NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 141

refuse to recognize the approach of daddy death call him overdose, call him low life of peddler’s song call me Hezekiah or Ezekiel call me any dam name you want, but I can get it wholesale. This was the opening stanza of the particularly kinetic poem that a chastened and chagrinned K. Curtis Lyle read when he returned to the circle; it thrilled everybody and some of us thought he had played a trick on us the previous week with his lame poetry. The poem he blew that night was totally different from the snooty verses he had read the previous week; it was as if Superman had stepped out of his Clark Kent persona. Curtis’ poem was clearly a keeper. The title of the poem, “I Can Get It For You Wholesale,” was really hip; it was an exciting refrain that got a big response from audiences every time it was uttered. A water shed occurred in the workshop when the young poets broke away from the main body and started commandeering the house at 9807 Beach St. With Schulberg’s nod, the young poets took up residence in the house and changed its name to the House of Respect. It was during this time that Emory staked out the rear house and made it his crib. The younger writers often congregated in the back yard cabin where Emory stayed. Listening to jazz over countless shortdogs of cheap wine, the juvenescent poets created images to explain the reality of slavery’s wicked hangover in the lives of black people. A piano in Studio Watts was the catalyst for the enduring friendship between Eric Priestley and me. We relished tickling the ebony and ivory and we thought it was very significant that we were born on the birthdays of Beethoven and Brahms, respectively. This realization came out of the first conversation we had one afternoon, sitting at the piano in Studio Watts. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE and floating sounds in the middle of your head “Tutsi” is the first thing you thought about when you met Emory Evans, the tall and slender, ebony skinned brother who always wrote romantic poetry and drank many bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, living the life of a poet. His work was truly emotional and soulful. He was a natural born thespian who could recite poems in a way that kept the audiences’ attention riveted to him. Emory perambulated through Watts without fear; this was in spite of the fact that the neighborhood was notoriously dangerous and he — the affable, ebony giant — was a highly visible target. When a troupe of poets from the workshop did a poetry reading, Emory stood out because of his gentle ways, which were in dramatic contrast to the black militancy of the rest of the young poets, who were attacking racism with every word in their vocabularies. Emory’s work was highly emotional and passionate; he wrote about the suffering and wounds of relationships that have gone sour. 139 Blown minds lay in gutters of euphoric love Jimmy Sherman was one of the first writers to join the workshop when it used to meet at the Westminster Neighborhood Association. He jumped into the limelight early with his extraordinary and mesmerizing play, A Ballad From Watts. The community thoroughly enjoyed the production when it was showcased at Watts Happening Coffeehouse, a popular cultural center on 103rd Ave — the main artery of the community. Jimmy always seemed to have the jitters. His mind moved at the speed of light while his mouth moved at the speed of sound. This difference in velocities resulted in Jimmy stammering seriously, often stumbling over the jet stream of his words. He was a very restless man, but he had an innate joviality. He got a gig to write movies and scripts in Hollywood, but that turned out to be an extremely agonizing experience for the jocular, young writer. It made him wary of his talent as a writer. The movie business demanded of him to jump through numerous narrow hoops by making him rewrite a story over and over again ad nauseam, and yet to no avail; he was like Sisyphus pushing the enormous rock up the mountain. No matter what he wrote, it was regarded with blind eyes. Many writers have been mashed up by the administrators of Hollywood movie studios; the rigors of producing a good script was a harrowing experience for this young man from Watts who tended to jump into situations before taking a good look. For a young man from the poorest community in l.a., the idea of being a Hollywood writer was a juicy proposition. Unfortunately, Jimmy did not see the instruments of cruelty behind the shining facade of Hollywood. The harsh criticism by the tinsel town executives drove Jimmy to the brink of a nervous breakdown. After his jarring and traumatic experience in the movie business, Jimmy Sherman jumped into mathematics with a chipper attitude, making new ways for young people to study this difficult subject.