brown art | september 19, 2009


lemon andersen county of kings
was it DuBois who wrote about black art, some decades ago, as the world gaping at a dog walking on its hind legs? (this is from memory, so don't quote me here.) i find that the world hasn't changed all that much.

started my new job this week as marketing manager at a theater company, Culture Project, currently producing a spoken word memoir/play by Lemon Andersen, a former Def Poet. he grew up in Brooklyn, raised by heroin addicts, and started selling drugs until he landed in Sing Sing. if that wasn't enough, he started dealing again after he got out and landed in a Texas prison.

reading and poetry turned Lemon's life around. he got on Def Poetry Jam, then Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, then got a role in Inside Man, and most recently The Soloist. it's an amazing and inspirational story -- the play and the performance are truly brilliant. but i can't shake that feeling that the audience is simply gaping, trying to find some lost part of their own humanity, to purge some irreconcilable guilt over having lived a more gilded life.

given the performance and vernacular, his Latino heritage, coming from the inner-city, one might certainly call it brown art. and for all its brilliance, i have become so tired of the powers ghettoizing brown art and then slinging it for profit. the truer Lemon stays to his voice, the more others seek to capitalize on it. and i worry that i have suddenly become one of them.

i suppose inherent in the worry is the consolation that i am aware of this pitfall. or perhaps it is only that i too have many stories to share and have always shied away from the types of people who would exploit me.

it will become increasingly more difficult for me to live this artistic life in public. i would not like to have to stop blogging, or start being less honest. good thing not too many people read this -- i don't have much tolerance for gapers.

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