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International Conference on the Black Arts Movement

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By Ayodele Nzinga, M.F.A., Ph.D.

On the first and second of the International Conference on the Black Arts Movement (BAM) was held at the University of California, at Merced. BAM pioneers and a chorus of activist influenced by BAM presented and performed before a diverse and appreciative audience over the two-day array of panels, lectures, and cultural offerings.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, the Black Arts Movement refers to the mantel for a collective body of works that grew out of the efforts of North American Africans to define a black aesthetic that enabled and supported action on issues that compromise(d) the quality of life for marginalized people. It is not possible or even practical to divide the strands of the fabric of BAM as is often attempted; its social, political, and artistic strands, like the elements of Hip Hop, are interrelated and inseparable.

The social upheaval of the 1960′s was fomented by the struggle of North American Africans to create Black political and social institutions that advanced Black values and promoted Black collective interest. In addition to these institutions, the struggle birthed an affirmation: “Black is Beautiful”. It was a declaration of racial pride and a new lens for viewing, embracing, and voicing the Black experience in America. BAM refers to the artistic expression of that new sentiment.

BAM changed the world. Its significance was far reaching. It offered another way to look at art as a whole by challenging the notion of art for art’s sake. It moved “art for the people” beyond binarized definitions of “fine” and “folk” art. It encouraged us to re-imagine collective activism and offered models for implementing change by community service. Its fruits inform(ed) activism on a global scale. A cursory look allows one to trace the effect of BAM on global social movements and the mobilization of other marginalized populations. The period and its artifacts served as a catalyst for many who continue to create work that draws from and speaks to the continuum of the North American African experience.

 

Graduate student Kim McMillon organized the conference with the guidance of Marvin X, West Coast BAM progenitor. McMillon said, “The work of the Black Arts movement served as inspiration for many later artists, especially those from marginalized communities, and thus has shaped the flowering of artistic work over the last 40 years.” The conference opened with a gala hosted by Belva Davis at The Merced Art Center. A revolutionary art installation curated by Greg Morozumi honoring Amiri Baraka and his contribution to Black Arts was an integral part of the evening.

Askia Toure defined BAM as, “a cultural revolution” that inspired an international dialog. Toure spoke on the global focus and dissemination of the twelve major North American African journals that sustained the dynamic discourse of the movement for over a decade.

Marvin X Baraka orchestrated an ensemble of poets that included Umar Bin Hassan, Eugene Redmond, Genny Lim, Avotcja, WordSlanger, and musicians Tarika Lewis, Tacuma King, Earl Davis, and Zana Allen in an exhibition of Sound, Word, and Power. Supported by BAM artists, Greg Morozumi, and others inspired by Merced’s grand tribute to the movement that moved the world; Marvin X is contemplating a BAM tour of the 27 cities that the ever present Amiri Baraka considered the cornerstone of the liminal space of the Nation in the Nation.

Cross posted with Oakland Local.

Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Lee Applauds Rep. Cori Bush’s Bold Action to Halt Evictions

“This is only a temporary solution while Congress works to pass Congresswoman Maxine Waters bill, but in the meantime, states and local governments must distribute the relief funds allocated to them through the COVID relief packages passed in Congress.

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Congressmember Cori Bush, once unhoused herself, camped out on the steps of the Capitol in protest.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13) issued a statement this week cheering the actions by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to extend a federal eviction moratorium.

“With the COVID-19 delta variant on the rise across the country, this decision by the CDC will help protect the millions of renters at risk of being evicted from their homes and protect our communities from this pandemic,” said Lee.

“This is only a temporary solution while Congress works to pass Congresswoman Maxine Waters bill, but in the meantime, states and local governments must distribute the relief funds allocated to them through the COVID relief packages passed in Congress.

Congresswoman Lee praised the bold leadership of Rep. Cori Bush to fight for an eviction moratorium.

“This victory, of course, would not have been possible without the fearless advocacy of Congresswoman Cori Bush, who shared her own experience of being unhoused and turned passion into action to get this done.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and members of “The Squad” celebrated this week after the CDC announced the 60-day extension of the eviction moratorium that had expired over the weekend, crediting Bush’s protests for winning the extension.

Bush (D-Mo.) had been camping on the Capitol steps  for several days to protest the expiration of the ban and  pressed the Biden administration to extend it.

“On Friday night (July 30), I came to the Capitol with my chair. I refused to accept that Congress could leave for vacation while 11 million people faced eviction. For five days, we’ve been out here, demanding that our government acts to save lives,” Bush wrote on Twitter on August 3.

“The House is at recess. People are on vacation. How are we on vacation when we have millions of people who could start to be evicted tonight?” Bush said on July 31.

“There are people already receiving and have received ‘pay or vacate’ notices that will have them out on tomorrow. People are already in a position where they need help, our most vulnerable, our most marginalized, those who are in need.”

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Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee Calls on White House to Extend Eviction Moratorium 

This pandemic is not over. With the dangerous Delta variant spreading widely, low-income communities — especially Black and Brown communities—are still at risk of losing their homes and ending up on the street. In line with the executive power granted during a public health crisis, the White House and CDC should immediately extend the eviction moratorium.

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Not one eviction text. Banner in the hand on transparent background/ Vector illustration.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), co-chair of the Majority Leader’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, released the following statement on the expiration of the national eviction moratorium on August 1:

“This pandemic is not over. With the dangerous Delta variant spreading widely, low-income communities — especially Black and Brown communities—are still at risk of losing their homes and ending up on the street. In line with the executive power granted during a public health crisis, the White House and CDC should immediately extend the eviction moratorium.

“In many ways, my district and California have been at the epicenter of America’s housing crisis. I spent many years on the Financial Services subcommittee on Housing and Community Development fighting to make housing a human right alongside Chairwoman Maxine Waters and my Progressive Caucus colleagues.

“This is more crucial now than ever because evictions will not only leave families without a roof over their head, it has the potential to worsen the spread of COVID-19. Individual states should not have to fend for themselves. The Biden administration and the CDC can fix this with the swipe of a pen by extending the moratorium.

“Among the most important responsibilities we hold as elected officials is to protect and advocate for the people who elected us to serve. With the public health crisis reaching yet another inflection point with the spread of the Delta variant, the last thing we can afford to do is allow millions to be at risk of losing their homes by letting the federal eviction moratorium expire.

“Homelessness is a national crisis, and we can no longer allow the federal government to miss the mark solving it. The time to act is now. I strongly urge the Biden administration and the CDC to extend the eviction moratorium. Furthermore, I stand ready to be present in Washington to vote on Congresswoman Waters’ legislation to protect families from eviction. There is no excuse.”

Sean Ryan is the communications director for Rep. Barbara Lee’s press office.

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Community

Civil Rights Icon, Robert Parris Moses, 86

Dr. Robert Parris Moses, a Harlem native who became one of the architects of Freedom Summer, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., on July 25. He was 86 years old.

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Dr. Robert Parris Moses

Dr. Robert Parris Moses, a Harlem native who became one of the architects of Freedom Summer, died at his home in Hollywood, Fla., on July 25. He was 86 years old.

“Throughout his life, Bob Moses bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice,” said Derrick Johnson, head of the NAACP on Twitter at hearing of Moses’ death. “He was a strategist at the core of the voting rights movement and beyond. He was a giant. May his light continue to guide us as we face another wave of Jim Crow laws.”

Among his contemporaries in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which Moses joined in a founding meeting in 1960, he was known for his quiet, measured demeanor, deliberately eschewing the spotlight.

By taking to heart the values taught by his mentor, NAACP youth leader Ella Baker, who believed in engaging the local population to enact change, he deliberately disrupted leadership norms in the Black community that centered the male, charismatic voice.   

It was Baker who sent Moses to the deep South in August 1960 where her NAACP contacts in McComb, Miss., wanted to do more than integrate lunch counters and bus waiting rooms. In the summer of 1961, they would embark on a voter registration campaign. Well-documented terror and violence ensued. Over the next three years, Moses would be beaten while escorting a Black couple up the courthouse steps to register to vote, waiting until that was done before seeking medical treatment. In another incident he and two others would dodge Klansmen’s bullets on country roads.

Moses was one of the organizers of 1964’s Freedom Summer, which saw mostly college kids flock to Mississippi to help register Black people to vote. Moses was also instrumental in creating the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which famously attempted to be recognized at the Democratic presidential election in 1964 and where sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer would embody the bottom-up philosophy espoused by Baker. It was her speech, broadcast on nationwide television and which then-Pres. Lyndon Johnson tried to pre-empt, that brought home to the American public the terror of living in Mississippi while Black.

Disillusioned by the policies of liberal Democrats, Moses disengaged from SNCC and, on his own, began to speak out against the Vietnam War. In 1966, at the age of 31, five years older than the normal maximum draft age, the married father was drafted. He moved to Canada and then to Tanzania with his wife and stayed there working in the Ministry of Education, returning to the U.S. in 1977 when he and 100,000 others were pardoned by Pres. Jimmy Carter.

A few years later, after completing his doctorate in philosophy, he visited his daughter’s school. Learning that algebra was not offered at the inner-city school, was what led him to founding the Algebra Project. In 1982, he received the MacArthur Genius Award for his program of helping schools and communities get the basic math classes that are the gateway to college admission.

In addition to the degrees he earned from Hamilton College and Harvard, he has received honorary degrees from Swarthmore College, Ohio State University, and the University of Missouri.

Other awards were the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship and the War Resisters League Peace Award among others.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Janet Jemmott Moses; children Maisha Moses, Omo Wale Moses, Taba Moses, Malaika Moses and Saba Moses; and seven grandchildren.

The New York Times, The Nation, Wikipedia, National Public Radio, Reuters and The Miami Herald were sources for this report. 

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