Saturday, October 3, 2009
More on the Triple Front
Mike Sell’s essay “Don’t Forget the Triple Front!,” which I quoted a passage from several days ago, was just what I needed…it’s just what we need to refocus our thinking and energies on developing a 21st century Black Studies that is responsible to its roots and also committed to a progressive vision.
Over the course of the next month or so, I’ll try to re-trace some key points from Sell’s essay and see if it’s possible to make connections on what we’re doing (and planning to do) with the program here as it relates to a longer view of Black Studies.
Let me say before proceeding that Sell’s essay appears in African American Review (AAR), a venue that requires a scholarly tone and such. Since my posts here are relatively short and somewhat informal, it’s inevitable that my translations of aspects of Sell’s work will be somewhat reductive or inadequate. So bear with me. (If you’re interested in reading his full article, let me know: we’ll rap with the folks at AAR or Sell to see about getting you copies).
So to begin…
What first caught my attention about the article was how thorough *and* succinct (if you can get to that) Sell was in illustrating the centrality of Black Arts writers and organizers of the 1960s and 1970s were to the development of these things at universities that we call Black Studies or African American Studies or Africana Studies. He also demonstrates how trailblazing the artists were in the context of Performance Studies.
But where Sell really steps out is when he explains how the writers, artists, theorists, students, and activists were really working at various levels on this whole “triple front” of culture, economics, and politics. And, he highlights the important implications of performance-based approaches so central to the Black Arts Movement and Black Studies (in its early days).
When it comes to a triple front, our program here at SIUE has been active on the cultural tip. The Poetry Correspondence Program, the Haley Outliers Project, The Interactive Reading Group, and our Visual Matters Campaigns have allowed us to engage large numbers of people through artistic productions. In these regards, we’ve been faithful, in many ways, to the history of Black Studies and Black Arts.
But what about those other two issues—economics and politics—in that triple front matrix? We’ve made some small steps here and there, but I’m thinking we really need to do more to expand our levels of engagement on all fronts.
Give me a second (ok maybe more), and I’ll post more concerning what Sell says about how early Black Arts and Black Studies folks addressed these issues as well as some of his points about the broader implications of performance-based approaches.