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Indian youth’s tribute to James Baldwin

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PHIADELPHIA, PA — What could the connection be between James Baldwin and Indian student Archishman Raju, who came to the United States four years ago and had never heard about the famed novelist, playwright and civil rights activist before?

Raju, who is pursuing a doctorate in physics from Cornell University, once attended a class taught by Philadelphia-based former Temple University professor Anthony Monteiro. The subject of the weekly Saturday Free School class: Baldwin.

Reading the prolific novelist and essayist introduced him to the history of the black struggle in America, something Raju, who travels from Ithaca, N.Y., for the classes, could compare to India’s own anticolonialism.

“It’s a critique of the social structure that functions not just in America but in the world,” he said of Baldwin’s writings.

So inspired was he with Baldwin’s work, which explored racial and social injustices in ‘50s and ’60s, that he took up a cause.

Raju is an organizer of ‘James Baldwin Celebration,’ a three-day festival at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia, July 7-9. The celebration, a free and open gathering, which includes music, poetry, panel discussions and screenings of Baldwin’s speeches and debates, is being organized by the Saturday Free School.

“Baldwin has taught us that having sustained change in a society requires more than expressing anger and sorrow,” Raju was quoted as saying. “It requires understanding the world and participation in sustained organizing.”

Baldwin died in 1987 but his writings continue to find relevance and continue to inspire millions.

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