Week 6

This week we are turning to look at the Black Arts Movement of the 60s and 70s.

Watch: To set up our discussion this week, please watch Black Theatre: The Making of a Movement a full-length documentary directed by Woodie King Jr.



Choose one or both:

Adrienne Kennedy, Funnyhouse of a Negro (Brooklyn Ebook Central)

or Amiri Baraka Dutchman (Archive.org)

Optional: Read Baraka’s essay “There is no Revolution Without the People” (1972)

Let Nobody Turn Us Around : An African American Anthology, edited by Manning Marable, and Leith Mullings, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/brooklyn-ebooks/detail.action?docID=467152.

Finally, please read this 2005 piece “New Black Math” by Suzan-Lori Parks



How have things changed or not changed? What do you think? Respond to whatever strikes you this particular week. Please also choose a quote that you found particularly powerful or important and tell us why.

5 thoughts on “Week 6

  1. Javier Puga Jr. (week 6 response)

    How have things changed or not changed? Things have changed, nonetheless the systemic racism is bleeding in America today. I hope the changes that happened when George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were murdered it seems the system has tried to redeem itself from its old behaviors that are still present. As theatre tries to diversify and be more inclusive we are still far away from being near to equality. The majority of people on top are still the same.

    Ozake Shange: “I did not want to know about street in Harlem. I want to know about a family. I wanna about their child, the father, the mother, the aunt who comes by from wherever she came from.”
    “we really do except the fact that we are human beings no matter white people will do to us.”
    This quote stayed with me at the end of the documentary because this black woman had to say this out loud that she’s done hearing about the streets in Harlem. She wants to feel and hear different stories the real stories that other counterparts get to hear. Possibly a happy home life for example. This theme was heard often throughout this video. always living in the shadows of slavery and seeking validation to exist as an artist. Also when they denied a person a role, because they weren’t ready to share that narrative. I appreciate the Black movement that was known as resistance, because the culture had the liberation movement too. They started many things that translate today. May the revolution live on. They lived through many hardships and their hard work has paid off many great people came from this generation and we follow their leads today.

  2. I do believe things have changed, yet not in a good way. I believe things got worse. Instead of chains and lying. we are shot just for our skin. We’re going missing, organs missing. Our culture was robbed and a white face was out on it. Our hair is considered unprofessional. I appreciate plays like the dutchman due to it playing on those very topics. White women coming on to a black man. Which can make him lose his life when he wasn’t the one that went after her in the first place. Things are far from equal, for example walking into a restaurant and no white person has on a mask. Nor covid vaccination, but when they see my face I need a mask and covid vaccination ID. I personally believe things are worse because racism has been adjusted with a badge. A quote that sticks out to me is by Tupac Shakur “Is it wrong for me 2 approach u this way…” this has always made me think is our reaction of rage, protest, and speak wrong. When we are the ones being oppressed.

  3. I think there’s no clear answer. There has been progress relative to the civil rights and the Black Arts Movements, as they were essential to sparking younger generations to become more aware of the blatant racism rampant not only in theater and the arts, but politically and socially within the structure of the modern world. While political activism continues its relevance within the African-American community today, through recent black lives matter protests and public speeches made by families and communities disproportionately affected by police violence. This openness and banding of communities has opened up a door to past injustices to be re-explored and examined within a more current setting. And yet despite all of that progress, I still feel that many African American communities still struggle to have their voices heard within the mass media. The problem is as Suzan-Lori Parks states, “Sometimes you can walk a hundred miles and end up in the same spot. The world ain’t round for nothing, right?” It feels as if all of the struggles the Black Arts Movement faced during the 60s, and the violence and prejudice they’ve fought against through their entire lineage, their entire life, it feels like no matter how much progress they make they continue to find themselves fighting for the same rights they had been fighting for for eternity.
    Racism is so deeply embedded into American history it feel like an impossible hole to crawl ourselves out of. Ignorance breeds hate, and despite the work put in by African-American activists and artists, they stories they tell it feels like the root of the pain, the feelings behind the piece are similarly linked to either, like the piece, that they feel as if they must reject or feel shame toward their identity, or are incredibly proud of it. And the issue in current society is that while I believe as a whole we’ve come together to try and band together against hate, and have worked to let the theatre become a space encouraging of African-American artists to allow their voices to be heard, there’s the modern day issue of the constant white-washing of African-American culture and identity. The issue is unfortunately trying to share your story, yet being unable to make it resonate with a larger audience. Everything is a fad nowadays, and with technology it is even harder to start and create a lasting movement banded together behind a sole cause. While I believe things have gotten slightly better than how the African-American community was treated only mere decades ago, there is still a lot of work to be done to break the cycle of continued hate and ignorance directed toward African-American communities.
    The quote that stuck with me the most was spoken by an unknown in “Black Theatre: The Making of a Movement” :
     “Artists, I believe, if they wanna talk about revolutionary, they have to grasp the essence of revolution, and not just talking about some spontaneous like revolution cuz there’s no such thing, you know. The only people can make revolution is guided by revolutionary party.”
    It’s going to take a lot to change, and you need to want it and work together to achieve it.

  4. I agree with what has been said. There has been change but where there is good, there is bad. I believe we only just modernized the problem, hiding it in plain sight. Or, to put it in a different perspective, we’re just finding out more layers to the onion of racism the more its fought. After finishing one battle, next layer, there’s another.

    I dont want to be repetitive to the others above me but it is such a strong problem in America, especially in the United States. This is an issue that was getting pushed under the rug when President Obama came into office due to the mentality of, “if he can do it, how bad can it actually be?” Pretty bad. It doesn’t stop at the personal level or cultural level either. As mentioned by my classmates, systemic racism is heavily implemented in this government system. The prison-pipe line system is an excellent example of that. A test that 3rd graders take to determine their future and if there should be more prisons built. In the United States, there are more prisons than colleges, which really sets in the example.

    “Shange is constantly engaged with the relationship between of the voice and body.”. I believe to have an effect on people is to really engage with this relationship. The voice is a part of the body and once it is treated as its own, its hard to make those impacts on people, and when creating these pieces of theater and art when trying to trigger a response. To be the first one to get these kinds of works on to broadway is to trigger a domino effect of what’s to come and what will come. Only way to make that impact is to value this relationship of the voice and body to bring change for whats right. Or, at least, bring some knowledge to the people.

  5. I believe things have changed for the better but there is still work that still needs to be done such as making a system where everyone is not only treated as equals but are seen as equals no matter the color of your skin,religion,gender and race. We as a nation should stand as one and not be parted due to our differences. We still need to see systematic change within our communities as we see many innocent people either dying or being treated as if they commited a crime for no apparent reason. There have been many plays throughout the years that try to depict such a message that needs to be seen and heard by many this includes Amiri Baraka “Dutchman” in which we see how life can be as those who are apart of the white race are being antagonist and is bothering someone from the colored race and they know in fact if it seen the other way around that very man can be harmed in many ways. We are far from perfect and must learn to improve for the greater good for all.

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