Black Arts at Oxy


From 1969 to 1970, the black art scene in Los Angeles was blossoming politically, socially and culturally. Racism as traumatic abuse was acknowledged in published psychological cases in major press outlets in Los Angeles for the Black community, such as The Sentinel and The Eagle. These studies were particularly referenced as pertaining to black artists. Articles published in this time period, such as "Black Psychiatrists Warn Parents Teach Children Carefully on Race," acknowledge 1970 as a “day of surging black consciousness,” in which “black parents face a greater responsibility than ever before the help their children learn to live happily in a society that is still basically racist.” Parents in black communities were encouraged by psychiatrists to enroll their preschoolers in “programs designed to promote feelings of racial pride.”

    Doc Young is a longtime Los Angeles Sentinel editor who primarily promotes African American sports figures. In his article "Role of the Artist," Doc Young acknowledges 1970 as a time of grave danger for black people in the United States, and highlights the importance of utilizing artistic outlets of expression in black communities. The article announces Jacob Lawrence, a black artist known for his dynamically colorful paintings, as the winner of the 1970 Spingarn Award. Lawrence excels in his blend of realism and abstraction, and Doc Young highlights him therefore as “a man who has achieved distinction, not in the political sphere, but as a painter, as an artist.” Doc Young goes on to “relate the importance of the artistic man or woman to the struggle for freedom.” There is, in fact, “none more important than the man who gives imaginative re-creation to the human spirit for, ultimately, that is all there is of man. And since these artists, like Jacob Lawrence, have been black, their work represents an interpretation of the experience of the Negro in this country...the black artist, whether or not he considers himself as such, is an essential member and a most important member of the freedom struggle.” Doc Young emphasizes at the end of his piece that while the black artist is an embodiment of the struggle for freedom, “black art” should not be placed in a box independent of artistic standards, because this kind of rhetoric sets up an impenetrable dichotomy. Still he stands by his claim that “the negro artist is the ultimate and the only unfettered, clear voice of the aspiration of the black the degree that they set up an ideology, an apologia for the black experience and distort that black experience into their own preconceived notions.”

In December, Carla Thomas, a popular recording artist at Stax Records’, expressed concern for drug addiction in the black community in an interview with Mrs. Pluria Marshall, and led a presentation for the black community’s efforts to treat and repress such addiction. Also in December, as mentioned in "Put Work of 5 Black Artists on Display at Scripps College," “one of the largest and most comprehensive group exhibits of black artists’ work to be shown in Southern California” opened at Lang Art Galleries at Scripps College. The show was called “Benny, Bernie, Betye, Noah and John--Black Artists” featured Benny Andrews, Bernie Casey, Betye Saar, Noah Purifoy and John Outterbridge. The variety of works on display ranged from “flat paintings to three-dimensional constructions, all expressing the artists’ feelings about the black experience and all mankind.” In other news, the Society for the Preservation of Black Music and Art held a concert for the Community Cultural Arkestra, conducted by Horace Tapscott.

The Black Arts were thriving, and included advances in community-based music as well as the visual arts. For example, a gospel concert was held at All The Way Baptist church in January 1970, where the Jackson Singers, the Los Angeles Angels, Mrs. Cassetta George, and Willie Joe Legon of the Mighty Clouds of Joy performed a musical program. In October, Anita and Greg Poree and Anthony d’Oberoff formed Black Magic Productions. Black Magic Productions’ mission is to offer services “to commercial agencies to promote products in a tasteful manner appealing to blacks as well as whites,” according to Black Magic Trio Goes Into Music Production. In November, a Memorial to Dorothy Vena Johnson, educator and patron of the arts, at Widney High School. Prior to her death, Johnson had organized and held her position as president of the League of Allied Arts for 30 years. According to League of Allied Arts Memorial to Founder, under Johnson’s guidance “the league has played an important role in bringing cultural enrichment to the Los Angeles black community.”

Page created by Emily Dwyer, Kellen Holt, Jennifer Keane and Kailee Stovall in December 2016.



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