[Marxism] Fwd: Black Arts Movement in postwar LA, new book

John A Imani johnaimani3 at gmail.com
Mon Jun 4 23:21:57 MDT 2012


---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: John A Imani <johnaimani3 at gmail.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 4, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Subject: Re: Black Arts Movement in postwar LA, new book


Comrade,

Was just talking w somebody about Tapscott.  Oh yeah it was with my friends
at the book launch party I attended before meeting w you guys.  I think.
Getting old.

We talked about the paradigm shifting soul-searching reach of "Free Jazz"
by, including Tapscott, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, Eric Dolphy and the realms
of freedom explored and trailblazed by god, John Coltrane.  Even Weather
Report, I think, fits within that milieu.

Thanks for this.  It seems to go a long way in describing the revolutionary
culture that moved the movement as the movement moved it in the '50's and
the '60's.

Gonna pick it up.

JAI
RAC-LA

On Mon, Jun 4, 2012 at 9:54 PM, x yz <zenostorm at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hey John, check this book review out.
>
> ---
>
>
>
> Title:Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles
> Author(s):Amy Abugo Ongiri
> Source:The Journal of African American History. 96.3 (Summer 2011): p427.
> Document Type:Book review
> Full Text:
>
> Daniel Widener, Black Arts West: Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los
> Angeles. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Pp. 368. Cloth
> $89.95. Paper $16.95.
>
> There is so much to recommend Daniel Widener's Black Arts West:
> Culture and Struggle in Postwar Los Angeles it is hard to know where
> to start. It includes the story of Horace Tapscott's move to Los
> Angeles where his mother saw as a priority finding him a piano teacher
> over finding the family a suitable apartment, and a detailed account
> of the rise and fall of the Watts Writers Workshop. The book also
> offers a thorough analysis of postwar African American cultural
> production in Los Angeles. In a 1991 review in American Literary
> History, David Lionel Smith lamented "the paucity of scholarly
> literature on this body of work," noting that we do not have a single
> book, critical or historical, scholarly or journalistic, devoted
> explicitly to the Black Arts Movement." The situation has been
> rectified by recent scholarship on the Black Arts Movement by William
> Van Deburg, James Smethurst, Melba Joyce Boyd, Julius Thompson, D. H.
> Melhem, Carole Marsh, and others. However, what has been missing from
> recent scholarship is a specific and necessary emphasis on the Black
> Arts Movement in Los Angeles and the production of local culture in
> relationship to that movement.
>
> Black Arts West does the critical work of charting the development of
> the Black Arts Movement in Los Angeles and the multi-genre and
> multidisciplinary approach allows for careful attention to the
> political and social complexities of cultural production. In doing so,
> Widener offers a challenge to earlier studies that describe artistic
> movements through a single genre, or a single axis of production. In
> addition, Widener is interested in "a cross-generic framing of
> popularly directed cultural production that privileges the voices of
> artists, as opposed to formal criticism of works of art." Though the
> book is specifically focused on the development of the Black Arts
> Movement in Los Angeles, Black Arts West is suggestive of the ways
> researchers might reconceptualize the study of artistic and cultural
> movements, and thus it moves towards a broader conception of postwar
> African American cultural production.
>
> Widener uses a combination of source materials to construct a cohesive
> picture of arts culture in postwar Los Angeles. Resisting the
> temptation to focus on the Hollywood film industry, Black Arts West
> begins by examining the complex politics and social context of
> cultural representation in the World War II era. Exploring the staging
> and social context for the 1941 Duke Ellington stage musical Jump for
> Joy, Widener argues that "the most prominent iterations of New Negro
> cultural activism in interwar Southern California emerged not from
> creative personalities connected to the rapidly growing entertainment
> industry, but rather from sojourning scholars with ties to the local
> ranks of the black professional class." Duke Ellington, novelist
> Chester Himes, theater producer Francis Williams, and others
> constituted the new class of African American artists and
> intellectuals who created the fertile environment out of which the
> Black Arts Movement would emerge in the 1960s and 1970s. Drawing on
> the idea of a black Popular Front, Widener labels this emerging
> creative class a "Black Cultural Front." From attempts to create
> independent African American theaters and film companies to attempts
> to foster more positive black images in the Hollywood film industry,
> Widener details the ways in which "southern California's particular
> relationship to entertainment, information, and propaganda ensured
> that creative personalities would occupy a strategic space in the
> broader search for racial equality unleashed in the course of the
> Second World War."
>
> Divided into three sections that reflect "patterns of cultural
> activism," the book covers the rise of a cultural arts scene in Los
> Angeles between the wars, the rise of the Black Arts Movement,
> especially in relationship to Free Jazz and visual culture; and the
> era ushered in by the 1973 election of Thomas Bradley, Los Angeles's
> first black mayor, whom Widener labels an "intimate enemy" to black
> cultural nationalists. Widener's exploration is impressive for the
> breadth of his historical analysis, which begins in the early 1940s
> and ends in the late 1990s, as well as for the depth of its cultural
> analysis, which moves from the works of visual artists such as Charles
> Burnett and Noah Purifoy to the community organizing work of the
> cultural nationalists who organized the Watts Tower Art Center, Studio
> Watts, and the Ebony Showcase Theater.
>
> Black Arts West provides a groundbreaking examination of the culture
> of Jazz in Los Angeles, but does not focus on the best known sons of
> Los Angeles--Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy, and Ornette Coleman who
> developed their styles in Los Angeles, but relocated to the East
> Coast. Rather the emphasis is on cultural activism at the grassroots
> level that produced musicians like Horace Tapscott and the decidedly
> community-oriented musical experiments such as the Underground
> Musicians Association (UGMA) and the Pan Afrikan People's Arkestra.
> Widener's analysis of the UGMA is incisive in situating the discussion
> of Los Angeles's cultural development in relation to larger national
> and transnational movements. "The historical moment that facilitated
> the emergence of the UGMA ensured the emergence of peer organizations
> elsewhere in the United States. In Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, and
> elsewhere, community-oriented musicians made attempts at collective
> organization, freeform musical experimentation, and support for
> radical politics." Widener argues that "the politics of black
> improvised music after 1950 is a national, even international, story."
> At the same time, Tapscott and other artists adhered to the
> contemporary emphasis on "the theory and practice of community
> control." In South Los Angeles, "Tapscott had a vanguard vision based
> less on the charismatic model of Huey Newton and Martin Luther King
> than on the radical participatory democracy of Ella Baker. Thus, while
> trained instrumentalists made up the bulk of the Arkestra, many of the
> more than two hundred individuals who passed through the Ark were
> poets, young musical apprentices, or simply interested people from the
> surrounding community."
>
> Widener meticulously documents the struggles of local artists and
> community organizations in a manner that illuminates national and even
> international struggles around cultural production and thus makes this
> book an invaluable contribution to the scholarship on postwar African
> American culture. It constitutes an important addition to local and
> regional studies of the Black Arts Movement, and to scholarly analyses
> of black radicalism and its relationship to African American
> expressive culture, the African American avant-garde, and the social
> movements and community organizations that created one of the most
> significant periods of African American artistic expression.
>
> Amy Abugo Ongiri University of Florida
>
> Ongiri, Amy Abugo
>



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