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									Panels of the Eighth Conference of the Collegium for African American Research Black Knowledges - Black Struggles – Civil Rights: Transnational Perspectives at the University of Bremen, Germany March 25 - 29, 2009
Panel Title 5: Sounding the Legacy of the Civil Rights Movement in Poetry Chair: Dr. Hermine Pinson, Associate Professor of English and Black Studies (The College of William and Mary, U.S.A.), hdpins@wm.edu Birgit Bauridl (University of Regensburg), birgit.bauridl@sprachlit.uni-regensburg.de Katharina Gerund (Bremen University), gerundkatharina@aol.com

Presenters: Paper 1: Gayle Murchison, Associate Professor of Music (The College of William and Mary, USA), gmmurc@wm.edu, ”Stevie Wonder, „Songs in the Key of Life‟ and Re-Visions of the American Bicentennial Post-Civil Rights” Abstract: In 1976, the year the United States celebrated its bicentennial, Stevie Wonder released the two-record set Songs in the Key of Life. Several songs from the album received airplay and became chart-topping hits: “Sir Duke,” “I Wish,” “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” and “Isn’t She Lovely.” Other such as “As” and “Another Star” did not become as popular as singles, but nonetheless received widespread popularity. The album was one of Wonder’s most successful, both artistically and commercially. While the album charted a new direction for both African American popular music and Wonder, its overarching narrative told a story that engaged both with the promise of the Civil Rights movement and the nation’s celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of its founding. In Songs in the Key of Life, Wonder offered a counterpoise to the patriotic narrative replayed in countless concerts, programs, merchandise, and the life, both officially and popularly. These told the Grand Narrative of the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of the American Revolution, the story of colonists who rebelled against the British and King George. It is documented that African Americans free and enslaved had been a major presence since the colonial era, from their first arrival in 1619 at the first permanent British settlement in Jamestown, Virginia and that an African American, Crispus Attucks, was the first to die in the Revolution at the Boston Massacre. Yet, where in the official and unofficial Bicentennial celebrations did African Americans figure? And where were questions about the “promissory note on democracy” addressed? Wonder’s album offered answers to these questions, resonating with the Black Arts and Black Pride movement, legacies of the Civil Rights movement of the late 1960s. While the set contained several masterfully composed and performed romantic ballads, these comprised only about sixteen percent of the album. At least half the songs focused on African American life, history and culture, with a significant number of this group addressing issues confronting inner city life. Songs such as “Sir Duke,” “Black Man,” and “Ngiculela Es Historia I Am Singing” offered lessons in African American history, from celebrating important figures belonging to various racial groups in “Black Man,” to a retelling of the slave trade in Ngiculela Es Una Historia I Am Singing.” Songs such as “Village Ghettoland” and “Pastime Paradise” offered commentary on inner-city economics and social

Panels of the Eighth Conference of the Collegium for African American Research Black Knowledges - Black Struggles – Civil Rights: Transnational Perspectives at the University of Bremen, Germany March 25 - 29, 2009
conditions. The songs “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” “If It’s Magic,” and “As” expressed Wonder’s utopian vision as he sang of love and unity for all. Thus, while the United States offered an official history that focused on the narrative of the Great Man for mass consumption, Wonder artistically embraced the mosso, E pluribus Unum. His Songs in the Key of Life offered both a counterpoise to the received history of the United States and a utopian vision of a future with liberty and economic and social justice for all. Paper 2: Dr. Hermine Pinson, Associate Professor of English and Black Studies, (The College of William and Mary, USA), hdpins@wm.edu, „Ntozake Shange‟s colored girls, Daughters of the Civil Rights Movement“ Abstract: for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbo is enuf is, Ntozake Shange’s seminal choreopoem is, in part, a ritual of remembrance which explores the mysteries of growing up black and female in the United States. On the eve of a Broadway revival of the work, this essay revisits it’s inception and the questions it raises around issues of black identity. The emphasis is on being a “colored girl” and coming of age during the sixties , but the poet writes about the experience from the vantage point of someone who networked with multiple groups, including the feminist writing collectives, members of the Black Arts movement, even members of the Beats in post-Civil Rights, post-Black Power and Black Arts movement America. Shange’s choreopoem, beginning with the title ,effectively responds to some of the basic social, political, and aesthetic concerns of these several movements, while clearing a space for a black feminist creative sensibility that reaches beyond national borders. This paper will examine the ways in which Shange’s choreopoem responds to the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and the subsequent Black Arts movement by redefining “colored” and placing her work in a diasporic context. Paper 3: Dr. Judylyn Ryan, Associate Professor, (Ohio Wesleyan University, USA), jsryan@owu.edu, „Cornelius Eady‟s Brutally Honest Imagination“ Abstract: Historian Ron Walters’ contention that the Civil Rights movement dates from nineteenth century with the writings of David Walker, Mariah Stewart, and Fred Douglass ,to the present, helps us to understand how and why Eady’s poetry in Brutal Imagination compliments and extends the civil rights project for US Americans. Paper 4: Professor Malin Pereira (UNC Charlotte, U.S.A.), further contact data t.b.a., “Producing a New, Post-Black Arts Movement Subject (and a New Idea of American Poetry): WandaColemen‟s Poetic Negotiations of Transcultural Space in „Retro Rogue Anthology’” Abstract: Wanda Coleman’s “Retro Rogue Anthology,” a substantial section of her pivotal volume Mercurchrome (Black Sparrow Press, 2001), writes partly in response to an anthology of American poetry, The Contemporary American Poets: American Poetry Since 1940 edited by Mark Strand. Coleman’s poetic negotiation of this anthology produces in her Retro Rogue poems a “new” postBlack Arts Movement subject which, in turn, produces a “new” idea of American poetry. Each of the poems in the Retro Rogue section revoices a particular poem and poet in the anthology. For example, Coleman’s poems are “after A.R. Ammons” and “after Elizabeth Bishop,” to name just two. The poems in this section traverse American cultural boundaries marked by race, class and gender.

Panels of the Eighth Conference of the Collegium for African American Research Black Knowledges - Black Struggles – Civil Rights: Transnational Perspectives at the University of Bremen, Germany March 25 - 29, 2009
The Retro Rogue poetic series marks a key turning point in Coleman’s poetic development: in these poems, Coleman moves from a poetic identify forged first in blues and jazz, and subsequently in the ferment of Black Power and the Black Arts Movement, to a post-Black Arts poetic subject entering in intermittent and unstable relationship to cosmopolitanism. The radio show Coleman and her husband Austin Straus co-hosted for Pacifica Radio from 1981 to 1996, “The Poetry Connexion,” provided the enabling technology by which Coleman enters into negotiation with cosmopolitanism. Adapting Inderpal Grewal’s idea about transnational connectivities and cosmopolitanism, I argue that the “transcultural connectivities” provided through Coleman’s work on “The Poetry Connexion” produce in the Retro Rogue poems Coleman’s temporary, partial and non-enduring foray into cosmopolitanism, a move that engages in dialogue with American poetry on her terms. Paper 5: Prof. Dr. Melba Boyd (Professor and Chair Wayne State University, Department of Africana Studies, Detroit, U.S.A.), ab6993@wayne.edu, “Poetry Between Two Worlds” Paper 6: Patrycja Kurjatto Renard, Patrycja.Renard@wanadoo.fr, further contact data t.b.a., “Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and a disillusioned young man“ Abstract: The paper will focus on a novel written by a young African American writer, Anthony Grooms: Bombingham (2001). The text depicts the slow but inexorable decline of its narrator, Walter Lee. Walter was born in the segregated South. The reader assumes that he had a happy childhood, even if he was a Black boy in the racist state of Alabama, until the summer of 1963. This was when his mother was diagnosed with cancer and Walter got involved in the civil rights movement in his home town, Birmingham, Alabama. However, after his mother's and his best friend's deaths he lost his faith in the better future. A few years later, he decided to enlist and fight in Vietnam. Of course, there is a contradiction between the principles of non-violence taught in the workshops that Walter and his sister attended in early 1960s and the duty to kill when one is a soldier. Walter's joining the military during the notoriously unjust war of his own free will is therefore an act of defiance, but also of despair. In his own words, Walter becomes “loose and lost”. The paper will analyze the way Walter depicts and justifies his own participation in the Vietnam War and look at the descriptions of the Vietnamese in the sections of the novel dealing with the armed conflict. Panel 7: PD Dr. Nassim W. Balestrini (University of Regensburg), balestri@uni-mainz.de, “Robert Hayden (1913-1980): Poet, Professor, Public Figure.” Panel 8: Georgiana Banita (University of Konstanz), Georgiana.Banita@uni-konstanz.de, “The New Black: Barack Obama and Civil Rights Performance Art.” Panel 9: Birgit Bauridl (University of Regensburg), Birgit.Bauridl@sprachlit.uni-regensburg.de, “Crossing Boundaries, Crossing Culture—Spoken Word Poetry Performs Freedom.” Panel 10: Katharina Gerund (Bremen University), gerundkatharina@aol.com, “Mapping the Road to Freedom: C. Eric Lincoln‟s Civil Rights Poetry” Panel 11: Dr. Michael Rozendal (University of San Francisco), marozendal@usfca.edu, “Making it

Panels of the Eighth Conference of the Collegium for African American Research Black Knowledges - Black Struggles – Civil Rights: Transnational Perspectives at the University of Bremen, Germany March 25 - 29, 2009
Traditional to Spread the Tune: The Left Populism of Langston Hughes‟ A New Song”


								
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