Art historians gush over his white artistic influences: Leonardo Da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Cy Twombly and Franz Kline figure prominently. No argument here. The western art tradition, jealously guarded by a ‘high art’ priesthood, had to justify Basquiat’s membership. Basquiat, no dummy, wanted fame.
Celebrity required cultural legitimacy, an artistic heritage defined by the western art canon. His first dealer, Annina Nosei, helped to fashion his art pedigree (fig. 2). Basquiat was complicit in this action. “Picasso” writes Dick Hebridge, could afford to leave the marketing and manufacturing of the iconic self to future generations.” Not so for Basquiat. His blackness remained an issue. Luca Marensi writes: “The use of some imagery, specifically black or African, leaves no trace that would allow an uninformed viewer to suppose the painter is black.”
*Become a patron and support my blog and other writing endeavors on Patreon!
Black Rock Coalition and CCCADI (Caribbean Cultural Center) hosted events last week that reminded audiences, especially those of the African diaspora, of how much black histories, stories and voices get erased, revised, transformed, hidden, abducted, revised, whitewashed or any other term you would like to call it. And just like kinky or curly hair after it is straightened, eventually our histories will revert back.
As time goes on, we see our histories often revised or hidden like that, but we still must keep revealing the truth. One such history is rock ‘n’ roll. Rock ‘n’ roll is often whitewashed to the the point that it seems only white people created the genre and continue it, ignoring the contributions of people of color, including black Americans, in it. Black Rock Coalition, which will be celebrating 30 years next year, continues to fight that erasure and did with “Deep Roots of Rock and Roll” last Saturday. at Lincoln Center Featuring performances from Toshi Reagon, Nona Hendryx, Tamar Kali, Corey Glover of Living Colour, Karma Mayet Johnson, Kimberly Nichole, Jason Walker, and Adaku Utah, the show was two hours of electrifying truth, hosted by poet and writer Carl Hancock Rux as the radio DJ speaking his rock and roll gospel. Rux opened the show and repeated throughout the question of “What is Rock and Roll?,” giving a rundown of the various voices and histories that contributed to today’s rock music, like minstrel songs, jazz, blues, spirituals, ring shouts, gospel, early rock ‘n’ roll, and then the demonization and later “abduction” of rock. Bo Diddley, as Rux quoted, did say, “I opened the door for a lot of people, and they just ran through and left me holding the knob.”
“I recently decided to participate in a fundraiser for “Atlantic Impact’s Abroad for a Cause Challenge” who is inviting two bloggers to join them in a trip abroad to Barbados. Atlantic Abroad is a nonprofit organization that provides low-income and at-risk youth “with year-round programming so they can better understand the state of their communities, which includes community exploration and international travel.” I know as someone who comes from a financially disadvantaged background, study abroad organizations, like YFU, and college study abroad, gave me the opportunity to travel to both Japan and London. If they did not exist, I would not have been able to travel and those experiences helped me to expand my imagination and grow as a person.
Here are Atlantic Impact’s Goals:
To create a national movement which impacts urban youth across the country surrounding an experience which has shaped our nation’s past, present, and future – the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.
To bring awareness to youth on a personal level as to how a nationally and globally significant experience impacts their lives and individual communities.
To use historical and cultural examples as a model for success in the lives of at-risk urban youth.
To self-empower youth through understanding that they are capable and ready to become agents of change in their communities, nation, and in the larger global society.
To connect and engage youth in dialogue throughout impacted countries through this globally shared experience which was directly felt across four continents, promoting important intercultural exchange for global competency.
Read more about their purpose and how the program has impacted youth here.
Why is Atlantic Impact going to Barbados this year?
“We love global historical connections! Atlantic Impact shows youth how the world is truly interconnected and how history from long ago has a lasting and significant impact around the world to this day. Last summer, when our previous group met with a British nonprofit leader in England, she talked about how she was a fierce advocate for Barbados. She had recently returned from the country herself and was amazed at the strength of connection between the UK, Barbados, and US. And so are we! Our kids are currently reading the book Sugar in the Blood: A Family’s Story of Slavery and Empire written by Andrea Stuart, which provides constant reminders of global ties, with a focus on Barbados.”
Personally, I greatly desire to go to Barbados because it is where my mother is from and I have never been. It would be a chance for me to discover her homeland and its history. Within the past few years, I have been studying more about the history of the Caribbean, including my parents’ islands of Dominica and Barbados. Specifically for Barbados, I have learned about cultural figures like Bussa, and musical traditions like Tuk (thanks Curwen Best). It would be great to experience more of the culture in person. Also, it will be great to document my travels on this blog and connect with the others on this trip.
So, I am glad to take part and raise money for this organization. For this fundraiser, I have to raise at least $250 to get a chance to be one of the bloggers to go to Barbados. If I raise the most, I definitely will go, but if I raise over $250, I will be in pool of possible bloggers to be the second choice. I have to raise as much money as possible by June 9th.
For the next few weeks until June 9th, I will be posting interesting cultural and historical facts about Barbados in separate blog posts, with other blog posts and reblogging Barbados-related blog posts on here, and my other social media (which you can find on the contact page) as a reminder for the fundraiser!
Any donation will be appreciated! If you are unable to donate, please share! Thank you!
For the last Rewind post for this month, here is an episode from the Black History Month episode of Sister, Sister “I Have a Dream,” where Tamera is struggling with life changes and moving forward. She has a dream where she travels through the past meeting different well-known black figures who made a change in the world, and discovers that while change and the future can be scary, she is not alone because those who came before had to overcome the same fears to clear the path to a better future. The last scene we see that someone travels from the future to her to let her know that there are people who depend on her in the future, just as we did with our ancestors. Sankofa!
Angela Davis is more than an afro and if you think wearing an afro is radical and revolutionary enough, then you do not know much about Angela Davis’ life. Having grown up in Birmingham and knowing the girls who were murdered in the Birmingham church bombing, Davis seemed destined to want to make a change in the world and she did. Here was a black women who received a Ph.D. in philosophy, spoke out against the Prison Industrial Complex long before it was a popular phrase and in the mainstream, was tracked by the FBI for her outspokenness and links to communism and the Black Panthers, and later came out as a lesbian. And she did this all as a black woman!
Living in a world where power and knowledge is equaled to mainly male, white and heterosexual, all of that was quite a feat. We need to know about her and others like her as a part of our history, and the many aspects of them that connect to us. As Erykah Badu said in The Black Power Mixtape, what we need to do is read, write and document our stories because if we do not, we allow people to twist those stories in their favor. Shola Lynch’s film Free Angela and All Political Prisonersis another chance for the hunted to take back their story from the hunter. Happy Women’s History Month to Angela Davis and the film will be in theaters April 5th.
I wrote before about how limbo is a tangible dance recovery of the phantom limb or broken connection (a tangible made into an intangible) produced by the Atlantic between Africa and the Americas. Poet and writer Nathaniel Mackey also has written about it in his poems and essays, like “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol,” which I recently read in Postmodern American Poetry: The Norton Anthology. In the essay, Mackey explains that sound and music are proof of the invisible worlds, outside of the physical, tangible world. Essentially, they are ghostly and godly, symbolizing something missing, something broken, or something desired to be expressed (“music encourages us to see that the symbolic is the Orphic, that the symbolic realm is the realm of the orphan” – 665). He relates it to the myth of the muni bird in the Kalui culture of Papa New Guinea. Reading it, I thought of Sionne R. Neely’s essay “Something’s Got a Hold on Me: ‘Lingering Whispers’ of the Atlantic Slave Trade in Ghana” and the notion that these “lingering whispers” are recorded in our bodies (maybe even our DNA) or that we feel them even if they are not physically there. These tie together music, dance, memory, spirit possession rituals and the effect of the transatlantic slave trade. Read Mackey’s poem below: