The Harlem Stage Gatehouse has been transformed into a sanctuary for Meshell Ndegeocello's show, "Can I Get A Witness?" I'm here to facilitate a post-show talk about with young people during a matinee performance of the show. The show is inspired by James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time. The show is a heart opening meditation on Baldwin's work.
Sitting inside that sacred space my eyes filled with tears as I listened to Baldwin's voice fill the room, his image projected onto the wall. In that moment, could feel the full weight of my grief; the loss of loved ones, the swift turn toward right wing racism post-election, the hollowness left behind having recently ended things with my lover. It's was hard to feel the presence of love in that moment and then I remembered Baldwin's words: "Love does not begin and end the way we think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up." And I realized in that moment that indeed Baldwin was calling us to grow up. Because this moment requires something most of us have never experienced before. Love, in this time we're living in, requires us to tell the truth, so we can feel the totality of our pain. Because only in feeling it all, can we notice those spacious outer edges of grief where the light illuminates like a horizon. That is where peace can be found, that is where hope and inspiration lives, and where we discover the possibility for transformation of ourselves and the world.
This image of Baldwin covers one full wall of the theatre:
Artwork by Mary Olin Geiger for Can I Get A Witness? The Gospel of James Baldwin