In His Own Words: A James Baldwin Centennial Celebration | Mechanics' Institute

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In His Own Words: A James Baldwin Centennial Celebration
co-sponsored by the Museum of the African Diaspora

Friday, August 2, 2024 - 6:30 pm

Celebrate James Baldwin’s 100th birthday with an immersive night of readings and performance. Attendees are invited to engage with works from and inspired by Baldwin, including written selections, film, music, and multimedia artworks. Featuring Arnold Grisham, Daniel B. Summerhill, Jewelle Gomez, Kevin Dublin, Laura Sheppard, Nigel Hatton, and Norman Gee. Co-sponsored by the Museum of the African Diaspora.

Image courtesy of Allan Warren.

James Baldwin (born August 2, 1924, New York, New York, U.S.—died December 1, 1987, Saint-Paul de Vence, France) was an essayist, novelist, and playwright whose eloquence and passion on the subject of race in America made him one of the most important voices of the 20th century. A writer of exceptionally clear and psychologically penetrating prose, Baldwin addressed race relations with deft complexity and incisive anger. He was also one of the first Black writers to include queer themes in fiction, notably in Giovanni’s Room (1956), writing with a frankness that was highly controversial at the time. His works include the novels Go Tell It on the Mountain (1953) and Another Country (1962), the plays The Amen Corner (1954) and Blues for Mister Charlie (1964), and the essay collections Nobody Knows My Name (1961) and The Fire Next Time (1963).


About the Speakers

Kevin Dublin is an educator, economic justice advocate, and the author of Eulogy (Raven & Wren Press, 2023) and How to Fall in Love in San Diego (Finishing Line Press, 2017). He is the recipient of fellowships and awards from the San Francisco Arts Commission, Center for Cultural Innovation, Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, and more. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Konch, Apocrypha Magazine, The San Franciscan, North Carolina Literary Review, Cincinnati Review, and several international poetry anthologies. He is the director of The Living Room SF. Kevin, like Baldwin, believes in you and our collective power to change the world.

Norman Gee has worked with companies including SF-Shakes, Word for Word, Lorraine Hansberry, TheatreWorks, Shotgun Players, CentralWorks, Perspective Theater, and Oakland Theater Project. He recently performed in Great Expectations with San Jose Stage Company. Last summer he understudied (& performed!) in Pericles for SF Shakes.

Founder of Oakland Public Theater, Norman creates a "different kind of Black Theater,” expanding notions of culture to encompass often invisible roles of African-Americans. He also embraces a new position as a PlayGround Associate Producer. The Baldwin Project is a follow-up to a similar project created with playwright Richard Talavera, BEFORE THE DREAM: The Mysterious Death (& Life) Of Richard Wright.

Jewelle Gomez, (Cabo Verdean/Wampanoag/Ioway; she/her), is a novelist, poet, essayist, and playwright. Her ten books include five collections of poetry and the first Black Lesbian vampire novel, THE GILDA STORIES. In print for more than 30 years, the novel was recently optioned by Cheryl Dunye (Lovecraft Country, Watermelon Woman) for a TV mini-series. Her latest collection of poetry, Still Water, is from BLF Press.

Gomez was playwright in residence (2011-2023) at New Conservatory Theatre Center (San Francisco) which commissioned and produced her last three plays: Waiting for Giovanni about author/activist James Baldwin; Leaving the Blues about singer/composer Alberta Hunter, and Unpacking in P’town about a group of retired vaudevillians. Gomez was the recipient of an NEA Fellowship, a California Arts Council Artist’s Residency and recently a Bram Stoker Legacy Award from the Horror Writers of America.

Connect with her on TWITTER & Instagram: @VampyreVamp.

Daniel B. Summerhill is the author of Divine, Divine, Divine (2021), a semi-finalist for the Charles B. Wheeler and Saturnalia Poetry Prizes and Mausoleum of Flowers (2022). His poems and essays appear in Columbia Journal, Obsidian, Ploughshares, Callaloo, Academy of American Poets and elsewhere. Summerhill has earned fellowships from Baldwin for the Arts and The Watering hole. An Oakland native, Summerhill is Assistant Professor of Poetry at Santa Clara University and is the Inaugural Poet Laureate of Monterey County. His latest project, Praying for Rain converses with James Baldwin's legacy, poetics and relationships. Daniel believes in the liberation of oppressed peoples everywhere, especially through the dissolution of empire.

Meet the Author(s)

Non-Members $15
Members $5
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