08. Transatlantic Black Popular Culture: UK and US (1980s-90s)

In direct dialogue with the poststructuralist, deconstructive work preceding it, black independent filmmaking and criticism added an anti-essentialist politics of race, nation, and ethnicity to these earlier traditions that had typically sought far and wide for an “other” from outside the Anglo-European context. Instead, one could be black and British without contradiction, or black and gay, or Asian and feminist.

Mobilizing a formal vocabulary based on postmodern hybridity, creolization, and appropriation, they pushed past the deconstructing of binaries and instead offered a building up of alternative identities, histories, and aesthetics mixed through complexity, contradiction, and contingency. “The more we assert our own identities as historically marginalized groups, the more we expose the tyranny of a so-called center,” explains Pratibha Parmar. Departing from a realist practice, they blended narrative, documentary, and experimental forms artfully linking rather than colliding elements. The personal, sexual, and political grounded this work to the lived experiences of diverse black people who were as different from each other as they were from the norm.

7 comments on “08. Transatlantic Black Popular Culture: UK and US (1980s-90s)

  1. Growing up in Harlem my whole life, I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and this topic is never spoken about. Its hidden and swept under the rug. Families hide it in shame and young men hide it for fear of being bullied or killed. I read and article about a young man that was struggling with this and when he was found out he committed suicide. This is how deep the silence runs, that it causes men to live as down-low brothers and fake like they are straight when they are not. Its a topic that needs to be talked about more often because its causing young men to lose their lives at the same time put women and families at risk.

  2. Activism Post
    It was such an incredible honor (although considering the material covered the word “privilege” may be a more apt word choice) to get to watch the New Panthers rough cut documentary. Hearing them speak about how and why they chose to revitalize this group and the ways in which they operate exclusively for the advancement and preservation of their own races culture, was profoundly inspiring and informative. I wish I sounded more articulate in my feedback given in class, as well as what I’m writing here, but it’s hard to put into words what this type of media makes me feel, and I think often times that’s the biggest impact Media Activism can have. It elicits strong feelings from it’s viewing audiences. Feeling however doesn’t amount to much if what follows it isn’t action. Which is why I know it is my responsibility now to help spread the word, spread the knowledge and give the resources I can give in order for vital media praxis’s such as this one to thrive and grow even bigger. I predict the New Panthers will be a large success, because they know their theory, they’ve put it into action and they have a very clear and concise idea about what their manifesto entails. A great presentation indeed! This is activism at it’s most potent stage, execution and distribution.

  3. In general being out there is still an issue. For minorities in general its hard to “come out”, for some reason its consider to be “taboo” if you speak about it or think about it. My cousin struggled because she had two conservative parents who were “religious freaks” her options were either be disowned within the entire family or to kill herself, she’d loved her family that much that she decided to end her life. Watching the video in class reminded me when my entire family came over to her house and my uncle and aunt would call her a fag, homo, and etc. ; thats even after her death.

  4. Activism Post:

    Watching the some of the documentary, Tongues show the different type of gay men of color who all look different who unapologetically being themselves and talking about their own experiences with love. I loved this form of activism because most of the men in the film had HIV and later died from it, but they did not only talk about their struggle of being a gay man of color, they spoke about their personal experiences of love and the first times of different experiences of their lives. It felt more moving hearing them talk about their emotions of what love was for them. It did not feel the bias in a sense that they were only talking about their struggles in society, but just their own lives. It felt natural and was also comical when they were talking about the different snaps gay men use. It was like they were making fun of what other people thought all gay men of color do, which is snapping. I felt that it was funny, but it also touches on a serious matter of stereotypes at the same time.

    Another form of Activism that exposed in class was when the New Black Panthers came to the class to talk about their work, documentary and what they are doing around their community to create essential change. The two guest speakers from the New Black Panthers took the time to talk about how they built their documentary and how they started out as in organization. One thing I enjoyed and found efficient about their documentary was when they showed an African American women scientist teaching young children of color science experiments in a local community. It was powerful and moving to see children of color learn about a scientist from a person of color themselves, and exposing children of color to the scientist, something they won’t probably get anywhere else, including school. That to me just shows change happens within a community and giving back to your community can make a significant impact on children and youth of the future. Especially in this generation when a significant impact is needed the most. Exposing young children of color to scientist shows that they can be more than what society expects them to be and they can pursue whatever they want to do without society telling them they can’t because of the color of their skin. The women scientist giving back to her community by teaching kids about the scientist is a major form of media activism.

    Another thing I enjoyed about the New Black Panther documentary is informing us about local black own businesses and one business that was women who also worked on natural hair products for people of color. I thought it was interesting to show. It felt like that segment of the film introduced the audience to something new and something that will not be talked about on the everyday news or media. Black women talking about their natural care products is something rare that will not be seen everywhere. So, I thought it was pretty nice to see something different, and I thought that was a stong form of a media activism.

    Overall I thought both documentaries were powerful and exposed everyone to something different. They didn’t just talk about their struggles they spoke about what they were doing to help their communities to empower each other.

  5. I am always intrigued by documentaries like this because it hits home for me. Growing up as a Christian and being exposed to the black church raised A LOT of questions for me especially while watching this piece because I would often see these men singing solos or leading a choir in church. The congregation would be so musically inspired that often times they’d have a spiritual fit. I grew up in church and I went to Choir Academy of Harlem which is a rather christian black school. During lunch, gay men would perform as if they were in church; and everyone would watch and join. It was the best part of the day led by the gays.

    The other day, I was on Facebook scrolling through my timeline and I discovered that one of my old friends got engaged to one of the men who would perform during lunch. “Wait, he’s gay.” I thought. The two were best friends in middle school, they went to church together and now (I suppose) he’s not gay. I hear of stories like this all the time, where one apparently-not-gay man marries his close friend. This reminds me of the ignorant “I’m Not Gay No More” video.

    During sermons and messages, pastors often talk about what a man should be like and what his roles are. He almost always eludes to an anti-gay rant; yet during praise&worship service he shows signs of being so inspired by the music– which is being led by a gay man! Even though I honor and respect pastors, this drives me nuts! You can’t detest something in public, and then embrace or applaud it when it’s beneficial to you and how you feel. One of my favorite poets uses a word to describe Christians of this nature: Hypo-Christians. A combination of a hypocrite and a christian.

    I have been a hypo-christian several times. I have agreed with my grandmother in conversations against people, just to feel that if I had this hateful opinion, I would be closer to God. Certain hatreds were imposed on me as a child and it wasn’t until I became friends with these amazing (and homosexual) people that I found my heart turning against itself.
    I had an epiphany when I was grieving for my friend Laekwon (who passed away after graduating from Choir Academy). I kept thinking about the fact that he was my friend and he was beautiful. I realized through my stream of consciousness that I deeply loved Laekwon and though he knew this, I often felt guilt for loving him because of my imposed religious beliefs. Nonetheless, my love for him outweighed my concern for his afterlife. My elders cringe and suck their teeth at how much I embrace gays. Even though it is rebellious (and rebellion is a sin) I still do this openly and intentionally because love truly conquers all– not condemnation. (Heck! Condemnation isn’t even biblical! Love is!) I found myself being afraid to admit that I embrace and befriend gays. But today I am comforted by these four christian letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do).

    Watching this film and being exposed to these conversations in class has made me bolder in the way that I express my sentiments toward this subject. I think about classmates like Esmerelda and how she’s witnessed rejection destroy a family and take a life. (If this is what rejection costs, it isn’t worth it for me anymore.) I can’t help but feel guilty and embarrassed by that as a Christian because Christianity and hatred aren’t synonymous yet our “Christian actions” tend to say otherwise. I find it disgusting that “Christians” allow anger and hatred to take them over so much to the point where the focus on God’s love and acceptance is shifted to condemnation and finger pointing. It confuses me and makes me quite angry as a Christians which makes me think about how confused other people outside of Christianity must be.

  6. black culture now in America is predominantly black. During the 70s black people had just got civil rights one decade after the Civil Rights Movement.The 70s is also the booming for black actors and actresses as black people mobilized for black power and is also the time of black exploitation in the film industry.

  7. Perhaps the chanting is a way of boosting morale in times of hardship. Although the NAACP made a lot of professed during the years, people of colored still faces some racism. And if you are gay and black during that period of time, the oppression might just increase two-folds if not more.

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