February 2014: Featured Post
lifeseek.org is be featuring a thought-provoking essay that is designed to stimulate healthy dialogue and a collective resolve to seek the face of God for answers of some of the most pressing issues of our age. Your participation and feedback is very important to us and we encourage you to leave your comments, facebook or tweet this post after reading.
There were lots of cultural movements in America during the 20th century. These movements transformed the identity of America by showing the mixture and diversity of many cultures existing in the same nation. Two movements enjoyed the mutual benefits of a dynamic interchange, the Beats and Hip-hop movements. These were just some of the societal indicators that America, as a nation, was growing autonomously. By seeing an example of where these two movement traverse we are able to see the contribution that was made to the American culture.
The history of the Beat Movement in America ranged from the 1940’s to the 1950’s. There are many contributors to the Beat movement who made attempts to express the changes that were taking place in America during the 1940’s. These expressions were a response to the anti-war sentiment that was happening across the country after WWII (World War II 1939 – 1945). The appearance of this movement would be articulated through literature, art, and music. The nucleus of these expressions consisted of men such as Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs to name a few. But there were others who identified with this movement and would cultivate its ideals.
Amiri Baraka (born LeRoi Jones, 1934 – present) was one of those people who identified with the thoughts and ideas of the Beat movement. These ideas presented a freedom that couldn’t be found anywhere else in American culture. His first introduction to the movement happened when he “flunks out of Harvard University; […] is discharged ‘undesirably’ from the service; settles in New York’s Greenwich Village and is influenced by the post-World War II avant-grade, most notably Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, and Charles Olson.” Kerouac would also be another prominent figure whose writing caught Baraka’s attention. Kerouac’s writings were called spontaneous prose because of the way he developed a jazz-like style to writing provided a natural ebb and flow that was natural and executed without thinking. This served as a guide to Baraka’s own poetic inclinations and allowed him to explore literature in a way that he had never thought to express. In Baraka’s letter to the Evergreen Review he states:
The statement Kerouac makes about writing without consciousness, i.e., “MENTAL STATE. If possible write ‘without consciousness in semi-trance (as Yeats’ later ‘trance writing’)…’ is the most paradoxical but perhaps the most instructive statement in the whole essay. This is not to be interpreted as ‘clinical unconsciousness’ […] but as other consciousness, that is, the “writer’s voice” or the “painter’s eye. This is the level of stratum of the psyche that is the creative act. The “writer’s voice” dictates the writing just as the “painter’s eye” dictates the stroke…
One of the most intriguing facts about Baraka concerning the Beat movement was that we see a cultural movement of America that wasn’t bound by race. Baraka is an Afro-American that was born in Newark, New Jersey. The Beats weren’t concerned with what society deemed as a social norm. The early Beats like Kerouac and Ginsberg wasn’t worried about being popular as much as they were about being authentic.
Before we release part 2 of this blog the questions below need to be answered.
1. Wouldn’t you consider the “Beat Movement” in the White culture the grandfather of the “Hip-Hop movement” in the Black culture?
2. Can the Black culture (currently) be defined by movements such as “Hip-Hop” ?
3. Would you consider the “Hippie movement” (White cultured) analogous to the “Hip-Hop movement” (Blacks cultured)?
1. Baraka, Amiri, and William J. Harris. The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 2000. Print. Pp. xxxi
2. Charters, Ann. The Portable Beat Reader. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking, 1992. Print. Pp. 350-351