After a brief service at my cathedral, I stopped into a favorite bar for a drink and then to a theatre to see Raoul Peck’s documentary about James Baldwin’s uncompleted project on the civil rights movement of the early 1960s. My father always said that Baldwin’s writings “spoke” to him as an immigrant in this country but I didn’t understand what my father meant until I saw this documentary. I saw why Baldwin, a brilliant black man, couldn’t “belong” in this country but couldn’t stay away from this country either. I saw why Baldwin was a favorite of my father, an educated black man in the south of the 1950s.
This documentary also gave some voice to my feeling’s of not “belonging” anywhere and allowed me to remember that I have been “damn lucky” to have made it this far here. These feelings of being a distinct outsider have been with me since my earliest childhood experiences living in a world that never accepted me black or white, north or south, woman or man. I always sought to “belong” but now I know that I never will belong anywhere so I will stop seeking that sense of belonging; of connection; of being a part of anything.
I kept challenging myself. I KEEP challenging myself. I challenge myself to sail further, to fly higher and to run further and faster. I am most at home in the early morning darkness, running the asphalt of my Midwest suburban town, alone with my thoughts and meditations. I don’t belong here but I am here for the next few months as I prepare to head out west for a brief stop there too. I can live in luxury enjoying the bright sunshine as I sip a cold beer or morning coffee: smelling the salt air coming off the Pacific Ocean.
My challenge, to complete the projects started this year and then to move on as fast as possible because there is never acceptance or even acknowledgement that I am a human being. The person I admire most, considers me far beneath him. The person that I have come to love can’t stand to be in my presence thus I understand fully, why I can’t connect to anything anymore and won’t.
My father, a brilliant black man, who found his way in this world; married a white woman from Great Britain and produced an empathic daughter who can’t live anymore. I can’t walk between worlds any more. My Pop gave me his sense of duty and work ethic. My Mum gave me her sense of wonder of this world but it’s not my world and never will be my world and I stop trying here and now.
Peck’s documentary was a bit disjointed as he attempted to put Baldwin in today’s society. Sure there are parallels with the days when black men and women were lynched; today shot in the street or killed in a jail cell or robbed of dignity by my colleagues in medicine because of the vulnerability of being poor, afraid and sick. Peck gave himself a massive challenge and partially succeeded in meeting that challenge; at least giving people thought material; others fears; others guilt.
For me, Peck’s documentary is a reminder of difficult tasks that lay ahead. The film is a reminder and a predictor of what is to come. For me, the challenges lay in continuing to advocate for those who are in danger of being harmed by policies and profits. For me, the challenge is to stay alive but this has been my constant challenge anyway.