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!