‘Golden Age’ of African American culture
Do today’s image makers owe debt to past icons?
Gregg Reese OW Contributor | 3/9/2018, midnight
—From the 1979 chart-topping album “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now,” by the Philly Disco songwriting team, McFadden & Whitehead.
With Jordan Peele winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (“Get Out”) and Kobe Bryant for Best Animated Short (“Dear Basketball”), the Academy Awards may be icing on the cake for the latest crop of African American image makers.
The success of “Black Panther” is but the most outstanding example of Afro-centric entertainment filling the coffers of the tinsel town piggy bank. Prepping the way prior to its release were a plethora of movies and television shows by Black creators or about Black people have been released which explore the pain and pleasure of Africa’s children in the New World. More than just entertainment, their content projects authentic observations and questions about race, possibly the telling sign of great art.
Regardless of who took home the statutes on Sunday, Black culture is entering into a golden (or at least gilded) age. Afro-influenced music is now a global influence, as youth near and fair use its infectious beats as the foundation for their own tales of frustration and discontent. Performers of color are thusly heralded globally, as they showcase their magic on the court, playing field, recording studio, and on the large and small screen.
Here at home especially, the profile of America’s athletes and entertainers of color continue to rise. Be-that-as-it-may, the communities from which this excellence emerges still suffer from the maladies of crime, poverty, mass incarceration, substance abuse, and other ills identified in the middle of the 20th century. As various learned academics, political tacticians, think tanks, and others grapple with solutions that remain elusive well into the present century. So as these celebrated icons return to their mansions with their multiple accolades, awards and material fruits of their rarified status, the source of this unparalleled windfall remains mired in the morass of instability and privation.
Pinpointing a sickness
“The dark ghetto is institutionalized pathology; it is chronic, self-perpetuating pathology; and it is the futile attempt by those with power to confine that pathology so as to prevent the spread of its contagion to the “larger community.” -from “Dark Ghetto: Dilemma’s of Social Power,” by psychologist and educator Kenneth B. Clark, 1989.
Scholars have a particular place in the civilized world. Perched in ivory towers, they are charged with analyzing societies ills and suggesting ways to correct them. On the positive side, they all have back-stories that began before they reached the hallowed grounds of academia, and those experiences, for better or worse, shape their scholarly approach.
Over the past decades a sizable faction of them have presented or embraced the idea that dysfunction lies at the root of poor achievement on the ‘hood. More then a few of them (like Dr. Clark, quoted above) ironically, are Black. Given the platform of educational publications and independent media, they along with concerned celebrities have debated the underlying causes of the malaise that impacts bergs like Miami’s Liberty City to Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. Among them, Bill Cosby (an important voice in the discussion who has been silenced due to ongoing legal problems) and psychiatrist Alvin Poussin, waxed in 2007’s “Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors,” passionately that the convenient excuses of dysfunction and pathology have on some levels crippled these communities as an expedient “cop out.”