Thursday, May 12, 2016
Death of Black Pageantry/Neo-Politicizing of Blackness
Kofi Fosu Forson
F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age wouldn't suggest the flamboyance of Duke Ellington, genius master compositions of Dizzy Gillespie, genuineness and human accordance of Louis Armstrong or the elegant beauty and well-founded blues in the voices of jazz singers such as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn among many others.
There is the supposition of jazz as black musicians entertaining a white jet set, much of what became of black culture as a means of hilarity and enjoyment for white commercialism. That black people found relief in self-expression, it became the undoing of what was the black element in the cultivating of popular culture as was the decimation of blacks and the roles they played in science, politics and art.
What is black pageantry?
It can be proven in the resistance of self-denial, renouncement of bondage and slavery, the black person found a revolt in his promotion of glory made present in music (blues, gospel or rock and roll), theater and story-telling. These were times when a bond was created among those rejected, made poor or rendered as family by circumstance or genes. Whether in the form of a gathering on a field, at home or church, the black person always found reason to celebrate, reform from emotional or physical pain.
This very idea of black people rejoicing was brought about to the level of the black slave entertaining the master. In its most commercial relevance black musicians would be presented by means of professionalism, adorned in suits and gowns respectively to perform before a white audience.
That was and has always been the idea behind control and performance where a greater and more powerful white entity manages the successes of performers. The idea of black movements in music from bebop to MOTOWN has always been sold as black imports to white communities. Whereas black people valued these movements as progress of black productivity they were often prioritized given a white "newness" and manifestation.
The idea of a black family getting ready to go to church, choosing what to wear, performers deciding on tailored outfits, presenting themselves as G.Q. or cover girls has always been a part of black pageantry, the idea of presenting the self as an example of one's imagined and heightened conscience, at times hilarious, exaggerated but overall conditioned to make one take notice, admire or hold in the highest regard.
Harlem Renaissance was time when black artists reflected the talent and conscience emanating from what was "black thought." It reached a means of excellence in the works produced by fine artists, musicians, performers in theater and film. The idea of pageantry remained current in how these artists presented themselves with fashion and costuming. Overall much care was taken in the defining of one's persona as charismatic.
The 70's was a revolutionary decade having survived the explosion of rock and roll and the birth of the hippie. Black musicians gained a sense of pride with their self-ownership as expressed in the music and presentation of stage acts by performers. Parliament Funkadelic and Labelle were among those who put on legendary concerts celebrating blackness with an emphasis on sexuality and originality.
The decade fueled by the war in Vietnam, Civil Rights and blaxploitation films added a concentration on the evolution of the black performer owning up to his genius as was evident in Isaac Hayes' music, Gordon Parks' film and photography and the literary works of James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. The black performer as Hollywood star had been given merit earlier in the performances by Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carol.
The 80's became a point of awakening in the death of blacks as a result of the drug culture which gave way to violence. The idea of a community killing its own carried over through to the birth of RAP and later Gangsta Rap which commented on the activities within black neighborhoods as News Feed, current affairs and pop journalism.
Rap as a movement and concentration on black culture brought an awareness to black pageantry more than any movement in history. From its origin in neighborhoods like Bronx, New York to what it has become internationally, Rap as hip hop has increased the awareness of black marketability, wealth, fashion and influence on the youth.
Music videos first brought to the homes of those unknowing and ignorant what was happening on the streets. With the success of MTV, the selling of what was blackness became a commercial success. By now Hollywood was also taking notice. Spike Lee's films affected the American conscience. The role of the fashion designer was important in what to wear to the award shows.
Black pageantry was always an example of the collective conscience and pulse of what was black. Marketability has given way to the success of individuals who see to their own advancement. This has become the black response to what was the D.I.Y. movement better known in the black community as "Do You."
As black philosophers as Eric Dyson and Cornel West write books which further black thought and conscience, a young group of black men and women have become politically savvy in the creation of The Hands Up movement as well as Black Lives Matter.
The Neo-Politicizing of blackness has brought consideration to what is a Post Racial Society evident in President Obama's election. Circumstantially the presence of a black family in the White House alone inspires success.
Socio-political activism in music as far back as James Brown and Stevie Wonder and what became Public Enemy brought the plight of the black person to the forefront. We see it now in the death of unarmed black men.
Somehow what can be suggested as a Post Racial Society is the articulating of what is black individualism. Overall the assessing of black unemployment, crime, lack of education and housing can be transcended by what has always been the black spirit in times of struggle and turmoil.
Blackness is less a conscience as it has become a reflection on death. Celebrations like AFROPUNK or the Jazz and Heritage Festival are now accounts to the reality we as black people are still alive, that we come from the post cryptic notion of death.
Our evolution is a manifestation from death. But such is the Christian perception.
We die off our false selves.
What then is our true self?