Saturday, 4 August 2007

Icons- Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchez and KRS-One

I went to one of Central Park’s SummerStage events last Thursday evening featuring Sonia Sanchez and Amiri Baraka, two African-American educators, poets, authors, activists and pioneers of the 1960s Black Arts Movement. It was inspiring to hear them reading from their work and talking about the Black Arts Movement, contemporary African-American culture and other social and political issues. Although both were critical about much of what is happening both domestically in the US and externally, Sanchez came across as eternally optimistic while Baraka appeared cynical and disappointed in the direction black America has taken. I first read about Sanchez and her association with Malcolm X when I was a teenager and have always had the utmost respect for her but I tend to lean towards Baraka’s pessimism. An excellent evening ended with them signing two of their books for me.

On Friday I went to Prospect Park where Celebrate Brooklyn’s evening of conscious rap was headlined by hip hop legend KRS-One, one of the pioneers of socially and politically aware rap music. I have no time for modern hip hop and its sexist, violent message that perpetuates negative stereotypes of blacks in America and tells black Americans that the ideal life centres around guns, “bling bling”, drugs, skimpily dressed bimbos, champagne and limos, so this was refreshing. I think my Public Enemy and Gill Scott-Heron (the real grandfather of political rap) cds will be playing a lot over the next few days!

2 comments:

Colonise This! said...

One of the handful of things I loved about New York, was getting to hear and meet my favourite authors, thinkers, artists, not just from America but from all over the world. NY is really incredible in that way.

What's your favourite Public Enemy? I initially bought the "describing life as experienced in the hood" line with Tupac (who has some brilliant lyrics and arrangements) and Biggie, but that got really old for me really fast.

I am also in agreement with Baraka's pov. The mighty AA culture has taken a sever hit from inside. The popularisation of the whole gansta/prison/degrade women/etc. aspect of Hip Hop has hijacked African American culture and spawned new levels of self-denigration, not just within AA culture but throughout the A. diaspora.

Re: lit, I can't tell you how pissed I get when I go into bookstores in NY or here and the tiny "Black Literature" section is littered with ... I don't know what you would call them ... "girlfriend" ahh and "homeboy" novels? Whatever they are called, they are no more literature than Mills and Boons are, so why are they being promoted as literature? Rhetorical question of course .... sigh.

individuality1977 said...

Yep, that is one of the positives of NYC.

I like everything off the It Takes A Nation of a Million to Hold Us Back album! I was really dissapointed when Flava Flav started appearing in those ridiculous reality tv shows. I watched a few minutes of one and could not believe my eyes! Money really talks doesn't it. Economics has a lot to do with the direction black culture has gone but I also blame blacks first and foremost for allowing themselves to be used. Mental slavery is so much more difficult to throw off than physical.