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tv   Book Discussion on Harlem Nocturne  CSPAN  October 20, 2013 10:00pm-11:21pm EDT

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exceeded 20%, but it's quite a large percentage. it is a percentage that hasn't been recognized publicly, but it's there. and you're not it is much higher, much of europe. not colin for example but britain and scandinavia. ..
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[applause] and could even a and figure for being here. also for inviting me to be in a conversation with you tonight.
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also i want to share publicly what i was an honor graduate of harvard 80 years old taking a survey course in african-american literature, he was absent and the replacement was farah griffin that year and this was incredibly wonderful because that your farah was at the institute so was stephanie it as an 18 year-old who was over the moon about steadying i was so thrilled and inspired all the time with your work with young scholars. the day that farah came to speak to our class we were reading my favorite book and it was amazing because i
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realized she was giving guidance of the first-ever wrist shot literature by a black woman. so just one of those moments if that should be marked with my gratitude as you continue to inspire. >> guest: date you so much. >> host: if you don't know , an extraordinary young talented writer who many years later without knowing where students from that class so it is lovely thank you for being here tonight. i want her to share to the introduction of the way she brings these women out. >> guest: i will just read
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a and find my way around. >> new york bacchant and they came. one by in the grant parents also freedom to create themselves and they were shaped by the city the movement of their body they walked in and looked and listened they wrote it in a back end and they came. the york told them anything was possible. although the city local student teachers sent we were not always received with enthusiasm. at some point they'll lifted her love matt board from the migration of black people to the american south with the entire black violence that erupted and the
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entrepreneurial energy from the real estate developer. her love. eventually the emigrants daughter moved to another neighborhood in brooklyn. who would live anywhere else? had given the choice probably would have chosen harlem so each in her own way meanwhile hoping to build a city within a city with alaska brown faces speaking in a multitude of languages with the high and with a low and making new people. the city of for them san changes with a brown face children others resigned with the modern choreography
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it did isolation. [applause] >> host: what was your first introduction? >> the book is about the dancer, choreographer and a composer in jazz pianist and a writer. and to each of them is in stages my first introduction was as a student or the undergraduate should we be forgotten their the books would be reprinted for the first time a largely due to the efforts so i encounter first in the classroom on my own that is a graduate student she is whose work i
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stated the longest relationship with it had the opportunity to get to know her if the answer choreographer i encountered through the books like lakes did hughes a and picture books that would tell me about these wonderful women a book like proud sugar was a way to get to know her and before i knew her as a dancer and choreographer of the light grew up in the household where jazz was played all the time i encountered many of the greats as a child i did not encounter mary lou williams and teller was an adult. when it started to study more about women and
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contribution aside from people like billie holiday i discovered her the latest of the three and fell in love with her. i am biased in did love with all of them. [laughter] >> what is that moment you realize you wanted to tell her story? >> i thought about telling them i was at the center wrote the book but the idea was born when i first moved to new york around 2001 a couple of things i was engaged in one of those white wrote those latent -- lighter notes for the the
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newborn cd set that was interesting era and all are very important in this period so i had a whole cast of characters and they read the three that survived. >> host: can you talk about the time period? that tends to get lost with the popular imagination because it comes after the parliament as solids with the art of the great depression before the rise of the positive voices one dash prominent voices. >> we were talking about
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without is always exciting. he will find something worthy extension. but everything is overshadowed by those harlem renaissance people. [laughter] they're so eloquent they tended to overshadow everything. but there were a vibrant period the you enter coming out of the depression there is a little bit of prosperity with the war and also a period of the second great migration this influx of new people and i found it was very exciting.
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it is the birth of be-bop just like in the autobiography of malcolm x before they become the icon so the '40's is a fascinating period unlike any that call comes before it for what would come later >> the way the work of these women with the support given to her work with patronage with the institutions could you talk about that? that made the work possible
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with the community of artists and writers? >> not just my opinion but they're part of a generation that's inherits certain legacies but also the differentiates themselves in interesting ways with the relationship of patronage and also the individuals have access to publishing houses and in the '40's you get people who are so consciously politicized not that the earlier moments are not but those that come with aged a period where the activist momentum and they
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see themselves so the institutions that they provided venues in many of those come out of the more radical sensibilities from the '30's. those artistic organizations see themselves as a social action mission. >> what about the political consciousness of these women? you talk about someone like mary lou williams she does consider herself an activist or those made -- more traditional ways. >> when i was nearly down
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these three i wanted to arrange the different parts but also to show a continuing of of political and engagement so someone a young dancer at hunter college a end is probably the most conventionally radical of the three joining the communist party for a while that helped to shape pedernales this then somebody like in peachtree those were a political activist in defense them under assault by also keeps the distance she would not call herself a marxist or a communist but has the left
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leaning sensibility but does not like to be boxed in. she is engaged in various forums the sum i'd like mary lou williams who says her interest is how can she be of assistance to people in need? maybe that is through their poverty or philanthropy or other activities or fellow musicians with a drug addiction and who is the one woman rehab center so they fall along the continuum as the rethink a very different needs. >> i was looking and it was
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a hard thing to find i also have a dance background and i just received a fantastic leap but thinking about talking about different kinds of movement, the movement of music with a piece of movement that the actual movement people found themselves engaged or living alone -- alongside. how does the work itself as an express that? do they keep them separate? >> is a good question and a
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difficult one. i tried to stress and even though they are political agents they are all artist first and foremost. they define that differently but they really are trying to find ways for the expression of their creative ideas. for someone that starts to take the dance lessons with a new dance group was founded as a way to cultivate a social activism to create dances both that mary this story is but also celebrate the edge away
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tried to have a movement vocabulary with the defense of people in trinidad during carnival or trying to create a defense vocabulary that tells the story and to see defense has a way of educating people of african descent. and to in the forms that she chooses with the social realism but most importantly those who she chooses to tell. she comes from a fairly easy background but chooses to tell stories about the working class to give a
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fully fleshed portrait and that shapes her art and with very well it is a little more complicated but she is very much invested to make sure there is a certain history of black music in particular that it carries with it a kind of archive and she tries to make sure that history is in the contemporary popular music and also is informing the moment in those ways and think a social engagement you can see it or feel it in the art but they're not sacrificing their creative expression, or social
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consciousness. >> host: another question that has always been there for me but you describe the world literally happening on 116th street just you giving that address i thought why isn't the existence of the community art center in the street? >> that is one of the big questions about the decisions that she makes progress do have a theory but history is published about of a female character who is separated from her husband and has a little boy struggling to make ends meet its. of very desolate you lover possibilities.
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and peachtree herself is engaged in a much more vibrant in diverse harlem and what she would represents in the novel so the art center is a place where children can come to learn various forms of visual arts although they never have access to that or the churches. so in some ways she is so insistent on telling a certain story she find out the possibilities of what is available to the people in harlem and although she is fully aware there is so many people in harlem during her
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time even though they are available fatal have access to them and not able to take a advantage if we cannot take your eye off of those people with their theories and activism. it is a real paradox. >> one i can identify with. [laughter] >> of what you choose to represent and you don't. in my book came out people felt i did not represent them. i won't go into details but you can read between the lines. >> it you can identify that is that criticism that she got. talk about the difference of the harlem renaissance the
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books that were the most of the champion had the better class of negros. so peachtree and her generation were not representing that version and consistent criticism at the time from the african-american press that she is not representing the best of their race. i am sorry to hear you had to deal with the same thing. although bunting was fascinated by you have these assumptions cough that i assume all of them are working during this period.
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because they're black women there probably don't get any attention which is why we don't know about them today. reading through microfilm because not everything is on line is that i was wrong all of them got a tremendous amount of attention petri was widely reviewed john martin was a very powerful man period williams had a radio show so they had a great reception that i cannot even imagine they had then they fall off of the radar later on.
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within the reception there is a variety of responses. some people celebrate others say it is to downtrodden others say it is not revolutionary enough. there is a variety of responses but at least the work is intended to seriously. although they get the recognition at that time. >> with the victory at home and abroad and the victory against fascism? >> it made me think of their different community based concern's thinking about the
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situation in america in general there were working for the temporary movements. with those local and political movements. >> at that particular time. with the understanding of global issues. the most vocal of the war against segregation or the fight against segregation at the height of jim crow but she sees that battle may as a fight that is necessary for democracy and fight that
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is necessary abroad but with her she is always cognizant what is going on in the caribbean or africa and she comes at a household that they are aware of "the guardian" movement to have this international global sensibility it is most apparent about what she says and less so about what is going on with petri and mary lou williams although with the local struggles they are involved in with struggles about larger questions of democracy.
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with issues of poverty and class. then receive the struggle against jim-crow not only as a way to free african-americans but to free the nation at the same time from claiming to free the world. >> with some of the recent discussions about artists being politically engaged or not looking at these conversations, could you talk about the context thickets rise to a generation of engaged artist
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as with the lack of complex in tracing the line of where it got dropped? >> yes. complex set of issues. harry belafonte actually is the one who knew all three women in different ways. of the american negro theater right here in this building so she knew belafonte and ozzie davis hint retake of the mess that generation has very socially active politicized artist. one thing that was clear is none of them were sitting
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back saying we will strategizing to build a movement. i think they came along at a time of the long black freedom movement. also when ella baker, but there is political activity there is a movement in place the matter what the item clayton powell was doing. and the place of the movement. there is instability and analysis.
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and to be so hypercritical for what they do or what they don't do i think if they're in a moment of high into political activity on the part of any of us and if that were and may produce a context from the artists and sues -- themselves. >> to shift gears a little bit in reading your book talk about her life or after her working with people like billie holiday through different approaches are writing about music in fact, i did not write about music
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for harlem but i am just curious. >> mary lou williams was so intimidating to write about. and then decided i wouldn't because i didn't think i knew enough to write about her music. then i had friends and colleagues that is why you should write about her. so to learn and grow something i felt most at home with billie holiday and i studied her it had written about her but with the woman he engaged fed is usually
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our way of thinking about women and what does that mean to think of yourself as the composer? but it is just so incredible to me there are so few examples for her when she was trying to become most of those were male but as soon as she had confidence cover importance -- of her important as i welcome the opportunity how to right to about her in the music ended say the process of listening to write down what it was
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that i heard. it was such a moving encounter i hope this book will have people was sent to her it was so powerful i just decided to write about that element. something very soulful and ambitious. she is incredibly ambitious i loved her because she thought to killington is right team the long form so why not make? so i would just say that. >> i love reading about talk
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about the people that moment fishy is a mentor. >> the oldest of the three at the time of the book by the time she moves to new york she is already well-known. she has arranged with duke ellington has an orchestra, she is the star and celebrity. so much that newspapers say that mary lou williams moved to harlem in those young musicians who are struggling they want her to hear the music. to critique it. she welcomes them but does not dismiss them.
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but then to embrace this so she is a star performing every night downtown. before she ends up at home she stops off freakish she is excited and she hears what she has already been doing their as well. it was a very important site in a chapter about her. and with a new dance troupe
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is seen as important to the possibility of this kind of work something that is lacking today in harlem. so petri is writing with the amsterdam news but finding the peoples whose voice that comes aboard period she is a reporter. from the high to the low and writes about everything. and now we think a certain
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spaces like the academy warda classroom with incredible energy it would be the people's voice it would be the new dance group learning from any number of people but for very little it is a society of the nightclub in any given night you could see eleanor roosevelt in the audience but but she also creates a space in her apartment with the development of the be-bop music. with that kind of activity.
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these sites come under assault. oregon out of fashion but there is an assault on places like people's voice and a cafe society and when they told you no longer have those to nurture like it would have the year earlier part of the decade. >> with the celebration of restaurants with the possibility but we are detached from that and what
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it is for. even the private kind. with that document of parliament in change before that might be blind the celebration of the opening of a restaurant in the space. it could be that but not met to be that but what is fascinating is through actual work of activity to the artists themselves but you are right one thing that happens at the end of the narrative it destroys the cents of continuity to get rid of local bars
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bars, establishments covered businesses people can develop committee. that is one of the moments of transition. had of the ruins what does a new generation create? and just as it finished the first draft and then i thought when i read the book when someone writes another version there will be studying like her book will be the one they steady. from your perspective where the similarities and differences? you clearly know the period
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it's what is the major continuity or difference that you see? with the research but the experience that i had with the reasoning campaign was going to the meeting with the pen to observe because my friend said to go there. and it was a moment i had been away ahead bet away from her love for about a year. it hit a critical moment. said to be involved in that
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campaign. you don't see high-rise condominiums yet. i was doing research again and found there is of meetings in 1955 where there was a plan in place to be designed with due 263. with those questions with a consistent response with that similarity. with the subject of the
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every of education. >> the differences? what you have raised with the work of individuals and not to create those spaces as much as they are to have a drink an amazing institutions in finding new work in the possibility of the schomburg the continuity exists that isn't working with the theater group the
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138 street it is a meeting room or other spaces we're interested in reid hall inhabiting the space is. and energized for those collaboration's. with a school for the community with the arts and politics but to look that plays with the new perspective. i think that is a great place to end because the
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narrative of "harlem nocturne" in the '40's and '50's where we get a repression with the new set of possibilities. but they leave part of and new york and then my fear is always generating a sense of possibility. [applause]
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>> do we have time for questions? go to the microphone. >> when you talk about the notion of harlem, cover the new restaurant that is just opening up it seems almost prophetic that in preparation for the opening of the restaurants the original neon sign was taken off in a given to the african-american museum in washington, the smithsonian. of a like to ask both of you if you seriously think that harlem can avoid becoming a
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place the schomburg is a synagogue in chinatown? [laughter] >> i have heard you express the before. says something anyone that needs to keep their eye trained on. has long as there are black people in the streets of harlem even these encounters that i over here. the rome -- the space making. they had a conversation with a friend in to know really
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well what is happening and what has happened there. but the renaissance ballroom being a state that was created built brick by brick to have a business to be blocked from landmark status that the corporation could make a condominium there. i was talking to a friend in a deliberate nature of that building and what it took seems to be a dark story about our persistence my
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friend says but people always have to be fugitives the way we inhabit space so i think there are different ways to live with that problem per it is dominated by capital in the black people who control capital are interested in more capital. fed is not the first thing they try to do but that is something to be celebrated unfortunate least settle we are quite used to that but
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the possibilities are what might have spent i feel that story was written. >> i feel the audience is an important figure for both of us with the knowledge of harlem and activism in that question is very real about all historic black and places all over the country or any place of central avenue in some places harlem is the last stronghold
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because of what has been because of the identity with his interesting about this moment is what you talk about is a prophecy that early 20th century when and how loved is the race capital saying black people cannot go to harlem. so it is a process with which we have been living with but none would witness that here in our lifetime so what is compelling as we could imagine this would happen in our lifetime that
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is the richness in the fear of the question. >> keep in mind the way i try to think about it is people who survived and could stay where their families have been with the value on that continuity. it is not alive in many places around the world. that is so we must keep at the front of that conversation but doesn't it
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mean something if you can savor repeople have spent? and those infuriating discussions than why are you there? it jesse's the destiny to consume isn't it about people being able to live for their life? i've just always struggling how to frame a question in the way that is meaningful. hopefully we have conversations that could
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change or matter. >> my question is about technology you raise the question how today's generation or that conscious artist is different or similar to those in the past where thoughts on how technology affects that equation? does it help or hinder? some people think it draws us further from those issues so ideas on that would be cool. >> it does both there is the paradoxical nature and is black people we have a vexed relationship but at this moment it does both if you think like social media
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creates a way to mobilize fed is unprecedented whether occupied or mobilizing around to stand your ground that technology enables that but yet in other ways it has a certain divide to have access also has less contact so does both of those things at the same time. >> i am just thinking the way people gather in the
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energy they gained from their community i know there is a similar energy from following someone on facebook can you think your there. i am also interested in the ways how we define the group's that we belong to has changed so may not be the you are black woman living in harlem that you own fees schuss or glasses that you are part of that community of who you are. for a person like me i feel i straddle because the year
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i was born i remember mtv but also have access to a younger generation. my sense is that talking african descended people that is not the most important thing in better understand but in just beginning to question my own assumptions someone bullard in harlem today they may not define themselves to those standards so maybe that is the question is that we have achieved our country?
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or have so many things been thrown into our passes more enticing than that? the cause -- the question i am constantly grappling with and how was putting the question now there is history even matter? i think it does but in a different way that i take for granted. >> hello. it this book is a great read in so informative that what i will pursue further for detailed notes so thank you for your contributions to literature and culture. to go back to the book i'm curious with the work she
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was doing how dangerous was it for her? i did not hear the story criticizing white america or jim crow what type of resistance dishy face? in the faq for already reading the book. i appreciate that. she is here in new york with a community she does not feel the sense of danger in the same way with a community of artist. what she does before she leaves she says new york is segregated but not with the signing she does not feel the limitations on her
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mobility so when she goes south she is nervous thinking i have never been to the jim crow south. she writes to various people through different networks to those who takes advantage of the networks. . .
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and how did you know them and we are going to stop your mobility now in the past. >> but that doesn't take away from the courage that she displayed during that period. >> good evening. i have a question. i was startled when you talked about how these women were celebrated and it was kind of a tragic moment to think that we've lost them so to speak. these aren't celebrated in the same way. do you think that is a function or is their something about these women in their art that cause them to kind of fall into historical absence. to help with that do you still think we have the danger of
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flooding in the art we celebrate the think that is still possible today? i think it's always possible and who gets remembered is really about -- people will tell you these are classics because they are great works and universal and there is truth to that because the generations that come leaker decide they will tell us something they want to know about who we have become our history is important to them. what happens with these women is the fall out style. there is a rise of new voices that have a different perspective on america and what there's more room for that perspective.
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but i do like about the story is where she dies in poverty and later on alice walker and other people then discover her that's not the case of these women. but a new word generation of the 1960's formed by black power, civil rights feminist movements look back and say these are some foundational people were. as at the end of their lives but each of them as recognized. it's not only the work of what you do in a moment of the generations that follow to
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ensure life and longevity and mortality. >> thank both of you for this conversation. one of the things i'm curious about is the history of the period that shaped them in terms of their political ideology, their activism and in the broad context something that michael talked about. it's this space that we once occupied and we can't hold onto harlem well. i'd not know whether or not that's true. given the political context of time when people are in fact
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being pushed out and there are few alternatives for people who are being thruster -- flash doubt why is it absence in this period a radical resistance during world war ii. today there is josh and acquiescence. can you give some political context for that in terms of contrasting the two periods and what we have that has an
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artistic impact unlike anything that we have seen in this community that is slowly dying in. when >> thank you. i think there was a sense with this generation with this group of women that there was no such thing as inevitability that they were engaged in the struggle and the but always been engaged in the struggle. there wasn't a sense of acquiescence because you didn't fight or accepted the inevitability of it. they come to this space during a time it's come out of the depression where there's a certain set of critical cause of
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these and organizing possibilities and they are not looking at harlem as a space of nostalgia. it's very much a vibrant cultural space where one is engaged in a cultural, social and political light and that is shaping who they are worth. what we are still dealing with is that we have inherited what was a conscience conscious assault on those movements that they were a part of that then sort of resurrect themselves leader ron paul -- later on on the ideologies we see rearing their heads era and they come up again in the 1960's or other
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repressive acts. one of the things i hope is that resurrecting this history will be a reminder that it is a birthright to all of us. so i think that it's not that generations just fell asleep. i think there is an aggressive assault to foreclose on those possibilities and people seeing the possibility. i hope that answers your question. >> it does. i hope that one of you will get around to giving us a biography on claudia jones who was deported. she settled in england, but she is of that period a truly epic
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woman in confronting the government of what was taking place. and one so rarely hears about any reference to her during that black history month. but i hope that someone someday gives her some justice. >> there is a book by the carroll which is about claudia jones and it's the first biography of claudia jones. there were essays but she does have a bookend for anybody any young scholars or writers looking for a project i actually think -- i have women artists but there is a similar companion book that could be of the women
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activists that would include ella baker all love to mark in harlem. >> thank you for the conversation this morning. my question ties in with the first question and then it's more based on cultural appropriations. we started some art forms, we enhanced some and what i've been seeing -- i don't mind if they
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share music and appreciate music to read it to some extent i know it's always been going on especially with music he would take its from an artist and crossover in the 1950's. what are your thoughts on fighting it or should we just accept the slides? what are your ideas on not be a appreciation but appropriation and a recent example that just comes to mind i didn't see it that the mtv music awards and there was some kind of theme but
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not one artist that one any awards for hip-hop, rapport r&b and then there was the infamous twerking incident so we were represented by artists using our artistry and what is scary to me as i see a lot of our young people picking it up 12 come of 13, justin timberlake and robinette thicke r&b artists they don't see black artists and it that's scary. i have to explain to them that, you know, it was started by black artists and tell them about the history, what little i
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know. but just your thoughts if anything. thank you. >> i didn't see mtv either. the first thing that comes to mind -- and i am probably creating something new right now. i didn't know. i'd been astonished watching these kids dancing and it's just it's always on the move and i think the part that is disturbing is the money that follows the appropriations and at the same time they are trying to make money and we need to
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teach them how to make money as well as the history of the reform so there's a political consciousness about the media, about the industry and the way that it makes money from art but the main thing is that it's always on the move. i don't know how much more energy to spend on with miley cyrus. >> one of the things that drove me crazy i didn't watch it, i didn't care. and i thought let's stop wasting our energy. we have so much to do stop wasting our energy on this girl. the cultural appropriation question is and one that bothers
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us. the cultures our border lists. we live right next to each other. they were always influence on each other and i think that she's absolutely right there is so much new that's being produced successful that it's constantly recreating something. you mentioned justin bieber and robin that was infamous everywhere. it sounds like marvin gaye funkadelic. there's a constant mobility in the sort of creativity of what is being created right outside is more interesting and exciting than what happened on the one
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word that stage. it's the culture over our heads of the time. it is something to think about and when you say in your own effort to share your knowledge and experience and loved of the culture is an important thing and i think creating those motions is super important even if it is just your little cousins. at the same time they have youtube and that is also amazing. >> i find that so many of them know stuff i didn't even know about. i think the work that you do and what we all have to do is very
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important and young creative minds are absorbing it like sponges and the commercials are not regurgitation of something that's already happened they are going to process and if they have access to it. [applause] thank you for this conversation. their books are on sale at the gift shop and they will be around for the next half an hour to sign. thank you so much for coming. [applause]
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of recounts president franklin roosevelt's decision to seek an unprecedented third term in office. the author reports he was inspired to run again following the start of world war ii and because of his year of able back of the new deal legislation. this is about 45 minutes. >> this pnac always helps to have my remarks. it's great to be here at politics and prose. i love this bookstore. but it's also a central part of this community. i can't imagine washington without independent bookstores and without this independent bookstore so thank you for coming. i've been very fortunate to fall to an idea that hasn't been written about extensively in the that is the question of how fdr
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and how he decided and why he decided to run for a third term in 1940, an unprecedented third term. i've always been fascinated. when i first got involved in, department of politics he was still very much a presence. might political mentors or she were humphrey and walter mondale heavily influenced by him. there were posters of fdr. >> [inaudible] >> he was everywhere particularly the presidential decision making and that is what this book is all about. i didn't really understand him go until i started researching this book and i found out that he was a very complicated than to kid nobody saw that more clearly thaan


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