Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Thinking About the 60s

This blog on the 60s forms yet another chapter of my work for Soul Pictures: Black Feminist Generations.

All along it has been like riding a roller coaster just trying to remain focused on understanding the development of the past at the same time I am dealing with the day-to-day of the present non-stop. Our world has become a distracting place in which it is extremely difficult, regardless of your lifestyle, to turn your back on the world and the people around you to focus entirely upon any task.

I am on sabbatical now and the standard I have for myself is high. At first I told myself that I would stay very still and not go anywhere, just dig deep into my source materials, my scans of photographs and slides and completely engage myself in the minutiae of this project, cataloguing Faith and Momma Jones photography and documents collection, at the same time constructing a series of narratives forming the new book Soul Pictures: Black Feminist Generations.

But then the opportunity presented itself to move to a little house across the street where I will have the seclusion and an ideal environment for my work. At the same time, the archival materials I am using remain close at hand. This is a big and complicated step for me. I feel as though I am leaving home for the first time all over again, even though I am 57. I have become very attached to my parents, very attached to our way of life, our comforts and rituals.

Now I will be starting up all over again and I am out of practice in maintaining a household but I trust I will get back into it. My style when I am living on my own is to be as laid back as possible without falling over. I keep a clean, well-organized environment and in the past several years since I broke up with my ex-husband I have learned a lot about what one needs to have to live a comfortable life and all the things one can easily and happily do with out.

I will be in a beautiful and simple environment, surrounded by rustic beauty and quiet. I relish the opportunity to really process the materials I have accumulated through the writings and posts on my blogs.

This blog in particular has come about in order to focus on the organization of the materials related to the 60s. I've come to realize in simply having set myself this task that the 60s were not such a great time for me. It was largely a time of powerlessness and confusing, impatience with being young and knowing nothing and yet surrounded by obviously earth shattering changes in politics and culture. In 1960, I was 8 years old. I was living with my Mom in an apartment in the Bronx in St. Marys Mitchell Lama Housing, a type of "middle class" housing that was ideal for my mother's station in life as a high school teacher with two children. We had moved from Edgecombe Avenue with my grandmother in 1959.

We only lived in the Bronx for about 4 years during which Faith and Burdette were married in 1962. In 1959, Faith finished her Master's Degree in Art Education. In 1961, Faith, Momma Jones, Barbara and I travelled to France on the S.S. Liberte and toured the great museums of France and Italy until we were forced to return home by news of my Uncle Andrew's death.

In 1962, Faith and Burdette were married. In 1963, we moved back to Harlem to 345 West 145th Street in one of the best buildings in Harlem with 24 hour a day doorman service. We also switched from Our Savior Lutheran School in the Bronx to New Lincoln School. In the summer of 1963, we travelled to Martha's Vineyard for the summer where Faith did the first paintings of her American People Series, which would open at the Spectrum Gallery in the fall of 1967. In the summer of 1967, Barbara and I travelled to Europe for the entire summer with Momma Jones.

I graduated from New Lincoln high school in 1969. In the fall, I would attend Howard University. In the meanwhile, a lot of water had passed under the bridge and I was finally 18 years old. In the course of the 60s, Faith would do some of her most important art works but it was just the beginning. During this period Faith painted exclusively stretched canvases in oil.

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About Me

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I am a writer and a professor of English at the City College of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. My books include Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman (1979), Invisibility Blues (1990), Black Popular Culture (1992), and Dark Designs and Visual Culture (2005). I write cultural criticism frequently and am currently working on a project on creativity and feminism among the women in my family, some of which is posted on the Soul Pictures blog.