week of 12/7: Kwanzaa and Faith Ringgold’s visual art

For Monday 12/7, we’ll (almost) wrap the semester with a look at Kwanzaa, the festival founded by Maulana Karenga and the US Organization.
 
We’ll have our last guest speaker of the semester, Dr. Segun Shabaka, to talk about the Kwanzaa tradition and its practice by the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO) in Brooklyn.
 
ReadRoots and Branches” and “The Seven Principles” (Nguzo Saba) from the official Kwanzaa website.
 
Watch Dr. Greg Kimathi Carr, chair of Howard University’s Department of Afro American Studies interviewed by Salim Adofo in this 29-minute TV show.
 

 
Optional: Read Floyd Hayes and Judson Jeffries’s “US Does Not Stand for United Slaves!” (PDF on the Readings page.)
 Further Resources: See Historian Keith Mayes’ Kwanzaa: Black Power and the Making of the African-American Black Holiday Tradition for a comprehensive look at the evolution of the celebration. Scot Brown’s Fighting For US is the definitive historical source on the US Organization.
 

Faith Ringgold, The Black Arts Movement. From the Art in Context website.

For Wednesday 12/9, we continue looking at visual art of the Black Arts Movement with a look at Faith Ringgold. Ringgold has become known for her story quilts, but we’re going to look at some earlier work from her “American People” and “Black Light” series of works from the 1960s to early 1970s. Read the 2 pdf files from Ringgold’s autobiography We Flew Over the Bridge. (Both PDFs on the Readings page; book is also at Wexler Library and the NY Public Library system).

Next view the images in the embedded PowerPoint file from the 2 series (which you can also download as a PDF):


  • What do you see?
  • Why is it appealing to you?
  • How does this work represent the ideas of the Black Arts Movement? (Does it?)
  • What are the similarities and differences between her work and that of Emory Douglas?
  • Who is represented in the pictures? Who isn’t?
  • Choose 2 images to create a short narrative about. What themes of the course and Black Arts Movement do you see represented?

    Our last class is on Monday December 14 and will be a wrap-up/review for the final exam. The final is on Monday, December 21 from 6:20-8:20 PM in our usual room. This follows Hunter’s standard Fall 2015 Final Exam Schedule-1 (PDF). Note the earlier start time and plan ahead — especially if you need to leave work early!

    Notes/Reminders: Remember that there’s a paper due next week. Also, the documentary Baddddd Sonia Sanchez is screening on Sunday 12/13 at the African Disapora Film Festival.

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    September 21: Malcolm X continued

    Fidel_MalcolmX_Harlem
    Fidel Castro and Malcolm X, Harlem 1960.

    On Monday 9/21, we’ll cover the speech now called “The Last Message” from Malcolm X, online here. As with “The Ballot or the Bullet”, try to listen to at least some of the speech if you’re reading it. But print it out to bring to class, so you can refer to it while we’re talking about it!

    It’s given only a year after “The Ballot or the Bullet” and only a week before he’s killed.

  • What differences (if any) do you notice in his political stances between the speeches?
  • As you listen this time, listen carefully to the give-and take between Malcolm and the audience
  • What is his stance toward defending communities?
  • How do you think his message and philosophy began to affect people’s thinking?
  • Choose 3 key quotes that you think are significant or you have questions about and be ready to discuss them.

  • We’ll also watch selections of Arnold Perl’s 1972 Malcolm X documentary. This Oscar-nominated 1972 film is (for me) still one of the best, as it tracks his autobiography closely using many of Malcolm’s own words in the process.

    Also read pages 103-117 in Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour, which gives background on Malcolm’s final years. Again, you can read that quickly, making note of key points, but read Malcolm’s speech slowly and carefully and take good notes. Do read the section in Joseph on the 1964 Harlem Rebellion carefully and pay attention to Malcolm’s increasing international stature.

    Extras:, There are a lot of good Malcolm documentaries. PBS’s Make it Plain has some excellent footage and interviews from the 1980s/90s and the late journalist Gil Noble’s documentary for the Like It Is show is classic, too.

    Wednesday 9/23 CUNY classes do not meet, so we don’t either. I’ll post next week’s assignment in a separate update.

    Homework: (same as last week): See Stanley Nelson’s Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution this weekend or early next week if you haven’t yet. It’s held over at Film Forum until Tuesday 9/22 and playing at Magic Johnson Theaters on 125th St in Harlem.

    Write a 2-3 page response paper (typed, double spaced) on the film. Focus on the following points:

  • What conditions bring about the founding of the BPP?
  • How do they organize the community and what makes them popular?
  • What causes their downfall and what role does COINTELPRO play?
  • Hard copies due Monday 9/21 in class, where we’ll also discuss the film. Grading will be a simple check, check +, or check – depending on effort and answers to the provided questions.

    Announcement: While not required, some of you may be interested in the Black Panther film festival at Maysles Cinema in Harlem running from 9/25-26 and 10/2-3. It will have talkbacks with members from the original BPP and is actually run by them.

    Week of 9/7: Black Power historical background

    Hi everyone,

    First a few housekeeping things before we get to the assignment itself.

    • If you haven’t done so yet, please sign up for the class text message service from Remind. You can do that here and have the option of getting either text messages or email.
    • You’ll also find it helpful to subscribe to new posts for this site: use the e-mail sign-up form on the main page. That’s not necessary: you can just check manually for weekly updates.
    • Next Monday (9/7) is Labor Day, so we do not meet, but we do meet Wednesday 9/9 and have a special Thursday class (9/10), which is a Monday schedule in CUNY.
    • For Wednesday 9/9, please read the introduction and first 2 chapters (“Forerunners”, “At Home in the World” — approx 45 pages) of Peniel Joseph’s Waiting ‘Til the Midnight Hour.

      It is historical overview of the beginnings of Black Power. Pay particular attention to the sections on Malcolm X (and Malcolm’s rise to prominence), Amiri Baraka’s story, Fidel Castro’s visit to Harlem, and the description of the UN demonstration at the end of chapter 2. Pay close attention to the artists mentioned. Think about the following:

    • What events begin to shape the consciousness of the artists?
    • How do they respond to the changing world?
    • What are some of the trends you see from the time period that might shape people’s perceptions?
    • For Thursday 9/10 the reading is an important essay by Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) titled “Cuba Libre” in the LeRoi Jones/Baraka Reader and is a reflection of his political awakening during a visit to post-revolutionary Cuba in 1960. Also read “State/meant” from the Baraka reader. With Baraka, think about a few key questions:

    • What’s his attitude at the beginning of the trip?
    • How does he change as a result?
    • What precipitates his change in attitude toward art?
    • What does he think his role as an artist is at the end of the essay?
    • What dies he now see the role of the artist as in “State/meant” and how does that differ from his attitude at the beginning of “Cuba Libre”?
    • Also remember that Stanley Nelson’s Black Panther Party documentary The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution opens at Film Forum from 9/2-9/15. Check out the film page for associated events and talks related to the film. The director will be at on screening almost every night. If you have a choice, try to hit the one with the talk by Mary Phillips, who teaches in Lehman’s African and African American Studies Department. It should be good.

    Welcome to Fall 2015! For Wednesday 9/2

    Hi everyone,

    First a few housekeeping things before we get to the assignment itself.

    • Remember to sign up for the class text message service from Remind. You can do that here and have the option of getting either text messages or email.
    • You’ll also find it helpful to subscribe to new posts for this site: use the e-mail sign-up form on the main page.
    • Next Monday (9/7) is Labor Day, so we do not meet, but we do meet Wednesday 9/9 and have a special Thursday class (9/10), which is a Monday schedule in CUNY.
    • Our book order is with Revolution Books, who will make a delivery to the class of the 3 required books on Wednesday 9/2. See the “Books” page for details.On the first day we did a quick overview of the course and what we’ll be doing for the rest of the semester. If you missed class (or registered late), hop on over to the syllabus page and check that out. Also see the required books and instructor’s contact info. You’ll find it convenient to sign up for e-mail updates for posts to this blog (which you can do on the “About” page.

      The assignment for Wednesday 9/2 is to get a more formal introduction to the Black Arts Movement. To do that, we start with two short readings. The first one is from Kalamu Ya Salaam and provides a nice overview of the movement, though focuses primarily on the literature. The essay is here. You can skim that, focusing on the “big picture” and concepts and keep an eye out for some of the names on the syllabus. (You can check out some of Kalamu’s own work here.)

      The second reading for Wednesday is from poet/theoretician Larry Neal and one of many artistic and political statements we’ll see, where artists attempt to articulate the political and theoretical principles that will guide their work. It’s here. In this essay, try to focus on what values Neal is suggesting artists will follow. What changes have been made in the artistic community and why? How has their outlook changed? Underline/highlight some specific examples and think about what they mean.

      Looking ahead to next week, we’ll have reading assignments from all of the books, so you need to get them quickly. Also note the following off-campus exhibits/events. You’ll be asked to make a trip to see both of them in the next few weeks:

    • Stanley Nelson’s Black Panther Party documentary The Black Panther Party: Vanguard of the Revolution playing at Film Forum from 9/2-9/15.
    • Young Lords exhibit at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, El Museo del Barrio (Upper East Side), and Loisaida Center

    Black Arts Drama

    Sonia Sanchez at Miami Book Fair International, 1990. / Wikicommons user MDCarchives

    Sonia Sanchez at Miami Book Fair International, 1990. / Wikicommons user MDCarchives

    Next week we continue with plays from the Black Arts Movement.

    For Monday, October 21, Read Marvin X’s Flowers for the Trashman (P. 541), and Carol Freeman’s The Suicide in Black Fire!.

    For Thursday, October 24, Read Sonia Sanchez’s, “The Bronx is Next”, “Sister Son/ji”, and essay. (All online). Watch: Director SC 2 talk about his 2009 production of Sonia Sanchez’s “The Bronx is Next” and “Sister Son/Ji”.

    … and this preview of The Bronx is Next and Sister Son/Ji

    While you read, think about the performance of Dutchman we saw. Think about how you might stage the Sonia Sanchez plays. How might the characters interact? How would the lines sound? How do you think non-traditional theater audiences would respond? How do they address issues of the time?

    Lastly, The midterm exam will be Monday, October 28th in class.

    Week of 10/14: Baraka’s The Slave and Black Arts Drama

    “Die” by Faith Ringgold, 1967. From her “American People” series. From the Art in Context Website.


    Class, of course, does not meet on Monday because of the holiday.

    Tuesday 10/15, however is a Monday schedule in CUNY, so we meet as we normally would, as do all your other Monday classes. The main assignment is to read Baraka’s play The Slave, which is a follow-up to Dutchman both chronologically, and in terms of where the conclusions it takes toward struggle and society. Think about the differences between the two plays and also the autobiographical elements we’ve discussed and what it meant for Baraka — then Jones — to write such a play. (Ex-wife Hettie Jones refers to The Slave as “Roi’s nightmare” in her own autobiography.) Look at Ringgold’s Die in that context. What might be the end result, according to Ringgold’s vision?

    View this trailer for the Revolution ’67 documentary on the Newark rebellion. Baraka had moved back to Newark by 1967 and was extremely politically active. In a sense, The Slave both responds to the times and also offers a premonition of what is to come.

    Listen to “Who Will Survive America?” by Baraka from his 1972 It’s Nation Time! album on Black Forum Records (a subsidiary of Motown), which perfectly captures the mood of the time. Who will survive America and the tensions that are erupting in the 1960s? Listen to the lyrics: note that he moves from “survive, Black man/ Black woman too” to “all survive”. What do you think he’s getting at here? Read the corresponding section on It’s Nation Time in Pat Thomas’s Listen Whitey! book (pages 45-49).



    Finally Watch Baraka perform his poem “It’s Nation Time!”, which he reads here with almost evangelistic zeal in the early 1970s. on an artistic level, think about the difference between this and his performance of the poem “Black Art”, with drummer Sonny Murray on Sonny’s Time Now that we listened to earlier on. How has his style evolved?


    On Thursday, October 17, we continue with drama from the Black Arts Movement. Read Jimmy Garrett’s We own the Night (p. 527) in Black Fire!. Also read the 4-page section on the short-lived Black Arts Repertory Theater/School from Komozi Woodard’s Baraka bio Nation Within a Nation, which is a PDF on the Readings page. In the wake of Malcolm X’s assassination, Baraka left his wife (and children) in the bohemian, artsy scene of Greenwich Village for Harlem to become better connected with the struggle and immerse himself in a Black community. The BARTS experiment was short-lived (and in some ways disastrous), but an important learning experience, extremely important symbolically, and represented a full commitment to the struggle. For these readings, think about the following:

  • The development of a revolutionary theater that’s attempting to follow a “Black Aesthetic”
  • How does this play deal with the changing racial view of the times?
  • How does it deal with the issues of masculinity and Malcolm X’s warning of a “New Negro”?
  • How does it show the difference in thought between different generations?
  • How does it represent the theme (and worldwide trend) of revolution?
  • After reading the play, listen to “When the Revolution Comes” by The Last Poets from their self-titled first album, released in 1970 by Douglas Records.

    Week of 10/7: Baraka’s Dutchman

    Poster for the 1967 film version of Dutchman starring Shirley Knight as Lula and the late Al Freeman, Jr. as Clay.

    The assignment for Monday October 7th is to read the Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) play Dutchman. It won the 1964 Obie Award for “Best American Play” and, following on the success of his 1963 Blues People book, brought Baraka firmly onto the literary landscape. For Monday, we’ll only deal with the first half of the book — The Slave is a different play and we’ll get to that later.

    Before reading Dutchman, watch the following videos. The first one is a quick overview of Baraka’s life and work:

    The next video is Baraka discussing the background of the play and some of what he brought into it.

    Finally, watch this slideshow on lynchings. (Note: it’s in Adobe Flash, so I can’t embed and it won’t work on some mobile browsers.) Warning: the photos are jarring, but part of the background. Remember that in 1964, we’re still three years away from the Loving v. Virginia case striking down laws banning interracial marriage in several states.

    As you read, think about the play in all of these contexts, as well as the emerging Black consciousness movement and Malcolm X. Think, too, about the feminist movement, which is making gains, too, and the loosening of sexual roles. How might these add insight to Lula’s character? Pay close attention to the plot turns in the play and try to find crucial moments in the text. (Hint: you might have to re-read sections afterward.) Also consider it as an allegorical tale. What’s the significance of the title? What might Lula and Clay’s character’s stand for? Might they have multiple (and possibly conflicting) meanings? Read Clay’s final long speech very carefully and read it a few times. What consciousness is emerging in him?

    On Thursday October 10th, we’ll finish discussion on Dutchman and watch a very rare film version from 1967 starring the recently deceased Al Freeman, Jr. (who also appeared in the stage version of The Slave) and Shirley Knight, who plays the character of Lula with incredible intensity.

    Please read Baraka’s essay “The Revolutionary Theatre”, which is online here and Toni Cade Bambara’s essay “Black Theater” (PDF on the Readings page).

    Questions to think about:

  • How do you imagine the characters in the play looking and acting like?
  • How might you direct their characters to act?
  • Does the play do the things that Baraka describes in his “Revolutionary Theatre” essay?
  • How well do you think the play translates to the current day?
  • Optional for Thursday: (Do these after you’ve done the other reading and viewing).

    Read The New Yorker magazine’s review of a 2007 revival of the play. Online here.

    Watch this short clip from a 2010 revival of Dutchman.

    Kwanzaa edition: week of 12/10

    Kwanzaa_picFor Monday December 10, we’ll finish off the course with a quick look at the origins and meaning of Kwanzaa. First, view this short video on the origins of Kwanzaa from its founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga of California State University at Long Beach:

    Next look at the following section on the Official Kwanzaa website:

  • The Seven Principles” (“Nguzo Saba” in Swahili)
  • Finally, Read Floyd Hayes and Judson Jeffries’s essay “US Does Not Stand for United Slaves!”, a 14-page PDF on the Readings page. Pay special attention to the sections “US is born”, “Kawaida as an Emancipatory Ideology”, “The Waning of the US Organization”, and “Reassessment” (pages 74-88)

    For Thursday December 13, we’ll have a formal review session for the final exam and evaluate the course as a whole. To prepare for that, read “Zen and the Art of Finals” (PDF on the Resources page) and bring any questions you have with you.

    Announcements/ Reminders: Remember that reports on your visits to an approved event/ exhibit are due by the last day of class: Thursday the 13th. Edit 12/12: This assignment is now optional: for extra credit only.

    Week of 11/26: Visual Arts and the Black Arts – Romare Bearden and Faith Ringgold

    For Monday 11/26, we continue looking at the visual art connections of the Black Arts Movement with a presentation by Diedra Harris-Kelley, co-director of the Romare Bearden Foundation, which oversees Bearden’s vast legacy of work and coordinates many exhibits.

    Viewing/ readings:

    Romare Bearden in his studio. Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art. nga.gov

  • Read the Bearden Biography then look at the Timeline on the Bearden Foundation website. Pay special attention to the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Look at some of Bearden’s collages in the Art section of the site. Pay particular attention to “The Block”.
  • Read Bearden’s essay “The Negro Artist and Modern Art” (3-page PDF on the Readings page)
  • Read a brief excerpt from Sharon Patton’s African American Artists book. (6 page PDF on Readings page)
  • Faith Ringgold, The Black Arts Movement. From the Art in Context website.

    For Thursday 11/29, Read the 2 pdf files from Lisa E. Farrington’s Creating Their Own Image: The History of African American Women Artists. (Both PDFs on the Readings page; book is also at Wexler Library). Next, do a Google image search for Faith Ringgold’s images from her “Black Light” or “American People” series of works. As a start, you can try this page that came up when I searched.

    Browse the small thumbnail pictures then choose 2-3 to look at carefully. What do you see? Why is it appealing to you? Who is represented? How does this work represent the ideas of the Black Arts Movement? What are the similarities and differences between her work and that of Douglas and Bearden? Either save the images of your 2-3 favorites to your phone, tablet, or laptop and bring them to class or (if you have to) print them out. (You only need to bring 2-3; not all of them.) You will need the images to talk about them in class.

    Presentation by Cookie, Arabia, Syreeta, and Lezlye on visual art.

    Reminders/ announcements: Remember that a short proposal for your paper topic was due on Monday via e-mail: some of you still haven’t submitted them yet. Next, a preliminary list of sources you expect to use is due. (see the assignment sheet for details). Lastly, I’ve put together a list of events outside the class [Edit: Google doc here] I’m asking you to attend as a replacement for one of the classes we missed. You only need to go to one. Details on the Resources page later on Wednesday 11/21 so I can add hyperlinks and a few more options.

    Enjoy the holiday and, as usual, holla at me with questions.

    Week of 11/19: Revolutionary artist Emory Douglas

    For Monday, November 19th, we move to visual art in the Black Arts Movement. We’ll start with graphic and print artist Emory Douglas. Douglas was the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party and produced most of the graphics and in the BPP’s newspaper and many of their posters.

    Read Collette Gaiter’s article “Visualizing a Revolution: Emory Douglas and The Black Panther Newspaper” on the AIGA website [Edit: Link is down — see the PDF on the readings page instead.] and Emory Douglas’s “Position Paper #1 on Revolutionary Art” (Position_Paper_on_Revolutionary_Art_No1). Also view the Emory Douglas images collected on the LA Museum of Contemporary Art’s exhibition website. Browse the small thumbnail pictures then choose 2-3 to look at carefully. What do you see? Why is it appealing to you? How does this work represent the ideas of the Black Arts Movement? Either save the images of your 2-3 favorites to your phone, tablet, or laptop and bring them to class or (if you have to) print them out. (You only need to bring 2-3; not all of them.) You will need the images to talk about them in class.

    Also watch this 10-minute Youtube interview with Douglas on how he joined the BPP and his approach to his work.

    Thursday, November 22nd is the Thanksgiving holiday and we do not meet.

    Looking ahead to next week, on Monday 11/26 we have a guest lecture on Romare Bearden in the 1960s by the Romare Bearden Foundations‘s Diedra Harris-Kelley. Invite friends if you like. I’ve also done the final syllabus revision to adjust to Hunter’s mandated make-up day due to Hurricane Sandy. Jump on over and take a look.

    Edit: As a reminder, the International Puerto Rican Heritage Film Festival is this weekend. And a radio interview I did with free jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders will be airing Sunday night. His name came up in the episode of Ken Burns’ Jazz that we watched and he played with John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and many others. Not required, but will be interesting to those of you interested in music.