As a graduate student at Penn State over 10 years ago, I was primarily working on topics related to the Black Arts Movement, that is, when I wasn't fulfilling the general English requirements. In the spare time that I had from studying writings related to the 1960s and 1970s, I recall beginning to read 4 writers whom I've now consistently followed since that time.
There was Colson Whitehead and Aaron McGruder on the artistic side and Alondra Nelson and Mark Anthony Neal in scholarly realms. Nelson was moderating the Afrofuturism list; she co-edited and edited books on technology; and her essay "Afrofuturism: Past Future Visions" became one of my favorites. Around that same time period, Neal had written three books -- Songs in the Key of Black Life: A Rhythm and Blues Nation (2003), Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic (2002), What the Music Said: Black Popular Music and Black Public Culture (1998) -- that signaled and solidified his
I viewed Neal as producing a contemporary history of Rhythm and Blues, and he was also providing important cultural commentary on a range of artistic works being produced from the 1980s onward, or what some refer to as the Post-Civil Rights era. He was also one of the first scholars I encountered who wrote about The Boondocks. Over the years, he has been a consistently engaged commentator, writer (in multiple formats), and moderator concerning black popular culture and African American studies, broadly conceived.
I ordered Neal's latest work Looking for Leroy last week, and when it finally arrived a few days ago, I was excited about the opportunity of extending my journey reading his work.
• A Notebook on Mark Anthony Neal's Looking for Leroy