Coming of Age

1976–1985: Punk to Pomo, Basquiat to Breakdancing

The atmosphere at Madison Square Garden was unusual. Though the speeches started two and a half hours late, the audience was patient, partly out of respect and partly out of awareness that the Fruit of Islam doesn't play. A fool and his seat would soon have parted. I overheard one young black man saying that he would look at the Muslims with their neatness and their discipline, their sense of confidence and their disdain for white privilege, and understand their appeal: "They look like the last thing they ever think about is kissing some white boody." After repeatedly telling a blond female photographer that she couldn't sit in the aisle, one of the FOI said, to the joy of the black people listening, "Miss, I asked you three times to please not sit in the aisle. Now you will either get your behind over or you will get your behind out." And there was something else. As one woman put it, "Well, what can you say? Nobody looks better than a black man in a uniform. Look at all those handsome black men. I know I wouldn't want to be in the Nation, but I wouldn't mind if they lived on my block. I bet there wouldn't be any mugging and dope dealing and all of that." From the outside, at least, Farrakhan's group projects a vision of restraint and morality. It's about smoothing things out, upholding the family, respecting the woman, doing an honest day's work, avoiding dissipation, and defining the difference between the path of the righteous and the way of the wicked.
. . . read more


Yo! Hermeneutics!

Hiphopping Toward Poststructuralism

By Greg Tate

VLS

June 1985

If you can't dazzle them with your brilliance then baffle them with your bullshit.—Afro-American folk wisdom

In a war against symbols which have been wrongly titled, only the letter can fight. —Ramm-El-Zee


Word, word. Word up: Thelonious X. Thrashfunk sez, yo Greg, black people need our own Roland Barthes, man. Black deconstruction in America? I'm way ahead of the brother, or so I think when I tell him about my dream magazine: I Signify—The Journal of Afro-American Semiotics. We talking a black Barthesian variation on Jet, itself the forerunner of black poststructuralist activity, given its synchronic mythification and diachronic deconstruction ("Soul singer James Brown pulled up to court in Baltimore in a limousine and wearing a full-length fur coat, but convinced a federal magistrate he is too poor to pay creditors $170,000. Brown testified that although he performs regularly, he has no money. . . . U.S. Magistrate Frederick N. Smalkin agreed. 'It appears Mr. Brown's financial and legal advisors have surrounded him with a network of corporations and trusts that serves as a moat to defend him from the incursion of creditors,' Smalkin said"), not to mention its contribution to the black tradition of the encyclopedic narrative (cf. Ellison, Reed, Delany, Clinton, and Ramm-El-Zee).

Merely conceiving a poststructuralist version of this deuteronomic tribal scroll is enough to make me feel like a one-man Harlem Renaissance—at least until Thelonious asks if I'm hip to Henry Louis Gates Jr., blood up at Yale (Cornell by the time you read this) who guest-edited two issues of Black American Literature Forum on the subject of semiotics and the signifyin’ monkey. Turns out I vaguely recall hearing about an appearance the brother made at a Howard University Third World Writers’ Conference a few years back. Rumor has it Gates shook up the joint talking about the relationship of structuralism to Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery: folk wanted to know what all this formalism had to do with the struggle.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
8
 
9
 
10
 
11
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
New York Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...