Thank you for visiting Alt-Black.com, and welcome to this open dialogue on the Dynamics of Black Culture.
This thought paper on The Black Alternative Culture Movement was not written to articulate a particular position. Rather, it attempts to identify critical questions and historical lessons that hopefully, will animate a broader discussion. The singular assumption that is foundational to this assessment, concerns a shift in the position culture now occupies in America's political topography.
Historically, cultural upsurges have occurred concurrent with, or following the outbreak of revolutionary
political movements. On this point, Alt-Black.com deviates from the historical reading. Our take is that the Cathedral (America) has entered a period of sustained and intensifying, race-based cultural warfare. Under these conditions, a cultural revolution is virtually a pre-condition for the development of any potential revolutionary Black political movement.
For this, and many other reasons, culture may be the most complex issue we confront in weighing the prospects of launching "The Heresy" (Alt-Black movement). Without a "cultural revolution" there can be no viable Alt-Black movement, because culture, generally speaking, defines who we are and what we believe as a people. Our art, music, literature, politics, religion, institutions, rituals, and even hairstyles mark the social DNA and behavior that forges "Black identity."
We vibrate to a unique rhythm in the cosmos. That pulse, felt in the blue-lavender cool of jazz or the primal lyricism of rap, has shaped global culture like no other nationality in modern history. Yet, the radical kernel of the Darker Nation's culture cries out for rediscovery.
If Black intellectuals and artists are unable to offer new cultural works that redefine Black identity, and our relationship to the Cathedral (United States), we run the risk of creative stagnation. The Culture Dome (Corporate media and entertainment titans) will continue to suppress Black culture it can't crush. They will steal what can't be suppressed. And, they will coopt and mass produce what can't be stolen. The remains will be the soulless remnants of homogenized cultural products in blackface. Worse still, the Darker Nation will be complicit in its own cultural destruction.
Today, there is every reason to be optimistic about the future. Since 2011, a new wave of artistic fightback that gathered momentum off-shore, has made landfall. The "Black alternative cultural" movement" (The Surge) has arrived, splashing the Cathedral's canvas with the stark imagery of a youthful insurgency.
A new militancy and combative nationalism is percolating on Beale Street (Black Main Street). In the aftermath of the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, pervasive police brutality has provoked widespread indignation and a profound questioning of the value of Black life in America. Trump's election and the Alt-White rising, magnified feelings of alienation, especially among Black millennials (Quest). That anger and alienation bled into the Black cultural bio-sphere.
Feeding off the energy generated by Black Lives Matter, a group of party crashing Black alternative sub-cultures started gaining traction and converts. Afro Goth staked out new territory with a left-of-center attitude of style and dress. Shunned by white punk rockers, Afro Punk moved off the margins of Beale Street culture, and spread across the United States to the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. Afrofuturism, a literary movement combining elements of science fiction, historical fiction and fantasy, caught fire and melded into other genres.
On the hip-hop front, Kendrick Lamar bolted from Christianity and blackness. He said "Don't Call Me Black No More, I'm an Israelite." Lamar and Kodak Black have embraced the Hebrew Israeli faith, which asserts Blacks lost their real ethnic identity and religion for not following the commandments. Lamar's break with Christianity follows a long tradition of Blacks converting to "alternative spiritual paths," usually on the basis on separatism, nationalism or African traditional religion.
Take a moment and Google "Black alternative culture." The incoming cultural wave you'll see are not "the usual suspects." From architects to Quest-based women groups, they are exploring new vista's of expression. Black Nerds Problems, Alt-Black Girls, Harriet's Chronicle, visual artists and other cultural rebels are carving out a new public space.
These cultural heretics don't fit the mold of mainstream culture on Beale Street, and they aren't trying to. They are true to their Black cultural sensibilities. Many of these "non-traditionals" self-identify as part of "Black alternative culture." Stereotypes like "Blacks don't do rock music," have no purchase here. For them, being nerds, tech geeks or science-fiction buffs is not engaging in a "white mans fancy." They don't crave the acceptance, nor the validation of whites. They are authentically Black.
This cultural awakening raises significant questions for the Jacobins of Black alternative culture and everyone seeking to build an Alt-Black movement. What attitude should be adopted to encourage cultural resisters, rebels and innovators to join the revolt? What general principles can help guide and build this movement that is bold, welcoming, diverse and experimental?
One Afrofuturist described his trend this way; "We're examining the narratives to attempt to build new truths outside the dominant cultural narrative." Alt-Black.com agrees with this statement, and hopes it reflects the general sentiment across the BAC movement. Building new cultural truths, creating new images and molding the evolving Darker Nation--giving it substance, shape and form is the province of our artists and intellectuals. At the same time, we must identify what should be opposed in the Cathedral's dominant cultural narrative.
To oppose the Culture Dome, is to fight a two-front war. The power structure consist of distributors, promoters, critics, media outlets and corporate entertainment companies. Opposing the dominate cultural narrative however, goes to the heart of machine's poisonous ideology and values. These are the soft but more deadly instruments of deceit, manipulation and emasculation of the soul.
The foundation of American culture that we're indoctrinated with from cradle to grave is extolling the rights, privileges and aspirations of the individual. It's a blatant con game. As Harold Cruse pointed out in The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, "In reality the nation is dominated by the social power of groups, classes, in-groups and cliques-both ethnic and religious. The individual in America has few rights that are not backed up by the political, economic and social power of one group or another. To idealize the role of the individual in opposition to Black group rights is a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant project."
Despite the subterfuge, the Culture Dome's mass culture marketing machine grinds out endless ads with fantasies exalting individual freedom, adorned in the cloak of "lifestyle choices." In our hi-tech post-modern world, there are no constants and substantive norms. Increasingly, we exist in a world absent a reality principle. Everything is diminished by the incessant state of change. Not particularly happy with yourself; no worries. Just reinvent yourself and adopt a new lifestyle. It's all about you.
Rugged individualism, narcissism and hedonism are issues we hope the Black alternative culture movement considers taking to task. Further, male dominance and the sexual objectification of women are hard wired in America's dominant cultural narrative. These issues have plagued the hip-hop community internally. But, we also know the recording industry has brutally forced wanton violence and sexually exploitative content on Black artists under the pain of contract.
A conscious long-term commitment to reject these corrosive and exploitative influences is not as easy as it appears. But, the point of trying to establish a "values baseline" for the Black alternative culture movement is not just avoiding pitfalls, it is also aspirational. By adhering to higher standards, The "Surge" will attract artists and intellectuals willing to make more sacrifices to be part of a genuine change movement.
Building support networks and structures to support our artists and intellectuals is critical to our movement. Over time, the commanding powers of the Culture Dome tend to wear down the radical edges of artists and intellectuals who buck the system. We are not naïve. Up and coming, out-of-the-box artists and intellectuals still have to eat, pay bills and raise families.
If there is one bitter lesson learned from the Harlem Renaissance, it is that the Black middle and upper classes did not, by and large support black artists. They had to frequent the 5th Avenue Village parlor rooms of Carl Van Vechten and Mabel Dodge to seek sponsors. In the 30's and 40's, it was the Communist Party U.S.A. that bankrolled radical Black writers. They insisted on cultural endeavors that promoted the "multi-racial working class," while smearing those works embracing Black national sentiments as Garveyite voodoo nationalism. We are reminded of Harold Cruse's comment that, "cultural integration doesn't require a black artist."
We need artistic works that promote uplifting themes for the Darker Nation. We need Black artists whose works encourage Black cultural autonomy.
Finally, a word must be said about cultural appropriation. It is a very significant issue, and one we hope will be a subject for continuing discussion. Soul Thieves: The Appropriation and Misrepresentation of African-American Popular Culture, by Baruti N. Kopano and Tamara L. Brown, is an important book that lays bare the corporate theft and control of Black music in a comprehensive and compelling way. The takeover that began with in the 1970's with The Harvard Report; A Study of the Soul Music Environment for Columbia Records Group, is a tragic chapter that should be studied with an eye to the future.
In closing, we return to this paper's overriding assumption that "the Cathedral (America) has now entered a period of sustained and intensifying, race-based cultural warfare." Tribal Leader Trump and the Alt-White have brought this fight to our doorstep.
Just as he attacked Barak Obama for being a foreign-born Muslim, he directly attacked protesting Black athletes as unpatriotic ingrates who don't know their place. His statement “You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58 percent of your youth are unemployed and you can't walk down the streets without getting shot," is not just the rambling of a avowed racist. This is the maximum leader of American Empire suggesting we are a lesser species of homo-sapiens, genetically disposed to a violent and self-destructive pathology. Combined with the Alt-White's rampant racial supremists offensive, the restoration of White Ethno-European culture has been loosed in pursuit of staunching the existential threat posed by the Browning of America.
The People of a Darker Hue have nothing to prove to anyone, least of all the defenders of White Ethno-European culture, whose civilization by their own admission is in precipitous decline. The transformative power of Black culture is known to the world, even if--ironically enough--it isn't fully appreciated by many in our own community. Nevertheless, its radical creative center is in need of refreshment and renovation to resist the allure of consumer-based mass culture. We may well be entering into a period of intense political confrontation and social upheaval. Our ability to draw inspiration, strength and resolve to meet these challenges will largely come from the vitality of our culture.