Sometimes I wonder how the next generation is going to fair given how little we’ve left them to model. This weekend as I sat in NPN Idea Forums, art bursts, showcases and pop-up lunch meetings, I started to realize how remiss my generation has been about passing on the knowledge, struggles, experiences and life lessons we’ve gained. I thought about how diligent and very intentional my parents were about making sure we knew our ancestral struggles and our role in making sure those struggles were not in vain. They did this both by their actions and by including us in those actions (many were the times when we were the youngest demonstrators on the protest line!) I thought about how often I’ve threatened to write about the battles I fought, some won, some not, to make it in the art world and how I somehow never got around to the writing.
I remember my father saying to me many times that it was my responsibility to write the history of our art so that the complaints I kept having about the dearth of scholarly material available for my students would no longer be my regular gripe. I also remember admonishing him for not doing the same thing he accused me of, not writing the history of the civil rights struggles he and my mom were forever activist participants in. We’d shake our heads at each other but when he died at 73 (my mom having left us at 53) without ever having penned that so invaluable story, I started thinking how critical it was for me not to miss the opportunity to “pass it on”.
My original plan was to retire into my next phase of life when I’d start the writing along with the refocusing of my artmaking practice on filmmaking and art bookmaking. But this weekend made me acutely aware of how pressing the need was for me to begin my writing now, at a time when I am still in the trenches and seeing the repeat of history in the form of the next generation screaming about the same inequities I did more than 40 years ago. I now must plan to write an essay a month on topics as varied as teaching African American Art History in the 1970’s and 2011: a comparative investigation to creating an African-centered art education program for children & youth to artmaking that creates dialog around issues of racial, social and political identity without compromising aesthetic sophistication.
So starting January 2013, I will endeavor to write an essay a month on all those topics that I am so passionate about. I’ll worry about organizing them later and how to publish them because first and foremost, I need to get the information I carry in my head out and on paper (or in cyberspace!) I have seen too many of my peers leave this earth prematurely, without having documented their journey for the next generation. I’d like to know that I did all that I could to leave a trail of cultural information crumbs along the path for them to follow as they seek solutions to our collective problems. Later.