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Artist Creates A ‘Spiritual Workshop’ With James Baldwin

A photo of Tristan Parks in a performance
Unifyed Visuals
Performance artist Tristan Parks from a December workshop of his piece 'They Do Not Know Harlem: In Communion with James Baldwin' at the Slippage Lab at Duke University.

Artist Tristan Parks has spent so much time in communion with James Baldwin in the past year that he says he is “sure Baldwin is annoyed” with him at this point. Baldwin, of course, passed away more than three decades ago, but his spirit, words and philosophy are very much alive in Parks’ new performance-art piece, “They Do Not Know Harlem: In Communion with James Baldwin.”

Parks started digging into Baldwin for his masters thesis project. He spent months reading interviews with Baldwin, reading and re-reading his canon, staging mock interviews with him, and eventually translating Baldwin’s exact phrases and words into movement and dance.

Here I am in the 21st century being able to live my truth because he lived his. - Tristan Andre Parks

As a Southern, black, queer artist, he aims to bring Baldwin’s artistry to a modern audience and explore ideas of home, collective action, and the reimagining black art.

Host Frank Stasio talks with Parks in advance of his two-night residency at the Rubenstein Arts Center at Duke University on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11.

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Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist, host, creator, and executive editor of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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