"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
P O Box 1752 Paris TX 75461 ~ 903.783.9232 ~ naacp6213@yahoo.com
Meets First Thursday of Each Month at 6:00 PM ~ 121 E Booth

Monday, September 5, 2011

Larry Neal

"...On the road:
It would be some hoodoo town
It would be some cracker place
you might meet redneck lynchers
face to face
but mostly you meet mean horn blowers
running obscene riffs..."

(from "Don't Say Goodbye to the Porkpie Hat")

Lawrence Paul Neal was born September 5, 1937 in Atlanta. When he was a small child his family moved to Philadelphia, where he graduated from Lincoln University in 1961 with a double major in English and History. He then earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and taught briefly at Drexel before moving to New York City.

Neal became arts editor of the black nationalist magazine The Liberator, where he reviewed African American events and became a leading voice of the Black Arts Movement which he described in a 1968 essay as being
...radically opposed to any concept of the artist that alienates him from his community. Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. As such, it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America....The Black Arts and the Black Power concept both relate broadly to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood. Both concepts are nationalistic. One is politics; the other with the art of politics.
Recently, these two movements have begun to merge: the political values inerent in the Black Power concept are now finding concrete expression in the aesthetics of Afro-American dramatists, poets, choreographers, musicians, and novelists. A main tenet of Black Power is the necessity for Black people to define the world in their own terms. The Black artist has made the same point in the context of aesthetics. The two movements postulate that there are in fact and in spirit two Americas—one black, one white.... 
Neal collaborated with Amiri Baraka editing Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, published in 1968. The two had worked together earlier founding the Black Arts Repertory Theater and School, staging plays and poetry readings on the streets of Harlem. Although it folded after three months, it became a model for similar efforts around the country.

In addition to numerous essays in both arts periodicals and general publications such as Partisan Review, The New York Times and Ebony, Neal wrote two plays, The Glorious Monster In the Bell of the Horn (1979) and In an Upstate Motel  (1981). His poetry appeared in two volumes, Black Boogaloo (1969) which addressed the African roots of the Black Arts Movement, and Hoodoo Hollerin Bebop Ghosts (1971) concentrating on the experience of the American South.

Neal continued to teach as well as write. At various times he was on the faculties of the City University of New York and of Wesleyan College in Middletown, Connecticut, and held a chair in humanities at Howard University. From 1970 to 1975 he taught at Yale; during this time he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.  In 1975 he became executive director of the Washington D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Neal died of a sudden heart attack on January 6, 1981 while leading a theater workshop at Colgate University. He was 43 years old. At the time of his death he was working with drummer Max Roach on Roach's autobiography, writing the introduction for a three-volume set of the works of Zora Neale Hurston, and compiling a series on jazz for the Boston PBS television station WGBH. A partially completed manuscript on the rise of the Black Arts Movement and black consciousness, Visions of a Liberated Future, was completed by his widow and published in 1989.

Poppa Stoppa Speaks From His Grave

Remember me baby in my best light,
lovely hip style and all;
all laid out in my green velour
stashing on corners
in my boxcar coat--
so sure of myself, too cool for words
and running down a beautiful game.
It would be super righteous
if you would think of me that way sometimes;
and since it can't be that way,
just the thought of you digging me that way
would be hip and lovely even from here.
Yeah, you got a sweet body, baby,
but out this way, I won't be needing it;
but remember and think of me
that way sometimes.
But don't make it no big thing though;
don't jump jive and blow your real romance.
but in a word, while you high-steppin and finger-popping
tell your lovin man that I was a bad
motherfucker till the Butcher cut me down.

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