“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.
, 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.