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On optimism and pessimism.
Say It Loud
There’s a friendly hour’s conversation here about racial matters and moods. It’s been going on in a bookstore for about 35 years. What’s new this time, late in the portentous year of 2021, is first, the fine line between hope and despair, and second, that law professor Randall Kennedy joins us in a Zoom room, not the bookstore, and we’re recording ourselves for eavesdroppers. For starters, should we be calling this the Amanda Gorman year of Black womanhood, in prizes, power, all manner of public purposes? Under the dire threat of voter suppression, are activists in fact mounting a third Reconstruction since slavery? In culture, too, might we have a second Harlem Renaissance underway in all the arts and American thinking?
Randall Kennedy calls his wide-ranging essay collection Say It Loud. You know the rest: “I’m black and I’m proud,” from James Brown’s giant hit of 50 some years ago. Kennedy’s got a full half century of black anthems in his head, including Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” Curtis Mayfield’s “We’re a Winner,” Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” This hour is about the changes that keep coming.
Professor at Harvard Law School.