Recently, Earshot Jazz presented Winter in America – An Homage to Gil Scott Heron envisioned and directed by bassist Camilo Estrada. Sitting in the audience listening to profound songs like Ghetto, Almost Lost Detroit, and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, it got me to thinking about how Black art and culture have so many defining moments that have created a lineage intersecting across multiple genres and generations. Without social political poets and commentators Gil Scott Heron and Brian Jackson, there would be no Nas or Jay-Z. Without WattsStax Festivals, there would be no Georgia Black Arts Expo, and so on. The beauty of this lineage is that it continues to grow and take on manifestations that are in sync with the needs of current days and times. These necessary Black art happenings are movements that bring us closer together, bond us in our ancestry, and encourage our futuristic visions.
Black arts movements are and will continue to be essential to the creative vitality that inspires the souls of Black folks. Looking back on what we can identify as Black Arts Movements, according to BlackPast.org, the official era of the Black Arts Movement is 1965-1975. This is when a group of politically motivated Black poets, artists, dramatists, musicians, and writers emerged in the wake of the Black Power Movement (thank you Black Panthers), led mostly by the one identified as the founder of the Black Arts Movement, Amiri Baraka, formerly known as LeRoi Jones. The official establishment of this movement was indicated when Baraka opened the Black Arts Repertory Theater in Harlem. We can thank this era for giving light to not only the commonly associated Black male creatives of the time but also pushing forth the voices of Nikki Giovanni, Sonia Sanchez, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Ntozake Shange, and others.
To keep us informed, alert, and connected to the many enduring manifestations of the Black arts movement, here are a few gatherings, happenings, and resources around the country to check out and support:
The Soul of a Nation - Art in the Age of Black Power (past but provided as information)
For those unaware of what was termed as the “Black Woodstock”, WattStax was one helluva music festival described by Stax Records co-owner Al Bell as, “ a celebration of the African American experience and a testament to the transformative power of music,” that took place in the heart of Inglewood, CA, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and featured the crème de la crème of Black music never before assembled and never matched since. The 50th anniversary of WattStax was just last year and of course there are commercial offerings that celebrate the occasion, but rather than promote any pay-for-view outlets we’re just gonna drop this little clip below. WattStax created a pivotal moment in the era of the Black Arts Movement!