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“Baldwins Last Fire” addresses alarming rates of missing Black children

As part of the 30th annual Minnesota Fringe Festival, Black Lives Black Words International Project is presenting “Baldwin’s Last Fire.” Written by Reginald Edmund and directed by Harry Waters Jr, the play reimagines the life of James Baldwin as a thriller.

The story is centered in the South of France in 1985. In the play, James Baldwin is taking in the French countryside when he is called to assist in a string of cases involving the disappearances of immigrant Black children in the village of Port Noire.

Reginald Edmund says, as the father of two Black daughters, he was compelled to draw attention to the real-world disappearances of Black and brown children across the globe. In 2021, Black children represented 14% of the total child population but 24% of missing children.

“I've been really intrigued about the amount of young Black children that have been disappearing in our day and times. And so the combination of wanting to bring more awareness to the work of James Baldwin, and also to the missing children is something that I've really wanted to explore,” said Edmund. “James Baldwin is one of my literary heroes. I wanted to try to channel his narrative in a way that's exciting and will bring in a next generation of people to explore the work of James Baldwin and fall in love with his writing as much as I have.”

Director Harry Waters Jr. plays the part of James Baldwin. He says what makes Edmund’s play transformative is that it serves the Black narrative, as opposed to extracting value from it. He says many times the issues that affect people of color are only valued when put in the context of the white experience, or when it benefits white bodies. He says “Baldwin’s Last Fire” is about amplifying the honest concerns of Black voices, and reflecting the persistent lack of protection of Black lives.

“One of the issues that Reggie brings up in this piece is that people of color around the world are not really feeling safe,” explained Waters. “Calling the police when something happens - you die, you're ignored, you're pushed away, you're not believed. But yet, on the other hand, if a little white girl from Wisconsin is missing, the entire CNN, Fox networks are going to try and go out there and report that. So there's something about owning your own story, owning your own narrative.”

The 30th annual Fringe Festival runs August 3 - 13. Performances of “Baldwin’s Last Fire” take place at Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis. Showtime and ticket information are available here.

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