Zora Neale Hurston’s “Barracoon: The Story of the Last Black Cargo” provides eye opening detail about the last years of Africans captured into slavery. Many books have been written about slave ships, plantations, and sale of human lives in exchange for money and goods, but Hurston manages to give more description to an already disturbing story of the dehumanization of African people.
An anxiety has steadily grown alongside the maturing of visual culture in late-capitalist societies over how an image can not only stand out from the countless others competing for attention across advertising, entertainment, and art but how it can also break loose of the cultural baggage that comes with its content. This second concern centers around what the French call signifiance, which describes the extratextual meaning that can attach itself to language that allows a repurposing to take place. What was once an early sign of winter (“snowflake”) can become a descriptor for an entire generation and these linguistic mutations can now take root faster than ever thanks to the multimedia onslaught provided by social media and smartphones.
In 1974, President Nixon performed at the Grand Ole Opry. First, he praised the audience’s values which, he boasted, were America’s values. According to the much-investigated Richard M., country was a musical representation of America’s soul. Next, he banged-out a clumsy piano rendition of “God Bless America.” Immediately following Nixon’s performative version of the United States, the Grand Ole stage came to life with act after act, a long line of country and redneck musicians, one after another singing of revenge, drugs, affairs, divorce, booze, despair, poverty, rootlessness, ruthless bosses, and prison.
Poetry, to me, is emotion or experience manifested in its most candid form. It is artistic expression so honest that only one sequence of words, thoughtfully and meticulously arranged, can express it. And though the content of its expression might be weakness, or embarrassment or fear or imperfection, the expression is perfect in itself. In this way, in this honest, perfect imperfection, my mother exemplifies poetry.
Maya Angelou, Josephine Baker and Lorraine Hansberry are just a few of the women of color featured in Firelei Baez’s “Joy Out of Fire” exhibit saluting Afro-Caribbean / Afro-Latina women at the Schomburg Center in Harlem. The exhibit was created by Baez and a partnership with the Studio Museum Harlem organized by Hallie Ringle, Assistant Curator.
In 1966, the pianist Cecil Taylor appeared in Les Grandes Répétitions, a series of Nouvelle Vague-influenced documentaries for French television about Olivier Messiaen, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and other modern composers. Taylor, who died at eighty-nine in April, was the only jazz musician featured. The avant-garde jazz movement was young, brash, and commanding increasing respect from a classical establishment that had been, at best, indifferent to black music, and Taylor, a conservatory-trained pianist who was creating a radical synthesis of jazz improvisation and European modernism, had emerged as one of its most militant and sophisticated leaders.
“Abstraction represents self-determination and free will.” So avowed the painter James Little at a recent panel discussion held in conjunction with an exhibition of works by his fellow painter Joe Overstreet, but with the broader purpose of examining the question of “Black Artists and the Abstraction Idiom.”
Throwing weapons and breaking glass are just a few of the things Shaun Russell does to rescue her children in the action thriller Breaking In. Gabrielle Union who plays Shaun takes on money seeking intruders using her wit and household weapons. Union, known for romantic comedy movies and the hit BET show, Being Mary Jane, takes on a new role requiring her to transition her drama techniques into physical warfare to defeat the burglars taking over her house.
Responsibility: The quality, state, or fact of being responsible. One that a person
is responsible for.
Responsibility in the context of which my role was defined as a sister and a friend
while my brother neared the end of his life was profoundly meaningful to me.
Although the challenge of this role was incredibly daunting as well as critical at
times, I was honored to share in the responsibility that ultimately led him toward
I’m sitting at the nurse’s station cleaning my glasses with an alcohol prep pad. Looking though the newly cleaned lenses, I’m dismayed to find that not only are my scrubs wrinkled but there’s a brown smudge on my pant leg. What is that—betadine? Peanut butter from when my kids hugged me goodbye this morning?