Scholastic Library Publishing, 1996.
The tragedy of 21st century America is that there are innumerable places one could begin. The grievances that have sparked the cry, “Black Lives Matter,” might be rooted in the killing of black bodies at the hands of police, or the exploitation of black citizens in the extortion schemes of local governments that seek to keep their taxes low amidst the hegemony of austerity politics. Or, it might be rooted in the lack of safety that black people feel in a polity that still regards them, as W.E.B. DuBois pointed out over one hundred years ago, as “a problem.” In this way, the new century is not much different from those previous — the state sanctioned and, often, state-implemented exploitation of black and brown bodies is, wretchedly, as American as apple pie.
The stories and bios of women who led the Movement.
By 1970 Black Arts theaters and cultural centers were active throughout America. TheNew Lafayette Theatre (Bob Macbeth, executive director, and Ed Bullins, writer inresidence) and Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre led the way in New York, Baraka'sSpirit House Movers held forth in Newark and traveled up and down the East Coast. TheOrganization of Black American Culture (OBAC) and Val Grey Ward's Kuumba Theatre Companywere leading forces in Chicago, from where emerged a host of writers, artists, andmusicians including the OBAC visual artist collective whose "Wall of Respect"inspired the national community-based public murals movement and led to the formation ofAfri-Cobra (the African Commune of Bad, Revolutionary Artists). There was David Rambeau'sConcept East and Ron Milner and Woodie Kings Black Arts Midwest, both based inDetroit. Ron Milner became the Black Arts movement's most enduring playwright and WoodieKing became its leading theater impresario when he moved to New York City. In Los Angelesthere was the Ebony Showcase, Inner City Repertory Company, and the Performing ArtsSociety of Los Angeles (PALSA) led by Vantile Whitfield. In San Francisco was theaforementioned Black Arts West. BLKARTSOUTH (led by Tom Dent and Kalamu ya Salaam) was anoutgrowth of the Free Southern Theatre in New Orleans and was instrumental in encouragingBlack theater development across the south from the Theatre of Afro Arts in Miami,Florida, to Sudan Arts Southwest in Houston, Texas, through an organization called theSouthern Black Cultural Alliance. In addition to formal Black theater repertory companiesin numerous other cities, there were literally hundreds of Black Arts community and campustheater groups.
The movement for black lives is anchored by IRL (in-real-life) mass action — the movement was catalyzed in the streets. It is reported and reflected upon online. This convergence of traditional, offline organizing with the instantaneous frame diffusion of social media multiplies and magnifies the visible sites of the movement’s resistance while nurturing and expanding a vital sense of community and clearly broadcasting the preferred frames of the movement — frames which are often taken-up and amplified by traditional media, which report social media phenomena as news.
and Civil Rights Activism in the North, by Mary Lou Finley.
In a 1968 essay, "The Black Arts Movement," Larry Neal proclaimed Black Artsthe "aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept." As a politicalphrase, Black Power had earlier been used by Richard Wright to describe the mid-1950semergence of independent African nations. The 1960s' use of the term originated in 1966with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael andWillie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militantadvocacy of armed self-defense, separation from "racist American domination,"and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of Blackness.
University Press of Kentucky, 2016.
Although often criticized as sexist, homophobic, and racially exclusive (i.e., reverseracist), Black Arts was much broader than any of its limitations. Ishmael Reed, who isconsidered neither a movement apologist nor advocate ("I wasn't invited toparticipate because I was considered an integrationist"), notes in a 1995 interview,
Pleasant Company Publications, 2001.
I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that.
Essays, articles, and history of the act.
Another formation of Black writers at that time was the Harlem Writers Guild, led byJohn O. Killens, which included Maya Angelou, Jean Carey Bond, Rosa Guy, and Sarah Wrightamong others. But the Harlem Writers Guild focused on prose, primarily fiction, which didnot have the mass appeal of poetry performed in the dynamic vernacular of the time. Poemscould be built around anthems, chants, and political slogans, and thereby used inorganizing work, which was not generally the case with novels and short stories. Moreover,the poets could and did publish themselves, whereas greater resources were needed topublish fiction. That Umbra was primarily poetry- and performance-oriented established asignificant and classic characteristic of the movement's aesthetics.