Monday, September 26, 2011

5 Ways Black Arts Poets Challenged Anti-Black Racism

Poets of the black arts era collectively produced a body of work that challenged and critiqued anti-black racism. Not all of the poems produced during the time period were progressive or designed to address issues pertaining to racial discrimination and oppression. However, in retrospect, the extents to which so many poets opposed the mistreatment and degradation of black people was notable.

Taken together, the poets challenged anti-black racism in at least 5 major ways. The poets worked to:

1. Raise Consciousness -- Poets sought to make readers and fellow poets aware of African American history and ideas. There was much talk of what was known as a "usable past," those concepts from years and decades gone by that could be especially helpful during the then contemporary era for groups of black people engaged in struggle. 

2. Display multiple black perspectives -- Poets offered distinct viewpoints and thus provided audiences with opportunities to gain a fuller appreciation for diverse and interrelated African American experiences and ways of knowing. The processes of producing knowledge--African American knowledge--filled important voids in perceptions about black people and their views, especially in terms of what appeared in literature. 

3. Document Grievances - Poets regularly highlighted ways that African Americans had been discriminated against and harmed based on racist treatment. The documentation of grievances served to define various features and consequences of racism and thus providing audiences with ways to challenge it or alleviate its effects.

4. Oppose multiple forms of oppression -- Poets often wrote defiant pieces where they noted their approaches to countering racism, racists, or various acts of racial discrimination. Their poems encouraged audiences to follow similar paths and challenge such acts.

5. Create affirming images -- Poets celebrated multiple black historical figures such as Malcolm X, John Coltrane, and many others. In the process, they produced positive images of black people, which countered a long history of troubling portrayals of African Americans.

This entry is part of a series--30 Days of Black Arts Poetry.

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