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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: the arts of activism
(1969)

Cunningham, James
Part V: Writers and the black revolution: [getting on with the get on: old conflicts and new artists],   pp. [385]-391 PDF (6.1 MB)


Page 389

of the truly formidable and breathtaking results of this feat is an unprecedented
sense
of wholeness for the creative black individual. No longer need he spend his
strength
fighting the "Western" trick-bag war against some general society
or state.
He is made aware of a very specific enemy. No longer his the lonely, isolated
maverick's path away from the "normal" walk of men; no longer the
near-fatal exile
from the common soil, the common touch; no longer his the separation from
HOME,
from parent, from sweetheart, from wife, from child in order to do his thing.
            T
Black Art offers an unprecedented feat of surgery that removes the wedge
that has
kept him apart and divided; it offers a new sense of identity based on a
new sense
of solidarity with a new community -his own.
What is this new liberating sense? - a Black Identity: seeing yourself and
your
history at the same time and as one. Seeing yourself as a member of a captive
nation,
a captive people in the wilderness/belly of the American Beast. Addressing
your
creative needs to the common need of getting free; restoring the strength
to knock
(by any means necessary) the white captor/captain off the common back.
At the heart of this idea of black unity throbs the notion of "community
needs/
problems" amounting to doing whatever is necessary to weld and rebuild
and                T
re-strengthen and re-enforce a community that has been systematically raped
and
torn apart. That community is in serious need of medical attention: black
attention,
black attentiveness to white inflicted injury. De-emphasize the need for
this resurrecting
work and you strip the new black sensibility of its eyes, of its vision,
of its reason for
being. Do so and you strip the Black Power, the Black Revolutionary will,
the Black
Consciousness from Black Art; and all the Malcolms and Stokeleys, as well,
the            T
Joneses and Karengas, the Panthers, the Knights and Neals. Take away these
names
and what is left of Contemporary Black Thought? There might be blackness,
but black
Samson would be without arms and would have no hair.
Power, the power of self-determining manhood is what these names mean to
restore    389
to black people. Power is the link-issue that leads back to the explanation
of our        T
black presence in this white-racist controlled society. Back to the ship,
the slave craft  X
(the basic meaning outside of English being force, strength, power) from
which our
surviving ancestors stumbled beneath the lash, and continued to stumble beneath
the blows of white definitions of history, of education, of art, of politics.
Black
people falling from formal slavery to informal slavery (only the definition
was changed,
not the condition) to the turn of the century of Washington and Du Bois and
Garvey        T
and Elijah Muhammad.
Contemporary black thought points back to the ship from which black survivors
emerged to be crammed into the bottomless belly of America, the Beast-pig,
the
Monster/slavemaker. Thus, the strength and triumph of contemporary black
intellectuals
and black creative artists is, in large part, the achievements of analysis
- both historical  ,
and psychological -the findings of which, and the uses to which these, in
turn,
are to be put, lead us back to the ship in order to destroy it, and thus
gain a new footing
on the past beyond it, beyond in Africa, and a new secure footing on the
future, while
steadying one's focus, one's view on the all important present. For it is
in the present
that that ship is still moving and functioning, is still at anchor, cutting
deep and
deeper into our backs, anchored in the systematic resolve to systematically
destroy       ,
black people.
How does the new clear black-visioned artist feel about his art, his recovered
voice,
his recovered purpose, his recovered audience? Ask any black artist. This
is the
voice of Etheridge Knight:
. . . it is necessary to dig what's really happening with the accepted
definitions of 'Art' and Aesthetics' . . .


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