James Baldwin Month x Pop Literary Criticism
One of the things I value James Baldwin for is his literary and film criticism, so I’m excited to be reading so much great criticism about Baldwin, the application of his messages and ideas to contemporary issues (or, expressions of longstanding issues), and comparisons with today’s writers. I crave more popular black literary criticism (obv!). Two fantastic articles:
I’ve been slightly annoyed at the Ta-Nehisi Coates comparisons — I definitely anticipated that they would come a couple of years ago when Coates began to appear with more frequency and to more acclaim. I really like Vinson Cunningham’s figuring of Coates as “the rapper.”In the past, I’ve also felt that Coates’ writing seems to have a little bit more male ego to me. I know ego is a really loaded word, and I mean it as a mindset, more than any sort of aggressive thing, but I have had trouble relating to the sensibility of his writing, the particular angling in how points are made, although I do agree with a lot of his message. Baldwin, to me, speaks from the sensibility, yes of the church, as Cunningham says, but in my understanding, more so to love and loving potentiality. Not to paint him as a hippie: I think for Baldwin the premise for loving potentiality was an almost invasive, wrenching truthiness.
Also, let’s just go ahead and make this James Baldwin month on this blog, and to that end, here is a great article by JoAnn Wypijewski on why he is still relevant today.
And speaking of the power of great pop cultural literary criticism, this Holy Trinity comparison by Sesali B. is so good, I feel that I understand the appeal of, and kind of like all of those artists more now! (Except for Nicki, because my love for her was already enormous).
Zeba Blay is Awesome:
Zeba Blay is one of my favorite young writers now and I really enjoyed her take on the absurd Allure magazine article about how white women can style their hair in to “Afros.” (Ugh.)
She also hosts a great podcast called Two Brown Girls, with Fariha Roisin.
Alex Landau’s Traffic Stop @ Storycorps/ The Power of Digital Narratives
I really enjoy the animation series from Storycorps. Animation lends its levity to serious and heartfelt narratives. It is appealing, it is digestible, it is a reasonable communicatory tool. Animation is just one tool among many that can be utilized by minorities to express complicated and difficult ideas. I think this also gets at why I like Blay and Roisin’s podcast so much, because the format is very much a private space shared by the new method of digital, internet interaction. What other unique digital narrative and communications work is being made in this framework of privileging otherwise under heard perspectives? (Seriously. I’ll love you forever if you share a good link in the comments below.)
Dapper Dan, and Appropriating Assimilation?
I read a great interview with Dapper Dan , the legendary Harlem clothier, who printed designer logos all over track suits, and stitched together leather and fur pieces, that became a signature look in the 80’s and 90’s. He’s got a fascinating story. I also can’t help but think about how he assimilated black styles, by grafting (illegally) white luxury branding. It’s interesting to think about how luxury brands work in a place like Harlem, in a context where the authenticity of said brands is not necessarily of the highest import, and storefronts still have mannequins draped in Harlemified luxury logo wear, and that it carries some remixed social capital of that original logo.
I think the Dapper Dan look returned in the early 2000’s when there was a throwback early 90’s hip-hop look that was and still is trending. But in time for the vintage redux, it was authentic wares that became popularized. Now luxury brands openly and willingly identify with hip-hop. By then, fashion found a way to attract urban markets who already showed willingness to sport their brands. Think about the return of the MCM luxury brand’s renewed popularity, and tell me you can’t attribute that to the renaissance of the Dapper Dan influence.
Now, labels like Moschino and Calvin Klein, seem eager to push a hyper branded look. Certainly a nod to the 90’s, but could it be perhaps a 90’s hip-hop logo driven era that Dapper is in part responsible for?
Whatever way you slice it, this man is an Uptown Legend, for sure.