To tell the truth, one sees it (the United States) better from a distance and you can make comparisons from another place, from another country, which you aren’t able to make in America because there is nothing to compare America to.
- James Baldwin, “From Another Place,” Documentary (Sedat Pakay, 1970)
James Baldwin in Turkey © Sedat Pakay 1965
The BALDWIN100 is a collaborative arts, scholarship and cultural project encompassing a year-long series of initiatives designed to convene a wider Washington area audience to engage deeply with James Baldwin’s work. By celebrating Why Baldwin Matters, the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center is in a unique position to highlight a global Baldwin, whose impact on American intellectual and cultural life holds promise for a just world. The final outcomes of the initiative are: connecting the individual to their role to progress America towards a more just society.
2024 is the centennial celebration year of James Baldwin’s birth on August 2, 1924, in Harlem, New York. By marking The Year of Baldwin, our partners can re-examine and share prescient and ever relevant work of one of America’s prophets. Turning out to face the world in countries like France and Turkey, James Baldwin was able to reflect on the American experiment and racial injustice. From 1961 to 1971, Istanbul became the backdrop for Baldwin’s writing. A city situated at the cultural crossroads of East and West, it was there that he wrote such renowned works as the novel “Another Country” (1962). From abroad, he wrote about America’s structural, cultural, and physical violence against African Americans and other marginalized groups. Exiled and yet belonging to America, he legitimized a critical way of thinking about the world, sexuality, and the artist in it. By celebrating a global Baldwin, and the intersectionality of Baldwin, we will bring curators and audiences together to remember, witness and critically examine our own purpose to create a just society.
At the Alan Cheuse International Writers Center we celebrate American writers who face out into the world and bring international writers to America. America’s issues are the world’s issues and the world’s issues are America's, restoring our sense of one humanity. In the 2022-23 academic year alone we brought audiences 16 free programs, with 35 writers from 24 countries, including American writers and GMU faculty. Writers like Baldwin are at the core of the Center’s mission to stand shoulder to shoulder with writers who seek social justice. With Why Baldwin Matters we focus on Baldwin, freedom, internationalism, cosmopolitanism and justice, and hope to interrogate the human experience in all its creative possibility, trauma, joys and contradictions. In this collaboration, the Cheuse Center (CC) will offer spaces to connect the contributions of African American public intellectuals like Baldwin to all races; deepening a sense of community, empathy and awe for one another on Mason’s campus and beyond. Before Alan Cheuse passed away in 2015, he had hoped that young American writers could experience America from a distance, and so a pillar of our program is the Cheuse Fellowship, where since 2016, we have sent 20 MFA students on travel fellowships across the world, reflected in essays inspired by Baldwin's "Another Country." You can read from this series here.