NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 143

the Watts Prophets. Otis was on the dark end of the spectrum, Richard on the opposite, and Anthony, who later changed his name to Amde, was caramel. Like the arrows of Robin Hood, Richard’s succinct poem always hit the center of the target. He didn’t waste words with distracting, endless dialogue; his poems were very explicit and right to the point. They also contained a lot of humor and really delightful poetic anecdotes. The Watts Prophets went on to a future of great success; they worked in theaters around the world, performing in shows with celebrities and popular bands at Lollapalooza’s. They put another star next to the name of the Watts Writers Workshop. There was one older gentleman, besides James Thomas Jackson, intrepid enough to sit in the poets’ Wednesday night circle and read his poetry — Herbert Simmons. He was already famous when he came to the workshop. He wrote a hard-hitting novel called Corner Boy when he was young that kept his name spotlighted in the literary world well beyond his productive years. Naturally, Herbert was highly regarded by Budd Schulberg, who thought such an important writer would be a great mentor for the younger writers. This proved to be a wise hunch; the veteran writer modeled by example to the younger scribes that a writer must be organized and keep his nose to the grindstone. Putting words on paper takes time and discipline; this is what Herbert Simmons taught the rambunctious younger writers in the workshop. Herbert wore a suit and tie and shined his shoes with vigor daily; he spent a lot of time in his room in the House of Respect. The young scribes witnessed Herbert bent over his typewriter cranking out stories like he was a reincarnated Aesop. Herbert, with his exceptionally regimented behavior, showed the young bards that a writer is a warrior and that writing takes the discipline of a warrior. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE When Quincy read this, he was quite intense, like a jazz saxophonist soloing atop a chorus section of way out musicians; he would get so stirred up that a spray of saliva would accompany the stream of words emanating from his mouth. Quincy Troupe is the most successful and renown member of the Watts Writers Workshop; his book on Miles Davis was quite pivotal in his career, bringing him glory and prosperity. He wrote The Pursuit of Happyness, a book that was turned into a popular film. He traveled quite a distance from the indigent cat who was afraid to read his poetry out loud. Quincy was one of the young poets who lived in the house at 9807 Beach Street. He was very enterprising and responsible for putting together and editing a poignant anthology of poetry called The Watts Poets; this rare work is now a collector’s item. Quincy wrote the autobiography of Miles Davis, which is a tremendously successful text that quickly became the standard reference work for information about Miles. He won the World Heavyweight Poetry title two times in a row and later was the first African American to be appointed the Poet Laureate of California. Like the first Black Miss America, Vanessa Williams, who had to relinquish her crown under a cloud of controversy, Quincy, too, was obliged to give up his esteemed post. The genesis of Quincy’s abdication from the post of California’s Poet Laureate, in my view, was an interview where he was asked a loaded question about his peer, Amiri Baraka. When Quincy’s politically incorrect response enraged the powers that be, he was knee deep in quicksand. This prompted the governor to confront Quincy about discrepancies in his curriculum vitae. In order to escape from the spotlight of scandal and public scrutiny quickly, Quincy resigned his title. When Anthony Hamilton first walked through the doors of the workshop he was a very introspective and reserved cat; he would thoroughly check out the situation and see how things operated in the workshop. At first he didn’t say much; he just sat there silently, watching the other poets perform their work and observing the power of words as the young poets turned heads with their incredible images and word plays. His poetry, however, was different from the stream of consciousness, free flowing style of poetry the young militant poets employed. His work was more structured, he really was into rhymes and puns whereas the younger poets were more into expressing their souls without any literary restrictions; their works shunned the archaic use of rhymes. Anthony, however, proved to be way ahead of the times; he was prescient, becoming one of the forefathers of modern day rappers. Somewhere along the line, Anthony teamed up with two other poets, Richard Dedeaux and Otis Solomon, and formed the Watts Prophets. Later, when they made their seminal album, Rapping Black In A White World, they added the gorgeous singer and keyboardist, Dee Dee McNeil. Their wedding of music and the spoken word was the precursor of rap music. Otis Solomon, one of the original Watts Prophets, was a thoughtful and serious dude who was really intense when he read his works; he had one poem where he gave God the third degree, questioning the deity about the wicked aspects of creation. Reading that poem was like running a marathon. It was a very long poem and could have been contained within its own book covers. Otis had the intense delivery of a southern minister, preaching his Sunday sermon. His works identified the harsh reality of black folks existing in a racist world; he was obviously pissed off about the way things worked in this society, and his poetry exhibited this dramatically. While Otis was dark as night, his counterpart, Richard Dedoux, was very light, almost white. The wide range of black folks’ skin tones is conspicuously seen among 141 Trane, Trane, run away trane smashing all known dimensions…