James Baldwin’s words came back to life with Chris Rock’s soul-stirring rendition of of the late poet/author’s work during the MLK Now celebration at the Harlem Riverside Church Monday (Jan. 18). The celebration honoring Dr. King’s legacy, was held at the church were he delivered an impassioned anti-war speech in 1967 speech.
Rock read a passage from Baldwin’s 1963 work, My Dungeon Shook which states, “The Black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.”
He continued,“You, don’t be afraid. I said that it was intended that you should perish in the ghetto, perish by never being allowed to go behind the white man’s definitions, by never being allowed to spell your proper name. You have, and many of us have, defeated this intention; and, by a terrible law, a terrible paradox, those innocents who believed that your imprisonment made them safe are losing their grasp of reality.”
The daylong put on by Blackout for Human Rights and Campaign for Black Achievement, was moderated by director Ryan Coogler. Other speakers included Michael B. Jordan, J. Cole, Saul Williams, and Harry Belafonte.
Check out video from the event below.