James Balwin chosen for WOLM


Courtesy of TheNewYorker.com

Historic author James Baldwin has his writing honored as a Work of Literary Merit (WOLM) at Santa Rosa Junior College

Rebecca Dominguez, Staff Writer

In the ’50s and ’60s a revolution began for racial equality that continues today. Due to the relevance of James Baldwin’s writing relating to current struggles against racial, sexual and economic discrimination and in celebration of his 90th birthday, Santa Rosa Junior College chose his work as a Work of Literary Merit (WOLM).

A number of events explored different aspects of James Baldwin’s writing. English professor Michael Hale presented, “Between Civil Rights and Black Power: James Baldwin’s Prophetic Vision” March 30 at Newman Auditorium.

Throughout the presentation Hale spoke of what changes Baldwin believed should be a part of the Civil Rights movement. Unlike most, Baldwin did not believe the focus of the movement should be solely on pushing for federal action.

“[Baldwin] believed that not enough energy was spent to desegregate the human mind and heart,” Hale said.

Baldwin’s main vision was a multiracial conversation about the race issues in the United States. Baldwin believed all people needed to undergo a transformation. Hale said Baldwin’s main concept consisted of two points: African-Americans’ need to gain self-confidence and white people’s need to engage in a self-confrontation of history.

“We find ourselves in a similar place that young people found themselves in 50 years ago, but we lack the tools to understand our situation because we have allowed our history to be taken from us and to be sanitized,” Hale said. “We must seek out this usable past in order to develop social movements for the 21st century. Reading Baldwin is an excellent first step.”

Hale ended the lecture by listing organizations and events for people to get involved with on campus, such as the Black Student Union which meets  5-6 p.m., Mondays in Senate chambers and Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanist A de Aztlan (MEChA), which meet on Mondays from 5-7 p.m. in 4643 Bertolini Student Center.

SRJC hosts the parents of the 43 missing students from Mexico at 10 a.m. , April 7 in front of the library, and a Student Youth Conference will be held April 25 in Newman Auditorium. There are other WOLM events in April.

Walter Turner, history professor at College of Marin and host of “Africa Today” on KPFA will give a lecture titled “James Baldwin and History” from noon-1 p.m. April 6 in Newman Auditorium.

The presentation will give information on the history of the civil rights movement.

“Turner is a good speaker, a clear thinker and a great historian,” Hale said .

Jewelle Gomez, author of “The Gilda Stories” and “Waiting for Giovanni” will present “Race, Desire, and the Blues” 3:30-4:30 p.m., April 16 in Newman Auditorium.

Abby Bogomolny, Chair of WOLM, said Jewelle Gomez’s play “Waiting for Giovanni” is about Baldwin and his decision and struggle to publish his book “Giovanni’s Room,” a novel about two gay men.

The lecture will bring forth the interconnectedness of all of Baldwin’s sexual and racial ideas, said Bogomolny.

All of the WOLM events are significant to the current issues people face today, including James Baldwin’s ideas and writings. “Baldwin is brutally honest and exquisitely poetic and that combination speaks to us,” Bogomolny said.