Christopher Paul Harris at Harvard Book Store


To Build a Black Future:
The Radical Politics of Joy, Pain, and Care 

in conversation with DR. CHARISSE BURDEN-STELLY


September 22, 2023
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes CHRISTOPHER PAUL HARRIS—assistant professor of Global and International Studies at University of California, Irvine—for a discussion of his new book To Build a Black Future: The Radical Politics of Joy, Pain, and Care. He will be joined in conversation by author and Charles Warren Center Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, DR. CHARISSE BURDEN-STELLY.

About To Build a Black Future

When #BlackLivesMatter emerged in 2013, it animated the most consequential Black-led mobilization since the civil rights and Black power era. Today, the hashtag turned rallying cry is but one expression of a radical reorientation toward Black politics, protest, and political thought. To Build a Black Future examines the spirit and significance of this insurgency, offering a revelatory account of a new political culture—responsive to pain, suffused with joy, and premised on care—emerging from the centuries-long arc of Black rebellion, a tradition that traces back to the Black slave.

Drawing on his own experiences as an activist and organizer, Christopher Paul Harris takes readers inside the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) to chart the propulsive trajectory of Black politics and thought from the Middle Passage to the present historical moment. Carefully attending to the social forces that produce Black struggle and the contradictions that arise within it, Harris illustrates how M4BL gives voice to an abolitionist praxis that bridges the past, present, and future, outlining a political project at once directed inward to the Black community while issuing an outward challenge to the world.

Essential reading for the age of #BlackLivesMatter, this visionary and provocative book reveals how the radical politics of joy, pain, and care, in sharp contrast to liberal political thought, can build a Black future that transcends ideology and pushes the boundaries of our political imagination.

Praise for To Build a Black Future

“In To Build a Black Future, Christopher Paul Harris makes the revolution irresistible! This is not a book to be read once but one to return to whenever we get lost, a social compass bearing witness to where we have been, affirming where we are, and illuminating where we still might go.” —Ruha Benjamin, author of Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want

To Build a Black Future is a loving and principled exploration of Black living, Black thought, and Black struggle. Everyone from beginners and active students to longtime scholars of Black liberation will find valuable and timely lessons in this book. I look forward to grappling with Harris’s ideas alongside my students and comrades in years to come.” —Charlene A. Carruthers, author of Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements

“In To Build a Black Future, Harris helps lead a growing and important literature that utilizes the Movement for Black Lives as a bidirectional prism—it allows us to revisit the thinking of past Black leaders and intellectuals to help chart out a better future. Harris’s book spreads its wings to take the reader on not just an intellectual journey through traditions of Black thought that paved the way for the movement, but on an affective journey as well by sharing the testimony of his own experiences alongside his erudite reading of historical thinkers. To Build a Black Future is urgent reading for those of us wanting to not just have but to hope intelligently.” —Christopher J. Lebron, author of The Making of Black Lives Matter

Mask Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Christopher Paul Harris
Christopher Paul Harris

Christopher Paul Harris

Christopher Paul Harris is assistant professor of Global and International Studies at University of California, Irvine. His work aims to understand the political lives, thought, and cultures of the Black diaspora and the underlying forces that shape them. Harris earned his Ph.D. in politics and historical studies from The New School for Social Research. He was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of African American Studies at Northwestern University. To Build a Black Future is his first book.

Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly
Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly

Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly

Dr. Charisse Burden-Stelly is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Wayne State University and a 2023-2024 Charles Warren Center Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. A scholar of critical Black studies, political theory, political economy, and intellectual history, she is the author of Black Scare/Red Scare: Theorizing Capitalist Racism in the United States, the co-author of W.E.B. Du Bois: A Life in American History, and the co-editor of Organize, Fight, Win: Black Communist Women’s Political Writings and of Reproducing Domination: On the Caribbean Postcolonial State. Her next book project, Mutual Comradeship: The Ethics of Radical Blackness, is under contract with the University of California Press. She is the guest editor of the 2021 “Claudia Jones: Foremother of World Revolution” special issue of The Journal of Intersectionality and has published in peer-reviewed journals including Small Axe, Souls, Du Bois Review, Socialism & Democracy, International Journal of Africana Studies, and CLR James Journal. Her words also appear in popular publications including Monthly Review, Boston Review, Essence magazine, The Nation, Teen Vogue, Black Perspectives, and Black Agenda Report. Burden-Stelly has held fellowships at institutions including the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois- Urbana-Champaign, and Amherst College, and she is a member of the Black Alliance for Peace.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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