When you consider essays like “The Fire This Time,” or his novels like Go Tell It On The Mountain or Giovanni’s Room — classical, canonical, towering works, all — there is no question that James Baldwin was a man for his times. But as we come up on what would have been Baldwin’s 92nd birthday, living in this strange moment in 2016 where great hope is on the precipice of frankly unthinkable doom, you cannot help but plaintively cry: We sure could use a James Baldwin right fucking now, could we not?
James Baldwin, who, when asked once by an interviewer if being born black, poor, an gay, had he not hit the ultimate combination of misfortune, responded, "No. I thought I had hit the jackpot!” James Baldwin, whose Wikipedia entry feels like an inspiring dare to do all that you can in this go-round. James Baldwin who, it must be said, was one of the most cutting, perfect, stylish men to ever walk God’s green earth. Again: We sure could use a James Baldwin right fucking now, could we not? Some James Baldwin, right here! Today!
It must be serendipity then, as The African American Museum in Philadelphia, presents The Price of the Ticket, the 1989 landmark doc on the great man, in honor of his birthday and in anticipation of their upcoming exhibit, Arresting Patterns, which reflects on, well, one of the things that got people in the streets right now — systemic injustice. If that feels like a bummer, you may be looking at it in the wrong way: After the summer we’ve been having — hell, the America we’ve been having — there might be no greater tonic right now than to sit in a dark, cool room, and James Baldwin himself remind you: You’re not insane. Everything else is.