Magazine article Black Masks

Two Calls for Black Theatre to Broaden Its Base: Black Theatre Must Acknowledge Black Diversity

Magazine article Black Masks

Two Calls for Black Theatre to Broaden Its Base: Black Theatre Must Acknowledge Black Diversity

Article excerpt

Two Calls for Black Theatre to Broaden Its Base: Black Theatre Must Acknowledge Black Diversity

More than thirty years ago, Cyprian Lamar Rowe, at the time a doctoral candidate at Howard University and a lecturer at what was then Federal City College, carefully chronicled the second annual meeting and dynamic emergence of the African Heritage Studies Association (AHSA). Rowe, an active participant in the May 1970 meeting, and a public intellectual long before the term became fashionable, went on to chair Black Studies at the University of Rhode Island and to head the National Organization of Black Catholics. The AHSA broke from the established African Studies Association to better serve Black scholars, and to eliminate "the teaching of `Euro-Africa,' rather than Africa, in the U.S. colleges and universities." It was one of a number of Black controlled organizations established in the same period to escape the racist constraints of white-dominated academic organizations.

Writing in the Fall 1970 issue of Black Academy Review, perhaps the first of the new Black Studies journals to focus explicitly on the African Diaspora, Rowe observed: "Two of the great events of the weekend were evenings that brothers and sisters spent together with the National Black Theatre. The language here is weak because it makes it seem that there were two elements -- the audience and the National Black Theatre. This was not so. There was one unified, inspired community, brothers and sisters standing and singing, waving the red, black and green flags, chanting, `We are an African People/Time to rise/We gonna reach in ourselves/and regain our power/right now/Right now/right now/We are an African people/Time to rise/We gonna reach in ourselves/and regain our power/Right now/It's Nation Time/!' Over and over. Together we stood and shouted. And as the NBT which was spread all around the hall, up and down the aisles, in the rows, acted out the spiritual transformation of confusion into the clear understanding of [B]lack humanity, everyone felt himself tied to everyone else. …

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