NYU Black Renaissance Noire Fall 2015 Volume 15.2 - Page 151

k In a very real sense, the Watts Writers workshop was like a wedding that united the aspiring writers with the sub urban community of Watts. The community abundantly supported the young writers who resided at the workshop’s Beach Street house. Business owners like the proprietor of Pappy’s Cafe would frequently send big bags of hamburgers and food to the young poets. A foundry in the middle of Watts donated all the cement required to build the stage in the back yard of the Beach Street pad. There was a look of pride on the faces of the neighbors; they witnessed all of the celebrities and large numbers of people, visiting the workshop. It was a benefit for the community to have so many wonderful individuals taking an interest in the impoverished wasteland of urban Los Angeles. The Watts Revolt of 1965 was witnessed all around the world; this put the spotlight on the worst area of l.a. Revealing the sinister forces working to sabotage the community, the poems and writings that emanated from the workshop showed the world the callous and brutal reality of metropolitan squalor. These writers were the voices of the displaced African Diaspora in the New World, the vociferous descendants of the Atlantic slave trade. Racial issues naturally played a significant role in the works of the young poets. Many of these young bards were keenly aware of America’s glaring inequities. When J. Edgar Hoover investigated the Watts Writers Workshop, he was flabbergasted. He was dismayed that the residents of Watts wrote so well. It made him sick to his stomach to envision scores of black thinkers putting their thoughts on paper. As a kid, Frederick Douglass devised a clever scheme to acquire literacy in a context where it was forbidden for slaves to learn the alphabet.; he saw freedom dancing in the pages of the books, and consequently he inspired countless black kids to be gung ho about pursuing an education. With Douglass as the workshop’s logo, the writers saw themselves as the extension of Douglass’s great work of making literacy paramount for black people. n 149 Without realizing the efficacy of their works, Watts poets like Quincy Troupe, the Watts Prophets, and Kamau Daoud have spread the word all over planet earth. Kamau Daoud was not on deck at the original Watts Writers Workshop; he was, however, a member of a later west Los Angeles branch of the workshop. Kamau “killed “ audiences in America, Africa, and Europe with his dynamic and dramatic oral diamonds; whoever hears his poems knows that his work is replete with lines that are keepers. Kamau really kicked ass when he won the much-coveted City of Lights poetry award. Kamau is the one who kept the flame alive. The cruel destruction of the workshop by u.s. intelligence agents was a heavy blow to the black population. Two decades after the run of the Watts Writers Workshop, Kamau collaborated with the master drummer Billy Higgins to found the World Stage in Leimert Park, a hip joint where black culture is supported and displayed; many great jazz musicians and poets have graced the stage there. BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE K. Curtis Lyle (left), Quincy Troupe (center), Kamau Daoud (right) and Ojenke (back row).