Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Photo Essay: Women in the Black Arts Movement

Women of the Black Arts Movement

The Black Arts Movement: History

The Black Arts Movement (BAM) occurred during the mid 1960s to 1975. The activist and writer, Leroi Jones, also known as Amiri Baraka, founded the movement in Harlem after the assassination of Malcolm X.  Jones also established the Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School (BARTS) as an outlet for BAM. The movement was considered the artistic sector of the Black Power Movement. In an essay concerning the Black Arts Movement, Larry Neal stated that the literary movement was the “Aesthetic and Spiritual Sister of Black Power”. It was also considered one of the most influential movements to African American literature due to its ability to inspire blacks to write. Overall, BAM inspired the creation of Black Publishing Companies, theaters, journals, magazines and institutions. The main critiques of the controversial movement by scholars were that it was sexist, homophobic and racially exclusive.
During BAM, the 2nd Wave of the Women’s Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement was taking place. However, Black Feminism became an important political statement conveyed by the women of the Black Arts Movement. Popular topics of these women were race and economic status, sexism, class oppression and racism. The spirit of the movement was not only to express creativity but also to stabilize the black community.
The reimagination of America, the overarching project of the 1960s and 1970s Black Arts movement (BAM), remains its continuing legacy. This project emphasized the discovery that “there is no American literature; there are American literatures . . . [by] those who have their roots in the most ancient civilizations - African, Asian, Mexican [,] . . . Native American . . . [and] the literature of the European settlement regime . . .” This study examines the work of black women writers in poetry, drama, fiction, autobiography, and theoretical essays as it highlights the deep implication and outcomes of that discovery. In Black Fire, the signal anthology of the period, Amiri Baraka and Larry Neal introduce “the founding fathers and mothers of our nation.” The founding mothers, with other vanguard women writers, strengthen the revolutionary ferment of the movement to resonate its themes: a renegotiation of power relations between black and white America, a disturbance of ideological imperatives of identity, and a re-direction of the sources for literary production. They also interject another theme: a renegotiation of the power relations between black men and women - itself a revolutionary advent.

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