy of James Baldwin (1924–1987). This program was supported by Dr. Darryl Atwell and Dr. Renicha McCree to honor what would have been the 90th birthday of Baldwin—American essayist, novelist, playwright, poet, and activist. Archival video footage of Baldwin discussing "The Negro and the American Promise” and “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity” provided the starting point for Miller’s and Forché’s presentations, respectively. For these poets, Baldwin’s words serve as a guide for understanding one’s world in a larger social context: "You can only take if you are prepared to give, and giving is not an investment. It is not a day at the bargain counter. It is a total risk of everything, of you and who you think you are, who you think you’d like to be, where you think you’d like to go—everything, and this forever, forever…"