Lessons - Video Installations > Lesson 6 (James Baldwin)

I firmly believe that reading is one of the best ways to become an empathic person and to develop a compassionate world view. Through the written word we can see through the eyes of those whose lives are different from our own. In the gallery installation, my son teenage son Aidan and I read “My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” from The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. The outdoor projection was created with my youngest son Elliott using quotes from Baldwin’s essay “White Man’s Guilt” and “Black English: A Dishonest Argument”, a speech Baldwin gave at Wayne State University in 1980.

We turned to James Baldwin because, at this moment, there is a lot of debate in the United States as to how to teach American history and what should and should not be included. James Baldwin has taught us how history makes us who we are right now, how we are not removed from it: “We are our history.”

Finally, I am incredibly attracted to printed and written text. I enjoy making images of text from books I love using a macro camera lens as well as the beautiful look of my children’s handwriting. When I find a passage that especially resonates with me, I understand it more fully by writing it out myself. I’ve asked Aidan and Elliott to do the same in this piece.