Black art celebratedat Weisman museum

Robin Huiras

Today’s black arts movement stresses one important factor: The revolutionizing of black art is not over.
The idea was celebrated Sunday at “Remembering The Black Arts Movement” at the Weisman Art Museum. The event, which attracted more than 50 people, included poetry readings, song and reminiscence of a time when many African-Americans began to redefine their style of literature, drama, music, dance and art.
“The Black Arts Movement is still a moving force,” said African-American Studies Professor John Wright. “It remains an unknown enigma.”
Wright added that the arts movement of the ’60s — which was the subject of the event — was explicitly revolutionary, whereas the Harlem Renaissance in the early 1900s was a reformist movement.
The Sounds of Blackness, a Grammy award-winning ensemble, performed three songs at the celebration. Their music required audience participation in the form of clapping, toe-tapping and singing. The 10-member group recently released “Time For Healing,” a Grammy-nominated album.
A panel discussion, headed by Wright, allowed activists of the Black Arts Movement to share their experiences.
The movement, which followed the civil rights activity of the ’60s, manifested itself across the United States, said Seitu Jones, a local artist who spoke on the panel. Places like Chicago, New York and the Twin Cities have a rich history of people and places influencing the art that was created during this time, he said.
Laurie Carlos, an artistic fellow with Penumbra Theatre in St. Paul, stressed the role of the movement in opening closed doors to African-Americans in the arts.
“Theater and music needed to be busted open,” she said. “The people influencing the arts movement managed to open up a platform in which artists could work.”
Midwest Jazz Magazine editor Dawn Renee Jones, who is a screenplay writer and has directed theater, spoke of her experiences in the African Arts theater of the Bronzeville district of Chicago.
“The theater was a temple for black power and black pride,” Jones said.
Seitu Jones said of the movement, “Nobody told me it was over; maybe 30 years from now we’ll look back and extend the date of the death of the Black Arts Movement.”