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Congress to Abolish Black History Month

WASHINGTON DC (NWSF News) -In a surprising bipartisan move, last week, Congress
passed legislation to abolish Black History Month. If the bill is not vetoed by
the newly elected president, Black History Month could soon be history.

The reason for the legislation is that after the election of this country's
first black president, many Americans no longer believe the celebration of black
history is necessary. Some even have gone so far as calling for a ban on the
teaching of black history because they say it is divisive.

Although many white Americans, especially the Right Wing, have questioned the
validity of a month set aside to honor one racial group, there are many blacks,
as well, who would like to bid Black History Month a adieu. For some African
Americans black history has been seen as a stumbling block; just another barrier
that has kept them from enjoying their piece of the American pie. Many black
people strive their whole lives to detach the word "African" from "African

"Ain't no need to be talking all that black stuff. That's just another way to
divide us," says Carletta "CJ" Walker, owner of New City Beauty Salon in=2
Atlanta. "We need to stop living in the past."

The problem of having to be African and American, simultaneously, has plagued
African Americans since the Emancipation Proclamation. It is a paradox that WEB
Dubois described as "a double consciousness" that black folks had to have in
order to survive in a white dominated society.
During the early 20th century, the issue was bitterly debated by those who
wanted inclusion into American society like Dubois and his Talented 10th and
those who wanted separation like Marcus Garvey and the Universal Negro
Improvement Association.

Later, during the 60's and early 70's there was a constant ideological war
between the Civil Rights activists and the Black Power activists that
personified itself in the forms of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Dr..
King believed in a dream where all Americans would be treated as equals but
Malcolm X envisioned a nightmare where African Americans would forever be
treated as second class citizens.

For many young African Americans, black history has been replaced by a Hip Hop
pseudo culture that has long abandoned any connection to black culture. Instead
it has embraced a false ideology that music and fashion could end 400 years of
oppression. Some of the rappers are even claiming that they are no longer black
but they are "Hip Hop."

"I don't care what color a dude is. As long as he keeps it gangsta, he's cool
with me," says New Y
ork City aspiring rapper Tyrone "T-Boogie" Johnson. "How is
learning about black history gonna get me signed to a contract ?"

The disconnection of the youth can partially be blamed on an educational system
that has helped to promote institutionalized white supremacy under the guise of
preparing African American children to be able to make it in the real world.. Any
attempt to add Afrocentric studies to a curriculum by black teachers is often
met with dire consequences.

CG Woods, an 8th grade social studies teacher in Jackson, Mississippi, recently
was suspended without pay for instructing his students to read "How Europe
Underdeveloped Africa" by Walter Rodney.

Some say that the lack of appreciation for black history is due to the fact that
what is usually celebrated every February is not black history at all but the
relatively brief history of black people in this country; a history of
emancipated slaves. Few have paid attention to the rich history that African
people had prior to 1619. This is mostly because the white corporations that
have become the major sponsors of black history events have confined any
discussion of black history to the boundaries of America.

Perhaps the people most affected by the end of Black History Month will be
African American businesses, especially black book stores. Shaka Nzinga, owner
of Black History, Inc, the world's largest distribuor of Afrocentric material
has already announced that he=2
0will close his doors at the end of February unless
business picks up.

Although, some African Americans have decided to allow black history to fade
into obscurity, there are a few activists across the country who are not going
out without a fight. They have started the Black History Bailout Campaign. The
group is asking the black community to come up with their own socio-economic
stimulus package as a last ditch effort to save black history.

Although the activists hope that the movement gains momentum over the next few
weeks, as of yesterday the only people protesting in front of the Capitol were
an elderly man with a Marcus Garvey sweatshirt and his young grandson holding up
signs that said,"

"A people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots."

Paul Scott writes for No Warning Shots Fired .com.
He can be reached at or (919) 451-8283
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McCain's ancestors owned slaves

The senator's family history includes a Civil War era plantation in Mississippi.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Suzi Parker and Jake Tapper

Arizona Sen. John McCain is learning a lot about his family history in the course of this presidential campaign.
Because of his bestselling family memoir, "Faith of My Fathers," which details the lives and military careers of his father, Adm. John McCain II, and grandfather, Adm. John "Slew" McCain, veterans flock to his campaign appearances and book signings. They trade stories about his heroic forebears and share anecdotes.
The family's storied military history stretches back to Carroll County, Miss., where McCain's great-great grandfather William Alexander McCain owned a plantation, and later died during the Civil War as a soldier for the Mississippi cavalry.
But what McCain didn't know about his family until Tuesday was that William Alexander McCain had owned 52 slaves. The senator seemed surprised after Salon reporters showed him documents gathered from Carroll County Courthouse, the Carrollton Merrill Museum, the Mississippi State Archives and the Greenwood, Miss., Public Library.
"I didn't know that," McCain said in measured tones wearing a stoic expression during a midday interview, as he looked at the documents before Tuesday night's debate. "I knew they had sharecroppers. I did not know that."

Read more... )

Lucy Terry

Feb. 9th, 2007 02:58 pm
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Lucy Terry

( c. 1730-1821 )

Lucy Terry's " Bars Fight ", the earliest known work of literature by an African American, was first published in 1855 in Josiah Holland's History of Western Massachusetts.


Samuel Allen like a hero fout
And though he was so brave and bold
His face no more shall we behold.
Eleazer Hawks was killed outright
Before he had time to fight
Before he did the Indians see
Was shot and killed immediately.
Oliver Amsden he was slain
Which caused his friends much grief and pain.
Samuel Amsden they found dead
Not many rods off from his head.
Adonijah Gillet we do hear
Did lose his life which was so dear.
John Saddler fled across the water
And so escaped the dreadful slaughter.
Eunice Allen see the Indians comeing
And hoped to save herself by running
And had not her petticoats stopt her
The awful creatures had not cotched her
And tommyhawked her on the head
And left her on the ground for dead.
Young Samuel Allen, Oh! lack a-day
Was taken and carried to Canada.

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This extract, taken from Chapter Two of the Interesting Narrative, describes the young Equiano’s entry into a slave ship on the coast of Africa.


The first object which saluted my eyes when I arrived on the coast was the sea, and a slave-ship, which was then riding at anchor, and waiting for its cargo. These filled me with astonishment, which was soon converted into terror, which I am yet at a loss to describe, nor the then feelings of my mind. When I was carried on board I was immediately handled, and tossed up, to see if I were sound, by some of the crew; and I was now persuaded that I was got into a world of bad spirits, and that they were going to kill me. Their complexions too differing so much from ours, their long hair, and the language they spoke, which was very different from any I had ever heard, united to confirm me in this belief. Indeed, such were the horrors of my views and fears at the moment, that, if ten thousand worlds had been my own, I would have freely parted with them all to have exchanged my condition with that of the meanest slave in my own country. When I looked round the ship too, and saw a large furnace of copper boiling, and a multitude of black people of every description chained together, every one of their countenances expressing dejection and sorrow, I no longer doubted of my fate, and, quite overpowered with horror and anguish, I fell motionless on the deck and fainted. When I recovered a little, I found some black people about me, who I believed were some of those who brought me on board, and had been receiving their pay; they talked to me in order to cheer me, but all in vain. I asked them if we were not to be eaten by those white men with horrible looks, red faces, and long hair? Read more... )
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'How to write about Africa'
Binyavanga Wainaina
some tips: sunsets and starvation are good
Always use the word 'Africa' or 'Darkness' or 'Safari' in your title. Subtitles may include the words 'Zanzibar', 'Masai', 'Zulu', 'Zambezi', 'Congo', 'Nile', 'Big', 'Sky', 'Shadow', 'Drum', 'Sun' or 'Bygone'. Also useful are words such as 'Guerrillas', 'Timeless', 'Primordial' and 'Tribal'. Note that 'People' means Africans who are not black, while 'The People' means black Africans.
Read more... )
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Bush's failing grade on racial issues

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist | November 9, 2005

HISTORIAN John Hope Franklin has lived through 16 presidents and has met many -- or tried to.
Read more... )
''I'm not opposed to that, but these three great talents or talented three people in position of leadership are concerned with these matters and not with certain other matters . . . to assist us in moving to the next level. As long as we are concerned, not with those matters, but with other matters which it seems to me are inconsequential, I despair for the country."

Derrick Z. Jackson's e-mail address is
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Prose-Poem-Drama: "Proemdra" -- "Black Aesthetics" versus "White Aesthetics" in South Africa
Zander, Horst

As is well known, blacks in South Africa were not only at odds with political and economic colonialism right from the start, but also quarreled with white concepts of writing from the very. moment the colonialists imported them into the country. These Western views of literature differed considerably from those the blacks were familiar with in their oral tradition.

It has often been pointed out that in traditional African communities there are strong holistic tendencies. Various fields of social activities are not separated from each other, nor is there any apparent division of labor. A similar situation exists among the discourses in such communities. The political discourse, the historical discourse, the religious discourse, the literary discourse -- all these are intimately interwoven, or actually one. In addition, there also seem to be no clear-cut boundaries between different types or genres of texts, not even a real distinction between verse and prose (see, e.g., Finnegan 74-76, 361-68, 390-91, and Opland 33). This tendency towards an homogeneous, integrative discourse is particularly intensified by the orality of all communication in such societies, since a division of discourses is largely connected with literacy and print. It is true that studies on the African oral tradition regularly subdivide their corpus into various forms of literature, but then this kind of classification seems to represent primarily an effort of Western or Western-trained black scholars to organize their research material rather than a reflection of the actual features of traditional literature.(2) As it is, blacks in South Africa and in other parts of the continent regularly emphasize that in their tradition "art like life is whole" (Dathorne 5). This also means that literature is not regarded as performing a function differing from other discourses; instead, it serves definite social goals.

Up to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, European societies shared many features with traditional African communities. There, too, no clear distinction existed, for example, between religious and secular activities, between work and spare time, between a private and a public sphere. Similarly, no distinct borderlines were drawn between different types of discourse. And as far as a particular discourse was -- either at that time or subsequently -- identified as a specific literary discourse, it exercised apparently social and political functions.

All this changed, however, during the seventeenth and especially the eighteenth century, when many comparably autonomous spheres emerged, affecting the discourses as well. Now, for example, a news discourse was separated from a "novels discourse" (on this issue, cf. Lennard J. Davis) and from political, religious, and scientific forms of discourse, all of which achieved relative independence; from them the literary discourse was delimitated as well. Gradually, an increasing number of literary texts abstained from producing political or ecclesiastical propaganda, and they no longer served primarily to convey social information; instead, they aimed at entertainment and at providing literary experiences in their own right. This emergence of literature as an "autonomous" sphere was accompanied, moreover, by various efforts to differentiate within the field of literary texts, for instance between different genres -- especially in the wake of neoclassical orientations.

Subsequently, the "autonomous" literary sphere became the object of a similarly "autonomous" metadiscourse, initiated primarily by Kant, who uncoupled aesthetics from other fields of cognition. For Kant, there existed a hiatus between the discerning subject and the world, and he held that the beautiful in particular could not be seized by conceptual thought. Therefore, he regarded all judgments on aesthetic representations as judgments of taste, not, however, of cognition. Basically, he conceived of literary works as autonomous objects that are characterized by "purposiveness without purpose" and should be treated with "disinterested complacency."

Of course, Hegel subsequently attempted to conjoin all that Kant had shattered and to subject literature to conceptual thought, thus, in a way, reapproaching older Western as well as African conceptions. Following Hegel, in the twentieth century, we can find similar tendencies in Marxist literary theory. The mainstream of later Western literary theory and aesthetics adhered, however, to the conceptions of Kant, as is particularly evident in Formalism, New Criticism, and Structuralism. The literary artefact came to be regarded as a self-contained, self-sufficient world, as a text that is independent of its production and reception situation and that pursues exclusively literary aims (since all that is important happens within the text itself). It is especially this renunciation of all extratextual intentions that is, moreover, held to guarantee a text's transcendence of particular contexts and to turn the issues created by the text into "universal" issues. Literature that serves pragmatic goals (which nevertheless continued to be produced), didactic, political, religious, socially committed literature, is often dismissed in such an aesthetic view, based on a division of labor between the various discourses, as an inferior, bastardized form. This approach to literature was to culminate in modernist conceptions. It goes without saying that such theories claim universal validity.

In the nineteenth century, when blacks in South Africa were gradually starting to become literate, the clash of African and Western conceptions evidently contributed among blacks to an almost total refusal to write fictional texts, which -- according to Western views -- lacked any immediate social or political significance. Instead, black South African authors concentrated on imitating various forms of white journalistic writing: travelogues, biographies, and autobiographies that served obvious social functions. In fact, this kind of nonfictional writing was, more often than not, profoundly political, discussing the role of the blacks in a society dominated by whites.

In the early twentieth century, the strong tendency of black writers towards a politicized journalism continued. During the first three decades, a vast number of journalistic texts (both in English and in African languages) were published in newspapers and magazines, and various books appeared, all of them, however, factual ones. Apart from a few exceptions,(3) fictional and literary texts did not emerge until the end of the 1920s, when R. R. R. Dhlomo published An African Tragedy (1928), Sol. T. Plaatje at last managed to find a publisher for his novel Mhudi (1930), and Dhlomo started to write numerous stories for magazines and newspapers.

Though copying Western models, this black fiction was -- and for some two decades remained -- to a fair extent influenced by the oral tradition; and it regularly aimed at performing pragmatic functions. Thus Dhlomo's An African Tragedy occasionally turns into a fervent pamphlet, with no less overtly religious aims than in the case of a sermon; and Mhudi is not just intended as a fictional historical novel, but as an endeavor to re-read and re-write history from a black point of view.

With the beginning of the 1950s, black authors -- following the earlier example of Peter Abrahams -- began more intensively to copy Western, especially black American models of writing, refuting altogether literary conventions of the indigenous tradition. In fact, the authors of the so-called Drum generation perfected the imitation of white writing and largely complied with Western conceptions of literature. In one important aspect, however, these writers also deviated from orthodox Western aesthetics, namely in often producing works, predominantly short stories, of protest (though they appeared mainly in other outlets than Drum). It was primarily as a result of the introduction and implementation of the various apartheid laws during the 1950s that black authors used fictional texts as instruments to achieve political goals, to condemn the apartheid system, thus violating the Western ideal of the "purposelessness" of literature of quality. Because of their Western orientation, many authors were quite apologetic about their texts, but claimed that the political situation in South Africa left them no other option.

The 1960s witnessed a massive clampdown by the government on this type of protest writing (and black writing in general), resulting in the authors being silenced and driven into exile. And when, after this period of deprivation, black literature was revived in the following decade, it again looked quite different. Based now on the concepts of Black Consciousness, white literary orientations were no less denounced than the political values of whites: in fact, this new generation of blacks conceived of the Western literary conceptions as an integral part of Western imperialism. In a reaction that paralleled discussions by other Africans and black Americans about creating a black aesthetic as opposed to a white aesthetic (e.g., Gayle; Gurr and Zirimu; Chinweizu et al.; Johnson et al.), black South African authors now again returned to traditional African models of literature. And one of the most important aspects of their black aesthetic was to reject the Western idea of a division of labor between thevarious discourses. Thus Mothobi Mutloatse declared:

In a race-obsessed country like South Africa the part the black writer has to play is rather demanding -- but nevertheless worth it. It seems to me that he is expected to be a jack of all trades -- and a master of all! He has to be tradesman, docker, psychologist, nurse, miner, matshigilane, tshotsa, teacher, athlete, toddler, mother, musician, father, visionary, imbongi and -- above all -- oral historian. (1)(4)

This also meant renouncing the Western credo according to which "good" literature has to abstain from all political goals and is to pursue only literary aims of its own. In the black tradition, it was contended, literature always had distinct social functions. Zakes Mda points out:

I have dismally failed to respond to the strange aesthetic concepts so cherished in the western world that profess that artistic creation is an end in itself, independent of politics and social requirements. I draw from the traditional African aesthetics where art could not be separated from life. In our various African societies the artist was a social commentator. (296; see also Gwala)

Consequently, it was claimed that the current black literature, especially under the conditions of apartheid, had also primarily to serve political goals, namely the resistance against white oppression. Therefore, black South Africans not only saw no more reason to have a bad conscience when writing political fiction; black writers and critics now declared that "good" black literature necessarily had to be politically committed. As Mbulelo Mzamane puts it:

Since the most important lessons for South Africans are in the political sphere, a writer in that land is
unimportant, irrelevant and probably alienated unless he is political. Art and politics in South Africa, as
in many parts of Africa, have become inseparable for the simple reason that politics pervades all
aspects of a blackman's existence. (150)

In part as a reaction against the massive censorship in South Africa, this new black literature of the
1970s was mainly poetry (which could be transmitted orally, avoiding government control); but such
oral poetry also conformed well to the objectives of Black Consciousness. In contrast to the solitary
act of reading, orally performed poetry afforded a common social experience. Accordingly, the former
protest literature was now replaced by a resistance literature that appealed to black solidarity in the
struggle against white hegemony.

In written and printed literature, black authors displayed a similar recurrence to traditional African
concepts, even writers who had only little sympathy with Black Consciousness ideals.(5) A
particularly clear expression of the attack on Western literary conceptions appears in those texts that
were labeled "proemdras" and that, in the final decade of the apartheid regime, assumed in several
ways a programmatic status in the blacks' opposition to white aesthetics and values.

The development of the concept of the "proemdra" was also motivated by the spirit of Black
Consciousness; and it was Mothobi Mutloatse who coined the term and wrote a kind of manifesto,
namely in the introduction of the anthology Forced Landing (1980), from which some lines were
already quoted above:

We are involved in and consumed by an exciting experimental art form that I can only call, to coin a
phrase, `proemdra': Prose, Poem and Drama in one!

We will have to donder conventional literature: old-fashioned critic and reader alike. We are going to
pee, spit and shit on literary convention before we are through; we are going to kick and pull and push
and drag literature into the form we prefer. We are going to experiment and probe and not give a damn
what the critics have to say. Because we are in search of our true selves -- undergoing self-discovery
as a people.

We are not going to be told how to re-live our feelings, pains and aspirations by anybody who speaks
from the platform of his own rickety culture. We'll write our poems in a narrative form; we'll write
journalistic pieces in poetry form; we'll dramatise our poetic experiences; we'll poeticise our historical
dramas. We will do all these things at the same time. (5)

As the neologistic term "proemdra" indicates, the main target of this new kind of writing is the
Western compartmentalization of literature into different genres, hence the primary aim is the fusion of
modes. But as the phrase "we'll write journalistic pieces in poetry form" demonstrates, the boundary
between fictional and nonfictional discourse is under attack as well. Moreover, the condemnation of
critics and the reference to the self-discovery of blacks as a people disclose that the literary attack is
simultaneously a political attack: the emancipation from Western literary conceptions is part of the
liberation from white domination in general.

This exuberant introduction of the "proemdras" as a new and exclusively South African genre (or rather
nongenre) did not, however, evoke, as far as can be ascertained by evidence from printed texts, too
large an echo. Strangely enough, the anthology Forced Landing does not contain a single "proemdra."
That this text type did nevertheless enjoy some popularity is illustrated by the fact that occasionally
older texts, written long before the term "proemdra" was coined, were later relabeled "proemdras." This
is the case, for example, with a piece by Can Themba entitled "Music, Food of Love! Tale of a Girl
Whom Music Saved from the Blues," which Essop Patel classifies as a "proemdra" in the collection
The World of Can Themba (1985). The text offers a short love story, presented in what appear to be 14
little prose stanzas. Originally, however, these "stanzas" were subtexts to photographs; and what is
declared here to be a "proemdra" is but the verbal extract of a picture story published in Drum in
August 1957.

The label "proemdra" seems somewhat confusing, also with regard to Mothobi Mutloatse's "A Walk
Down Memory Lane," which is included in the anthology Reconstruction (1981) in a separate
"Proemdra" section. This piece deals with the first anniversary of 16 June 1976 (when the Soweto
uprise started) and recalls some of the main events, discussing the consequences and lessons for the
future they provide for both blacks and whites. The text gives the overall impression of an essay, but
employs a highly condensed language and displays numerous rhetorical devices, for instance when
Mutloatse writes:

Warped minds became alive; babies stopped crawling and started strutting; boozers jumped out of the
barrel; liars stopped cheating; conmen walked the straight way of the Lord; and the men of God
walked the way of the people; and the people walked the way of Unity. And they walked tall!

We were the enemies of fear. Fear was so afraid of us that it hid itself inside bullets and burst during a
fit of frustration and paranoia coupled with claustrophobia.

We smoked teargas and swallowed bullets, and vet we died so that we should live in peace and
harmony. We were reborn -- without the help of the Bible. We were new people. WE ARE


Yes, we all remember well how we burnt our useless voices singing songs from the bottoms of our
hearts; songs of hope; songs of thirst; songs of hunger; songs of metamorphosis; and songs of an
awakened people; songs of old of Zenzi; songs of we-shall-be-free-and-God-knows-it-too.

O, yes, we know what panic did to THEM.

And on the fourth day of the eighth month, we still managed to scrape up that hill to seek the release
of our brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, boyfriends and girlfriends, sons and daughters who
had been whisked off to our reluctant resort -- jail. (306-07)

In these passages, Mutloatse's effort to transform his prose language into poetic diction are more than
evident, and though the importance of the Bible for blacks is dismissed, the text itself displays obvious
traits of a Biblical style. The last three lines of the piece then actually take the form of lines of
poetry.(6) Moreover, the motifs of life, death, and rebirth touched upon in the paragraphs quoted
meander through the whole text, and at the end the corpse becomes the central image for the whites
in the country.

Although "A Walk Down Memory Lane" may thus be an example of a journalistic article written in
poetry form, according to Mutloatse's programmatic declarations, there is no element of drama in this
text. Neither does this piece break new ground with regard to the distinction between fictional and
factual discourse. It is rather similar to many pieces of black South African journalism that use various
rhetorical and literary devices in order to enhance their political impact and of which some instances
are also included in the section "Journalism" of the anthology Reconstruction (R. V. Selope-Thema,
"How Congress Began"; Nokugcina Mhlope, "My Dear Madam"). The main difference between "A
Walk Down Memory Lane" and those articles therefore seems to lie simply in the label of this text --
and, in fact, in the influential magazine Staffrider, in which many of the pieces of the anthology first
appeared, and especially in the collection Reconstruction in the Staffrider Series, an arbitrary play with
labels seems to be part of a strategy to subvert different classifications of texts. Thus, the anthology
contains inter alia a section "Prose," implying fiction as opposed to the section "Journalism"; but two
of the allegedly fictional pieces (Mankati Kwadi's "Fate" and Narain Aiyer's "The Cane Is Singing") are
apparently journalistic texts. "Cane" was originally published as a "story" in Staffrider (3.4 [1980-81]),
as was Nokugcina Mhlope's piece "My Dear Madam" (3.4 [1980-81]; under the name Nogukcina
Sigwili) which in Reconstruction is relabeled "Journalism." Thus, the game with labels started by the
magazine, which aimed at showing the close affiliation of "documentary" and "imaginative" genres
(see Vaughan, "Staffrider" 200) is continued and intensified by Mutloatse in the collection
Reconstruction. He, too, places "Cane" in an apparently wrong section, whereas in the case of
Mhlope's text he seems to rectify the labeling. But in so doing, he again contributes to the game in
that this text now bears two different and contradicting labels. As it is, the Western differentiation
between journalism and (fictional) prose seems to be introduced in Reconstruction only in order to blur
such compartmentalizations. And in the case of "A Walk Down Memory Lane," the boundary
transgression of the alleged "proemdra" also lies primarily in its confounding label.

The situation is somewhat, though not altogether different in Maropodi Mapalakanye's "Somebody Is
Dangling (Edited Version of a Dramatic Presentation)" in the same collection. Although this text
contains no genuine prose, the verses are quite prosaic indeed. Furthermore, the beginning of the
"proemdra" displays an obvious narrative element, which is perhaps reminiscent of prose rather than of

Down Plein Street

At the park,

I met a privileged underdog.

Of his paint I couldn't draw

Whether pink or colourless.

This worn-out skeleton was pretty dirty.

I greeted,

He didn't reply;

I smiled

He begged;

I sympathised,

He knelt;

I offered 50 cents,

He played a raw comedy.

Then a black hobo landed with rage and motive

From somewhere, I don't know where

And --

`Don't give to that Nationalist!

He votes for our miseries,

He's a Broederbonder,

Take it back!

Don't let him have it.'

`Voertsek kaffir.'


I protested.

I lunged at him

Caught his paw

Enriched by my coin,

And --

`Asseblief, Asseblief,'

He begged me.

I meant business.

The black one Shared the Struggle.

We retrieved the coin,

And I gave it to the

Brother. (310-11)

Later, however, the text turns rather mediative or descriptive:

Let me say it:

Life here is rich with

Art and matter, mad with emotions

Whose human frictions and tensions

Contribute to earthquakes and revolutions.

Peasants here

Are terrorists to voters,

Voters terrorists to peasants,

Freedom fighters to soldiers terrorists,

Soldiers terrorists to freedom fighters.

Are our forces in combat with tornadoes

From outside

Intending to grab `our' Gold?

Or is it that our defender

Is a vulture to most species of this land?

Don't tell me

If you know.

If you don't,


Yourself with any class you belong to.

But make it yours.

I'm tired of human classification.

You know, I've learned enough from the dumps of bantu education. (312)

The poetic element represented by the verse form is further substantiated by occasional song-like
stanzas (313), and it is intensified in that the central image reoccurs refrain-like throughout the text,
namely that "somebody is dangling / From the branch of a rootless tree" (314), an image, naturally, for
the white people in the country. The dramatic element, finally, also emerges from the beginning of the
piece, which is perhaps as much drama as narrative; in addition, the text as a whole is described in
the subtitle as an "[e]dited version of a dramatic presentation" (310).

In fusing fictional and factual discourse, however, the text proves as little illuminating as "A Walk
Down Memory Lane." On the other hand, the piece displays, to a larger degree than Mutloatse's
"proemdra," features of mixing conventions of poetic texts with those of expository pieces. The second
quotation may serve as an example. As the antithetic and chiastic juxtaposition of the respective
"terrorists" demonstrates, the text's attack on such classifications is not only stated, but created in
exposing the interchangeability, of the classifying labels. Nevertheless, there is also the overt verdict
on such classifications in the lines further down. In a similar way, the whole "proemdra" -- which is
primarily concerned with such a "human classification," while striving to reveal it as an actually
"inhuman classification" (318) and dealing with the rift and hatred between blacks and whites as well
as with the pending danger emerging from this confrontation -- seems also constantly compelled to
spell out expressis verbis what it constitutes. It repeatedly creates the issues in a -- modernist --
poetic manner, and yet Mapalakanye seems afraid that they are too highly encoded and hence may
be obscured; he therefore simultaneously explains them as in an expository text. In this aspect,
"Somebody Is Dangling" is similar to much of the black poetry of the 1970s and 1980s, which
endeavors to be populist. Though opting for a poetic form, the authors nevertheless want their texts to
display some of the clarity and immediateness of a political pamphlet. Consequently, "Somebody Is
Dangling" also exercises the functions of such a pamphlet: like numerous other texts, it is designed
as a warning against whites and as an appeal to the solidarity and the liberation efforts of blacks (as is
evidenced by the capitalizatio
mercifulserpent: (Default)
Bay State Banner 2/18/1971 V.VI; N.23 p. 14
Word Count: 996

Visual arts and black aesthetics
Gaither, Edmund B. "Barry"

Aesthetics generally refers to the philosophy of beauty. It is an abstract notion used to define and
state intellectually those pleasurable experiences occasioned by artistic encounters.

In every case, aesthetics has, at its core represented the artistic judgment of creative arts within a
fixed cultural context. Though some notions of universal beauty and the like have been postulated, all
such views are in fact culture-bound, and therefore partisan. Aestheticians who have come from the
ranks of the educated elite have been charged with the job of defining, conserving, and promoting the
central artistic values of the "in" culture.

There is, however, another sense in which aesthetics may be used, a more popular sense. Aesthetics,
as a functional concept describes the coherency demonstrated in the struggle of people in a culture to
reveal their finest visions of the Good, the Beautiful. In this case, the term assumes a broader meaning
and corresponds essentially with commonly held cultural aspirations.

The specific creation of the artist is then, not only a particular exercise with an aesthetic value: it is
also an element of the struggle for a fuller realization of cultural potential. This one may see in the total
creation of the culture patterns of approved and cherished expression as well as of deviation.

Recently, young black visual artists and art historians have wrestled with discarding the semantic
burden of the terminology used in historical art discussion. At the same time, they have striven to give
meaning to terms such as black art, and black aesthetics, through equivalent terms. Always the
necessity to make distinctions, to judge quality and locate the contemporary in the traditional, recurs
and impresses itself anew. Consequently, the black discussant of the visual art has not escaped the
direct need to clarify and come to grips with the notion of aesthetics, of black aesthetics. And for
what it's worth, I offer my thoughts on the subject.

Cultures, though never fully synchronized, strive toward coherency. This struggle is perhaps no where
more apparent than in the arts. If a broad enough view of the total life of a culture can be gained, one
can then suggest central tenets of its ideals of the Justice, the Good, the Beautiful. These ideals are
internally generated and manifest themselves in all areas of the culture. Thus no question can be
raised as to whether different cultures have different aesthetics, nor of whether each culture's
aesthetics are self-validating.

It is evident that each culture has an essential and peculiar aesthetic system which is self-validating,
although such an umbrella aesthetic is also likely to contain competing systems giving rise to artistic
tensions. Occidental art is not Oriental art; each abides in its own system, each is valid, each is
diverse and in some sense contradictory, better or worse than the other.

How one may then ask, does all of this affect the black visual artist in the States? The answer is very
complex, drawing its greatest difficulty from the complicated relationship between black people and
their white matrix.

There were, and indeed there remain, intact aesthetic systems in Africa. Also there were, and remain,
largely intact, African aesthetic systems in parts of the Americas. There systems, manifested in visual
arts, dance, drama, music, speech, etc., vary in specific realization. However they seem broadly to
reflect an internally coherent life style emphasizing the rhythmic over the geometric, the spiritual over
the scientific, the human over the machine, the symbolic over the factual. And though increasingly
African tastes and African aesthetics are obscured by the input of colonial cultures, in many places
the African has been able to digest these new elements on his own terms.

In the United States, Africans were made into "negroes" and on the return to being African, have
become "black people." In being made into a "negro" in America, black people suffered major cultural
surgery at the hands of unsympathetic doctors. Presently, black people find themselves painfully
aware of a forced marriage in which they have been brutalized, while the colonialist and neo-colonialist,
through ruthlessness, have prevailed.

Black culture, which has never disappeared and which is incapable of death, has nevertheless been
forced to assume abhorrent forms, to lend itself to prostitution, and finally to be used to the advantage
of the oppressor against the oppressed. Black culture is not full intact, but it is vital. Black culture,
twisted and distorted by white usurpers, finds itself at once defensive and boldly declarative, at once
catholic and patriarchal. And the black visual artist, in honesty to himself, has to search for threads of
his own overly-complicated and oppressed existence.

The black visual artist cannot create a black aesthetic. Aesthetics, functional aesthetics, exist by
virtue of intact culture and its ideals. The degree to which black culture has remained intact in the
States is the degree to which there is black aesthetics. The degree to which black culture has
suffered perversion and distortion in the context of white culture is the degree to which black culture
has been compromised.

The degree to which the contemporary black artist is able to draw upon and make sense of the black
experience on its own terms is the degree to which black aesthetic finds concrete manifestation.

Would that one could declare that all is well with black aesthetics, but one cannot. The stay here has
been too tragic! in this nation time, the need is to reclaim the healthy facets of black culture, to add
the best of the present, and to lay the groundwork for a real flourishing of genuine black aesthetics, a
black aesthetic that is rich, honest, and capable of innovation within tradition.

Article copyright The Bay State Banner.


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