During the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s, African American people exerted their potential. The movement was rich in black excellency across many spectrums, but most articles only mention three parts of the movement: the work of Amiri Baraka, often seen as the igniter of the Black Arts Movement, the poets of the movement and jazz. What’s missing from the narrative is visual arts and dance.
Hannah Fosters, author of “Black Past,” begins by describing Amiri Baraka, as he’s seen as the “Father of the Black Arts Movement.” She proceeds to write about how jazz musicians were celebrated such as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Archie Shepp and others.
For an article dedicated to the understanding of African American history, I’m surprised that there’s isn’t discussion of more aspects of the Movement. For example, a Google Images search for “Black Arts Movement” on google yields a lot of artistic drawings. Yet, that drawing aspect of it is barely even mentioned in articles.
Non-profit website Poets.org also starts off with the mention of Baraka after its introduction. Here Baraka is also seen as an “important figure.” It focuses specifically on the poem aspect of the black arts movement because “poetry was the genre that saw the most expansion and growth at the time.” The site shares information about Baraka and poems, but it fails to acknowledge other perspectives and narratives such as how art was transformed or how women played a part in helping exhibit the black aesthetic.
Learning about the Black Arts Movements solely through a lens of writing, men and music is bad because of the limited perspective. I find it kind of saddening that only these aspects of the Black arts movement are portrayed. Many sources accuse the movement of sexism, but these sources also exclude female artists who strived to make the Black Arts Movement even more popular.
I could only find one article that focused on another type of art: painting. In “Widewalls,” notable journalist Patina Lee explores theater, dancing, and drawing. For example, Lee mentions Jeff Doanldson, who was a respected artist and was known for his “Wall Of Respect” mural. Lee writes that he was “one of the most prolific visual authors.” If it weren’t for this article, I would have never learned of the artistic and theatre aspect of the Black Arts Movement. If we are to learn about something as encouraging and powerful as the Black Arts Movement, I would want to learn all perspectives of it. Wouldn’t you?
Why then? Firstly, sexism was much more prevalent in the 60s. Women in general were looked down upon by men and males were seen as the dominant. Like the previous articles said, the Black Arts Movement was criticized for being sexist, and I believe it indeed was. You can most definitely find solid information on the web in which women contributed to the movement now, but the articles themselves would tell you that the Black Arts Movement seemed to be exclusive of them.
How come writing is so much talked about, and specifically about poems? Part of the reason why this might be was because the start of the Movement itself first revolved around poems. Also, since poems were short and could be recited at rallies and other protests to sway the people, poetry was one of the most popular aspects of the Black Arts Movement. Music, particularly Jazz was a big part of the Movement as well. That is no surprise as Jazz was invented by black people. So why not include that in a movement that focuses on the Black aesthetic?
The Black Arts Movement let people see the aesthetics of their culture and helped put many black people in the spotlight across many professions. The Movement can be criticized in any way, but you can’t deny the fact that the movement did a lot of good. It helped Black culture progress and thrive at times when the dominant culture was trying to oppress it.