BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE Clyde Mays came a long distance from New York to witness the making of history at the workshop. He wore a Quovadis and lived like a holy man; his dinner was often no more than a few apples and he always had to grab every penny he saw on the sidewalk. Clyde was always carefree and could live on next to nothing. He definitely was a maverick whose youth was obviously spent cogitating about eastern philosophy and Dostoevsky. His poems were always cosmic and spiritual, yet down enough for the common people to understand. His poetry spoke of obscure things like the Islet of Langerhans and he yelled a lot during the reading of his poems. Clyde was one of the poets included in the classic anthology, called Watts Poets, which was the brainchild of Quincy Troupe. Clyde cheerfully dropped some tabs of lsd one day and decided to take a stroll down the middle of busy Vermont Avenue. Cars were speeding past him, going both ways, but he was calm as a yogi in deep meditation. After about twenty minutes of strutting in the middle of busy Vermont Avenue, police moved Clyde to the sidewalk, but Clyde’s mouth was moving so fast, yelling his cosmic lines of poetry that the dismayed policemen put the pedal to the medal and swiftly sped away from the scene of the crime. They lacked the psychological training to deal with crazy black guys who clearly had no fear of death, or them. 143 As he talked, David threw a series of wind producing left jabs, right crosses and uppercuts at the will-o-the-wispish Cleve. All of David’s punches were way off the mark. Cleve stepped away from David’s hard and furious blows like a pro. Bobbing and weaving and throwing his own rapid combinations, Cleve made David look like an old warrior who had kept fighting way past his prime. David was really slow. Cleve whipped him hard. It was clear from the confident grin, glued on Cleve’s face, that he was digging dishing out punishment to a well-chastened David. The sparring session had morphed into a one-way rumble, involving two obviously unequal fighters. The way Cleve so thoroughly kicked David’s ass was a lecture on how to punch while avoiding the blows of others. Cleve didn’t want to hurt David; he simply taught him a lesson: “Pride goeth before a fall.” After that, David was meek as Walter Mitty when Cleve was around. We found out later that Cleve used to box. He was so good he achieved the rank of Louisiana middleweight champion and that was as an amateur. David had a better chance of hitting the wind than landing a punch on Cleve. Ar thur and Eli were artists who could paint a masterpiece faster than Billy the Kid could draw his twin revolvers. They were brothers. Arthur always used regular paint designed for houses and rooms; his art was highly unconventional and very Afrocentric. He used the walls of the living room for canvases and portrayed on them uplifting pictures of African traditions and heroic figures like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Huey Newton. He was a masterful artist who used colors and brush strokes in a very unique manner. His partner, Eli, was a true eccentric. He lived in a room in the writer’s house for a while. He wore a pair of socks for weeks without taking them off. When he finally did take the socks off, they stood up like a pair of leather boots. They had that much caked dirt and sweat in them. Eli was an excellent painter who liked large images; thus huge walls were ideal for him. His murals illustrated the enigma of being black in a white world. Scenes of pre-colonial Africa flowed seamlessly into scenes of slaves stuffed in the holds of slave ships during the Middle Passage. Next there was a mural depicting the egregious life on the plantation. This was followed by a large image of Nat Turner killing white folks. The next section showed a dilapidated water fountain with a large sign over it saying in bold letters, “For Niggers Only.” The subsequent scene depicted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading a mass of protesters on the March to Freedom. Liberty Road continued with images of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and Huey Newton. The works of these artists were spectacular. They were one of the tourist-attracting wonders of Watts, like Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers. Actually one of their works was so hip, it was seen on a nbc news program. They had converted junk and trash into a precious work of art. It was a greatly praised work of art that was comprised of whatever Arthur and Eli found on the streets, in the alleys, or at the parks of Watts.