Monday, October 28, 2013

Dr. Nathan Hare's letter to Kim McMillon, producer of the Black Arts Movement Conference at UC Merced


With Marvin you have the master in guerilla promoting. As for me I used to be up on those matters, but these days I don’t know the what of it, let alone the who, and they don’t know me, or/and think I’m deceased. This goes also for the people at The Black Scholar, as I didn’t bother with them anymore after agreeing to send them a couple of article sin 1978. The executive-editor – Bob Chrisman had kicked himself up and Robert Allen - not to be confused with Allen Ross – had moved on mostly to other things, so the editor handling my copy left in fourteen errors in an article called “War on the Black College.” I think they later got rid of him for other malfeasance. I used to take copy and find as many as four errors in an article after the editorial and clerical staff had finished copy-reading them. I had a course in copy-reading at Northwestern University’s renowned Medill School of Journalism, where I was enrolled fulltime for a year (January-December, 1959), while a part-time typist in the office of the white editor of the Journal of Asian Studies and acquiring the dream of someday editing a Journal of Negro Studies. I was the only black person in the class. The professor wouldn’t allow me to use examples from black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender, on grounds that it was too easy to find errors there.

However, Sonia Sanchez could get anything she wanted in there. Probably also Ishmael Reed. I understand they come out only quarterly now, so you’d have to get it in fast to make an issue before March, though it’s  possible as they probably still run behind schedule. By the way, Jet used to work and want copy four months in advance of the issue in which it would appear. I don’t know anybody there now. I used to stop by Johnson’s for lunch whenever I was in Chicago for any reason circa 1967 – 1975. Even in the late 1970s  editors at Jet and Ebony used to call me in my office randomly.  Aside from my withdrawing to work on my autobiography in recent years so many people have retired or died.

By the way, I was just thinking of the fact that I had more to do with black art than I had realized when I wrote belittling my part, until I recalled poet Kalamu ya Salaam’s inclusion of The Black Anglo Saxons in his article  “A Comprehensive History of the Black Arts Movement. I recalled my invitation by the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to the First Pan African Cultural Festival, held in Algiers in 1969, and indeed that that was the lead article in the very first issue of The Black Scholar and that I got most of the other articles from the people at the Festival, including an interview of Stokely Carmichael, a former student at Howard, and his permission to revise and publish it as an article. My mind turned then to the fact that I was a member of the United States Committee (later North American Zonal Committee) of the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTACL) and we used to meet in Washington, D.C. every two months for two years choosing the artists and intellectuals who would be sent to Lagos. I ended up giving up my seat as a committee member to one of the artists, as I was very busy at the time and we did not have enough planes for all the artists who had applied and been accepted. It occurred to me that both chairmen of the U.S. Committee, Ossie Davis, the actor, and Jeff Donaldson (the artist best known for his “The Wall of Respect,” credited with starting the practice in African-American communities) are now deceased.
But It was Jeff Donaldson who insisted in 1975 that I and a noted black filmmaker represent the Committee at a meeting of the Committee on Civilization and Education and Lagos, but I got to New York and the meeting had been called off (we found out later there was a coup going on (1975). Anyway, a number of years later, when Jeff had been chosen to edit a special issue on Black Art for a major journal, he asked me to contribute a commentary. I forget whether I did or not or even what journal it was. I had met Jeff Donaldson one day in June, just after I had been fired from Howard and RAM (of BAM) busted in Philadelphia. I had been the lecturer for four sessions of a white teacher’s workshop on black culture at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, instead of going back home after RAM was busted and I was fired from Howard the day after Muhammad Ali (I’d invited him to Howard against the wishes of the administration) was convicted of refusing the draft, and I’d called home and my wife said some people had been there looking for me.
Anyway, one afternoon I was walking down some street in Chicago, when two brothers approached me and introduced themselves like they had known me all of my life. I had heard the name of one of them, Gers;d Mcwrter. Because he was not only renowned for getting s Ph.D. at 23 from the University of Chicsgo, but active with Jeff Donaldson and Hoyt Fuller and Haki ‘n’em in starting what would become known as OBAC (the Organization of Black Art and Culture). The other brother was Jeff Donaldson. They introduced themselves and we talked and toured black militant Chicago until the wee hours of the morning.

As for getting people to the conference, publicity and flyers are helpful but will not be enough, especially to an unknown or inaccessible location. You have to lead them there. Thus organization. Lige Dailey, the psychologist and poet, was very good at organizing black male/relationships conferences in the Bay Area in the late 1970s. Work through all of the various organizations, fraternities, churches, black student unions, black studies departments and programs, notices in museums and on most wanted posters. But you have to induce the leaders of the various groups and entities to bring and send their members. Also, on the day or two leading up to the conference a big help will be to call people and remind them and try to get them to commit to coming out. There are volunteers for this, organizations where even white strangers go out and call people on your list, but you have no need for that as there are too many black student organizations that would be delighted to do this kind of thing for the black arts conference – and I’m not just talking about people in Merced – all Northern California. Quite a few people would come up from LA and southern California. Not to mention Oakland and Sacramento and Fresno and Stockton and the university towns. Speaking of black art, In the Sixties there would usually be a dinner and dance as the windup if not main event, but some of the people might spill over into the workshops.. There wasn’t any hip hop but we were hip. Speaking of black art, don’t mention dancing.

Here’s a link I came across for the article in which I reported on the First Pan African Festival of Arts and Culture held in Algiers in the summer of 1969. It was the lead article for the first issue of the maiden issue of The Black Scholar and was reprinted in New American Library’s Mentor paperback, New Black Voices, edited by Abraham Chapman, who discusses the Black Arts Movement and such particulars as OBAC and even a “black aesthetic.” More surprising – but something I hadn’t really surmised until recently – was out of well more than a hundred authors included in the volume, he chose to include a fellow named “Nathan Hare” in the thirteen listed on the cover, so maybe I almost made my poem rhyme.

Black Arts was a very big movement, it was huge.


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