The world was a very different place when Robin DG Kelley’s renowned book Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination was first published in 2002. As the reality of post-9/11 America and the war on terror hardened into a dystopian, jingoistic consensus, and as the global economy careened towards impending catastrophe, the possibility of a future in which peace, justice, and equality reigned had all but disappeared. And yet, as people in the darkest of times throughout human history have done, many still had the audacity to dream of—and fight for—something better. Now, 20 years later, as we face the reality that unchecked capitalist pillage, endless war, and climate catastrophe have put humanity on a path to mutually assured destruction, the future seems bleaker than ever, and the possibility of averting disaster feels more unattainable than ever. How do we confront the enormity of all this devastation and still keep fighting? How can we keep hope alive that we can save ourselves, humanity, and the planet when the world around us gives us so little cause for hope? As we continue the impossible struggle for a better world, how do we deal with constant failure without succumbing to defeat?
In this special interview, TRNN Editor-in-Chief Maximillian Alvarez and Kelley grapple with these questions and discuss the continued necessity of freedom dreaming—and fighting like hell—in the face of catastrophe. Robin DG Kelley is currently the Distinguished Professor and Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in US History in the Department of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. His research has explored the history of social movements in the US, the African diaspora, and Africa; Black intellectuals; music and visual culture; surrealism, and Marxism, among other vital topics. His essays have been published in general publications and academic journals across the board, including the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, The Nation, Monthly Review, New York Times, Color Lines, Social Text ,The Black Scholar, Journal of Palestine Studies, and Boston Review. He has authored and edited numerous influential books, including Africa Speaks, America Answers: Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times; Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original; Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination; Race Rebels: Culture, Politics, and the Black Working Class; and Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression.
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