The Darker Nation is on the cusp of a Third Wave alternative cultural rising.
Over the past few years we've witnessed the most significant eruption of rebel culture in literature, music, and film since the 1960’s. Defending, popularizing, and expanding the insurgency that's gathering under the banner of “Black Alternative” culture is a strategic consideration in building the Alternative Black Nationalist movement.
The cultural insurgency we speak of is an increasingly broad front. The Afropunk trend has extended Black musical expression to forms considered non-traditional, if not taboo to the Darker Nation. Afrofuturism novels and films depicicting visions of Frontier Blackdom have captivated our collective imagination. AfroGoth fashion, Resistance Rap, “Take a Knee” athletes and “New Edge” women’s groups are all shaping the contours of the Black alternative culture movement. To strengthen and accelerate the movement's development, Alt-Black.com proposes a two-track concept of “Cultural Concentration.”
The first track of “Cultural Concentration” calls for replicating the “Harlem experience” by assembling a critical mass of rebel artists and intellectuals in one city to launch a national cultural “renaissance.” The second track encourages the development of smaller Black cultural villages and corridors in historic communities across the nation.
What’s being articulated here is a larger vision than achieving greater coordination and networking between Black artists, cultural clubs, collectives, and associations. “Cultural Concentration” contemplates geography and claiming sacred cultural space. It envisions transforming neighborhoods into liberated cultural zones where Black artists and intellectuals live, work and hang-out.
These areas would have cultural spaces where artistic works are displayed, retail stores, bookstores, coffee shops, nightclubs and restaurants that reflect the fashion, taste, and ethnic proclivities of the Darker Nation.
To succeed, these cultural villages and corridors would have to become destination points for those thirsting to participate in forging new cultural identities and initiatives. These zones must also be a destination point for the local black community to patronize village business and cultural events.
To gain altitude, these enclave will require oxygen and atmosphere. Thus, the vibe on this new Black Street would have to reflect new cultural sensibilities and values. That means encouraging and treasuring the contributions and leadership of women, countering the influence of base materialist consumer culture, narcissism, sexism, and sexual exploitation.
The new cultural villages must be tolerant, and black alternative cultural impresarios should foster a sense of inclusion with Black mainstream artists and intellectuals. In doing so, they can more effectively influence the broader community. Moreover, like the Harlem experience, these enclaves should serve to mentor and train new artistic and intellectual successors. In time, the cultural "shot in the arm" these villages bring to their respective communities, should hopefully entice the support and investment of the Black middle-class to sustain and expand them.
A New National Citadel of Black Culture
In the 1920’s, Harlem emerged as the epicenter of international Black Culture. But its strategic role in defining Black identity, giving voice to Black Arts movements, vetting Black political tendencies vying for leadership and serving as the intellectual nerve center, began to lose altitude in the sixties. Its function as “capital” of the Darker Nation declined and has never been replaced. The concept of “Cultural Concentration” seeks to encourage a re-launch of Harlem’s strategic cultural role.
The Black alternative cultural movement and aspiring artists need a national home--a forward operating base--to accelerate the process of transferring its influence from the margins to mainstream Beale Street (the Black street). Relocating a renaissance community requires a foundational neighborhood, with deep organic roots and proximity to significant resources. A new renaissance community must inspire cultural rebels from across the country to pack their bags and laptops to go where the action is. The ability to attract talent from every corner of America was for decades one of Harlem’s greatest strengths.
Harlem and Lessons from the Sixties
By the mid-sixties the one Black political force that never established a base in Harlem—the Southern Christian Leadership Conference under Martin Luther King’s leadership, shifted the Darker Nation’s geographic political center to the South. Suddenly, King’s Ghandi-based non-violent civil rights movement became a magnetic field, attracting young Black and white activists to the deep South.
The assassination of Malcolm X was a devastating setback for the Black Nationalist movement, and robbed Harlem of what actor called Ozzie Davis called “Our Shining Prince.” By the mid-sixties, the militant Black Power movement had pushed the civil rights struggle in the background.
The rise of the Black Panthers in 1966, shifted the revolutionary political center to Oakland and the Bay Area, where U.C Berkeley was also a national hotbed of radical white activism. Not only were the Panthers the vanguard of revolutionary Black nationalism, they introduced a new radical vocabulary and imagery in the Black Panther newspaper. They also popularized radical chic dress featuring Black berets and leather jackets.
The lesson we’re emphasizing is that calling for a new “renaissance community/city is not a utopian fantasy. It’s a very real possibility that could emerge quickly and be triggered by unforeseen circumstances. Indeed, the initial event that was the catalyst for the Black Panthers' rise was outrage at the death of a child struck by a car while riding a bike through a dangerous intersection with no STOP sign.
Relocating a “Renaissance City”
Across the nation there are dozens of communities that have the potential to become the next Harlem “renaissance city.” Many of these enclaves have historical black enclaves that have existed for decades.
Detroit, for example suffered the largest population loss of any major city nationally. With an 82 percent Black population rate, the highest of any large American city, Detroit has unlimited potential to recast itself as Black cultural capital of America.
Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8 with 73,000 people and a 94 percent Black population rate has an attractive profile for Cultural Concentration. Located across the river from the White House, Ward 8, known as Anacostia, is almost like a city onto itself. Existing in the midst of large well educated, relative politically sophisticated populace with a large Black middle-class and close proximity to Howard University, Ward 8 has high visibility and strategically located for high impact.
Prince Georges County, Maryland, population 790,000 and 62 percent Black is the wealthiest Black majority county in the United States. As a suburban area of Washington, D.C. it also has high impact potential.
Atlanta, once promoted as the new Black Mecca is now only 50 percent Black, but the AU Center’s four HBCU’s remains a significant anchor for a cultural revival. Chicago’s Black community, second only to New York as a radical cultural center from the 1930’s to the 1960’s has been plagued with violence but could be a prime location for a renaissance moment. New Orleans 9th Ward, Crenshaw and Compton in Los Angeles, and dozens of other historic Black communities are uniquely qualified to stand-up renaissance communities.
Surveying the country, Alt-Black.com thinks that based on its historical development, strong artistic and intellectual community, strategic location, economic and demographic profile, Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, may be the strongest predominantly Black community nationwide to inherit Harlem’s legacy.
The Darker Nation has experienced two profound cultural revolutions. Perhaps the Harlem Renaissance could be more accurately characterized as the first mass Black Cultural Awakening. It produced an entirely new modern body of literature, art, music, theatre, politics, language an fashion reflected the “Great Migration” to America’s urban areas from the South and the Caribbean. It participants aptly identified themselves as the “New Negro.”
By contrast, the sixties radical and revolutionary movements reached back to the classics of Harlem Renaissance and it successors in the 30's 40's and 50's as a reference point in forging its Black Power cultural surge. In particular the 60's cultural revolt sought to redefine its identity to Africa and American Empire, while exploring the politics of national liberation. The creation of Black Studies Departments grew out of the Black identity struggles of the sixties.
Today’s growing Black cultural rising represents the Third Wave that's clearly targeting the status quo and the dominant cultural narrative. This movement is emerging at the same time as we're entering a period of high-intensity race-based cultural warfare, provoked by the Alt-Right and Tribal leader Trump. In a real sense, the radical fightback of the Black alternative culture is movement is ahead of the political fightback of the social reformist protests movements.
The concept of “Cultural Concentration” is offered as one strategy for consideration to advance our cause of the Black alternative cultural movement and Black Nationalism.