'Poets of Action': The Saint Louis Black Artists' Group, 1968-1972 (Part 4-4)
BAG's influence from Baraka, Bullins, Genet and Fanon is mentioned in Parran, "The St. Louis Black Artists' Group [BAG]." Regarding the increasingly limited opportunities for black experimentalists in the U.S., see Budds, especially p. 70. Comments on the limited career opportunities for black musicians in St. Louis draw from Parran, "St. Louis Black Artists Group (BAG)." The Frank Kofsky quote is from his book Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970), pp. 139-40. The Archie Shepp quote is taken from Kofsky, p. 145. Litweiler's evaluation of Oliver Lake's musical style is from The Freedom Principle, pp. 187-8. Madden's quotes "Presenting themselves as serious artists..." and "The awareness of class issues..." are from "Creative Collectivism," pp. 28 and 30. The Paul Gilroy quote is from his important book on ethnicity and culture The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), p. 36. Les Back's phrase "community as a narrative achievement" is from his "Finding a Way Home Project" with Michael Keith and Phil Cohen, Working Papers 2 and 5, (London: Centre for Urban and Community Research & the New Ethnicities Unit, 1999). Lewis's comment "a wide-ranging denial of African histories..." is from his article pp. 72-3. Regarding my comment on BAG's "incorporation and creative use of so-called traditional African influences": "authenticity"- itself a construction of the colonizing West-is of course a problematic issue, especially in post-colonial studies. Important here is the self-conscious embrace of a racialized identity and continuous reinvention of Africa by an oppressed minority; the notion of "strategic essentialism" would be of interpretative value, though a discussion is outside the scope of this essay.
The examples of other artistic collectives (except for Baraka's group) are taken from Charley Gerard, Jazz in Black and White: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Jazz Community (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1998), pp. 95-6; Lorenzo Thomas, "Ascension: Music and the Black Arts Movement," in Jazz Among the Discourses, ed. Krin Gabbard (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995) briefly discusses Amiri Baraka's Black Arts Repertory Theatre/School in Harlem, which sponsored concerts featuring Archie Shepp, Sun Ra's Arkestra, and Albert Ayler. The Jazz Composers' Guild is also discussed in Kofsky, p. 141. On Britain's Caribbean Artists Movement, see Walmsley. The Solidarity Unit, Children of the Sun, Human Arts Ensemble, and Big River Association are mentioned in Wilmer, p. 222, and Parran, interview by author.
The materials on the Artist in Residence Team and on BAG's grant funding are drawn from the Rockefeller Foundation Archives, Record Group 1.2, Series 200R, Box 289, Folders 2720-2722, copies of which were kindly given me by Mary Seematter. On the initial 1968 grant of $100,000, Rockefeller Foundation Resolution 68036, approved 04 April 1968 (Folder 2720). The quote from the Arts and Education Council is from "Grant Supports Art Program in St. Louis Model Cities Areas," publicity packet from Arts and Education Council press conference, 14 May 1968 (Folder 2721). Regarding Hemphill's and Lake's selection for the AIR-Team, Dr. Leo B. Hicks (Project Consultant), "Progress Report of the Inter-City Art Project Funded by the Rockefeller and Danforth Foundations," December 1968 (Folder 2721). Norman Lloyd's comment, "The St. Louis group went for younger artists..." is from his memorandum summary of an interview of Michael Newton, 02 June 1969 (Folder 2722). The description of BAG's new building at 2665 Washington Ave. is from Norman Lloyd's report to the Rockefeller Foundation after a visit to St. Louis of 16-17 July 1969 (Folder 2722). On the BAG building and classes, see also "Black Artists' Center to Offer Free Classes," St. Louis Post-Dispatch , 13 March 1969. Information and quotes regarding the concerns of the Rockefeller and Danforth Foundations over the BAG-AIR Team's activities are from Norman Lloyd's memo summary of telephone interviews of Merrimon Cuninggim and Gene Schwilk, 16- 18 September 1969 (Folder 2722). That executives were responding from a distance, and that only Michael Newton was in regular attendance, Malinké Eliot, correspondence to author. The Danforth Foundation has claimed to have no remaining archives on the BAG-AIR grants. The assertion that the AIR Team "was created out of the conviction...", the remark "This partnership developed as a result of the similar goals...", and the partial list of the BAG-AIR teaching staff, are all taken from "Black Artistic Experience," Artist 6-10pm, St. Louis. The information on Georgia Collins is from Eliot, correspondence to author.