For "Stage VII: Race, Ethnicity & The Color Line," each of the fellows were asked to write a letter to their future children in the style of James Baldwin's 1962 letter to his nephew, "My Dungeon Shook." The unit's mission asked them to explore the twin values of audacity and humility and how they will define the appropriate time to be deferential, gracious, and willing to listen...and when they need to speak out without restraint, qualification, or apology.
What follows is a selection of 15 of our fellows' letters explaining their hopes and fears about the future of race in America...the progress we must celebrate, the demons we must slay, and the long road to trudge when it comes to actualizing a version of America often espoused but rarely experienced.
"You know and I know that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too early," wrote Baldwin to his nephew in 1962. "We cannot be free until they are free."
The words of our fellows remind us that freedom from truth (ignorance), freedom from responsibility (shamelessness), and freedom from reality (insanity) are no types of freedom at all. We want our children to be hopeful but not naive, critical-minded but not cynical. We want them to be equipped with the humility to know that the odds are against them but the audacity to never give up nonetheless...