A journal dedicated to truth, freedom of speech and radical spiritual consciousness. Our mission is the liberation of men and women from oppression, violence and abuse of any kind, interpersonal, political, religious, economic, psychosexual. We believe as Fidel Castro said, "The weapon of today is not guns but consciousness."
Monday, July 23, 2012
Black Fire, Bible of the 60s Black Arts Movement
these will be the standards black men make reference to for the next thousand years
Black Classic Press (February 28, 2007). 680 pages
The defining work of the Black Arts Movement, Black Fire is at once a rich anthology and an extraordinary source document. Nearly 200 selections, including poetry, essays, short stories, and plays, from over 75 cultural critics, writers, and political leaders, capture the social and cultural turmoil of the 1960s.
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These are the founding Fathers and Mothers, of our nation. We rise, as we rise (agin). By the power of our beliefs, by the purity and strength of our actions.
These are the wizards, the bards, the babalawo, the shaikhs, of Weusi Mchoro. These descriptions will be carried for the next thousand years, of good, and of evil. these will be the standards black men make reference to for the next thousand years. These the sources, and the constant conscious striving (jihad) of a nation coming back into focus.
We are being good. We are the beings of goodness, again. We will be righteous and our creations good and strong and righteous, and teaching. The teaching and the descriptions. The will and the strangth. Songs, chants, "bad shit goin down," rendered as the light beam of God warms your hearts forever. Forget, and reget. Reget and forget. Where it was. This is the source. Kitab Sudan. The black man's comfort and guide. Where we was we will be agin. Tho the map be broke and thorny tho the wimmens sell they men, then cry up hell to get them back out here agin. In the middle of my life. in the middle of our dreams. The black artist. the black man. the holy holy black man. The man you seek. The climber the striver. The maker of peace. The lover. The warrior. We are they whom you seek. Look in. Find yr self. Find the being, the speaker. The voice, the black dust hover in your soft eyeclosings. Is you. Is the creator. Is nothing. Plus or minus, you vehicle!. we are presenting. Your various selves. We are presenting, from God, a tone, your own. Go on. Now.
The quote is taken from an urban "toast" called the Titanic. It is part of the private mythology of Black America. Its symbolism is direct and profound. Shine is US. We have been below-deck stoking the ship's furnaces. Now the ship is sinking, but where will we swim? This is the question that the "New Breed which James Brown sings about, asks.
We don't have all of the answers, but have attempted, through the artistic and political work presented here, to confront our problems from what must be called a radical perspective. Therefore, most of the book can be read as if it were a critical re-examination of Western political, social and artistic values. It can be read also as a rejection of anything that we feel is detrimental to our people. And it is almost axiomatic that most of what the West considers important endangers the more humane world we feel ours should be.
We have been, for the most part, talking about contemporary realities. We have not been talking about a return to some glorious African past. But we recognize the pas—the total past. Many of us refuse to accept a truncated Negro history which cuts us off completely from our African ancestry. To do so is to accept the very racist assumptions which we abhor. Rather, we want to comprehend history totally, and understand the manifold ways in which contemporary problems are affected by it.
There is a tension within Black America. And it has its roots in the general history of the race. The manner in which we see this history determines how we act. How should we see this history.? What should we feel about it? this is important to now, because the sense of how that history should be felt is what either unites or separates us.
For, how the thing is felt helps to determine how it is played. For example, the 1965 uprising in Watts is a case of feeling one's history in a particular way, and then acting it out in the most immediate manner possible. The emotions of the crowd have always played an integral role in the making of history.
Again, what separates a Malcolm X from a Roy Wilkins is a profound difference in what each believes the history of America to be. Finally, the success of one leader over another depends upon which one best understand and expresses the emotional realities of a given historical epoch. hence, we feel a Malcolm in a way that a Roy Wilkins, a King, and a Whitney Young can never be felt. because a Malcolm, finally, interprets the emotional history of his people better than the others.
There is a tension throughout our communities. the ghosts of that tension are Nat Turner, Martin Delaney, Booker T. Washington, Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X. Garvey, Monroe Trotter, Du Bois, Fanon, and a whole panoply of mythical heroes from Br'er Rabbit to Shine. These ghosts have left us with some very heavy questions about the realities of life for black people in America.
The movement is now faced with a serious crisis. It has postulated a theory of Black power; and that is good. But it has failed to evolve a workable ideology. That is, a workable concept—perhaps Black power is it—which can encompass many of the diverse ideological tendencies existent in the black community. This concept would have to take into consideration the realities of contemporary American power, both here and abroad. The militant wing of the movement has begun to deny the patriotic assumptions of the white and Negro establishment, but it has not supported that denial with a consistent theory of social change, one that must be rooted in the history of African Americans.
Currently, there is a general lack of clarity about how to proceed. this lack of clarity is historical and is involved with what du bois called the "double-consciousness":
. . . this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. one ever feels his two-ness—an American, a Negro—two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
The history of the American negro is the history of this strife—this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double-self into a better and truer self . . .
This statement is from The Souls of Black Folk, which was published in . This double-consciousness still exists, and was even in existence prior to .
Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, and Gabriel Prosser attempted to destroy this double consciousness in bloody revolt.
In 1852, a black physician named Martin Delaney published a book entitled The Destiny of the Colored Peoples. Delaney advocated repatriation—return to the Motherland (Africa). he believed that the United States would never fully grant black people freedom; and never would there be anything like "equal status with the white man."
Frederick Douglass, and many of the abolitionists, strongly believed in the "promise of America." But the double-consciousness and its resulting tension still exist. How else can we explain the existence of these same ideas in contemporary America? Why was Garvey so popular? why is it that, in a community like Harlem, one finds a distinctly nationalistic element which is growing yearly, according to a recent article in The New York Times? And it is a contemporary nationalism, existing in varying degrees of sophistication; but all of its tendencies, from the Revolutionary Action Movement to the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement, are focused on questions not fully resolved by the established Negro leadership—questions which that leadership, at this stage of its development, is incapable of answering.
Therefore, the rebirth of the concept of Black power opens old wounds. For the conflict between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois was essentially over the question of power, over the relationship of that power to the status of Black America. the focus of the conflict between Washington and Du Bois was education: What was the best means of educating black people? Should it be primarily university education, as advocated by Du Bois; or one rooted in what Washington called "craft skills"? Since education functions in a society to enforce certain values, both men found it impossible to confine discussion simply to the nature of black education. It became a political question. It is a political question. Therefore, what was essentially being debated was the political status of over ten million people of African descent who, against their wills, were being forced to eke out an existence in the United States.
Queen Mother Moore once pointed out to me that black people were never collectively given a chance to decide whether they wanted to be American citizens or not. After the Civil War, for example, there was no plebiscite putting the question of American citizenship to a vote. Therefore, implicit in the turn-of-the-century controversy between Washington and Du Bois is the idea that black people are a nation—a separate nation apart from white America. Around 1897, the idea was more a part of Washington's thinking than Du Bois'; but it was to haunt Du Bois until the day he died (in Ghana).
The educational ideas of both Washington ad Du Bois were doomed to failure. Both ideas, within the context of American values, were merely the extension of another kind of oppression. Only, now it was an oppression of the spirit. Within the context of a racist America, both were advocating a "colonized" education; that is, an education equivalent to the kind the native receives in Africa and Asia, under the imperialists. The fundamental role of education in a racist society would have to be to "keep the niggers in their place."
All of the Negro colleges in this country were, and, are even now, controlled by white money—white power. Du Bois recognized this after he was dismissed from Atlanta University. in 1934, he further proceeded to advocate the establishment of independent "segregated" institutions and the development of the black community as a separate entity. The advocacy of such ideas led to a break with the NAACP, which was committed to a policy of total integration into American society. Here then, is the tension, the ambiguity between integration and segregation, occurring in the highest ranks of a well-established middle-class organization. hence, in 1934, Du Bois had not really advanced, at least not in terms of the ideas postulated above, but was merely picking up the threads of arguments put forth by Washington and Marcus Garvey. And the double-consciousness dominated his entire professional life.
He had been everything that was demanded of him: scholar, poet, politician, nationalist, integrationist, and finally in old age, a Communist. His had been a life full of controversy. He knew much about human nature, especially that of his people, but he did not understand Garvey—Garvey—who was merely his own double-consciousness theory personified in a very dynamic and forceful manner. Garvey was, in fact, attempting the destruction of that very tension which had plagued all of Du Bois' professional career.
It involved knowing and deciding who and what we are. Had Garvey an organizational apparatus equivalent to the NAACP's, the entire history of the world might have been different. For Garvey was more emotionally cohesive than Du Bois, and not as intellectually fragmented. Du Bois, for all of his commitment, was a somewhat stuffy intellectual with middle-class hangups, for which Garvey constantly attacked him. The people to whom Garvey appealed could never have understood Du Bois. But Garvey understood them, and the life-force within him was very fundamental to them. The NAACP has never had the kind of fervent appeal that the Garvey Movement had. It has rarely understood the tension within the black masses. To them, Garvey was a fanatic. But are these the words of a fanatic, or of a love?
The N.A.A.C.P. wants us all to become white by amalgamation, but they are not honest enough to come out with the truth. To be a Negro is no disgrace, but an honor, and we of the U.N.I.A. do not want to become white. . . . We are proud and honorable. We love our race and respect and adore our mothers.
And in a letter to his followers from prison:
My months of forcible removal from among you, being imprisoned as a punishment for advocating the cause of our real emancipation [emphasis mine], have not left me hopeless or despondent; but to the contrary, i see a great ray of light and the bursting of a mighty political cloud which bring you complete freedom. . . .
We have gradually won our way back into the confidence of the God of Africa, and He shall speak with a voice of thunder, that shall shake the pillars of a corrupt and unjust world, and once more restore Ethiopia to her ancient glory. . . .
Hold fast to the faith. desert not the ranks, but as brave soldiers march on to victory. I am happy, and shall remain so, as long as you keep the flag flying.
So in 1940, Garvey died. he died in London, an exile. He was a proud man whose real fault was not lack of intense feeling and conviction, but an inability to tailor his nationalism to the realities of the American context. And also he was a threat to Europe's colonial designs in Africa, a much greater threat than the Pan-African conferences Du Bois used to organize. Garvey wanted a nation for his people. that would have meant the destruction of British, French, and Portuguese imperialism in Africa And since it was a movement directed by blacks here in this country, it would also have internally challenged American imperialism as it existed at hat time.
But Garvey was no Theodor Herzl or Chaim Weizman*, with their kind of skills and resources behind him. had he been, he might have brought a nation into existence. But neither he nor his people had those kinds of resources, and, worse, the black bourgeoisie of the period did not understand him with the same intensity as the masses.
[*Note: Herzl (18600-1924) and Weizmann (1874-1952) are two important thinkers in the history of Jewish Zionism. During the 19th century, Jewish intellectuals began to describe analytically the problem of the Jews since what is called the Diaspora—the dispersion of the Jews among the gentiles after the exile. the efforts of these two men and many others culminated in the erection of Israel. because Garvey also advocated a 'return," some writers have called his movement "Black Zionism."'
In 1940 the year Garvey died, Malcolm little was fifteen years old. he caught a bus from Lansing, Michigan, and went to Boston to live with his sister Ella Collins, who is now head of the organization Malcolm started when he broke with the Nation of Islam. it is probably the most important bus ride in history.
Malcolm X, whose father had been a Garveyite, was destined to confront the double-consciousness of Black America. But his confrontation would be a modern one, rooted in the teachings of the Nation of Islam and in the realities of contemporary politics. That is to say, his ideas would be a synthesis of black nationalism's essential truths as derived from martin Delaney, Du Bois, Garvey, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, Fanon, and Richard Wright. And his speech would be marked by a particular cadence, a kind of "hip" understanding of the world.. It was the truth as only the oppressed, and those whose lives have somehow been "outside of history," could know it.
Civil rights and brotherhood were in vogue when Malcolm started "blowing"—started telling the truth in a manner only a deaf man would ignore. he shot holes through the civil rights movement that was the new 'in' for the white liberals. James Baldwin was also "in,' pleading for a new morality to people who saw him as another for of entertainment. And there were sit-ins, pray-ins, sleep-ins, non-violence, and the March on Washington. And the voice of Malcolm cut through it all, stripping away the sham and the lies. he was the conscience of Black America, setting out, like a warrior, to destroy the double-consciousness. he did not eschew dialogue. He attempted, instead, to make it more meaningful by infusing some truths into it. For this reason, it was both painful and beautiful to listen to him.
Malcolm covered everything—nationhood, manhood, the family, brotherhood, history, and the Third World Revolution. Yet it always seemed to me that he was talking about a revolution of the psyche, about how we should see ourselves in the world.
But, just as suddenly as he was thrust among us—he was gone. Gone, just as Black America was starting to understand what he was talking about. And those who killed him, did so for just that reason. For Malcolm wanted to make real the internationalism of Garvey and Du Bois. Our problem had ceased to be one of civil rights, he argued, but is, instead, one of human rights. As such—he extended the argument—it belongs in an international context. Like Garvey and Du Bois before him, he linked the general oppression of Black America to that of the Third World. Further, he strongly advocated unity with that world, something few civil rights leaders have dared to do.
hence, what has come to be known as Black power must be seen in terms of the ideas and persons which preceded it. Black Power is, in fact, a synthesis of all the nationalistic ideas embedded within the double consciousness of Black America. But it has no one specific meaning. It is rather a kind of feeling—a kind of emotional response to one's history. The theoreticians among us can break down its components. However, that will not be enough, for like all good theories, it can ultimately be defined only in action—in movement. essentially, this is what the "New Breed" is doing—defining itself through actions, be they artistic or political.
We have attempted through these historical judgments to examine the idea of nationhood, the idea, real or fanciful, that black people comprise a separate national entity within the dominant white culture. This sense of being separate, especially within a racist society with so-called democratic ideas, has created a particular tension within the psychology of Black America. We are saying, further, that this sense of the "separate" moves through much of today's black literature.
There is also a concomitant sense of being at "war." Max Stanford explains that this sense began the minute the first slaves were snatched from their lands. These two tensions, "separation" and "war," are pressing historical realities; both are leading to a literature of Armageddon.
We must face these ideas in all of their dimensions. in some cases, the literature speaks to the tension within, say, the family; or it deals with the nature of black manhood. At other times, especially in something like Jimmy Garrett's play We own the Night, the "war" seems directed against an unseen white enemy; it is, in fact, an attack on the Uncle Tomism of the older generation.
The tension, or double-consciousness, is most often resolved in violence, simply because the nature of our existence in America has been one of violence. In some cases the tension resolves in recognizing the beauty and love within Black America itself. No, not a new "Negritude," but a profound sense of a unique and beautiful culture; and a sense that there are many spiritual areas to explore within this culture. This is a kind of separation but there is no tension about it. there is a kind of peace in the separation. This peace may be threatened by the realities of the beast-world, but yet, it is lived as fully as life can be lived. This sense of a haven in blackness is found most often in the poetry selections.
But history weighs down on all of this literature. Every black writer in America has had to react to this history, either to make peace with it, or make war with it. It cannot be ignored. Every black writer has chosen a particular stance towards it. He or she may tell you that, for them, it was never a problem. But they will be liars.
Most contemporary black writing of the last few years, the literature of the young, has been aimed at the destruction of the double-consciousness. it has been aimed at consolidating the African-American personality. And it has not been essentially a literature of protest. it has, instead, turned its attention inward to the internal problems of the group. the problem of living in a racist society, therefore, is something that lurks on the immediate horizon, but which can not be dealt with until certain political, social, and spiritual truths are understood by the oppressed themselves—inwardly understood.
It is a literature primarily directed at the consciences of black people. And, in that sense, it is a literature that is somewhat more mature than that which preceded it. The white world—the West—is seen now as a dying creature, totally bereft of spirituality. This being the case, the only hope is some kind of psychic withdrawal from its values and assumptions. Not just America, but most of the non-colored world has been in the process of destroying the spiritual roots of mankind, while not substituting anything meaningful for this destruction.
Therefore, many see the enslavement of the Third World as an enslavement of the Spirit. Marxists carefully analyze the material reasons for this kind of oppression, but it takes a Fanon to illustrate the spiritual malaise in back of this enslavement. I tend to feel that the answer lies outside of historical materialism. it is rooted in how man sees himself in the spiritual sense, in what he construes existence to mean. Most Western philosophical orientations have taken the force of meaning out of existence.
Why this has happened is not really known, at least not in any sense that is final. We do know that the Western mind construes reality differently from that of the rest of the world. Or should I say, feels reality differently? Western mythological configuration are even vastly different from other configurations. Such configurations lead to the postulation of certain ideas of what art is, of what life is (see Jimmy Stewart's essay in this book).
let us take, for example, the disorientation one experiences when one sees a piece of African sculpture in a Madison Avenue art gallery. Ask yourself: What is it doing there? In Africa, the piece had ritual significance. It was a spiritual affirmation of the connection between man and his ancestors, and it implied a particular kind of ontology—a particular sense of being. However, when you see it in that gallery, you must recognize that no African artist desired that it be placed there. Rather, it was stolen by force and placed there. And the mind that stole it was of a different nature from the mind that made it.
In the gallery or the salon, it is merely an objet d'art, but for your ancestors, it was a bridge between them and the spirit, a bridge between you and your soul in the progression of a spiritual lineage. It was art, merely incidentally, for it was essentially functional in its natural setting. The same goes for music, song, dance, the folk tale and dress. All of these things were coalesced, with form and function unified. All of these were an an evocation of the spirit which included an affirmation of daily life, and the necessity of living life with honor.
The degree to which the artists among us understand some of these things is the degree to which we shall fashion a total art form that speaks primarily to the needs of our people. The temptation offered by Western society is to turn from these essential truths and merge with the oppressor for solace. This temptation demands, not merely integration of the flesh, but also integration of the spirit. And there are few of us for whom this would not have dire consequences. Further, this tension, the double-consciousness of which we have already spoken, cannot be resolved in so easy a manner, especially when, within the context of the racist society, the merger has little chance of being a healthy one.
In an essay entitled, "Blue Print for Negro Writing," Richard Wright attempted to define all aspects of the writer's role—especially as it is related to his status as an oppressed individual. Wright saw the problem in the following manner. The black writer had turned to writing in an attempt to demonstrate to the white world that there were "Negroes who were civilized." I suppose, here, he meant people like Charles Chestnutt and William Braithwaite. The writing, Wright attempted to prove, had become the voice of the educated Negro pleading with white America for justice. But it was "external to the lives of educated Negroes themselves." Further, much of this writing was rarely addressed to black people, to their needs, suffferings, and aspirations.
It is precisely here that almost all of our literature had failed. it had succumbed merely to providing exotic entertainment for white America. As Wright suggests, we had yet to create a dynamic body of literature addressed to the needs of our people. And there are a myriad of socio-economic reasons underlying this failure. The so-called Harlem renaissance was, for the most part, a fantasy-era for most black writers and their white friends. For the people of the community, it never even existed. it was a thing apart. And when the money stopped, in 1929, to quote Langston Hughes: " . . . we were no longer in vogue, anyway, we Negroes. Sophisticated New Yorkers turned to Noel Coward. Colored actors began to go hungry, publishers politely rejected new manuscripts, and patrons found other uses for their money. The cycle that had charlestoned into being on the dancing heels of Shuffle Along now ended in Green Pastures with De Lawd. . . . The generous 1920's were over." For most of us, they had never begun. It was all an illusion, a kind of surrealistic euphoria.
Wright insisted on an approach to literature that would reconcile the black man's "nationalism" and his 'revolutionary aspirations.' The best way way for the writer to do this, he wrote in "Blue Print," was the utilization of his own tradition and culture—a culture that had developed out of the black church, and the folklore of the people:
Blues, spirituals, and folk tales recounted from mouth to mouth; the whispered words of a black mother to her black daughter on the ways of men; the confidential wisdom of a black father to his black son; the swapping of sex experiences on the street corners from boy to boy in the deepest vernacular; work songs sung under blazing suns—all these formed the channels through which the racial wisdom flowed.
And what of the nationalism about which we spoke earlier? here again, the tension arises. The question of nationalism occurs repeatedly in the word of Wright. Like Du Bois and other intellectuals, Wright found that he could not ignore it. Within Wright himself, there was being waged a great conflict over the validity of nationalism. In the essay under discussion, he forces the question out into the open, asserting the necessity of understanding the function of nationalism in the lives of the people:
Let those who shy at the nationalistic implications of Negro life look at the body of folklore, living and powerful, which rose out of a common fate. Here are those vital beginnings of a recognition of a value in life as it is lived, a recognition that makes the mergence of anew culture in the shell of the old. [emphasis mine] And at the moment that this process starts, at the moment when people begin to realize a meaning in their suffering, the civilization that engenders that suffering is doomed. . . .
A further reading of this essay reveals that Wright was not trying to construct a black ideology, but was, instead, attempting a kind of reconciliation between nationalism and Communism. The essay was written in 1937. By then, the Communists had discarded the "nation within a nation" concept and were working to discourage black nationalism among the Negro members of the Party. Wright was trying to re-link nationalism and Communism, but the two were incompatible. The Communists discouraged the construction of a black theoretical frame of reference, but did not substitute a theory that was more viable than the one some of its black party members proposed. Wright ended up splitting with the Party to preserve his own identity.
Even though he had failed, Richard Wright was headed in the right direction. But the conditions under which he labored did not allow success. The Party, for example, had never really understood the "Negro question" in any manner that was finally meaningful to black people. Further, the nationalistic models which Wright and a contemporary of his, Ralph Ellison, saw around them were too "brutal" and "coarse" for their sensibilities (Ras, in Ellison's novel). Ultimately, the tension within Wright forced him to leave America, to become a voluntary exile.
The last years of his life were spent explaining the psychology of the oppressed throughout the Third World. In White Man Listen!, he attempted to analyze, much like Fanon, the malaise accompanying the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressors. And the double-consciousness never left him. White Man Listen!, Black Power, andThe Color Line are Wright's attempt to understand his own racial dilemma by placing it in an international context, thus linking it to the general affects of colonialism on the psychology of the oppressed. therefore, these works, historically, link Wright with Garvey and Du Bois, as well as foreshadow the ideas of Fanon and Brother Malcolm. To be more germane to our subject, these latter works are certainly more pertinent to the ideas of the "New Breed" youth, than say, Native Son.
they are especially more pertinent than Ralph Ellison's novel, Invisible Man, which is a profound piece of writing but the kind of novel which, nonetheless, has little bearing on the world as the "New Breed" sees it. the things that concerned Ellison are interesting to read, but contemporary black youth feels another force in the world today. We know who we are, and we are not invisible, at least not to each other. we are not Kafkaesque creatures stumbling through a white light of confusion and absurdity. the light is black (now, get that!) as are most of the meaningful tendencies in the world.
. . . Let us waste no time in sterile litanies and nauseating mimicry. leave this Europe where they are never done talking of Man, yet murder men everywhere they find them, at the corner of every one of their own streets, in all corners of the globe. For centuries they have stifled almost the whole of humanity in the name of a so-called spiritual experience. Look at them today swaying between atomic and spiritual disintegration.Frantz Fanon—The Wretched of the Earth
Our literature, our art and our music are moving closer to the forces motivating Black America. You can hear it everywhere, especially in the music, a surging new sound. be it the Supremes, James Brown, the Temptations, John Coltrane, or Albert Ayler, there is a vital newness in this energy. There is love, tension, and spiritual togetherness in it. We are beautiful—but there is more work to do, and just being beautiful is not enough.
We must take this sound, and make this energy meaningful to our people. Otherwise, it will have meant nothing, will have affected nothing. the force of what we have to say can only be realized in action. Black literature must become an integral part of the community's life style. And I believe that it must also be integral to the myths and experiences underlying the total history of black people.
New constructs will have to be developed. We will have to alter our concepts of what art is, of what it is supposed to "do." The dead forms taught most writers in the white man's schools will have to be destroyed, or at best, radically altered. We can learn more about what poetry is by listening to the cadences of Malcolm's speeches, than from most of Western poetics. Listen to James Brown scream. Ask yourself, then, Have you heard a Negro poet sing like that, of course not, because we have been tied to the texts, like most white poets. The text could be destroyed and no one would be hurt in the least by it. The key is in the music. Our music today has always been far ahead of our literature. Actually, until recently, it was our only literature, except for, perhaps, the folktale.
Therefore, what we are asking for is a new synthesis; a new sense of literature as a living reality. But first, we must liberate ourselves, destroy the double-consciousness. We must integrate with ourselves, understand that we have within us a great vision, revolutionary and spiritual in nature, understand that the West is dying, and offers little promise of rebirth.
All of her prophets have told her so: Sartre, Brecht, Camus, Albee, Burroughs and Fellini, have foretold her doom. Can we do anything less/ It is merely what we have always secretly known—what Garvey, Du Bois, Fanon, and Malcolm knew; The West is dying, as it must, as it should. However, the approach of this death merely makes the power-mad Magogs of the West more vicious, more dangerous—like McNamara with his computing machines, scientific figuring out how to kill more people. We must address ourselves to this reality in the sharpest terms possible. Primarily, it is an address to black people. And that is not protest, as such. You don't have to protest to a hungry man about his hunger. You have either to feed him, or help him to eliminate the root cause of that hunger.
What of craft—the writer's craft?. well, under terms of a new definition concerning the function of literature, a new concept of what craft is will also be evolve. For example, do I not find the craft of Stevie Wonder more suitable than that of Jascha Heifetz? Are not the sensibilities which produced the former closer to me than the latter? And does not the one indicate a way into things absent from the other?
To reiterate, the key to where the black people have to go is in the music. Our music has always been the most dominant manifestation of what we are and feel, literature was just an afterthought, the step taken by the Negro bourgeoisie who desired acceptance on the white man's terms. And that is precisely why the literature has failed. It was the case of our elite addressing another elite.
But our music is something else. the best of it has always operated at the core of our lives, forcing itself upon us as in a ritual. It has always, somehow, represented the collective psyche. Black literature must attempt to achieve that same sense of the collective ritual, but ritual directed at the destruction of useless, dead ideas. Further, it can be a ritual that affirms our highest possibilities, but is yet honest with us.
Some of the tendencies already exist in the literature. It is readily perceivable in LeRoi Jones's Black Mass, and in a recent recording of his with the Jihad Singers. Also, we have the work of Yusuf Rahman, who is the poetic equivalent of Charlie Parker. Similar tendencies are found in Sun Ra—Ra's music and poetry; Ronal Fair's novel, Many Thousand Gone; the short stories of Henry Dumas (represented in this anthology); the poetry of K. Kgositsile, Welton Smith, Ed Spriggs, and Ronald Snellings; the dramatic choreography of Eleo Pomare; Calvin Hernton's very explosive poems; Ishmael Reed's poetry and prose works which are notable for a startling display of imagery; David Henderson's work, particularly "Keep on Pushin', " where he gets a chance to sing. There are many, many others.
What this has all been leading us to say is that the poet must become a performer, the way James Brown is a performer—loud, gaudy and racy. He must take his work where his people are: Harlem, Watts, Philadelphia, Chicago, and the rural South. He must learn to embellish the context in which the work is executed; and, where possible, link the work to all usable aspects of the music. For the context of the work is as important as the work itself. poets must learn to sing, dance, and chant their works, tearing into the substance of their individual and collective experiences. We must make literature move people to a deeper understanding of what this thing is all about, be a kind of priest, a black magician, working juju with the word on the world.
Finally, the black artist must link his work to the struggle for his liberation and the liberation of his brothers and sisters. But, he will have executed an essential aspect of his role if he makes even a small gesture in the manner outlined. he will be furthering the psychological liberation of his people, without which, no change is even possible.
The artist and the political activist are one. They are both shapers of the future reality. Both understand and manipulate the collective myths of the race. Both are warriors, priests, lovers and detroyers. For the first violence will be internal—the destruction of a week spiritual self for a more perfect self. But it will be a necessary violence. It is the only thing that will destroy the double-consciousness—the tension that is in the souls of the black folk.
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AHMED LEGRAHAM ALHAMISI is a corresponding editor for Journal of Black Poetry. he is also editor of a magazine published in Detroit, Black Arts.
CHARLES ANDERSON is a revolutionary brother in exile. Brother Charles, please get in touch!
S.E. ANDERSON: "My writing began at Pratt Institute, but didn't become stylized until I went to Lincoln University in 1962. A group of students and I formed a controversial black literary magazine called Axiom. I have been an activist I such organizations as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the National Student Movement, The Black Arts (Harlem) and the Black Panther Party. My work has appeared in the Liberator magazine and Negro Digest. I am United States Editor of the New African Magazine."
KUWASI BALAGON, twenty-one years old, feels that it isn't necessary to give a biography of himself, his poetry speaks for him.
LINDSAY BARRETT was born in Jamaica and has lived in England and France. A very prolific writer, he has published a novel, Song for Mumu, and has had a number of plays produced in Nigeria, where he lectures on the roots of Africa and Afro-American literature. He has also worked as a journalist and been guest lecturer at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.
BOB BENNETT: "Born and died August 13, 1947. Reborn sometimes in the last three years as black. Miseducated in the Jersey City school system, continuing at Fordham University in New York. I began to write in order to put some of my blackness and soul in ink for myself and my people."
LEBERT BETHUNE: "Born 1937, studied at New York University and Sorbonne, traveled extensively throughout Europe and the mid-east. Worked in East Africa as a film maker for the Tanzanian government. Author of a collection of poems Juju of My Own. At present I am working on a long novel about Africa and the Caribbean, and a new collection of poems."
HART LEROI BIBBS: "Aquarius, privately published poetry book Poly-Rhythms to Freedom. I am published in Liberator, Negro Digest, Writer's Forum, Literary Times,Theo, Free-lance Poets, Jet and Kauri."
JAMES BOGGS: "Revolutionary theoretician, was born in Marion Junction, Alabama, where white folks are gentlemen by day and Ku Klux Kalansmen at night. After graduating from Dunbar High School in Bessamer, Alabama, he bummed his way through the western part of the country, working in the hop fields of Washington state, cutting ice in Minnesota, and finally in Detroit with the W.P.A. At the start of World War II he became an auto worker, and has been one ever since, and a rebel for as long as he can remember. He is the author of The American Revolution, translated in Latin America, France, and Japan, and has published articles on Black Power in Italy and Argentina
FREDERICK JAMES BRYANT, JR. was born in Philadelphia in 1942. he was discharge from the U.S. Navy in June 1963. He entered Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) in September of the same year, and two years later was awarded the Eichelburger Prize for prose writing. The following year he was designated as Poet Laureate of Lincoln University. His one-act play, Lord of the Mummy Wrappings, was staged at Lincoln in April, 1967.
ED BULLINS is a playwright, and a co-founder of the Black Arts/West in San Francisco's Fillmore District, patterned after LeRoi Jones' Black Arts Repertory Theater/School in Harlem. he is a member of Black Arts Alliance, assisting LeRoi Jones in film making in San Francisco and Los Angeles. presently, he is a resident playwright of the New Lafayette Theater in Harlem
BEN CALDWELL is a playwright and graphic artist. his play the Militant Preacher has been performed on several occasions by the Spirit House Movers, a repertoire group led by LeRoi Jones, always to enthusiastic audiences. Mr. Caldwell's works have been published by the Jihad Press. He lives in Newark, New Jersey.
STOKELY CARMICHAEL was formerly chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He has been a field organizer in the South, and is co-author with Charles Hamilton of Black Power.
CHARLIE COBB is twenty-four and a field secretary for SNCC, based in Washington, D.C. He attended Howard University in 1961, but dropped out to work with SNCC in Mississippi. he is currently working with SNCC in the development of a network of liberation schools.
JOHN HENRIK CLARKE has studied writing at New York and Columbia Universities. With an interest in history of people of African descent worldover, he has written many articles on the subject, including "Reclaiming the Lost African Heritage," published in The American Negro Writer by the American Society of African Culture in 1960. Mr. Clarke is the editor of Harlem: A Community in Transition (1964) and Harlem, U.S.A., and has been associated with Freedomways Magazine since 1962.
STANLEY CROUCH is a West Coast correspondent for The Cricket, a magazine of Black music. Brother Crouch is a musician and music critic. His poetry has been published inLiberator and Black Dialogue.
HAROLD CRUSE was born in Petersburg, Virginia and raised in New York City. A member of the Harlem radical movement of the early 1950's, Mr. Cruse began his writing career as a film and drama critic, and has published articles in Studies on the Left, Le Temps Moderne, Liberator, and is author of The Crisis of the Black Intellectual.
SAM CORNISH, "a native of West Baltimore, dropped out of Douglass High School after his first semester in 1952, taking his education into his own hands. I have published three books, In This Corner, People Under the Window, and Generations, as well as having individual poems published in small magazines throughout the country. I am editor of Mimeo and employed by the Enoch Pratt Library."
VICTOR HERNANDEZ CRUZ was born in Puerto Rico in 1949 and came to New York City when he was four. Magazines in which his work has been published include Evergreen Review, For Now, Down Here and Umbra. In the autumn of 1968 Random House will publish a book of his poems Snaps.
WALT DELEGALL is a native of Philadelphia. He studied at Howard University, where he was a member of the Dasien Literary Group. he has been published in New American Poets and Beyond the Blues.
RONALD DRAYTON: "I wrote one play, Black Chaos, and adapted Dope. I am now working with the New Drama Workshop, which will do a production of my play The conquest of Africa in the Memory of Antoine Artaud at the Village Gate, and with the Wayne Grice Drama Workshop, I have written an unpublished novel,Morning Before the Dawn, and numerous poems."
HENRY DUMAS: "Born in Arkansas, came up to Harlem age of 10, Air Force and all that—spent a year in the great Arabian Peninsula—lived in new Jersey while attending Rutgers University. I am published in Freedomways, Negro Digest, Umbra, Hiram College Poetry Review and Trace. I have just finished my first novel which is long overdue. I am very much concerned about what is happening to my people and what we are doing with our precious tradition." Henry Dumas was shot and killed by a white policeman in New York City in late May, 1968.
CLARENCE FRANKLIN: "Born in a small hole in the road named Racetrack, near Jackson, Miss., in 1932. Father a sharecropper who jumped the land several times because at the end of the year he always owed the 'boss'. Encouraged by my English teacher, attempted to study writing. Quit school to work as pinsetter to help at home. Read a lot. Attempted to write novels about justice and law a la Stanley Gardner because of a vague desire to be a lawyer . . . wrote Stranger on a Train . . . fizzled out."
AL FRASER is a graduate of Howard University. he holds a M.A. in political science. he was a member of the Dasien Group while he was in college. he has written extensively on African political affairs.
CAROL FREEMAN was born in 1841 in Rayville, Louisiana. She has attended numerous schools including Oakland City College and the University of California. Philosophy—"revolutionary black nationalist."
C.H. FULLER, JR. is a native of Philadelphia. He was a founder along with Jimmy Stewart, Larry Neal, and Marybelle Moore of Kuntu, an organization of Black Writers and artists. He is a novelist and a playwright. His play on the life of Marcus Garvey will be performed in Philadelphia. His work is published in Liberator magazine and Black Dialogue. He has also edited numerous literary newspapers in the Philadelphia area.
JIMMY GARRETT: "I'm 24, born in Dallas, Texas, reared in Los Angeles, California. . . . A Black writer has the responsibility of collecting, distilling, clarifying and directing the energies of black people leading toward purposeful, meaningful action. Black action that is the black writer's individualism and his life. . . . Am living now in San Francisco attending State College and helping to prepare myself and my people for ultimate confrontation." Jimmy Garrett has worked with SNCC in Mississippi and Los Angeles.
LETHONA GEE (LEE GEE): "is a beautiful soul sister from the Bronx. All love."
JOE GONCALVES, born in Boston, Mas., 1937. Resident off and on of San Francisco since 1948. Presently, Editor of Journal of Black Poetry and Poetry Editor for Black Dialogue.
LEROY GOODWIN; "I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California (Watts of course), and am now working in the Baltimore anti-poverty program."
D.L. GRAHAM lives in Gary, Indiana. He was formerly a student at Fisk University, where he studied under John Killens.
RUDY BEE GRAHAM is a Harvard drop-out. besides writing poetry, he has written several plays, two of which were performed by the New Lafayette Theater. He is published in Negro Digest and Black Dialogue.
KIRK HALL: "An Afro-American with no illusions about the last part of that term, 'cause it doesn't mean citizenship, or civilized characteristics, or any kind of liberating thing—it means 'bad news'." Born May 13, 1944, Montclair, New Jersey. B.A. Sociology, Virginia Union University, 1967.
BOBB HAMILTON lives in New York city. Sculptor and poet, he is also East Coat Editor of Soulbook
Q.R. HAND, JR: "I believe poetry should produce behavioral change and is an active participatory two-way process. poetry must also at this point in time-space-history help clarify humanizing values, and 'turn people on' to the fact that they have within themselves the power to change, if necessary, destroy the present national political-economic system. And to engage oneself in national political-economic system. And to engage oneself in this process of change is necessarily humanizing especially for Black Americans. Born 1937, Brooklyn, New York. Grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Harlem. presently attending Goddard College.
NATHAN HARE: began life on a sharecropper's farm near Slick, Oklahoma. He received his B.A. from Langston University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago. During his senior year in college he won the novice Golden Gloves championship in his division and fought professionally as "Nat Harris" while teaching at Howard University, as he does now. Nathan hare has published articles in many magazines, including Crime and Delinquency, Negro History Bulletin, Civil Liberties Bulletin, The Saturday Evening Post, and is the author The Black Anglo Saxons. At this time he is working on A Black Primer, a book on White America, and a work of satire.
ALBERT E. HAYNES, JR: is an artist and poet. He was one of the founders of the original Umbra. His work has appeared in Liberator magazine and Soulbook. he is very active in the struggle for human rights. He has participated in numerous poetry readings in the Black community.
DAVID HENDERSON's work is widely anthologized. he has been published in Liberator, Negro Digest, and Kulchur. He is a member of the Teacher's and Writer's Collaborative at Columbia University. A book of his poems, Felix and the Silent Forest, has been published by the Poets Press. He is currently teaching at the City College of New York, and is editor of Umbra magazine.
CALVIN C. HERNTON is the author of one book of verse, The Coming of Chronos to the House of Nightsong, and two volumes of essays, Sex and Racism and White Papers for White Americans. He is a co-founder of Umbra, and has contributed essays and poems to many periodicals. Mr. Hernton holds an M.A. in sociology from Fisk University and has worked as a shoe shine boy, pinsetter, market researcher, garment worker, book reviewer and factory hand. "Now floating around in Europe, working on a novel (yet untitled), finding that only a handful of white men in the whole world are capable of ever treating a black man or woman as a human being. When I left America I was to the left of Martin Luther King; when I return, for I shall, and soon, I will be to the left of Malcolm X and Fanon."
YUSEF IMAN is a singer, actor and poet. He is a member of the Spirit House Movers. He has performed in numerous plays in the Black community, particularly the work of LeRoi Jones. Some of his work has been published by Jihad Publications in Newark. Brother Yusef can be heard on the Jihad recording Black and Beautiful.
MARVIN JACKMON (aka, Marvin X, NAZZAM AL FITNAH) is a San Francisco playwright and poet. His plays, Come Next Summer and Flowers for the Trashman have been performed in the San Francisco Bay area and southern California. He is one of the founders of Black Arts West. His plays, poems, and essays have appeared in Black Dialogue, Journal of Black Poetry and Soulbook. He is a contributing editor to Journal of Black Poetry.
LANCE JEFFERS was a member of the Dasein Group while at Howard University. He has been a teacher in the Midwest.
RAY JOHNSON was born in Harlem. "Made the lower-Eastside with painters William White and the now deceased Bob Thompson."
NORMAN JORDAN, twenty-eight years old, was born in Ansted, West Virginia. "Dropped out of high school and went into the Navy where I traveled both in this country and abroad for four years. My poetry has been read in such places as: Karamu, An Evening with Jordan, The Well, The Gate, and the New School of Afro-American Thought. I have stopped trying to have my poetry published about five years ago nor do I send my plays anywhere; as long as I am having my work produced here for black people, my black people, I am happy. I am married, have two children and live in Cleveland."
KEORAPETSE WILLIAM KGOSITSILE: "Poetry, like any other art form, is meaningless, i.e., has no use, unless it be a specific act actual as dance or childbirth; carved bleeding from history. Tears scorched to deep tracks on the mine laborer's back recording the national epitaph. Walls and what shapes people your memory. Clarity is not a thought process but a way of life." Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1938. Lincoln University, Columbia University, University of New Hampshire, the New School. Poems and essays published here and abroad.
PETER LABRIE has worked with the Department of urban Renewal in Oakland, California. He attended the University of California at Berkeley where he took a B.A. in political science and earned a master's degree in city planning. He has been published in Negro Digest and Black Dialogue.
LESLIE ALEXANDER LACY spent three years in Ghana. He is the coauthor of "The Sekondi-Tackoradi Strike" (a study of trade unionism in Ghana) in Politics in Africa. He is finishing a book on Ghana called Politics and Labor in Ghana: 1921-1966.
REGINALD LOCKETT: "One must be turned on to his Blackness and deep in it. My role as a Black writer is to convey how this is essential for BLACK PEOPLE. Long Knife (the white man) must be taught that his death and destruction is near. White-minded 'Knee-grows' must know this too. That is, if they don't straighten up and fly right they will perish with the Long Knives." Born 1947, Berkeley, California. Presently attending San Francisco State College.
DAVID LLORENS is a poet-essayist. he was formerly assistant editor of Negro Digest. He worked also with the SNCC Mississippi project. He is currently an assistant editor of Ebony magazine.
BILL MAHONEY was born October 1, 1941. "Was miseducated in the Montclair, New jersey, school system until 1959, when Howard University took over the job. My education ended when I was expelled from Howard University (they say I was not expelled but was suspended; a tricky legal point) for refusing to take my final ROTC course. As for philosophy, I am now trying to complete a novel where a bit of that may be revealed to myself and friends who are kindly probing me to finish the thing."
GASTON NEAL: "Born Cancer, deadborn 1934, reborn 1961. My home is Pittsburgh, Pa., Black Hill District—thrown out of high school from the reformatory into the army. Soon I was called undesirable by the army thrown out again then bummed around the country. My philosophy is simply to purge myself of the whiteness within me and link completely with my Black brothers in the struggle to destroy the enemy and rebuild a Black Nation. I am director of the New School of Afro-American Thought in Washington, D.C., and editing a volume of poetry of my time spent in St. Elizabeth Hospital."
LARRY NEALwas born in 1937 in Atlanta, Georgia, and was reared in Philadelphia. He received a B.A. from Lincoln University and did graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Neal was formerly the Arts Editor of Liberator magazine, and is currently an editor of The Cricket and a contributing editor of Journal of Black Poetry. He believes that poetry and art should contribute to making a revolution in America. Larry Neal and his wife, the former Evelyn Rodgers of Birmingham, Alabama, live in New York City
ODARO (BARBARA JONES) was born June 22, 1946. "Poems have appeared in Three Shades of Humanism, We Speak, and Pacestter, Harlem Youth Unlimited Quarterly, also I have appeared in poetry readings around Harlem."
CHARLES PATTERSON: "I was born October 29, 1941, in Fayetteville, N.C. We migrated to the 'Big Apple' when I was about two years old. Educated in the New York City public schools (too poor to attend college). I started my love affair with literature when I found it the best means to express myself and the bitterness which engulfed my soul. Worked with LeRoi Jones and the Black Arts Repertory Theater School, which produced two plays of mine: Black Ice and The Super. Recorded a record for WBAL with the Umbra poets."
YUSEF RAHMAN: "Once slave-named ronald stone re-incarnated to eternal life as a most willing slave of Allah, Universal and Almighty."
CLARENCE REED lives in Harlem. "Is a painter, photographer, and political activist. Worked with the Black Arts Theater in Harlem and was a member of the Harlem Black Panther Party. Jihad Publications has published a book of his poems entitled Forever Tears."
SONIA SANCHEZ: "Am thirty-one years old, born Birmingham Alabama, a graduate of Hunter College. My philosophy is my ole man CHUCK who has brought me to where i am now. He made me viscerally aware that black people do not have the luxury to indulge in factions cu the 'Man' has his shit straight and will use it, and it's apt time for black people to get theirs down and allow brothers and sisters to keep on pushing in their own way, or we ain't gonna make it!! I teach 5th grade children a n.y.c. have written 2 one act plays. I have a beautiful 9 year old daughter who is artistically bent—I'd like to have two more children—am working at the latter."
BARBARA SIMMONS, " a native of Washington D.C. now living in New York City, makes her first appearance in print in this anthology. She has just recorded 'Soul-Theme One', with Jackie McLean for his record date with Blue Note Record Company."
LEFTY SIMS is a pianist. he is heavily influenced by the teachings of Islam.
WELTON SMITH: "Lives in new york in temporary exile from his home, san francisco. He left frisco in protest of his own growing insensitivity which he later discovered to be rooted in new york. It is clear at this point that either welton smith or new york must go, and smith ain't getting up off nothing. He was born in Houston, Texas—Sagittarius in Sagittarius.
JEAN WHEELER SMITH was born in 1942 in Detroit, Michigan. She earned a full, four-year scholarship at Howard University and was graduated in June, 1965 with honors and a Phi Beta Kappa key. She joined the civil rights movement in June 1963, in Albany, Georgia, and Greenwood, Mississippi, as a SNCC field worker. She and her husband, a SNCC field secretary from Georgia, have worked with the Child Development group of Mississippi-Head Start, Strike City near Leland, Mississippi, and in the preparation of adult literacy materials for the movement.
ROLLAND SNELLINGS (ASKIA MUHAMMAD TOURE): A former staff member of Liberator magazine, he is now editor of Black Dialogue. His work has appeared in Negro Digest, Freedomways, Umbra, Black America and Chalk Circle.
A.B. SPELLMAN: "I was born of school-teaching parents August 7, 1934, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. I attended Howard University where I earned a B.A. degree in Political Science and also did post graduate work in Law and English Literature. I came to New York in 1959 and I have lived there ever since. I have published one book of poems, The Beautiful Days, and a study of four jazz personalities, Four Lives in the Bebop Business. I have published essays on history, politics, and jazz in Nation, Jazz,Downbeat; my poetry has been published in many 'little' magazines. My poems have also appeared in Beyond the Blues, New Negro Poets, and Negro Poets."
EDWARD S. SPRIGGS is the east Coast editor of Black Dialogue he is also a contributing editor to Journal of Black Poetry. He is active in the current movement to make art more relevant to the Black community.
JAMES STEWART: "Our guiding musical and aesthetic philosophy might be spoken of as a kind of Black American expression of the kuntu category of African aesthetics. We believe our Black creative orientation is consistent with that principle." His essay "Revolutionary Nationalism and the Black Artist" was published in the Winter, 1966, edition of Black Dialogue magazine. His artwork has appeared in various exhibits of Black painters in Philadelphia, where he lives. He is an altoist-baritonist with several bands."
SUN RA is a musician-philosopher. "Some people are of this world, others are not. My natural self is not of this world because this world is not of my not and nothingness, alas and happily, at last I can say this world is this unfortunate planet." Sun Ra is the leader of one of the most important bands in the history of music—The Myth Science Arkestra. He began writing and playing seriously several years ago in Chicago. He has recorded on the Saturn and ESP labels. Some of his albums are The Magic City,Heliocentric Worlds, Planet Earth, When Sun Comes Out, and When Angels Speak of Love."
LORENZO THOMAS lives in Jamaica, New York. is a student at Queens College where he was formerly co-editor of Omnivore. His poems have appeared in Kulchur,New Poems, Umbra, Liberator, and Eastside Review.
RICHARD THOMAS, born April 2, 1939, Detroit, Michigan. "Graduated from high school in 1957, after the Marine Corps, I took writing seriously. Met Ron Milner and Margaret Danner in 1960, with their help and inspiration I got myself together. Became a Baha'i in 1962. For the first time in my angry bag, was able to see what Black poets could do with an eye big as the earth. I am published in Scimitar and Song, Zeitgeist, Snap-dragon, and a few mimeographs.
JACQUES WAKEFIELD, nineteen years old, is an actor as well as a poet. he appeared in the C.B.S. Television production of Lenox Avenue Sunday under the direction of hip Barbara Ann Teer. He has also appeared in Miss Teer's adaptation of Black Spirit and Power of LeRoi Jones.
RON WELBURN: "I began shaping my socio-aesthetic interests while in high school, becoming familiar with available jazz music, also playing the cornet and alto saxophone. I entered Lincoln University in 1964. My foremost intentions in life are 1. explore the aesthetic value of human feelings; 2. advance the stature of Afro-American culture through literature and music."
JOSEPH WHITE was born in Philadelphia and is thirty-three years old. He was awarded a John jay Whitney Fellowship for 1963-1964 and has published several pieces of fiction, most recently in Liberator.
CHARLES E. WILSON was born in New York thirty-six years ago, has attended numerous colleges and universities and has completed a Masters Education of Psychology as well as most of the course credits for a Masters degree in Public Administration. His material has been published by the Liberator magazine, Liberation, Negro Digest, Jewish Currents, and others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
TED WILSON is currently editor of Pride magazine. he grew up in Harlem and has been active in community organization. He was formerly on the staff of Liberatormagazine. he is a frequent contributor to the Associated Free Press.
JAY WRIGHT was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1935 and spent his early youth in California. He holds a B. A. from the University of California at Berkeley, an M.A. from Rutgers University (1966), and spent one semester at Union Theological Seminary. he has held several fellowships, including a Rockefeller Brothers Theological fellowship, has written two plays, and has published poetry in Yale Review, New Negro Poets,Poetry Review and other magazines.
Emerging from a matrix of Old Left, black nationalist, and bohemian ideologies and institutions, African American artists and intellectuals in the 1960s coalesced to form the Black Arts Movement, the cultural wing of the Black Power Movement. In this comprehensive analysis, James Smethurst examines the formation of the Black Arts Movement and demonstrates how it deeply influenced the production and reception of literature and art in the United States through its negotiations of the ideological climate of the Cold War, decolonization, and the civil rights movement.
Taking a regional approach, Smethurst examines local expressions of the nascent Black Arts Movement, a movement distinctive in its geographical reach and diversity, while always keeping the frame of the larger movement in view. The Black Arts Movement, he argues, fundamentally changed American attitudes about the relationship between popular culture and "high" art and dramatically transformed the landscape of public funding for the arts.—Publisher, University of North Carolina Press
"What we have been trying to arrive at is some kind of synthesis of the writer's function as an oppressed individual and a creative artist," states Neal (1937-1981), a writer, editor, educator and activist prominent in the Black Arts movement of the 1960s and '70s. Articulate, highly charged essays about the black experience examine the views of his predecessors--musicians and political theorists as well as writers--continually weighing artistic achievement against political efficacy. While the essays do not exclude any readers, Neal's drama, poetry and fiction are more limited in their form of address, more explicitly directed to the oppressed. The poems are particularly intense in their protest: "How many of them / . . . have been made to /prostitute their blood / to the merchants of war." Rhythmic and adopting the repetitive structure of music, they capture the "blues in our mothers' voices / which warned us / blues people bursting out." Commentaries by Neal's peers, Amiri Baraka, Stanley Crouch, Charles Fuller and Jayne Cortez, introduce the various sections.—Publishers Weekly
We thanks Rudolph Lewis of Chickenbones.com for this article on Black Fire.