These have ranged from responding to the visual tropes of racist and stereotypical representation, to confronting the legacy of absence in the work of artists associated with the Black Arts movement, as well as the neglected legacy of Black Abstraction. All have joined in the creation of a new art and aesthetics, modernist in essence but rooted in the black experience.
The Online Reference Guide to African American History
Some essays by younger artists address representations of blackness as it is informed by emerging discourses in the fields of black art and visual culture from gender, sexuality, and feminist perspectives. They also provide insights into how such discourses are evoked in mapping absence and presence within postmodernist and conceptualist frameworks.
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Add to cart. Table of Contents Back to Top. In Death 24x a Second Laura Mulvey argues that cinematic images belie the deathlike qualities of still photography because of their ability to invoke the appearance of life through motion. This essay examines film and video projects that use found footage and still images from the Black Power era by redeploying them in. Rights Back to Top. Licensing and Subsidiary Rights. Awards Back to Top. Additional Information Back to Top.
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Black Madness :: Mad Blackness. Dark Matters. Captivating Technology. The Black Shoals. Beside You in Time. Black Feminism Reimagined. Art for an Undivided Earth. Blackness was not deficient or incomplete without whites. Black humanity, they argued, was always whole, and appealing to whites for integration was not going to make black people free. Access to resources and black control of institutions that were essential to their healthy survival was real freedom.
You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that. Various organizations formed in the BAM that nurtured, trained, and inspired black artists in the performance arts in particular.
It pulled from an array of sources and intellectual traditions spanning generations. Across the country black young people embraced the hallmarks of black power aesthetics: bubas or dashikis, African names, and natural hair styles. Kawaida, for example, insisted on the revitalization of African culture among black people in America, while others like the Black Panther Party had regarded African-centered culture as politically impuissant.
Women led chapters of the BPP across the country and were central all programs, from its newspapers, to free breakfast, and health centers. In fact, across the United States, white society—its religious, educational, political, military and police institutions—were rigidly patriarchal and homophobic not to mention racist. As many women activists observed, these values were more aligned with white Victorianism than a modern liberation movement. The power of this historical moment, however, demonstrates that these young activists and artists were not static, but open to debate, revise, and reconsider their politics.
And that advancement could not abandon half of the black community. Women were involved at every stage—even in the face of opposition. Angelou, Bambara, Baraka, Neal, and scores of others introduced into national consciousness cultural works that challenged and critiqued various forms of oppression, while proving dynamic and agile enough to respond to the shifting social and political circumstances from which they emerged. They remained tethered to the wider black community, and politically and artistically adapted to new exigencies and opportunities. In recognizing their relationship as writers across generations, tied by a constant utilization of art as a tool of freedom work, Baldwin noted that artists bear a particular challenge and responsibility to the people who consume their work.
But as a black artist, in particular, the challenge is made more acute when the artist forges a counterhegemonic aesthetic as many in the Black Arts Movement did. Because these categories — to put it simply but with a certain brutal truth — these categories are commercial categories. Still, the utility of art as a resistive tool is clear to Baldwin who later appears to endorse Nigerian literary giant Chinua Achebe who, in a similar dialogue with Baldwin, explained the importance of political art.
Generally, they had white executive producers, mostly white directors and writers. The politics of race were evident in the earliest discussions about the cast. Lear wanted to remove James Evans, the father and husband, from the show, creating a black household with three children and a single mother in public housing.
Esther Rolle, who was cast to play mother Florida Evans, protested.
This was the first time that a black main character on TV was both a father and husband. This included the articulations of Michael, the youngest Evans, who was, himself a Black Power advocate, complete with dashikis and clenched fist. The commercial presentation of black people was, of course, how American popular culture had created images of black people since the minstrel shows of the 19 th century. The political currents of the country, however, would demand more than what the white imagination offered, and the producers expanded their staff, hiring two black writers from the prestigious Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.
They did. Moye had to also explain to the white writers that, in general, black people who were so destitute as to be forced to ask for welfare, were not gleeful, but viewed it with some degree of disappointment and embarrassment. It aired in January and its final episode captured an astounding million viewers.
In all, it became the most watched show in history to that date, ultimately honored with over 25 television awards. Still, no black-led dramas resulted from the success of the miniseries. Created by Ken Howard and Bruce Paltrow, two white writers, the show starred Howard as a basketball coach in a mostly black high school in South Central Los Angeles, often helping his players with personal crises outside of school.
To some degree the show pandered to white savior tropes, where whites, ostensibly working in the interests of a black group, push against authority and prove to be more effective than black leaders. While they tended not to focus on explicitly black themes or make racial references like their predecessors in the s, issues like police brutality, apartheid, and racism appeared in storylines for multiple shows.
Additionally, black institutions from colleges to Negro League baseball teams and Tuskegee Airmen were referenced. Real world events became important stories to episodes. The network relented and the episodes Parts I and II became part of a wider historical moment in television history when escapist comedic entertainment shifted to more topical and polarizing issues.
The network was not offering any transformation of society, only a means to profit from detailing its problems.
But the agency of the artists cannot be entirely dismissed. They are engaged in their own space to resist the pervasive anti-black representation—leading to violence—that Afro-Pessimists insist permeates society. At the same time, however, there was tepid willingness from studio executives to fully allow substantive or regular engagement with these issues.
Moreover, black shows remained relegated to comedies, often considered too light to address controversial or serious social issues. While dramas may have more creative agility, there had been no black dramas with black leads to last a season on TV. New technologies and shifting demographics, however, would indelibly change the television landscape and the politics therein after the turn of the century. No era has afford a broader representation of a diversity of characters for actors of color. Given that roughly 83 percent of the country was white, network executives, who were all white, created white majority shows with little to no racial diversity.
And, as noted above, white executives placed creative control of people of color almost always black people in the hands of whites who often pandered to the gross ignorance or expectations of the wider white market. By , the demographic landscape of the country, network executive leadership and consumer markets had all diversified considerably. Importantly, so many shows air simultaneously across so many different networks and platforms—from cable to streaming services—that creating a series for a general [white] audience does not have the same business advantages that it did 40 years earlier.
Dozens of black executive producers, creators, writers, directors have animated and altered the landscape of television in scripted and reality shows. Between and , the number of television shows increased from to original scripted shows.
Remembering the Black Arts Movement
At the same time, however, 69 percent of white showrunners hired no black writers. These shows, ranging from comedies to dramas, have largely proved to be more than just vapid, escapist entertainment. These shows have become part of a veritable movement of black artistic expression, highlighting black culture, history, politics and more. This movement aligns closely with the Black Arts Movement of the s and s in a host of ways.
The second decade of the 21 st century, however, witnessed a vast expansion of black series and dramas in particular. Unlike earlier majority-black cast dramas, these universally have black creators, executive producers, writers, and directors. In various ways, the echoes of the earlier Black Arts Movement are manifested in these series. Of course, black control and self-determination had been a fundamental component of the Black Arts Movement—as with the broader Black Power Movement. Most of these writers, for example, do not emerge from the political activist or black nationalist tradition that characterized so many of the BAM.
Few, for example, give homage to political groups or leaders or tout their militant bona fides. This principle is most salient in the degree to which black television shows have grappled with the largest black social justice movement since the Black Power era.
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Across the country hundreds of small-scale rallies, as well as massive marches with thousands of people have brought BLM into the political arena as no social movement in decades. Utilizing peaceful actions based on civil disobedience, activists have initiated crowds so large as to stop traffic on major highways, and streets in major cities from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles in ways not witnessed even during the Civil Rights era. Like the poets, singers, literary figures and playwrights of the Black Arts Movement, the creative forces behind the large corpus of black television have engaged the politics of BLM with creative dexterity.
Every show mentioned above has explicitly addressed racial bias in policing. The types of police actions have ranged from menacing police stops, verbal harassment, to corrupt planting of evidence, beatings, and killing. Some have gone as far as to graphically depict police malfeasance and brutality.
Premiering September 6, , the series centers on the three Bordelon siblings: two sisters and a brother in rural Louisiana. One sister, Nova, is a New Orleans-based journalist. The character speaks at rallies, and writes about cases of police terror in the black community, providing the show a space to even recognize and name real victims of lethal police force.