If, as a number of scholars have commented over the years, The Black Arts Movement (BAM) was the cultural wing of Black Power, one might also say that Black Power was the political action wing of BAM. In truth, BAM and Black Power were not so much separate entities, but rather, as Larry Neal put it, “concepts” of, or ways of coming at, the black freedom movement. In that way of thinking, art was (or could be) political action just as those activities usually considered to be political were a sort of art.
BAM changed how people felt that art should be circulated. The BAM imperatives of art for, by, of black people in the communities in which they lived as opposed to in elite museums, theaters, or concert halls in which they often felt unwelcome, opened up the cultural landscape for art and arts institutions supported by public money and other resources and aimed at grassroots communities. Not only did the BAM reach millions of people through its journals, presses, theaters, murals, festivals, and television shows during the 1960s and 1970s, but it left a lasting imprint on our sense of what art is, what it can do, and who it is for that remains with us to this day.
-James Smethurst, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Black Journal: Black Woman directed by Stan Lathan. Poetess Nikki Giovanni, singer Lena Horne, Bibi Amina Baraka (wife of poet-playwright Leroi Jones) and other Black women discuss the role of Black women in contemporary society. Reek 1 & Reel 2
Interview with AfriCOBRA artists Jae and Wadsworth Jarrell