Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Brother Where Are You? Oscar Brown Jr. (1926-2005)

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Brother Where Are You? Oscar Brown Jr. (1926-2005)

Article excerpt

Chicago's Lake Michigan provides life-giving and life-sustaining fresh water for this city and its people. Our great lake feeds the vibrant and diverse cultures of this region, and has been integral to the growth and vigor that has helped Chicago become a world-class destination. Oscar Brown Jr., like Lake Michigan, eclipses the city, yet remains of it and tied to its future. Brown's music, creative production, cultural and political activism, open heart and carefully defined mission to entertain and teach the world (especially Black folks) brought out the best in all of us.

If ever there was a man who embodied all of the qualities of a conscientious and responsible Black artist, it was Oscar Brown Jr. The man was talented, multidimensional, literate to the bone, Black/African-centered, culturally focused and politically active. He was also a loving father and a proud family man. On May 29, 2005, he joined our ancestors and as a poet, actor, playwright, singer, songwriter, composer, director and musician it will be all but impossible to replace him. His status, his unique place in our culture was beyond category.

Oscar Brown Jr. distinguished himself in several fields. He was considered the "world's first Negro newscaster" for the program "Negro Newsfront," a Chicago radio format that he helped develop while in his twenties. He ran for the Illinois Legislature on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948 and took a shot at the U.S. Congress in 1952 as a Republican (the only way he could get on the ticket). He had been a member of the Communist Party from 1946 to 1956, resigning at the age of 30, stating that he was "just too Black to be red."

It was the defining decade of the 196Os that produced thousands of Black artists who would work feverishly to change the cultural and political landscape of America and the world. With the help of Robert Nemiroff, the theatrical producer, Brown was introduced to the New York music and theatre community. Eventually he secured a recording contract with Columbia Records, which produced the classic recording "Sin and Soul." This album made Oscar Brown Jr. a national figure.

From full bodied productions like "Kicks and Company," "Summer in the City" and "Joy 66," it was clear that his imperative was art and giving a voice to the voiceless. …

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