NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 112

Lately, it has become commonplace to conflate 20th century activism under the rubric of “civil rights” — lowercase usage clearly indicating general application, without reference to a specific group or class. To the adherents of the two primary movements for change, however, the differences were and remain unmistakable. 110 There are, of course, those who rush to argue that the term does not signify the end of Blackness. Passing strange. Post-Impressionist refers to the rejection of the work of Impressionist painters in the manner of Monet (who coined the term) by those committed to more vibrant, vital and, in their day, shocking treatments of the likes of Rousseau and Van Gogh. Post-industrial refers to that period during which an economy’s dependence on manufacture is replaced by reliance on services and new technology and thereby indicates social advancement. Post-modernism posits that the project of modernism is not only obsolete but was, in all likelihood, in flux and without “real” value even in its own heyday. And post-Black indicates that Blackness is passé and that it is disingenuous and puerile to claim otherwise. If, as has been suggested by some, what was intended was a post-Civil Rights era art/s movement, it’s come and gone already, having lasted from the mid-1960’s through the mid-1970’s, and it was called the Black Arts Movement. The Civil Rights Movement, which reached its high point in the 1960’s, was defined by the dual goal of institutional desegregation and the subsequent and lasting integration of Blacks into full citizenship, access and participation in mainstream American society. This much had been earned (though clearly not accorded) on the backs and knees of the slave ancestors. The Black Power Movement, which followed in its wake, claimed and sought to solidify the primacy of African American political, social and economic unity through self-determination and self-sufficiency. The doctrine espoused a form of non-violent resistance rooted in Western Christian text and tone, and relied on an unceasing moral appeal to “white brothers” to join Negro Americans on the path to an inevitable, if slowmoving, justice and thus achieve the “true promise” of American democracy. The credo of the other was an equally strong commitment to resistance — including armed resistance embodied in the Black Panther Party — against anyone and anything that sought or served to erase or to disappear the history, experience and lessons of African American struggle against white racism and for Black liberation on every imaginable front. The Black Power Movement was a young people’s movement and had followers on most university campuses as well as in working class communities. They’d had the benefit of the lessons of their parents, grandparents and great-grands who, beginning in slavery, had alternated resistance tactics such as slave rebellion; church and camp meeting; efforts to effect legislative change ongoing at least since David Walker’s Appeal; school desegregation efforts predating the Civil War; joining and then being purged from the rolls of the Reconstruction era Republican Party; and then aligning themselves with a Democratic Party quick to tally their votes at election time, but forever urging patience with regard to citizenship and human rights. Not to mention the military service of Black men and boys in the so-called Indian Wars of the colonial era, the Revolutionary, Civil, two World Wars and Korea, and always with the promise of full citizenship on the flipside. And what significant and lasting change had been achieved? Were not young Black men of their own generation routinely being shipped off to VietNam to fight in yet another white man’s war? And then, having sustained and absorbed, and very much still reverberating from the lived experience of the vicious assassinations first of Medgar, then Malcolm and then Martin, what was the worst, they asked themselves, that could come from rejecting outright the self-perpetuating, racist values of white America and the blatantly empty promises of the American democratic process? Indeed, what was the worst that could come from asserting their own identity, creating communities, organizations