There was a meeting in 1963 between Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin and a few of Baldwin’s friends. When you think of an example of speaking truth to power, that meeting as described by Dyson here, will indeed standout as definitive.
Dyson writes “I heard over the years how explosive it was, how it brought together other folk I had admired, including Harry Belafonte. The gathering pitted an earnest if defensive white liberal against a raging phalanx of thinkers, activists, and entertainers who were out for blood. I’ve always wanted to read a book about that historic moment, and more important, about its meaning for us today as we struggle with many of the same issues America confronted 50 years ago.”
Dyson has not written that book, but this one has enough details about that meeting to give a clear picture about what took place. He manages to put the reader in that room while brilliantly filling out the book with looks at the various communities represented. There are chapters on the Artists, Activists, Intellectuals and the Politicians. And Dyson doesn’t just lock into 1963, he brings the discussion current because….”racial and political truths that we still confront today.”
So while that very important and volatile meeting sets the foundation for the book, the actions or inactions of our current community leaders-not in the geographical sense, but community in the sense of interest groups, i.e. Artists, Politicians, etc.-are the brick and mortar that makes this a must read. The melding of the historical with current day concerns and challenges qualifies this work as one of Dyson’s best.
Dyson’s prose and criticism is as always, electric and sharp, “the enshrinement of ignorance as the basis of power and authority, is the personification of white supremacy and white arrogance.” The indictment of white supremacy while encouraging Whites to wake up and recognize is a continued effort from his most previous work, Tears We Cannot Stop. As evidenced by the subtitle here, Dyson is of the belief that the historic meeting in 1963 was an important conversation about race that no doubt needs be to continued and expanded because it remains unfinished. However in this book he has turned up the volume so it’s clear what truth sounds like! Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced DRC. The publishing date is June 5, 2018. Mark your calendar.
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