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Vol. 6 No. 1 

Editorial, circulation and advertising offices lo- 
cated at 426 New Africa House, University of 
Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass. 01002. 

Copyright by DRUM, 426 New Africa House 
December, 1974 

Cover Photo, Pg. 18, Clement Roach 


Editor ....... Eugene Niles 

Literary Editor Clyde Santana 

Art Editor Clement Roach 

Associate Co-Editor Ron Alexander 

Reporters Jordan Carter 

Clarence Little 
Carolyn Boiling 
Rich Thompson 

Administrative Secretary Paula Mont 

Clerical Secretary Rose Roberts 

Office Staff Mazie Hughes 

Cynthia Johnson 
Denise Wallace 
Ella Garrison 
Kenneth Robinson 

Fiscal RayTille 


Layout & Image Coordinators Clement Roach 

Clyde Santana 

Table of Contents 

6 Reflections on Writing— An Interview Irma McClaurin 

11 The Quest for Black Aesthetics' Survival Carolyn Boiling 

19 "Public Art"— The Aesthetics of the People— An Interview 

Rich Thompson & Ron Alexander 

25 Black Power & Black Jazz Archie Shepp 

33 The Drama of Nommo Paul Carter Harrison 

40 Acknowledgements 


As the period of the mid-seventies meanders its way through lurid transitions i.e., 
recession, inflation, congressional scandals etc., we, as black people discover ourselves in the 
position of having to define and justify the types of cultural actions that surfaced in the past 100 
years. These independent, indigenous and festive activities created by the "masons" of the 
cultural movements subjected Black Americans to an enormous variety of ideas, values and 
images which tended to oppose the western aesthetics' paragon. 

During the early periods, negative stereotype, racist examples of negritude such as "Porgy 
and Bess," and "Buckwheat and Farina" of the "Little Rascals" existed and contended 
simultaneously with the more realistic, cultural endeavors and writings of Alain Locke, W.E.B. 
DuBois, and Langston Hughes. However, images like "Amos and Andy" and the "Birth of a 
Nation" served to overpower the more intellectual and truthful experiences of the black man and 
re-inforced him and the white public's opinion with the image of the shiftless, watermelon 
eating, eyeball rolling, mindless idiot. The perpetration and perpetuation, of this self-concept is 
a direct cause of a present condition that still plagues the black masses. It is not unusual to view 
some black people still romanticizing like "Amos and Andy" and "Sapphire." These pre- 
conditions further re-inforced our extreme vulnerability of being influenced by "negative fads," 
and this phased out many meaningful attempts of establishing indigenous forms for black 
people. A "negative fad" example could very well be the effect of the "Superfly ethics" on the 
Black concious. 

However, the intent of this issue is not to define the faults and dilemmas that we are 
plagued by, rather to present some personal insights and rationales developed by different 
individuals whose quest for dignity has forced them to superannuate the negative conditions 
and thus attempt to communicate their ideas to the black masses. 

The format of this issue attempts to illustrate some of the beautiful images which otherwise 
would be deemed ordinary because of our present conditioning. The beauty in the poetic phrase, 
the contour line of a photograph of an individual's face, the emotions instilled in a writing, the 
personality and icon exhibited in a piece of fine art, in effect, the sum total of a variety of differ- 
ent approaches with one commonalty, the pursuit of the concept of what is beautiful. And the 
ability and pride in being able to identify ourselves and our aesthetics. Therefore, we sincerely 
hope that you enjoy this issue in every sense of the words "Black Aesthetics, the Quest for Black 
Survival . . ." 


The Duke of Smooth 

From the jungle of the Cotton Club to the World 

From Soda Fountain Rag 

Through My People 

To New Orleans Suite, 

A legacy of mad love for us 

We too love you 

Can't help but to. 

Meistro of Charm 

In a Sentimental Mood of Solitude 

I found that my granddad knew you well 

Grandma too, but she wouldn 't tell. 

Dad took Mom to see your late smoke 
Residue from the fire of hot 
Headed for the pennicle of the swing. 

We only got to dig you once, my wife and I 

We came with echoes in our ears of years gone by. 

You eased on stage in mello style 

Gave a gentle nod 

A knowing smile 

The "A " Train pulled out 

And you played a while 

Poured us vintage '37 

Uncorked in '73. 

How could I say in one lifetime 

How great you've been through three. 

As a Prelude to a 


J.'t ■• -ij 

them all 
\i you chords 
•h the present 


And shall continue 

Through the veins of the future. 
What was for Lady Day 
Is For Mingus, Roach and'. 
And shall be for the music to . . . be. 


Mungu Kimya Abudu 

Reflections on Writing 

An Interview with Sonia Sanchez 

by Irma McClaurin 

Sonia Sanchez was among the vanguard of black 
writers in the sixties who emphasized a new direc- 
tion for black poetry. These writers asserted a love 
of self and culture in stepping towards a positive black 
identity and sought to demask the democratic illusion 
that America had created. They also developed a new 
aesthetic of which they refused to have biased white 
critics' standards imposed upon their work. 

The predecessors to these writers in the sixties 
were diverse: Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Sterl- 
ing Brown, Robert Hayden, some of whom chose to 
write totally in the European tradition. Others utilized 
European forms but maintained a content that was 
black, while still others were renovators of black art 
and chose to go back to the Afro- American folkroots 
for their form and content. It is within this same folk 
tradition that many poets of the 60's wrote. They 
turned towards the black urban areas for its diverse 
folk material and for their audience. 

These young black writers of the 60's were often 
criticized for utilizing improvisational techniques 
(Jazz forms) in their writing. They managed to cap- 
ture the rhythms of black speech patterns and incor- 
porate them, but more importantly there was evidence 
of a conscious social and political awareness in their 

The response of America and her "hatchet critics" 
was understandable, but most devastating was the 
response of black critics and artists. Many of them 
assumed that white critics took the correct position, 
allied themselves with the negative criticism of the new 
black poetry and attempted to tailor their works to fit 
the criterion of the white critics. 

The negative criticism from these black and white 
critics were generally cries of propaganda, which 
seemed to emphasize rather than dispel the notion 
that this new writing was a threat. In fact, prior to this 
new renaissance, America had said m 196j or Gwendo- 
lyn Brooks: "that I am not sure it is possible for a 
Negro to write well without making us aware that he 
is a Negro; on the other hand, if being a Negro is 
the only subject, the writing is not important." 1 
In 1974, the same America has said of Sonia San- 
chez: "that to hear Sanchez's flat, measured, con- 
trolled tones ... is to hear not the imflammatory 
but the concluded, a hatred bent to work ..." 2 
There is an inability on these critics' part to distinguish 
between rage and hated. ("Hating" is a sustained 
emotion requiring a great amount of time.) 

Black artists refuse to take this time away from their 
work in order to hate. 

Neither is there hesitation on the part of 
these same critics when they accuse many black 
writers of not being universal. But what many fail 
to realize, and particularly black critics and artists 
who agree with this concept, is that in this country 
"universality" has come to mean those things em- 
bodying white middle-class values. Yet, one must 
realize that no art arises out of a vacuum. There is 
no existing art that does not have some specific cultural 
or class orientation. 

And so, the implied question in such criticisms of 
Gwendolyn Brooks, Sonia Sanchez and others is 
which comes first: one's blackness or art? But the 
question is a superfluous one since the black ex- 
perience cannot and does not exist independent of 
an artistic form. Only when artists of oppressed 
minorities begin to explore positive self images is 
there a negative reaction. This is from a failure to 
understand that the emphasis upon blackness in 
African-American art expresses a historical struggle: 
Blackness is not only a reaction to whites, but attempts 
to establish a balance that is a positive assertion 
of African-American culture. Gwendolyn Brooks' 
poems do not lack universality, nor are Prof. San- 
chez's work obsessed with hatred— controlled or 
otherwise. Their work is merely an expression of 
self-love and an acknowledgement of a diverse 
black experience. 

The following interview is with Prof. Sonia San- 
chez, currently acting chairperson of Black Studies at 
Amherst College. Prof. Sanchez has written numerous 
volumes of poetry (Homecoming, We a BaddDDD 
People, Love Poems ... j six plays (Sister Son-ji, 
The Bronx is Next? . . . ) and countless essays and 
articles. We shall attempt to focus on illuminating the 
development of black poetry since the sixties and the 
validity of that era. 

McClaurin: Could you discuss your involvement with 
the black arts movement in the 60's? 

Sanchez: When we began to "poet" in the 60's, we 
were involved with teaching a people who did not be- 
lieve that they were black. We were teaching a people 
who did not believe that their hair should be worn 

naturally, teaching a people who did not believe that 
anything had happened to them or would happen to 
them. We were teaching them that they were still en- 
slaved. If you can understand the audience that we 
had, then you can understand the "simple" poetry 
that some of us wrote. 

Major criticisms have been leveled against those 
poets who wrote didactic poetry. It was said that they 
were not skilled writers, but if you really read them, 
you'll see this is untrue. If you understand what it is 
to be a poet from a tradition of eastern and African po- 
etry, you'll see that we are talking about writers who 
"pull the coats" or "covers" off a society to allow a 
people to see and understand. We were responding in 
our writings to the needs of the times and it was what 
we said and the manner in which we said things that 
was criticized. 

We used curse words in our works and people had 
no idea why. But we used these words because when 
we first read poetry, no one listened to us, if you 
can understand that. At one time Imamu Baraka, Ed 
Bullins, Marvin X and myself gave a reading in a com- 
munity and only 20 people, if that, attended. So we had 
to work to attune our small audience to poetry. 

If we had come out with elaborate poetic forms, we 
would never have gotten people to listen. So we had to 
write some lines that people would understand and 
hear. We put our poems into the vernacular of people 
"in the streets." This is the same way that other 
poets use dialect. 

The reason America praises the old dialect is 
because it is her image and idea of what black people 
are. The reason she didn't like our dialect is be- 
cause she doesn't like the black masses. She labeled 
our work "street" poetry. But it is far from that. What 
our work did was respond to certain kinds of idioms 
familiar to black people. We noticed that people listened 
to children who would say "I be", so we would say "I 
be" and have instant communication with our audience. 
Because black people's ears were attuned to music, to 
the beat, quite often our poetry took on an oral quality 
with improvisation. 

Of course people assumed that because you wrote 
poetry like this, you did not write other kinds of poetry. 
But in the 60's you had to write a certain way in 
order to be heard, in spite of the other kinds of 
poems that were inside you. But the criticism against 
us was the same kind spoken against John Col- 
trane and other musicians: their music was not 
great because it was not written down. And as black 
people, we have to be careful because we listen and 
say "that's right", adopting the same attitude that 
America does: that if there is no "formal" training, 
something is not good. 

Yet poetry can only be weighed by the response to 
it and a year later the same group of writers I men- 
tioned earlier had a reading in Oakland that drew over 
3,000 people. Now the people were not only responding 
to the expletives but also the ideas and messages 
that came afterwards. That was a real response.. 

McCIaurin: In retrospect, how do other artists respond 
to the writing of the 60's? 

Sanchez: Well, now the 70's is about redefining the 
60's. Many would-be writers or other writers of that 
time looked at our work and said, "Oh I can do better 
than that", and perhaps they could have, but we were 
fulfilling an apparent need that had been neglected by 
many black poets at that time. There was a need to 
show/teach things and set certain goals and directions 
for Black people. 

In the 70's, there are many black poets with no 
idea about what went on, who will say that the poets 
of the 60's were not good poets: they were not tech- 
nicians, they were oral poets and didn't really write 
well or they screamed and cursed a lot. But they fail 
to realize that a lot of innovative things occurred. We 
stretched out words, we placed words differently on 
paper. We actually began to use music in terms of 
poetry; we began to sing. In the 60's we made it pos- 
sible for people to come to an auditorium and sit down 
to listen to poetry, so the writers following us (black 
and white) have a ready-made audience. In a sense we 
determined the direction for writing. 

If you look at young poets now, you can see a 
movement toward "didactic" poetry. You hear young 
Chinese writers saying: "I am," You have the young 
Chicano and Puerto Rican writers saying: "I am," 
That comes from people in the 60's who said: "I am 
Black, now deal with it." 

McCIaurin: Would you say that black writing has de- 
veloped since the 60's and do you see a shifting of 
priorities from an emphasis on didactic writing to an 
emphasis on craftsmanship? 

Sanchez: In answer to your question on development, 
if you write a certain way in the 60's you are not 
going to write the same way in the 70's, if you're a 
good poet. You respond to the times. If people in the 
60's didn't realize they were black and you told them, 
there is no sense repeating the same in the 70's. 
So of course your writing and its emphasis changes. 
This is evident in many writers of the 60's, if you 
read their books. 

Also, when people in this country talk about di- 
dactic poetry they assume it suffers from a lack of 
craftsmanship and I disagree. I think when we talk 
about craftsmanship we have to ask ourselves: are we 
talking about people who write, people who write 
well, people who know how to write in various forms, 
or people in the world of academia? Of course there 
were some terrible poets writing with us in the 60's, 
but there are terrible poets writing at any time. 

But I think its important to note that it was not 
by chance that we were followed or had agents in our 
classes; we must have been doing something right. 

Now, coming full circle to the 70's, people are say- 
ing that's not true anymore. Presently, we are begin- 
ing, to elevate those writers who say nothing political 
or about being black. For these writers I say "you're 
entitled." Who am I to say that someone shouldn't 
write in a certain way? But I come full circle again to 
understanding what a "true" poet is, and a real poet 
is one who does not entertain but one who teaches. 

McClaurin: What would you say is the difference be- 
tween white critics' attitudes now and in the 60's? I 
ask this not because what they think is so important 
to understanding the work, but because many black 
writers and critics take their analysis seriously and 
adopt similar stances towards the "new black poetry" 
without being aware of what it was all about. 

Sanchez: White critics didn't really comment on black 
art in the 60's because they knew they would be 
pounced on. However, America is about redefining us 
now as a people, as poets, and other things, so they 
think they can comment now. The recent article on 
Broadside Press in the New York Times Book Review 
is an example. A white girl felt she could really analyze 
our poetry and tell us who the good poets were at 
black Broadside Press. 

Our poetry in the 60's was about reality. The 
poems were about the present and the future, and if 
the past entered into it, it was to show how we had 
been enslaved. Obviously, our poetry was untouched 
then, because we actually put it out there and said, 
"don't touch it!" 

But now we have some interesting poets coming 
up who believe that white poets and critics can do 
them justice, which these critics have done. How- 
ever, these black writers don't understand that their 
circumstances are similar to Charles W. Chestnutt 
when his book. The Marrow of Tradition, was re- 
viewed by the dean of critics, Howell. All he could say 

was the book seemed bitter, not that it shouldn't have 
been bitter, but it would have been better if it hadn't. 
Yet if you read the book you'll see it's not bitter at all. 
Howell was content to give Chestnutt good reviews as 
long as the man moved the way Howell expected. 
The problem with white critics now is the same. It's 
cool as long as you move in the tradition they want 
you to move in. Since they couldn't criticize our 
work then, they labeled it "hate" poetry. Also 
black critics were doing the same thing. 

McClaurin: Could you elaborate on this idea of "hate" 

Sanchez: I think in the 60's all poets who wrote mili- 
tant poetry were called "haters." Looking back, I 
believe anything showing America in a bad light was 
called "hate" poetry and that's what we did. We 
were told our work was terrible and that the curses 
were vulgar and did not constitute poetry. But you see 
poetry can be anything. The words "and" and "but" 
are not poetry, but if they are placed accordingly to 
mingle with other words they become part of a poem 
like our curses did. 

I think it's important to note that to call someone 
a name or point out their wrongs doesn't mean you 
hate them. I would like to stress the point that I 
don't take time to hate. In the 60's and presently, my 
emphasis was and is on us loving ourselves and 
our people and learning what we are about. Because 
of these conditions I had to make mention of the peo- 
ple who oppressed us. Therefore, in order to balance 
that, America said that there was hatred in Black 

McClaurin: Do you have any concluding remarks? 

Sanchez: I would say that in spite of the kind of a 
poet you are, on one level, you must understand that 
one don't have to attack someone to be a poet. If 
you want to be a singer, go ahead but you ain't got 
to sell your soul; if you want to be a writer, go ahead 
but you ain't got to sell your soul. This is not the 
time to attack blacks because we all are going to be 
attacked enough during the Seventies, our new Re- 

It is certainly a time for unity and a time to come 
together, moving together in a concerted effort towards 
acquiring some kind of freedom and justice in this 
country. There should be an understanding among us 
that we are all moving towards the same goal and 
even if we take different roads, that goal is still 
going to be there. And we can walk it together. I am 
ready. How about you, my Brother and Sister? 

iLouis Simpson, New York-Herald Tribune, cited in Stephen 
Henderson, Understanding the New Black Poetry. New York: 
William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1973, p. 7. 

iHelen Vendler. "Good Black Poems One by One." The New 
York Times Book Review, September 29, 1974, pp. 10 and 14. 

Since you know music, 

Let me put it this way, chump: 

C Sharp or B flat. 

Larry Darby 


The Quest for Black Aesthetics^ Survival 

The History and Development of 
The Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts 

The National Center for Afro— American Artists 

by Carolyn Boiling 

When it was agreed upon that this particular 
issue of Drum magazine would be entitled Black 
Aesthetics— Black Survival, without further delibera- 
tion, I choose Ms. Elma Lewis; founder and direc- 
tor of the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts (ELSFA) 
and the National Center of Afro-American Artists 
(NCAAA) for my initial project. Although this valley 
is fortunate enough to claim such cultural giants as 
Archie Shepp, Max Roach, Diana Ramos, Sonia 
Sanchez, Reggie Workman and countless others, it 
would be utterly impossible to overlook or exclude 
Ms. Elma Lewis and the National Center of Afro- 
American Artists (NCAAA) from the aforementioned 
list. In fact, the majority of the artists cited, have 
been frequent guests at the National Center of Afro- 
American Artists (NCAAA). Moreover, these artists 
have remained actively engrossed in projects of con- 
cern, affiliated with the development and different 
modes of Black Artistry. 

To those who are unfamiliar with Ms. Lewis 
and her School, it may be hard for them to conceive 
that nearly twenty-five years ago in a barren, six- 
room dwelling in Roxbury, a new birth; a new awaken- 
ing in the Black Art Discipline had already begun to 
unfold and take form. With only four teachers of art, 
drama, music and dance at her disposal, a battered 
second-hand piano, and a group of twenty-five stu- 
dents who paid a small fee of $5 for monthly tuition 
costs, the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts (ELSFA) 
was launched into reality. Ms. Elma Lewis is recog- 
nized as a teacher, administrator, lecturer, director, 
choreographer, writer and a constant heart-beat in the 
Black community. 

Born in Roxbury in 1921, around Dudley Street, 
of recently immigrated West Indian parents; Elma 
Lewis was reading by the age of three and she (as 
well as her two older brothers) were greatly influ- 
enced and inspired by both parents. She proudly 
states: "My mother was education-oriented, my father 
art-oriented." Perhaps, because of these factors and 
her early cultivation and appreciation of the arts; she 

best understood the vital need/importance for the 
preservation of Black Art Expression and dedicated 
her life to campaigning for its survival. 

Today, the National Center of Afro-American 
Artists (founded in 1968) serves as the umbrella or- 
ganization for the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts 
(ELSFA) and remaining cultural components. Un- 
doubtedly, Elma Lewis has waged a lifetime strug- 
gle to regenerate the Black Arts Cultural Movement. 
Accompanied with a staff of 125 dedicated profession- 
als conducting 350 classes weekly, an overall popu- 
lation of 575 enrollees (400 children, 175 teens and 
adults), the NCAAA also has over twenty allied 
programs in the arts serving community schools, 
agencies, colleges, universities, museums, penal 
institutions and businesses throughout the state. 
With this vigorous workforce under her jurisdiction, 
Ms. Lewis beams and declares that she maintains the 
largest collection of talents and brains of any organi- 
zation, black or white and has built a rapidly grow- 
ing institution committed to serve the Black communi- 
ty at large while exposing the riches of a race to all 
people. Presently, the NCAAA is housed in a for- 
mer Jewish synagogue and is submerged in the very 
depths of the Black community. The NCAAA has 
firmly established Ms. Elma Lewis as a nationally 
known figure from coast to coast and she defines her 
imposing Center as such: "It is where we, the Blacks, 
are stating Black heritage and are illustrating the 
beauty of our arts to all people". 

In short, the ELSFA under the auspices of the 
National Center of Afro-American Artists is com- 
posed of a number of variegated professional outlets 
designed to enhance/develop the potential and creati- 
vity of the young artist. Consequently, when a stu- 
dent is first enrolled in the NCAAA he/she is offered 
beginning instruction in dance, drama, art, costum- 
ing, sewing, music and music theory. It is mandatory 
that each incoming student partake in a cross-section 
of cultural units (as mentioned above); until the en- 
rollee has decided to channel his/her energies into a 


designated art discipline. Only after the individuals 
have been exposed to all fashions of art, are they 
encouraged to specialize. The NCAAA says of the 
Black Child: "He has had to overcome the obstacles 
of a society ill-prepared to accept the richness of his 
cultural heritage. We Celebrate! The Black Child's 
strength, endurance, and self-determination which 
have enriched the quality of life in the Black commu- 
nity and made lasting contributions to the progress 
of the writer, the businessman, the celebrity. The 
Black Child is all Black people, young and old, for 
we are the children of Africa". One goal that every- 
one at the Center has in common is that they are 
anxious that the children identify positively with their 
heritage, and that they uphold and acknowledge the 
confidence they receive at the school and hopefully 
they may incorporate these experiences into their adult 

Furthermore, being a long-time resident of Rox- 
bury and former student of ELSFA, I have frequent- 
ly attended the NCAAA on a number of occasions. 
More recently, upon entering the lobby of the NC 
AAA my attention was immediately averted to a 
steady stream of energetic youths about to receive 
instruction from Babatunde Olantunji; (the renowned 
Nigerian drummer) who also conducts classes in 
the drums of Africa, Jazz workshops and African 
Heritage as well. As I proceeded down the carpet- 
ed, brightly-colored corridor, I was invited to sur- 
vey a gathering of youngsters enrolled in a course 
in costume/dress design taught by two well-noted pro- 
fessionals in the field; Gus Bowen and Lucy Cor- 
dice. Bursting with creativity, these students did not 
hesitate to display/model their unparalleled, pace- 
setting fashions often worn in major theatrical pro- 
ductions at the School. Also as part of this program, 
the youngsters make their own design, and ultimate- 
ly they will make their own patterns to sell on a com- 
mercial market basis. In addition, the students are 
monitored in basic design and presented practical 
job training for young seamstress/tailors from Ms. 
Pearl Allen, an acknowledged seamstress in her own 
right. As Lucy once stated about her advanced class, 
"Nobody has ever told these kids that they can't do 
everything, so they think they can do anything." 

It is hardly less deserving to note the achieve- 
ment of the multitude of dance companies emersed 
throughout the National Center of Afro-American 
Artists (NCAAA). Clad only in leotards and bubbUng 
with activity, these young budding artists have un- 
limited access to a variety of dance companies such 
as: Tally Beatty (choreographer of modern dance), 
Billy Wilson (offers instruction in classical, Afro- 
Carribean dance, ballet manager of the Company and 
director of School teaching program), and George 

Howard (primitive dance instructor at the school.) 
A four-year Rockefeller Foundation grant of $300,000 
supports dance instruction and choreographic work- 
shops to develop additional companies. As a re- 
sult, the NCAAA maintains a myriad of dancing 
companies that enables the young artist to fathom 
the ethnic, jazz, as well as the classical vogue of 
dance expression. 

Likewise, it is important to note still another 
vital aspect of the ELSFA which is the art depart- 
ment. First, courses in art at the Elma Lewis School 
of Fine Arts are taught in conjunction with the 
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which offers the 
young apprentice a ceaseless gulf of artistic ex- 
pression. Those registered in the art training disci- 
pline are also introduced to chalk, paint, textiles, 
sculpture, graphics, ceramics, and photography. Ver- 
satile Barry Gaither (art historian), is director of 
the deeply rooted forum for Black Art, which has 
originated the development of a museum/gallery (open 
to the general public) housed in the NCAAA. The 
Center's museum has already acquired a representa- 
tive collection of Black Art, some of the outstanding 
Black artists that have displayed their works to the 
community have been: Romare Bearden, Jacob Law- 
rence, Horace Pippin, Charles White and Hale Wood- 

In addition, the theater department at the NC 
AAA gained national prominence from the exe- 
cution of the production "Black Nativity" a drama- 
tic exhibition (by Langston Hughes) of gospel song- 
play which strikingly discloses a Christmas story, 
that blended with it poetry, dance, and gospel music 
in rhythmic patterns. This production was filmed 
by Black Journal and seen by ten million pros- 
pective viewers. The main emphasis in the theater 
department is to cultivate diction and delivery. The 
Center affirms that nothing helps a student become 
self -expressive as well as drama and that the theater 
can indeed be instrumental in instilling self-confi- 
dence. Publicity for the "Black Nativity" production 
was written as follows: "This is Black Art: to be cre- 
ative and innovative within tradition ... to be syn- 
copated, everchanging, like jazz, life and Black people 

Equally important is the Elma Lewis Playhouse 

in the Park which offers free entertainment for com- 
munity folks and guests, every night from July 7 
through Labor Day. It was in the summer of 1968, 
when 200 students from the Elma Lewis School of 
Fine Arts (ELSFA) sauntered over to Franklin Park 
and performed "A Midsummer Night's Dream" on 
the site of a burned out firehouse. This marked the in- 
ception of Elma Lewis's Playhouse in the Park. Until 
this day, it has survived as a tradition and a secure 


platform for talented artists to "pour out" their re- 
sources upon the receptive community. Besides acting 
as a pulpit of expression for neighborhood artists, it 
has also attracted such distinguished celebreties as: 
Duke Ellington, Boston Pops Symphony Orchestra, 
Count Basie, Billy Taylor Trio, Mongo Santamaria, 
Billy Thompson, Jaki Byard and the Silver Star Steel 
Band. The above are only a mere few of the irreplace- 
able artists who have donated their time and creativity 
to the betterment/advancement of Elma Lewis's 
Playhouse in the Park and the National Center of 
Afro- American Artists (NCAAA). 

Likewise, a unique program of instruction in- 
troduced by the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts was 
designed to provide inmates with job skills in the 
technical theater at Norfolk Correctional Institution. 
Academicians from the School have scheduled clas- 
ses twice a week and instruct approximately 105 in- 
mates in technical theater, and the purification of 
music, dance, and art. Entitled the Technical Theater 
Training Program, it has produced four plays since 
its inception in July 1970. The two plays, a musical 
and a ritual were original works by inmates at Nor- 
folk. In sum, all works are acted, composed, choreo- 
graphed, danced, and designed by inmates them- 
selves, who also handle all technical and stage crew 
work. One aim is to provide concrete skills that the 
men can utilize upon their release. The inmates 
themselves succeeded in producing "The Plague", a 
play concerning drugs, that was written by one of the 
inmates. One prisoner simply stated: "This is the 
first time I ever did anything on my own that was con- 
structive. I really enjoyed the training in this pro- 
gram". Furthermore, a group of ten men involved 
in the theatrical-training program have also written 
and compiled an anthology of poetry, short stories, 
and plays entitled "Who Took the Weight?", pub- 
lished by Little, Brown and Company. One true mark 
of achievement occurred when inmate/playwright In- 
san Sauti (Robert Preston) won first prize in the 
playwriting category of the Barbwire Theater Lite- 
rary Awards Project for his literary piece; "Install- 
ment Plan", (printed in the Norfolk Prison issue of 

More recently, the NCAAA has been chosen 
by the American Revolutionary Bi-Centennial Com- 
mission in Washington and Bobker Vision Associ- 
ates of New York as the national representation of 
"the symbol of the art made meaningful in current 
history" for a half-hour documentary film. This is the 
major film of the Federal Bi-Centennial Commission 
and is scheduled to be premiered on a thousand tele- 
vision stations across the country. Eventually the film 
will be heavily distributed as a short subject in movie 
houses all over the country as well as overseas. As 

conceived by writer/producer/director Lee Bobker, 
this film is designed to give focus to the National 
Bi-Centennial Program and its major theme. Titled 
"We Hold These Truths," the film is executed in three 
segments following the Bi-Centennial theme . . . 
Festival, Heritage, and Horizon. The NCAAA will 
comprise the entire Festival section as a symbol of 
how one individual's (Elma Lewis) personal committ- 
ment and effort brought about a forceful change. 

Furthermore, although the NCAAA has evolved 
into a $l-million-a-year operation, the two-part 
$950,000 Ford Foundation grant to the NCAAA 
was indeed "a milestone" in the life of her school, 
which has had to fight an "uphill financial battle all 
the way". The first of its kind ever given to an inner- 
city cultural institution, the grant will spearhead a 
$5 million capital funds endowment drive. This 
funding that the NCAAA has furnished, will help 
achieve other goals, which Elma Lewis describes 
as follows: "We believe art should provide the un- 
derpinnings for richer, more beautiful, and more pro- 
fitable lives . . . Art should also have educational 
and political values too . . . We believe we are setting 
an example to the rest of America ". 

Ms. Elma Lewis alone has received over 100 
national and international awards for her tireless ef- 
forts. Already, Ms. Lewis has grander expectations 
in regards to the progress and achievements of her 
School. She sees her Center evolving into a kind 
of national repository and archive for Black Aesthe- 
tics, a place that would have serve to validate and 
propagate Black cultural achievement much the way 
institutions such as the major museums and orches- 
tras do for Western culture. For Elma Lewis, the Arts 
have certainly proved to be an effective tool for en- 
couraging pride and dignity. Without question, she 
invests tremendous faith in the power of the arts and 
readily states: "Restore a man to dignity and he will 
be all right. Let him know he is a creator, not just 
a creature, and he will achieve". 


Good-bye Daze of Yestayeah 
or (i thought i never could say good-bye) 

Good-bye daze of yestayeah 

when we had to 

flush our faces 

down toilet bowls 

everytime the teecha talk about: 


and raps us up in his own word - SLAVE-VERY 

Good-bye daze of JAY-BRA 

&DUKE greaseless POMADE 
pushin down our heads 
while we MASS-turbated 
to the rhythmic thrusts of Elvis' guitar 

Good-bye daze of yestayeah 

when our went mad brandin their brains 

deglorifying their flesh 
& Dixie peachin demselves to death 

Good-bye daze of nights with Jayne MANS-FEEL 

& MERRY-LAND Monroe 
cause we've found our Black woman and she AINT JEMOMMA 


Good-bye daze of Bach over Bird 

Mozart over Mingus 
& Shakespeare over Sanchez 
when our heads were spinnin in a COLD-CHURED MU-SICK whirl 
Good-bye daze of yestayeah's 
here-os - like that 
super-slick honky 
handlin deadly hardware & 
half naked hores 
Good-bye daze of yestayeah 

Good-try daze of yestayeah 

Gotta-fly daze of yestayeah 
and all the while 
i used to sing 
"i never can say 

Larry Darby 


Part I of Acceptance 

(Dedicated to Ralph Ellison and the forces of Invisibility) 

i am invisible 

no where is my birth recorded 

nor my name mentioned 

my image has not yet been captured 

on screen or canvas 
in fact, i can't find it on the 

mirror's surface 
and yet i know that as i say what i have, 
to remember i can remember my thoughts 
and recall vividly the pain inflicted from 

within and out 
i am and must have been 

yet i remain invisible 

I, me, not seen. 

not seen when i was bathed in the color of my mother's mother 
working the land that had spawned 

kings/queens/warrior gods/and 
maidens' dreams made real and of 
men and children 
not seen at the dusk of dawn praying 
chanting happily the songs of the earth/the crops/ 

those before us and those to follow 
not seen swimming/dancing/laughing/and/crying at the 
course of events which marked a life of one interwoven 
in a family/cian/village/in Africa. 


I, me, not seen 

when i was betrayed and bartered for the bullet that 

found its way to my father 
that forced my mother to claim the passions of the MAD, 
to wander along the roads of the interior to the exterior 
chanting in the tongue of the barren the songs of hell 
that ended the possible extension of my father's and 
mother's dream of giving me more brothers and sisters 
I me, not seen. 

when I assumed my most famous role on the block of auction 
as an immoral darkle prancing naked-impatiently awaiting 
to be bought 
undressed by hands whose color was nowhere close to mine and 
forced by a whip to stand in the market 
defiled and descrated 
under the banner of life, liberty and the pursuit 
I, me . . . not seen 

not seen emancipated after the war 

I was still here chains, lashed back, and all 

waiting for 40 acres and a mule 

waiting all the time waiting 

for what? a house burned? to be called nigger? 

I, me . . . not seen 

not seen when i entered the promised land of the north 
didn't know i was here 'till i overheard some white man 
say nigger the way northern people do 

you know nigga/and/nigger 
no promises up north, not for us at least 
no jobs and plenty of name calling 
in the north niggers ain't lazy they are irresponsible 
and their women ain't bitches they is whores 
no grace save us 

no nothing . . .the north ain't nothing 
I, me, wasn't seen 

when i marched and sang on the right key 
when i sang 

when i stood in front of the lincoln monument 
when i cried when johnny got shot . . . i cried especially 
hard when they played back his 

REMEMBER NOT whatamerica can do for you 
but ask what you can do for 

who who johnny who 
who can do what for who 


I, me, wasn't seen 

when i shouted BLACK POWER 

started hoping my sons would be Nkrumahs and Malcolms 
not little john-johns, 

when i stopped speaking english 

and started wearing no clothes clothes 

when i stopped ultra-pressing and started afro-sheening 
I, me. . . wasn't seen 

when I became superfly's woman 

and took a lead role in sounder 

when i became a super woman, a super whore a super intellectual 

I, me 


a super black a 
I ain't no agent!!!!! 

. . wasn't seen 
when I was here 
and moved there 

when i did this and that 
when i was 
. . wasn't seen 
is not seen 
won't be seen for awhile 

black super black 

I am invisible 

nowhere is my birth recorded 
nor my name mentioned 

my image has not yet been captured 
on canvass or screen 

in fact i can't find it on the mirror's surface 
and yet I know that as I say what I have said 

and recall vividly the pain inflicted from within and 


Tenajol Cormier 


Internalize the love we have for ourself 

The truth in your eyes 
reflects the warmth in heart 
Rays of reality are reflected in 
the clear line of your black face 

Richard Griffin 


"Public Art'' — The Aesthetics of the People 

An Interview with Nelson Stevens 

by Rich Thompson and Ron Alexander 

In recent years, the University of Massachusetts 
has developed one of the best staffed Black Studies 
departments in the country. Black artists, and Black 
scholars, all of whom nave made contributions (minor 
or major) in their respective fields, are attracted by the 
Universitv's immense resources and facilities. A visit- 
or to The New Africa House would be awed by the 
name planks on the office doors: Max Roach, John 
Bracey, Julius Lester, Ester Terry and a host of 
other craftsmans and researchers who are noted 
purveyors of Black art and thought. The building 
is a living museum. 

Nelson Stevens, an artist presently on the UMass. 
faculty, is considered by many students, colleagues 
and admirers to be one of the most talented and out- 
standing painters in America. His colorful and ex- 
perimental paintings can be found in both private 
and public collections. But more than for his paint- 
ings, he is hailed for the murals he has either created 
or directed students in executing. The imposing mu- 
rals of Nelson Stevens can be found on the side of 
the Black United Construction Workers' Union in Bos- 
ton, 884 State Street and Mason and State Street in 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on May 26, 1938, 
Stevens majored in Advertising at Mohawk Valley 
Community College in Utica, New York. After gradu- 
ation, he worked with an advertising firm for a year. 
Dissatisfied with that work, he returned to college and 
earned a B.F.A. from Ohio University and a certifi- 
cate in education. His experiences as an educator 
in a middle school proved to be fulfilling. He was 
able to evoke and guide the fresh, creative impulses 
of his students, impulses that have been traditionally 
destroyed or stifled by insensitive teachers. Many of 
his students achieved scholastic distinction and awards. 

Although he found his involvement as an educa- 
tor satisfying, there was little time to concentrate 
on his artistic work. He left the pubhc school sys- 
tem and went to work in the Cleveland Museum of Art 
where he began a concentrative study of the great 
works. His ambition was to understand the inner 
dynamics, the structure, the form, the finer and less 
obvious techniques used by the artists: "What makes 
this a great piece of art?" 

It was after he left the museum and completed 
graduate work at Kent State University that his role 
as a Black artist unfolded. He joined Africobra, a group 
of artists working collectively with the ideal of cre- 
ating art for the enjoyment and education of Black 
people. Africobra also strived to make their art easily 
accessible by instilling a sense of community owner- 
ship in their works thus ignoring the Western para- 
gon of "priceless art." If art is truly for the appreci- 
ation of humanity then it must be affordable, Stevens 
agrees. Art, as the history of Europe indicates, can 
very often become elitist, in that the rich are the 
sole possessors. In many ancient African societies, 
art was community owned, much like the concept 
of land; creating for the rememberance of the dead, 
the survival of the living and for the life of the fu- 
ture. Africobra upheld this as the essence and mode 
of Black art. 

Stevens came to see that images are not just what 
one sees in a photograph. In a painting of drums 

he did from a photograph, he went beyond the visual 
image to show the physicalness of the drums, the po- 
tential of rhythms and beats, raging hands and emo- 
tions. "What I concentrated on is not only the image 
but the rhythms of that image." 

"I start from the small to make the large, and 
hopefully I can build enough layers of content to make 
a piece full, rich and potent." Rhythms and images 
are essential parts of a picture. In a piece of art, 
one should be able to explore and find something dif- 
ferent in every viewing. In that sense his work can 
be compared to the varying levels of pitch and tone 
in a musical composition. These levels can be de- 
fined by the bass, drums, flute, saxophone, piano, 
the individual sounds or syncronization. These 
rhythms can be found in his work. 

Art, as Stevens sees it, should not only be beauti- 
ful but encapsule a message; a vision, concept or 
idea which can enhance living. The didacticism of art 
is what makes it a vital part of human experience, the 
tradition having its roots in Africa where art is ritu- 
alized to celebrate all social interactions. "If it's just 
beautiful and there's no message and it's not exe- 
cuted properly, people will not respect what you have 

However, it is through murals that Stevens feels 
that his art comes full circle. "Murals are designed to 
deliver messages in visual imagery and are an attempt 
to beautify a community, a means of reflecting the 
life styles of a people. An ideal way of communi- 
cation, murals, more than any other form of art, comes 
close to the community achieving ownership of this 
form of art. The work is there, hugh and demanding, 
and the people of the community can appreciate the 
aesthetic without restraint, individually or collec- 

"Cities weren't built with beauty or Black people 
in mind. The landscape reflects a preoccupation with 
industry. Stevens feels that murals can be used 
as a beautifying element and adds vibrancy and col- 
or to the cold steel and cement. "There is a starvation 
of Black images," says Stevens. 

The images in his murals are filling. Nelson fur- 
ther fulfilled these ideals over the summer when he 
formulated and directed a program to create 4 murals 
funded by a U.Y.A. grant (Art 74). In the 1st mural 
of this program he depicts six Black women in strug- 
gle, inspired by a poem, / AM BLACK WOMEN, by 
Mari Evans. In a mural that was done under his di- 
rection by a M.F.A. student, Clement Roach, on Sher- 
man and State Street in Springfield, a Black family 
is pictured with the mother and father protecting 
the children from a negative element— a pimp and 
his cohorts. Another M.F.A. student, Clyde Santana. 
executed a mural under Steven's supervision, project- 
ing young Black people gaining the necessary skills 
for liberation. Finally was the mural on Mason and 
State Street entitled THE GIANTS OF BLACK MU- 
SIC, which he collaborated with Santana to complete. 

The possibilities of this artist are great and far 
reaching. He is a man of sensitivity, warmth and per- 
ception, committed to providing the kind of art which 
captures the imagination of Black people and moves 
them to higher levels of experiences. 

The art of Nelson Stevens is free. Take a walk. 


University Year for Action 

Summer Arts" Program 


Tribute to Black Women 

Wincr\ester Square Wall 
33X n 

Artist: Nelson Stevens 

Artist: Clement Roach 

To Build a Nation 


Clyde Santana 

21 11 

Wall of Black Music 

Artists: Clyde Santana and Nelson Stevens 



Recognizing that the least we can do is to leave our communities more beautilul than we found them, 
we have decided to do more .... 

As image-makers, the evidence of what we are, is the creations that we fashion. We have been about 
the rhetoric of art lor the people, but now, gradually the images themselves have come-through the 
mastery of the craft. We have tested and refined our craft and we have gained in number and in the 
intensity of our conviction. 

We have accepted our own challenge to make our craft relevant. Some call them murals, others large 
paintings; but all know them as force fields activated in service for our liberation. 

Our people are beautiful but our street environment is not. We are setting about to change that. 
We are stretching canvas of brick and concrete and galvanized steel to present our images that will 
Inform and praise our communities. 

These force fields can be crafted to bring unique distinction to a community while showing its con- 
nection to the greater African struggle for total liberation. 

"Our walls are ours." They must represent our very finest efforts to build and develop our commu- 
nities in order to restore our people to their total traditional greatness. 

Nelson Stevens, 1974 

Permission to Reprint. Archie Shepp, NY. Times. 

Black Power and Black Jazz 

by Archie Shepp, Jazzman and playwright 

Shortly after World War II, over 50 per cent of 
the black people living in the United States were 
found to have moved from the rural south to the 
large industrial complexes of the North and Mid- 
west. A substantial number had settled even farther 
west beyond the Rockies. 

Most brought with them a few worldly posses- 
sions, the family Bible and an enormously rich musi- 
cal heritage derived from Africa. Though they them- 
selves had limited access to musical instruments, 
save an occasional upright or a guitar, they were 
able to pass on through religious songs and church 
records— the only authentic cultural experience this 
country has ever inspired, with the possible ex- 
ception of the ritual of the American Indians. 

More over, the provincial organ of the backwoods 
church could neither anticipate nor stay the cruel 
social and economic changes that would eventually up- 
end religion as the traditional moral force in the black 

Both the church and its historical ally, the fami- 
ly, foundered on the devastating rock of depression 
and two world wars. Black men returned home bitter 
and jobless to face in peacetime the same igno- 
minious poverty they had always known. Indeed the 
American Dream appeared a nightmare, and the unful- 
filled hopes of the Reconstruction a remote and care- 
fully nurtured myth to a generation a hundred 
years removed. Not a few of America's black sons 
turned to dope (here I don't refer to marijuana) and 
crime as a last democratic response to an apathetic 
and unviable republic. Night life flourished as a nec- 
essary accommodation to this expanded social milieu. 

Thus the black jazz musician, economically 
insecure just as the worker, made a similar trek 
north bringing with him the secular music of the 
streets, the language of hip and the lore of the bistros. 
One such man was Charles Parker, one of America's 
rare and seldom acknowledged geniuses. Mr. Parker, 
known to jazz devotees as Bird, was originally 
from Kansas City. He settled in New York in the for- 
ties after having traveled extensively with the Jay 
MacShann band. His biographers state that he had 

already been involved with heroin by the time he was 
15, a fact no doubt attributable to the extensive vice 
that existed during Kansas City's notoriously corrupt 
Prendergast regime. 

The music of Parker and his contemporaries 
(Monk, Gillespie, Kenny Clarke, etc.) ignited the spark 
of a renaissance in so-called jazz music Bird, the 
man, was reflective not only of an emergent identity 
among black artists, but a growing socio-political 
awareness, among Negros in general. Through Park- 
er's music, the urbanization of the black man took on 
the added dimension of sophistication. This "sophis- 
tication" was in reality a realignment of values that 
would enable the Negro to deal with the specious 
hypocrisy of northern whites while at the same time 
maintaining his own sanity, or to put it another way, 
"Keep the faith, baby." 

Parker's music found an eager audience in the 
cities, primarily among youth. The rootless, aliena- 
ted existence of the young Negro was made timeless 
and universal by the magic of his soaring sound and 
rapid notes. The Existential was lent a new plausibil- 

Then, in 1954, Bird died of pneumonia at the age 
of 35. To some, at least, his death seemed sense- 
less, not a providential act, but a systematic, socio- 
logical murder for which there was a precedent. Men 
like Max Roach, and Sonny Rollins, Parker's erst- 
while associates, began to involve themselves more 
directly in political action in order to change things. 
The black esthetic revolution now widened its scope 
to include its political counterpart. Roach's "Freedom 
Now" Suite was deemed so provocative that is was 
banned by the racist authorities of South Africa. 
Charles Mingus, well known bassist, invented titles 
like, "Fables for Faubus," and obvious reference to 
the school desegregation crisis of 1954. Moreover, 
the police action in Korea had released another bitter 
generation from the syndrome of world death. They 
were to return like their fathers, Sancho Panzas 
without portfolio, perennial accomplices to internation- 
al crimes they neither caused nor condoned. The 
implacable fact would not yield to rationalization. 
A gook and a Nigger were interchangeable when the 
heat was off. 


The urban black turned inward, became more 
taciturn. Was he really apathetic? Super cool? Or 
had Whites once again gratuitously misjudged the 
extent and potential of his political response to 

As the tempo of life increased, all art reflected 
the change. People walked faster. Notes were played 
faster. New hopes were born and, like the tall 
buildings of cities, they seemed to reach to the sky. 
The children of the previous generation were now 
grown up and were challenging the democratic proc- 
ess to provide solutions in place of academic in- 
quiries. They were not going to be put off with the 
same old lies, not about to be hacked to death on 
their knees. Suspicious of Christianity out of an 
historical pre-disposition, they either rejected the 
old moral nostrums altogether, or re-interpreted the 
religious experience through Black Islam. The image 
of Buckwheat and Aunt Jemima which had persisted 
in the American mythology as stock types, were ex- 
posed for what they were: the absurd projection of an 
elaborate white fantasy. 

The white world grew suddenly alarmed. In the 
midst of the Great Society a nation within a nation 
seemed to have developed. Not only was the black 
determined to be free; he was determined to be 
black and free. Watts exploded like a fat bloody 
watermelon all over America, and black youth were 
able to distill from the fierce cry and passionate 
urgency of John Coltrane's music the faint admoni- 
tion of Max Roach: "Freedom Now." 

Thirty years before, Benny Goodman had won ac- 
claim from the white liberal establishment when he 
hired Teddy Wilson and Charlie Christian (both 

Negroes) to work in previously all-white clubs. But 
the benevolent patronage of well meaning whites, de- 
spite their intent, was beginning to wear a Uttle thin 
to America's 20 million Negroes. A white "King of 
Swing" seemed to them as implausible and insulting 
as Tarzan and Jane in the Ituri. 

Black power was the inevitable response of a 
people without power to a system which had grown 
fat and indifferent to the yearnings of the poor; a 
system whose ethic, at least, was still rooted in 
the institution of slavery; whose immense wealth 
and idyllic democracy had failed at this late date to 
provide even a black quarterback, or a single soH- 
tary Negro billionaire. 

LeRoi Jones's Black Arts theater schools was an 
ambitious attempt to offset these shortcomings of 
democracy, and acquaint the black with the full portent 
of his historical role. Though the organization was 
plagued with difficulties from its inception, it rep- 
resented a signal attempt by the black artist to com- 
bine his cultural and vocational aims into a specific 
political expression— not violence— but emancipation. 

At the initiative of Mr. Jones, the first New 
Thing recording was done live at the Village Gate (The 
New Wave in Jazz, Impulse Records). This record- 
ing, led by the formidable John Coltrane, was a mile- 
stone in that it introduced a score of unknowns to 
the mainstream jazz audience, among them Grachan 
Moncur, James Spaulding, Charles ToUiver, Sonny 
Murray, Beaver Harris, Albert Ayler, and Archie Shepp. 
Critics such as Jones began to point out the re- 
lationship of the new music to popular rhythm and 
blues. The burgeoning mass consciousness of the 
black artist had evolved into a complete esthetic 
expression. "Soul" was its creed, and "brotha" 
its most constant reference of endearment. 

Bird, Rollins, Miles, Monk,Trane, Roach, Clarke, 
Roy Haynes . . . were the immediate ancestors 
of a revolution, a new American Revolution. Its demo- 
cratic message was hammered out in the intransigence 
of Elvin Jones's drum and the plangent sounds of 
the Trane's horn. Black youth found its kindred 
spirit in the new music and like Big George (an 
avid devotee of the Trane) they would shout, "git 'em 
Trane!" — in the sure knowledge that music works 
a magical power against evil. It was under the tutelage 
of the Trane that the so-called New Thing developed, 
but much of its conception was due to the innovations 
of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman, its two found- 
ing fathers. 

This new statement had been accused of being 
"angry" by some, and if so, there is certainly some 
justification for that emotion. On the other hand, it 
does not proscribe on the basis of color. Its only 
prerequisites are honesty and an open mind. The 
breadth of this statement is as vast as America, 
its theme the din of the streets, its motive freedom. 



we have fashioned the rainbow into gold / .' 

made ice into astar for ringletsand bracelets 
forged fog into mirrors ofgrace 
to see the beauty of ourselves ■ •' 

the tide is a rhapsody of spirituality ' 

Work is pleasure 

greed is sin 

love is immortal immortality ^ 

■'.'■''■ . ■■> - , . 




copyright 1971 

(This poem is most appreciated when performed. Where parenthesis 
inclose parts of words, the sounds that those parts represent should 
be eliminated, but the full Intention of the word should nevertheless be 


Can 't nobody stop somebody 

In their becoming, 

So you came to us . . . 

Tlie Proptiet on wind and reeds. 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

Black genius 

Pioneer of sound. 

Ain't nobody's ax in this Ian' 
Can strike like yours, Loooord, 
Can strike like yours. 
". . .Let me in, let me in 
I got somethin ' to say 
Some thoughts for the world 
About a bran' new day . . ." 
(Bl)ack (gen)ius 
Black genius. 

Before your time 

In time with Universal sound 
Cuttin' through time on alto. 
The Mandrig Speaks, The Panther Walks 

with as impatient a gait 

as a man who couldn 't wait, 

but did. 


Yeeeesssss juuusssst steppin'. 

One ax couldn 't do it, 

So you copped a flute and blew it 

Long and smooth and your tunes flowed 

like the Niger. 

Like the Nile. 
With the influence of the finest of tributaries. 




You bounced notes off of Summer clouds at sunset 

And we found out what love was 

As the days passed 

And we fell in love with the innocence of your 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

Black genius 

God had blessed the child 

And his youth was overflowing 

Into new things 

Searched for and found 

The bass clarinet ain't never sounded so good 

Thanks to the gifted who saw fit to bear gifts. 




Endless contributions from a man 

who was Glad To Be Unhappy 
because, " . . .America put you down 
when you tried somethin' new ..." 

Yeah brother, 

Your music was gone . . . in the air 

Couldn 't put no chains on it 

Or pin it down nowhere . . . 

But, indeed, who appreciates a Genius Child. 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

(Bl)ack (gen)ius 

Black Genius 


Mr. Dolphy. 

Mungu Kimya Abudu 



(after the Spanish) 

forgive me if i laugh 

you are so sure of love 

you are so young 

and i too old to learn of love. 

the rain exploding 

in the air is love 

the grass excreting her 

green wax is love 

and stones remembering 

past steps is love, 

but you. You are too young 

for love 

and i too old. 

Once. What does it matter 

When or who, i knew 

of love. 

i fixed my body 

under his and went 

to sleep in love 

all trace of me 

was wiped away 

forgive me if i smile 

Young heiress of a naked dream 

You are so young 

and i too old to learn of love. 


*Sonia Sanchez, LOVE POEMS 
(New York: The Third Press, 1973) 



Having had no love 

She didn't know how to give it 

Said her man was more about material things 

Having had no warmth she seemed so cold 

She said nigger men made her that way 

made her that of stone 

I knew that there were moments when she was like that 

of nile, knew that she had electrified 

a hundred cold nigger men hearts into relating to 

black love l-to-me-you-to-us love 

But now she said nigger men were turning to 

each other for electrification 

That they seemed quite pre-occupied 

I could only offer a hand of warmth 

to reassure her that if she eased back 

to black electrification, she'd find black 

warriors to electrify 

She smiled a smile of warm/ebony 

Just then two nigger men came by relating 

to each other again and again 

She turned toward the sun and mixed 

With its rays of another Life 

Richard Griffin 




There is a Life Force 

Life Force and Ritual Involvement 

A definition discussion of theatre in the African continuum-drama for, by 
and of black people.* 

1. Nommo-the life force 

" there seems to be a force, power or energy permeating the whole 

universe. God is the source and ultimate controller of this force; but the 
spirits have access to some of it. A few human beings have the knowledge 
and ability to tap, manipulate and use it, such as the medicine-man, witches, 
priests and rainmakers, some for the good and others for the ill of their 

2. The individual who detaches himself from the spirit of the community, 
sacredly or secularly, cuts off the roots of his foundation, "his context 
of security, his kinships and the entire group or those who make him 
aware of his existence."* 

3. "A ritual is a holy experience; you deal with a congregation or people. 
A ritual is a family affair. There is no such thing as a stage, no such thing 
as an audience; only liberators and participants. And you try to remove 
that psychic distance, that "nigger space" that separates Black people 
from each other. In a ritual you mold, meet and merge into one. You feel, 
laugh, cry and experience life together."* 

(continued next page) 


Ours is not a charming theatre. It is at times 
awesomely crude, yet spectacular, defined by those 
systems of, belief illuminated in the daily ritual of 
survival— not of the fittest, but of the entire communi- 
ty. Imbued in the life experience is a race memory 
which finds expression in our theatrical exercises. 
Alain Locke, correctly observed that the "finest func- 
tion, then, of race drama would be to supply an imagin- 
ative channel of escape and spiritual release, and by 
some process of emotional reinforcement to cover 
life with the illusion of happiness and spiritual free- 
dom." ^ 

The spectacle of the black church indicates a 
survival of those traits which dramatize African com- 
munal rites. The event gains in dramatic fidelity, and 
thus in truth, when the spirit is liberated from the 
mundane self, and races through the pews barefoot 
and barebreasted, bearing the fruits of the imagination 
in naked reality. At once, we find manifest the poetry 
of the Word, with its modulations finding the outer 
reaches of the Banshi's cry and the lower depths of 
the Mississippi Gulf, urging the body through ges- 
tures that are rhythmically concocted to effect a change 
of the environment: the ritual is initiated by the Chief, 
the Medicine Man, the Rev, hooting and hollering, 
calling for responses that will magically validate the 
intimacy of shared understanding— the wisdom of col- 
lective Nommo— which now gains vigor; the gestures 
become more spontaneous, the song more exuberant, 
everyone is united around the spirit which has de- 
livered the soul to a heightened awareness of reality 
beyond the hell gates of the suspended animation 
known as the illusion of life. 

The aims of the black theater are inspired by 
a social ethic which is diametrically opposed to the 
presumed cultural hierarchy of the Western world, 
so esteemed by whites such as Martin Gottfried,^ 
who obtusely criticizes the black theater experience 
for what he imagines to be a "restriction on content 
that deprives these writers of an independent exis- 
tense as artists." In his confused liberal mind, no 
doubt having trouble fitting his feet into the GREAT 
WHITE FATHER'S boots, he is greatly agitated by 
the black theater artist's aesthetic preoccupation 
with black life, as opposed to the neuter experience 
of EVERYMAN, which former he regards as an ob- 
vious limitation. "It encourages propaganda and inevi- 
tably leads to agit-prop plays. Moreover, whether the 
style is naturahstic or cartoon, the plays invariably 
work out of ethnic mannerisms— the jargon, the ges- 
tures, the music of the ghetto. The black public is 
lured to this as a sophisticated theater experience 
when it is actually black mass-appeal entertainment, 
reinforcing ghetto values . . ." Here we notice the re- 
markable arrogance of a white boy who had become 
secure with his definition of blackness, and now 
comes down on nigguhs for being nigguhs, for their 
attendance to those values unsanctioned by his be- 
lief system. Unmistakably, there is a "mass appeal" 
in black works, but it has nothing to do with enter- 
tainment; and rather than "ghetto values," those 
traits and attitudes are being reinforced that reflect 
our continuity with a life-style that has its origin 

in Africa. Further, Gottfried truly assumes a pater- 
nalistic posture when he presumes that the so- 
phistication of black experience must necessarily 
be defined in accordance with white sensibilities. 

"The Black Theatre is not Lincoln Center," Clay- 
ton Riley ^ retorts, "that gleaming fortress of sec- 
ond-rateness that stands in full-dress tribute to 
this nation's deathless commitment to plasticism 
and battered sensibilities. And the Black Theatre is 
not Broadway— the safe haven of quick buck ideolo- 
gists, commanders-in-chief of the nation's lost and 
drifting spirit, who direct the collective sense of what 
is still stubbornly referred to as taste." The black 
theater is a Spirit House where the collected energies 
of black people coalesce to define their peculiarly 
humanistic place in a ravaged society. It is a place 
where one's uniqueness unfolds and provides revel- 
ations about one's existence, revelations that cannot 
be given over to the scrutiny of a system of values 
that socially alienates one, and that is inconsistent 
with traditional sensibilities. Exclusion from the main- 
stream cess pool is, Riley observes, "right now (our) 
salvation from the dry-rot of America's banditry and 
killer ethic, from its shriveled soul and lack of style." 
And should the black theater be able to sustain it- 
self against the pressures of economic imperatives, 
"it may be able to do its part in symbolically murder- 
ing the beast lurking beneath this country's expand- 
ing hard hat." Rastus has peeped massa's hole card 
and is convinced that whitey is holding a bogus hand. 

Until recently, it was difficult to truly authenti- 
cate the black theater because the black experience was 
constantly being defined in sociological terms. Socio- 
logical method allows whites an easy handle on the 
descriptive life of blacks. Thus, having bought the 
pre-packaged image, many black artists ignored the 
forces of life and found themselves scraping the bot- 
tom of the slice-of-life bag for pieces of the black 
experience to authenticate— perhaps for sentimental 
reasons— our existence. The resulting product was 
often a eunuch's simulacrum of white culture which, 
as Imamu Baraka teaches, is "at best, corny." We 
are entertained, perhaps, but we learn nothing, since 
the spirit remains frozen, the potency of our being 
seldom ignited, much less regenerated. The spiritual 
release required to reveal the mode is subverted 
by mechanical manipulation of the content of black ex- 
perience. Form, as understood by Western standards, 
locks the spirit into a box in order to suppress the 
emergence of a vision that might be too potent to 
handle; content then becomes subordinate to its al- 
most anal-sphincter control. 

If an event is to have dramatic force and verity, it 
requires the psychic/physical energies of all assembled 
—as in the ritual of a voodoo ceremony— to be fused 
into a dynamic unity so as to mutually achieve a spon- 
taneous suspension of disbeUef. Black people, owing 
to African continuity, are not spectators by nature; they 
are participators. The images created in an event gain 
in spiritual and physical potency through active parti- 
cipation in the mode. 

There was no way for us to step outside of Gil 
Moses's production if Imamu Baraka's Slave ShipA 


The event was suspended in time, our entire viscera 
responding to the urgency conjured up to survive the 
trip across the Middle Passage. We struggle with 
the bruthas and sistas in the ship's hold, gritting 
our teeth as we move through images of future harass- 
ments that will come with oppression; the present 
future, and past, all locked into a mode of terrifying 
aggressions. And there is no way out, save the tena- 
city of ancestral spirit which desperately attempts to 
focus the mode through Song, Dance, and Drum so 
that we might maintain our Muntuness, our very 
humanity despite pressures of inimical forces. Hav- 
ing ritualized the mode, each agony evolving rhyth- 
mically out of the primary source of the event— 
the slave ship— Moses was able to heighten our 
sensitivity to the context of oppression without 
duplicating the experience in a static representation 
of reality, as in a natural-life photograph; instead he 
relied upon our input, our responses to inform 
the spirit of outrage. This is truly a case in 
which the director produced more than might be 
apparent, without discrediting the author, in the 
limitations of a linearly developed script. 

The playwright, however brilliant, operates with a 
handicap, since from the moment he jots down the 
first word, he has cheated the participants— players 
and audience— of their natural inclination to mutually 
inform the urgency of the event, thereby inhibiting 
their spiritual freedom. However limited, if he is doing 
the job, and struggling for dramatic synthesis and 
the rest, he should indicate as clearly as possible 
those motivating references in the language of his 
culture that will spur the spontaneous interaction be- 
tween players and audience that invokes in the theater 
a mutual concretization of black experience. 

While participation inspires much of black life, 
there are very few theatrical exercises that can, at 
least completely reach the ecstatic freedom found in the 
religious experience. The theater is recognized as a 
secular edifice that, even from the outside, impedes 
the fullest expansion of the consciousness that might 
liberate the spirit's wisdom. In the church, the preach- 
er may represent the focal point around which all 
events are created. However, at any given moment 

during the ceremonial exercise, any member of the 
congregation may exude an excess of Nommo, claim 
the Spirit, and initiate a change of focus in the event. 
This person commands center stage; and it will be 
given because of the congregation's intentions to re- 
veal the full force of the event. However, from the 
moment we enter the theater, irrespective of the care 
taken to conceal its non-divine, mechanized super- 
structure in such a way that it is brought into a con- 
tinuous experiential field, our senses become locked 
into the artificiality of the mode. The artifice is the 
first force, contextually speaking, that must be over- 
come: if the rituals presented in the house are strong 
enough to wrench us from our ennui, we will accept 
the totality of the event, and immerse ourselves in 
the womb of the spirit. 

Thus, Barbara Ann Teer has elected to define her 
actors as liberators: perhaps in the seventies we 
will refer to the audience as participators and, with- 
out challenging the validity of Miss Teer's designa- 
tion, the actors, activators. And if the roles are re- 
versible from time to time, so much the better. Though 
we accept the fact that the artist has a special acuity 
for dramatic events, we do not consider his grasp of 
reality to be more refined than the participators' his 
senses are simply honed, tuned, cultivated to reach 
a higher level, just as the bricklayer, shoemaker, and 
farmer practice their skills at a higher level of achieve- 
ment than a layman can. Since the theater can never 
be more than a secondary experience of rality, we de- 
pend upon the theater artist, the activator, to achieve 
a balance between disciplined innovations and subtle 
channels for spontaneity. His task is not to report 
daily life, but to elevate the symbols of that life in a 
manner that avoids offending the senses with pro- 
saic reassessments of natural life that induce the 
temporary sensation of sentimentality. Melodrama is 
a nuisance! A vehicle should be sought that allows 
the experience to be confirmed by the intuition of 
the participators, be it uh-huh, a finger-pop, or a 
muted howl, so as to achieve totality. Perhaps then, 
theater, as a secondary experience, will influence 
our primary experience: LIFE. 

*From Paul Carter Harrison, The Drama of Nommo (New 
York: Grove Press, 1972). Reprinted by permission of the author. 

*Quofed in Harrison, The Drama of Nommo from John S. Mbiti 
African Religion and Philosophies (Garden City: Doubleday and 
Co., 1970). 

•Barbara Ann Teer 

1. Locke, loc. cit. 

2 Gottfried, loc, cit. 

3 Riley, loc. cit. 

4 Imamu Baraka's Slave Ship, produced by the Chelsea 
Theater in January 1970, under the modally conceived direction 
of Gilbert Moses. 

*Muntune5s: Muntu is one of the four universal forces— 
the other being Kintu, Hantu, and Kuntu— described by German 
ethnologist Johnheinz Jahn in his study of Bantu logic. Muntu 
includes all intelligence: all human beings, spirits, certain trees 
and God. 



Echoing Presence 

The warmth that comes in knowing 
you, is like that of the bright life 
giving Sun 

Your everfiowing warmth causes our 
hearts to grow with a better 
understanding of ourselves as men 

Black men 
You as black women 

Black, as the spiritual, mental 

and physical truth 
Yes, you cause such vibrant 
repetitious actions about and in US 
Cause as black women you are 
abouth warmth, like that of the life 
giving Sun 

You know. We Know and believe 
It is your full beauty we brothers 
honor and seek to make known 
to the world. 



It isn't right, not being able to 

look at your face anymore — —so 

far away 

Traveling gets me so down, and lonely 

roads seem like they're never ending on time 

Black women you are that dream to 

be found 

Reaching for you hasn't been easy 

It took time to free darkened 

processed minds 

But each phase of that reaching 

has brought US back, allowed US 

to say It's more than nice being here 

with you 
Nile river moments in times passed 
Making each phase more bearable 
As each phase moves by your strength 

and ours become one 
It has been life itself, you are the 
Seed of life 

Radiant Smooth Dark Rays 
Moving forever gentle between 

the Light 
Endless rows of eternal plight 

move with me my queen 
Confusion, frustration shed we too 
Understanding, being fully aware what 

we as two can do 

move with me my queen 
Steadfast voices of secure direction 
drawing forth respect-love, Love-effection 
Easing one anothers fears, love-effection so near 
move with me, you move me my queen 
you move me radiant Black Dove . . . 

Richard Griffin 








We are the Biack Aesthetic 


We are the Black Aesthetic 

The Sounds and memories 

of eons of spiritual harmony 

comprised as a unity. 
An entity within the realms of 

a phenomenal light source 
As you acknowledge our substance 

Use us-to guide your strengths, 

And desperse of our weaknesses 

We are the Black Aesthetic 

The growing voices of the yearlings 

eager to add to the memories of 
Spiritual harmony. 

Our already ever growing energies 

Are the spices of "Blueness" itself 
As the sun does not shine we become " 
the proud bearers of a noble 
absence of light 
And our images become visual pictures of reality, 

on the soul-less shadows of an alien humanity 
Look to us for direction and comfort 

For our voices and melodies will always- 
Be Heard I 

Clyde Santana 


The DRUM staff would like to personally thank: 


Paul Carter Harrison 
Archie Shepp 

Poetry : 

Sonia Sanchez 
Richard Griffin 
Bill Hasson 
Tenajol Cormier 
Larry Darby 
Mungu Kimya Abudu 

Art & Photography: 

Simone Gouvener 9, 38, 
Napoleon Henderson 32, 
James Henson 27, 37, 17, 10, 
Nelson Stevens - Centerfold 

The DRUM magazine expresses its extreme appreciation for the use of the 
above individuals, creative, photographic and literary materials. We consider 
their efforts to be of an outstanding quality during a time when re-organization, 
evaluation and selection of proficiently executed work is of a dire necessity. It 
must be the total collective goal of educating and re-orienting our people in 
attempting to elevate their sensitivities towards re-discovering and appreciating 
the exellence so prevalent in the origins of our rich and vibrant cultural tra- 


DRUM cordially invites 
Black poets and photographers 
of the New England area to submit 
their work for possible publication 
in our lst:New England Poetry and 
Photography Anthology. The deadline 
is March 15, and we sincerely encourage 
all poets and phqiographers to respond. 


Printing: Gazette Printing Co., Inc., Northampton, Mass.