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You Mean It or You Don't: James Baldwin's Radical Challenge

You Mean It or You Don't: James Baldwin's Radical Challenge

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After a speech at UMass Amherst on February 28, 1984, James Baldwin was asked by a student: "You said that the liberal façade and being a liberal is not enough. Well, what is? What is necessary?" Baldwin responded, "Commitment. That is what is necessary. You mean it or you don't."

Taking up that challenge and drawing from Baldwin's fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews, You Mean It or You Don't will spur today's progressives from conviction to action. It is not enough, authors Hollowell and McGhee urge us, to hold progressive views on racial justice, LGBTQ+ identity, and economic inequality. True and lasting change demands a response to Baldwin's radical challenge for moral commitment. Called to move from dreams of justice to living it out in communities, churches, and neighborhoods, we can show that we truly mean it.

Welcome to life with James Baldwin. It is raw and challenging, inspired and embodied, passionate and fully awake.

Excerpt from the introduction

The title, You Mean It or You Don’t, is for you. It is for us too. It is an invitation into Baldwin’s demand for responsibility, honesty, and accountability in a time of great moral evasion. It is not a threat but a statement of fact. It should excite and unnerve you at the same time. To help you move from conviction to action, each chapter includes prompts with concrete steps to work for justice in your homes, neighborhoods, schools, communities, churches, and other religious groups.

About the Author

Jamie McGhee is a novelist, playwright, and essayist. For her fiction, she was named a James Baldwin Fellow in Saint-Paul de Vence, France, and a Sacatar Fellow in Itaparica, Brazil. She has also been awarded artist residencies at Blue Mountain Center in New York, Zentrum für Kunst Urbanistik in Germany, and Sa Taronja Associació Cultural in Spain. With ties to the eastern US, she is now based in Berlin, Germany.

Adam Hollowell teaches ethics and inequality studies at Duke University, where he directs the Global Inequality Research Initiative at the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.

  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 196 pages
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 11.2 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.32 x 0.8 x 9.26 inches