i: ceaseless calls for impossible devotions

But my tendency, body and mind, is to make it. To get there, from anywhere, going wherever, always. By the time this…appears, I will be even-blacker.1

The New-Ark (Amiri Baraka, 1968) is a vaguely read and specifically misunderstood film.2 Lars Lierow’s The Black Man’s Vision of the World, which led me to the film, offers general connections between the film and the Black Arts Movement, as understood by Larry Neal: the film “underscores the inseparability of politics and aesthetics,” with a “black visual aesthetic, and [its relation to the] nurture[ing of] black consciousness.” Lierow also offers a general description of the film’s aesthetic: “visual poetics set the tone of the film, creating a hybrid form.”3 Whitney Strub’s article, “The Baraka Film Archive: The Lost, Unmade, and Unseen Film Work of LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka”, contains historical information on the planning, reception and political background of the film.4 And yet, as Fred Moten argues, “neither blackness nor anti-blackness are to be seen beneath the appearance that tell of them”; even as the “devotional practice” of the “recitation of the sentence ‘blackness is x’” there is also a “rich, rigorous, powerful, and utterly necessary analytic of anti-blackness that enables that devotional practice.”5 The works of Strub and Lierow are a kind of devotional act, “restoring [Baraka’s] films to our collective memory of Baraka” thus, “enrich[ing] our understanding” and “recover[ing] another lost piece of black film history.”6 And yet, an insidious misreading still occurs. What is seen and heard, or what is mis-seen and misheard, in the film gestures to the positionality of viewers and critics.

Such misreadings are inevitable in any “devotional practices” of “restoring” and “recovering”, even by the most rigorous devotees.7 This makes a more nuanced understanding of the film problematic; maybe this is why neither Strub nor Lierow partake in a close reading of the film, while offering a vague misreading of the opening sequence. Lierow sees and hears the opening as: “showing a writhing figure draped in sheets of cloth, barely discernible because of the dark-red hues that dominate this underlit scene. Accompanied by the wailing of a human voice…strike a vaguely spiritual note.”8 While Strub hears a “wordless opening prayer-song.”9

Though they both recognise the spiritual aspect of the opening, they fail to recover the specifics. Larry Neal, in The Black Arts Movement published the same year as the film, writes: “the Old Spirituality is Generalized. It seeks to recognize universal humanity. The New spirituality is specific. It begins by seeing the world from the concise viewpoint of the colonized…the New Spirituality demands a radical shift in point of view.”10 The specificity of this opening scene is paramount for any reading of the film — and is possibly impossible with the current enclosures. The opening image is, possibly, a black-magician figure alluding to the opening scene of A Black Mass, a play by Baraka present in the film; and the audio, for certain, is that of the azan, thus implying the figure of a muezzin. Far from “wordless”, this is Arabic; and far from “wailing”, this is a call to prayer. The importance of this specificity is highlighted as the film also ends with the azan.

Misunderstandings of The New-Ark have occurred since its release in 1968, in relation to both content and aesthetics. Strub offers historical documentation of the poor critical reception of the film and the series it was part of: the New York Times stating it was “poorly conceived and amateurish.”11 Even contemporary readings see it as a “ragged, unpolished film.”12 What is striking is the pattern across the critical white response to the radical black tradition. In Blues People (1963), Baraka describes how white musicians playing jazz were heard as “cleaner, [with] rounder tones,” while virtuosos like Charlie Parker were called “raucous and uncultivated.”13 Far from this being a misreading, Baraka argues that these two adjectives are true to the black aesthetic tradition Parker was pulling from. As Baraka repeats twice in said essay, and often throughout his career, “reference determines value.”14 Maybe “amateurish” and “ragged” are positional adjectives; maybe with a shifted reference one can think of their referent as an improvisation — an oppositional movement between “Technik and Eigentlichkeit15 — responding to the call for an even-blacker aesthetic that is, as Neal argues, inseparable from the political; one that is a momentary manifestation of the call/response for a “radical reordering of the Western cultural aesthetic”.16

My hope is that through my own “devotional practice” i.e. a closer reading, coming as a re-organisation of earlier readings, aligned with reference points and values from the black radical tradition, something to-come will be “recovered”. This devotional practice of close reading is in response to Baraka, Hinton, Neal, Spriggs — to all the people involved in making the film — and to all those engaged in devotional practices and study of their own. Of course, such an attempting, especially as a white male in America, will always cover “blackness” and “anti-blackness;” maybe at best this will call for more readings — to reveal anti-blackness inherent in my devotional practice, and gain greater specificity.17

ii: trying to respond

…by the time you read this, I will be even-blacker …and confused like a motherfucker.18

…but don’t even say I’m Black yet…take a raincheck on that…say I’m trying to be Black.19

These quotes signify the calls within The New-Ark – to try, to organise, to be informed, to bring together the political and artistic, all revolving around an even-blacker. The film reveals and manifests the intertwined relations between name, consciousness, community and power of people to gain determination over such, through an improvisational swaying of the aesthetic, the spiritual, and the political, through a calling forward to an even-blacker. Possibly, to be even-blacker in America is to recognise and deconstruct the hegemony of white-supremacy — both internally and externally — by pulling from roots and traditions, and recomposing name/consciousness/community. As Fred Moten states:

blackness, in its irreducible relation to the structuring force of radicalism and the graphic, montagic configurings of tradition, and, perhaps most importantly, in its very manifestation as the inscriptional events of a set of performances, requires another thinking of identity and essence…wherein essence and performance are not mutually exclusive.20

It is telling that The New-Ark is “directed” by LeRoi Jones, but by the time the urban renewal plans for the New-Ark (1972ish) were drawn up, he had changed his name twice, towards Amiri Baraka. In 1965, Jones left Greenwich Village to join the Black Revolution. At that time, “Jajj heesham Jaaber, the Islamic priest who buried Malcom X, renamed LeRoi Jones, Ameer Barakat.”21 This renaming speaks to one transformation of Baraka through his commitment to the Islamic faith manifested in an Arabic name; and then as Baraka became a momentary proponent and follower of Maulana Karenga’s Afrocentric cultural politics, he Africanised the Arabic name to Amiri Baraka, the Swahili rendering. What is striking here is a kind of stammering dialectic occurring between name, consciousness and community — Moten’s “montagic configurations of tradition” and “inscriptional events.” Similarly and in much greater detail, Daniel Matlin, in On The Corner, describes how the renaming in connection to ideology is directly tied to geographic location and the desire to reimagine the Black community and thus himself.22

As the name transformed so did the vision. In making The New-Ark, Baraka represented and manifested a new-space for the Black-community: Spirit-House. Spirit-House, functioning as the context in which an even blacker consciousness can grow, served a multitude of purposes: a jamaat, a community school, a place for political organisation, a theatre, a dance-hall, etc. Each of these purposes help manifest an even blacker: the jamaat is a gathering place for the faithful, coming out of Malcom X’s influence on Baraka; the community school functions to teach a new black-pledge and alphabet that directly opposes the internalisation of an anti-blackness; the political organisation helps support the Black political candidates striving for representation; the theatre is a space for plays by Black authors narrating oppositional-histories and narratives and transformative performances by Black actors.23 Fred Moten in the essay Interpolation and Interpellation explores how “anticipatory interpolation, vicious revisions of the original that keep on giving birth while keeping on evading the natal occasion,” are integral to the black radical tradition.24 The interpolation of Spirit-House, represented and manifested in The New-Ark, anticipates the production of the New-Ark: a housing and economic development plan developed in the early 1970s by Baraka and the Congress of African People.25

Between the founding of Spirit-House and the drafting of plans for The New-Ark, The New-Ark is present. It was filmed and released in 1968, after the building tensions around the city’s “urban renewal” plans meant to displace the Black community of the central ward, and the continued and escalating police brutality, leading to the Newark rebellion of 1967, and Baraka’s and associates’ subsequent founding of the Brothers United in Newark. The first night of the Newark rebellion, Baraka was beaten nearly to death by the police and held in a cell, leading to a spiritual conversion. The rebellion was the “cleansing fire” that led to his joining of the Islamic faith, for a time.26 Though the Newark rebellion occurred in 1967, the Black Revolt across America continued, with uprisings occurring across cities in America substantially in the summer of 1968, after the assassination of Dr. King in April. The film documents the 1968 election campaign, from community organisation to after the election. Though the ‘68 election would largely be a failure, the 1970 election saw the gaining of representation for the Black community, which had “collectively revised” into other forms like the Congress for African People, who envisioned a transformation of the “ghetto into a New-Ark.”27 The CAP challenged the Newark Housing Authorities plan to build more high-rise public housing, thus dislocating rooted Black neighbourhoods. Demanding a voice for the community to be present in the planning process, Baraka and others “flesh[ed] out the urban vision of New-Ark” as drafted and printed city plans.28 This New-Ark involved cooperative spaces for eating, housing, education, political activities, the arts, film/media production, with an aim to “transform reality so that African people can get the maximum amount of social, economic and political self-determination over [their] lives.”29 Hence, the New-Ark was an expanded, even-blacker, version of Spirit-House, moved from a community centre to the community at large, and The New-Ark stands as a call to the community to join and imagine a yet unimagined ujamaa. In the film this is visually (and prophetically) represented with the camera’s meandering movements across the front of Spirit-House, showing in succession the “Organize” sign, the “Spirit-House” sign, the political posters, and finally the title. The camera halts its meandering as the title is framed in a semi-stasis within the open door of Spirit-House.30

The tendency of ceaseless revisions is present in this improvisational camera work. Formally, The New-Ark relies on sequential juxtapositions and a straightforward narrator to indicate how an even-blacker consciousness will develop in relation with organisation. And yet, arguably, the film does enact an improvisational aesthetic. This improvisational camera work is not a technique, being tempted to call it a technique misses the call to “even-blacker”. As Moten and Harney state, improvisation between the opposition of “Technik and Eigentlichkeit” “moves the black aesthetic.”31 The improvisational camera-work includes a handheld camera and continual motion — zooming, panning, tilting, between close ups to full shots, with the focus of the shot tending to be slightly off centre, and/or subjects holding the centre only momentarily as the camera continues to move. Assumingly this improvisational camera work was one aspect that caused the film to be perceived as “amateurish”. But when valued not from a reference point of an aesthetic of objective documentary — i.e. some variation of clear and distinct, a delusional aesthetic of neutrality — but rather from that of a black radical tradition, this camera work is seen as skilful.

In language, the African tradition aims at circumlocution rather than at exact definition. The direct statement is considered crude and unimaginative; the veiling of all contents in ever-changing paraphrases is considered the criterion of intelligence and personality. In music, the same tendency towards obliquity and ellipsis is noticeable: no note is attacked straight; the voice or instrument always approaches it from above or below, plays around the implied pitch without ever remaining any length of time, and departs from it without ever having committed itself to a single meaning.32

Maybe, in 1968, in Newark, in the midst of radical upheaval, Baraka, Hinton, Neal and Spriggs — all or even just one — attempt to implement a radical black aesthetic into film: improvisational camera work and a call and response form. Fred Moten has written extensively on these aesthetic traditions and forms:

Improvisation is…the very essence of the visionary, the spirit of the new, an organizational planning of and in free association that transforms the material, and on the other hand, manifest in and as the material.33

The call to sing that is song, that whole so-called…improvisational arrangement, the internalization of call and response in the form of a deconstruction and reconstruction of the song and of the song form itself…goes all the way back to complex and unavailable origins of black performance.34

With these reference points, Baraka’s tendency towards “even-blacker”, camera work, organisation of the film, and Spirit-House’s interpolation towards New-Ark, all become situated in an aesthetic of improvisational call and response, recognisable in the camera placement, shot-counter-shot editing, the meandering of the camera, as well as subject matter. Collectively they respond, inform, inscribe and call to an even-blacker.

One exemplary occurrence of call and response is in the first dancing scene,35 where children from the community school are comprising a seemingly improvised rhythm circle and dancers, whom the circle surrounds, while all chant “Black is beautiful.”

The camera cuts from the position of the rhythm circle looking towards the dancers, to the position of the dancers, looking out to the circle, implying an inclusion in the community. With the shared devotional song of “Black is beautiful” this performative call and response highlights the interpellative nature of such a form, in this instance an affirmative process of disavowing anti-blackness through a collective and improvised self-determination. The scene ends with a match cut to adults at a poetry reading, clapping in similar rhythm and singing — calling/responding across generations. And yet, the call is always also a response to the ongoing enclosures and pressures of white-supremacy.

Returning to the opening sequence of the film, while the azan continues, a short montage locates Spirit-House enclosed in the shadows of an infrasturcture of white-supremacy:

The first image is of the then-in-construction “new” Essex county jail, which would open three years later in 1971, thus symbolically and prophetically inaugurating the era of mass incarceration.36 This image of the impending implementation of mass incarceration calls and responds to the azan and improvisational camerawork that call to an even-blacker. This shift to incarceration is mirrored in the simultaneous development of housing projects across Newark. Such “urban renewal” dispossesses and disorganises communities, and gestures to the necessity of a perpetually transforming collective improvisational disavowing and revising between Black aesthetic/politics. This reading is further emphaised in the slow hand-held panning shot that follows.

The shot moves from the infrastructure of the Essex county jail towards the Essex county courthouse and hall of records never fully coming to a stop. As the camera pans to the courthouse, Spirit-House and the surrounding neighbourhood come into the foreground, rising from the bottom of the frame.

This panning down and right continues until the neighbourhood has become the focus of the frame with Spirit-House located just right of centre. This slow panning from the looming-infrastructures to the neighbourhood functions to locate Spirit-House within white-supremacy’s political-economic enclosures, and to represent Spirit-House as responding to the enclosures. White-supremacy infrastructure is depicted calling out with all its interpellative force and Spirit-House rises in response, with its own call.

The call is here still the azan. The specific significance of this juxtaposition can only be grasped with a few digressions. Amiri Baraka and Amina Baraka lived on the third floor of Spirit-House, while the first floor was converted into a versatile space — a theatre, a community school, a political office, and it “also served as an unofficial Sunni jamaat.”37 The first image of The New-Ark is arguably that of a muezzin and/or black-magician.

The hand movements under the cloth possibly signifying the movements of supplication during the azan, though the black star, seemingly on something between the camera and the person, gestures to a black-magician from the play A Black Mass (1966). Moreover, the red-tone could be read as an allusion to said play’s opening scene: “Scene: Jet Blackness, with maybe a blue or red-violet glow.”38 As such, the opening sequence gains an even-blacker meaning as spirituality and art are brought together to represent a call (back and forward) to the “holy place of black.”39 Despite the ambivalence of the figure, the azan is certain, frames the film, and within the Islamic faith it is a call to come, to listen, to hear, to be informed, and to join the community.

The muezzin-esque figure with the azan, through its connection to the figure of Bilal in the Nation of Islam, gestures to a tendency of disavowing that is inherent in the black radical tradition.40 The first muezzin was Bilal ibn Rabah, a black Ethiopian said to have been born into slavery, whom upon converting to Islam was freed. His conversion to Islam, to answering the call, meant Bilal, within the Islamic nation, could not be a slave.41 Bilal disavowals the economic-political enclosures that label him slave, through the joining of a community promising enlightenment, which uplifts him out of slavery. Bilal then rose to prominence within the faith as a political leader famous for his beautiful voice, gaining the first title of muezzin. The New-Ark calls for an organisation of the artist with the politician: “The artist’s sensibility, the politician’s rationality, turned and tuned with equal skill, as weapons of change.”42 Bilal becomes one ideal figure/weapon of the tendency of disavowal, and spirituality becomes a critical force. As Larry Neal writes, “in the context of world upheaval” — i.e. white-supremacy as “an aesthetic impulse gone astray” that is devoid of social function and “the primacy of scientific knowledge over spiritual knowledge” – ethics and aesthetics must interact positively and be consistent with the demand for a more spiritual world.”43

Therefore, with this significance in mind the azan, muezzin-magician, call and response, and the images of the looming infrastructure-buildings of enclosure stand in a meaningful organisation. The New-Ark responds to white-supremacy with an even-blacker improvisational aesthetic that is spiritual and political.

The need for a spiritual auto-critical force is likewise present in the play within the film. A Black Mass — performed by the Spirit House Movers and Players in The New-Ark — is presented twice in the film. The Black Mass is a reimagining of the Nation of Islam’s myth of Yakob, set in a mythological ancient Islamic-African “holy place” before white people. In the play: a mad magician/scientist, Jacoub, invents abstract-time, as opposed to a natural-rhythmic time felt with the swaying of the body. This abstract time is equated to white-time, which dominates and oppresses the world. Jacoub then creates a neutral-being, who will love abstract-time and believes it is goodness. Hence, “whiteness” is here represented as abstract and neutral. In both scenes in the film, Jacoub is confronted by two magicians — Tanzil and Nasafi — who are working on a potion that will inspire the people to “dance mad rhythms of the eternal universe until time is a weak thing.”44 Thus, in the play, and film, an organised embodied blackness and spiritual “time” — i.e. bodies dancing the mad rhythms of the universe together as community, as collective improvisation — is oppositional to abstract-neutral whiteness. This sacred embodied-time marks the entirety of The New-Ark as the various calls to prayer, to learn, to dance, to organise and as shared rhythms across scenes, such as the jump cut from the children to the adults mentioned above. For one example, Muslims do not arrive to prayer based on abstract time, i.e. always at 6 AM. Rather prayer occurs in relation to the shifting rhythms of the world — the sun’s location. Moreover, prayer in Islam is an embodied performance, where every position of the prayer has a name and purpose – thus a sacred embodied time and movement. Baraka’s joining the Islamic faith in relation to police-brutality, — even if only momentary — framing the film with reference to Islam, and having consistent allusions to a re-vision of an Islamic myth, stands in opposition to a representation of whiteness as abstract and neutral. A whiteness that reduces varieties of blackness and Black peoples to stagnant caricatures, to what the teacher in the African Free School sequence in the film refers to as “the unknown negro.”45 Of course, all of this is mirrored in the improvisational camera work, gesturing to this embodied swaying to the rhythms or sacred movements; as contrasted with camera work where stability hides the connection to an ideological position, to a body, and hence seems abstract and neutral. This embodiment of the spiritual-political, these rhythmic sacred performances, are in opposition to an internalised anti-blackness.

The internalisation of anti-blackness by people of colour is directly referenced by Baraka’s reading of “Poem for Halfwhite College Students” and Karenga’s speech within the film.46 The poem speaks to the internalisation of anti-black ideology, partially through the Hollywood overrepresentation of ‘sex symbols’ and ‘heroes’ as white. This is emphasised in the improvisational camera work, zooming between close-up shots of faces to full-shots of the community as the poem is recited.

The images respond to the question of the poem: “Are you white or black?” Where, possibly, blackness is equated with the community one is part of: the “halfwhite college students” whom strive towards “McQueen” and “Taylor” are figures of internalised anti-blackness; while the audience within the scene align themselves with the black aesthetic, in being part of the community. And yet, still asking said audience to continue to disavowal towards an even-blacker. This is brought to a fine-point with the juxtaposition between the poetry lines, “you may have to be Elizabeth Taylor, old lady / if you want to sit up in your crazy spot dreaming about dresses, / and the sway of certain porters’ hips,” against a portrait-esque longer shot of a Black woman in a gele.47

The shot of the woman in juxtaposition with the audio of the poem, calls out, disavowals – the internalised anti-black notions of beauty in Hollywood. It is a critical juxtaposition that manifests a variety of blackness as beautiful during the sequence. As the poem continues, variable shades of blackness are highlighted in poetic images:

Such images, where shades of blackness overlap and organise community, respond to the call within the film: “It must all be drawn together as an actual whole. All the varied elements of the community, all the varied elements of blackness.”48 And yet, this disavowal is in response to the continuous looming enclosures’ various arms of white-supremacy.

During this same sequence “whiteness” is also depicted in the form of police. After Baraka’s poem, Karenga gives a speech: “…we know he still got a lot of negro in him. But don’t even say I’m Black yet. Take a raincheck on that. Say I’m trying to be Black.”49 As the speech calls for an even-blacker trying to be free of the internalised “negro” (i.e. internalised anti-black representation, aesthetic, pathologies), the visual sequence jump cuts to the streets around the community.

The sequence shows Baraka performing community organising, related to the upcoming election. Then the police arrive, arrest a black man and drive away, with multiple police vehicles following the first.

In the foreground of all these frames are the black-community members. In response to the call to “try and be [even] black[er]”, these images present an external force of anti-blackness. Just as the play calls-out the ‘neutrality’ of whiteness and the poem calls out the internalised aesthetics of whiteness, Karenga’s speech and juxtaposed visual sequence inform on the effects of anti-blackness on the community by a colonising police force. This sequence, and The New-Ark overall, responds with an oppositional even-blacker call to come, to be informed, to organise the varied elements; a call and response of an aesthetic, political and spiritual, improvising around an even-blacker, yet to respond with its own call.

Endnotes

  1. Amiri Baraka and LeRoi Jones, Home: Social Essays, Ecco Press, Hopewell, 1965, p. 10.
  2. The New-Ark. Directed by Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones). Director of Photography, James E. Hinton. Harlem Audio-Visual, 1968. Images Courtesy of James E. Hinton Collection, Harvard Film Archive, Harvard College Library. Images used with permission by M.S. Hinton and Chris Calhoun Literary Agency. © M.S. Hinton and @ Estate of Amiri Baraka. LeRoi Jones is listed as the writer and director of The New-Ark in the film credits. Since his name later changed to Amiri Baraka, I will use Baraka’s name for the director as listed; although Baraka in his Autobiography of LeRoi Jones refers to The New-Ark as a “film made by Jim Hinton” (p. 274). The film credits state the film was produced by Harlem Audio-Visual, which was led by James E. Hinton (HFA 2020). The film credits also list James E. Hinton as the Director of Photography. Larry Neal, Edward Spriggs, and the other members of Harlem Audio-Visual are also listed in the film credits. However, Whitney Strub states that “the archival record reveals” Baraka had a substantial role in the film. See Whitney Strub, “The Baraka Film Archive: The Lost, Unmade, and Unseen Film Work of LeRoi Jones / Amiri Baraka”, Black Camera 7, no. 1, 2015, pp. 273-287, here p. 279.) I have not seen said archival records; but it is fair to state that the film was a collaborative work for the purpose of community engagement and political change.
  3. Lars Lierow, “The ‘Black Man’s Vision of the World’: Rediscovering Black Arts Filmmaking and the Struggle for a Black Cinematic Aesthetic” Black Camera 4, no. 2, 2013, pp. 3-21.
  4. Strub, op.cit. Also Strub, “Recovering The New-Ark: Amiri Baraka’s Lost Chronicle of Black Power in Newark, 1968”, Bright Lights Film Journal, April 2014.
  5. Fred Moten, Black and Blur, Duke University Press, Durham, 2017, pp. vii-viii.
  6. Strub, “The Baraka Film Archive” p. 284. Though rhetoric of “recovery” and “discovery” is problematic, tinged with colonialism and possibly inescapable white saviorism.
  7. The inevitability of anti-blackness, even in the devotional practices meant to disrupt anti-blackness, is understood as an insidious air that submerges America, at least. The New-Ark captures a moment of seeming faith in a politics of progressive redemption. But from the vision of 2020, the film and the history that follows seem to highlight a ceaseless disavowing that is continually met with the “(re)instantiation of a regime of violence that bars black people from the narrative of redemption.” Wilderson, Afropessimism, Norton, New York, 2020, p, 16.
  8. Lierow, 13.
  9. Strub, “The Baraka Film Archive”, p. 277.
  10. Larry Neal, “The Black Arts Movement”, The Drama Review, TDR 12, no. 4 1968, p. 39.
  11. Strub, “The Baraka Film Archive”, p. 277.
  12. Strub, “Recovering The New-Ark.”
  13. LeRoi Jones, Blues People: Negro Music in White America, Quill/William Morrow, New York, 1999, p. 30.
  14. Ibid., pp. 7, 30.
  15. Fred Moten & Stefano Harney, The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Studies, Minor Compositions, New York, 2013, p. 49.
  16. Neal, p. 29.
  17. This essay is a modified section of a larger project in process, where a more detailed reading of the film’s emphasis on political work in relation to the aesthetic and spiritual is highlighted.
  18. Amiri Baraka, The Autobiography of LeRoi Jones, Freundlich Books, New York, 1984, p. 229.
  19. The New-Ark 0:14:00.
  20. Fred Moten, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2003, p. 255.
  21. Woodard, p. 59.
  22. Daniel Matlin, On the Corner: African American Intellectuals and the Urban Crisis, Harvard University Press, Boston, 2013, p. 124.
  23. Baraka. Auto. p. 267.
  24. Moten, Black and Blur, p. 30.
  25. For an examination of said project: Komozi Woodard, A Nation Within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics, North Carolina Press, 1999, pp. 224-230.
  26. Baraka. Auto. p. 266.
  27. Woodard, p. 224. However, Woodard continues, “when black city councilmen emerged as allies of white agents of repression — destroying the urban vision of a New Ark — CAP’s confidence in its own nationalist strategy was shattered.” (ibid). This led to another revision through a more serious turn to socialism and embracing another “anticipatory interpolation” school of thought, third-world Marxism.
  28. Woodard, pp. 224-225.
  29. Woodard, p. 227.
  30. 0:1:16 – 0:1:32
  31. Moten, Undercommons, p. 49.
  32. Baraka. Blues People, p, 31. Quoting Ernest Borneman.
  33. Moten. “In The Break”, p. 64.
  34. Ibid., p. 228.
  35. 0:10:00 – 0:10:26.
  36. Through the consultation and triangulation of archival maps, photographs, geo-referenced data, and site visits I am certain the image shows the construction of the Essex County jail, located today at 60 Nelson Pl. The overcrowding of Essex county jail was the subject of a lawsuit in 1982, thus the image has a prophetic quality.
  37. Baraka. Auto, p. 160.
  38. Amiri Baraka, Four Black Revolutionary Plays, Marion Boyars, New York, 1998, p. 37.
  39. Neal, p. 73.
  40. According to Moten and Harney, this tendency of disavowal is “inherent in the black radical tradition,” emerging from an “auto-critical force of a more genuine (anticipatory variant of) enlightenment…and…desires that animate the ideology of uplift.” Moten, Undercommons, p. 49.
  41. Chapter six of Edward E. Curtis IV’s The Call of Bilal, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2014, focuses on the Nation of Islam’s relationship with Bilal, and the shift from a primordial mythologic origin of blackness to that of Bilal. The primordial origin is represented in the play The Black Mass by Baraka, and possibly in the opening of The New-Ark with the blackness with red-undertones.
  42. 0:24:35.
  43. Neal, pp. 64, 73.
  44. Baraka, Black Mass, p. 38. Also note, in the play names reflect ideology and position.
  45. 0:09:48.
  46. 0:10:30-0:14:20.
  47. 0:12:22 – 0:12:33.
  48. 0:03:55-0:04:05. The portrait-esque framing and the overlaying variation of blackness strike me as examples of Hinton’s tactile shots and poetic mark, as described by Chuck Jackson in his article “The Touch of the ‘First’ Black Cinematographer in North America: James E. Hinton, Ganja & Hess, and the NEA Films at the Harvard Film Archive.” Black Camera, vol. 10, no. 1, 2018, pp. 67-95. The tactility standing as another aspect of an embodiment.
  49. 0:14:00-0:14:20.

About The Author

Andrew Brooks is a PhD candidate at the University at Albany, where he teaches courses revolving around race-relations in literature and film. He is also the co-editor of the forthcoming Living in Languages Graduate Translation Journal. His current projects study oppositional aesthetics in essayistic modalities across mediums.

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