by Andre Kimo Stone Guess
“…All Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists…I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda. But I do care when propaganda is confined to one side while the other is stripped and silent.”
These are the words of William Edward Burghardt (W.E.B.) Dubois from his 1926 article in the NAACP’s publication, The Crisis. I was reminded of these words recently in a discussion I was having with Tom Burrell, author of the book Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority. It’s a must read, by the way. Dubois was astute enough to understand that all expressions of art serve a messaging purpose, particularly in regard to the people that the art emanates from or is about. In the above statement he was decrying the unbalanced and often negative view of the American Negro through art. In 1926 the blame could be clearly centered and concentrated upon Caucasians. However, in 2011 Black folks need to look no further than the nearest mirror for the culprit.
I wholeheartedly believe that all of the ills that plague the Black community can be traced back to the evil twins of White supremacy and Black inferiority. The most enduring and cancerous vestige of chattel slavery and White supremacy for the Negro is Black inferiority. White supremacy as carried out by slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and discrimination is tantamount to the HIV virus. We are learning that you can live a productive life with the HIV virus, ask Magic Johnson. It’s not the virus that makes you sick or kills you. It’s something else. White supremacy isn’t killing us. Black inferiority is!
Dubois also states in the article, “It is not the positive propaganda of people who believe White blood divine, infallible and holy to which I object. It is the denial of a similar right of propaganda to those who believe Black blood human, lovable and inspired with new ideals for the world.”
We must not worry ourselves as much about what others say about themselves or about us. We have no control over that. What we can control is what we say about ourselves. We need a truly balanced view of what Black culture is through Black art from Black artists and Black voices—our visual art, our music, our theatre, our dance, our movies, our writing and our images.
This new monthly column that I have been blessed with at the New Pittsburgh Courier will address the issue of the true essence and balanced view of Black art and culture. Stay tuned!