NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 74

Most of the people that I call my friends, and the ones that were inspirational for me, were older. They were part of the first group, and I got to meet them later. Quincy is quite a bit older than me. He’s got a decade on me at least. The first time I met Quincy, I was going to Southwest College, and he came to school to audition musicians for something they were doing, and they had this magazine called Shrewd Magazine. That’s when I met Quincy. Curtis, I didn’t meet until much later, and I can’t really remember how I met Curtis. It was probably a mutual gathering of friends. We would spend time together on a daily basis. And there was one point for a brief amount of time, when we actually lived together. I became very close with Curtis. Ojenke was a member of Horace Tapscott’s ugmaa — the Union of God’s Musicians and Artists Ascension. Eric Priestley was a member of ugmaa. We read all the time with ugmaa. I really liked Ojenke’s work. He had a lot of energy. Everybody knew Ojenke and talked about him and the work that he did. 72 si: When you talk about his importance to young writers, he seems to the poetry what Horace Tapscott was to the music. kd: Yeah, yeah. Ojenke had this fire. He had this charisma. He was very smart and very talented. And his style of reading poetry, most of us in this area kind of mimicked him. Ojenke’s father was a preacher. We always talk about the sermonic tradition, because for many of us it’s sermonic, but that mixed with Coltrane. It was an improvisational kind of energy — that Coltrane edge — but the articulation and the dynamics of a preacher. We attribute a lot of that to Reverend Saxon, Ojenke’s father. Most of us speak about that when we talk about the development of the Watts Writers Workshop and what was special about the Workshop. I had seen him perform and was mesmerized by him, but the first time that I actually met him and began a relationship with him was at the John Coltrane Festival. It was 1970, that was organized by Quincy Troupe and a group that he was working with at the Malcolm X Center. Eric Priestley — I had a reading at Cal State l.a. It was my first paid reading. I think they paid me fifty dollars, and that was great for a youngster. But I met Eric there. He had this poem, “God Is the Sun,” we all just loved. “I don’t want to live like you / or by the rules yo u live by / cause the bible is libel / and God is the Sun.” That’s where I met Eric Priestley. Then, I met Father Amde — Anthony Hamilton, when I went to Watts and became part of that Workshop, because he was one of the facilitators of the Workshop. At that time the Watts Prophets hadn’t come into existence. So, you start hanging out with these people, and you form these bonds and relationships. They see value in your work. si: How did they shape your aesthetic? kd: I learned a lot from the older writers, because they were much more mature. I learned a lot from Eric, Ojenke, K. Curtis, Emory Evans, and reading Quincy’s work. I learned so much from listening to their work and following them around, reading together. They were much more well-read than I was. They had been influenced by Pablo Neruda and Vallejo and Garcia Lorca, then the Negritude writers, Cesaire, Dumas, all these kinds of cats. And they’d been exposed to the surrealists. Eric was in France and met Jean Genet. It was a very rich experience, being exposed to writers that I had never even heard about. It brought me out of a narrow focus about what poetry was.