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You Mean It or You Don't: James Baldwin's Radical Challenge

by Jamie McGhee, Adam Hollowell

After a speech at UMass Amherst on February 28, 1984, James Baldwin was asked by a student: "You said that the liberal façade and being a liberal is not enough. Well, what is? What is necessary?" Baldwin responded, "Commitment. That is what is necessary. You mean it or you don't."

Taking up that challenge and drawing from Baldwin's fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and interviews, You Mean It or You Don't will spur today's progressives from conviction to action. It is not enough, authors Hollowell and McGhee urge us, to hold progressive views on racial justice, LGBTQ+ identity, and economic inequality. True and lasting change demands a response to Baldwin's radical challenge for moral commitment. Called to move from dreams of justice to living it out in communities, churches, and neighborhoods, we can show that we truly mean it.

Welcome to life with James Baldwin. It is raw and challenging, inspired and embodied, passionate and fully awake.

in Our Country, Our Culture
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Published June 2022

Broadleaf Books

Hardcover, 196 pages

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"You Mean It or You Don't is an extremely timely, transformative piece. It reminds readers of the intensity of James Baldwin's moral demand for social transformation and intersectional equity. It's not just a book--it's a much-needed blueprint." --Valencia Clement, thought leader, artist, and scholar