To a people who have been enslaved, colonized, and dehumanized, a discussion on arts and Black cultural centers is absolutely meaningless unless its main goal is to restore that integrity and sovereignty that have long disappeared from the Black cultural space.
The most sacred places in black civilization have already been raped, and the bones of Black ancestors have been scattered all over Europe where it was believed that grinding such bones to powder could yield valuable medicines. Whether this practice continues today is up to speculation, but what we do know is that today European scientists are still digging out the insides of our ancestors in the name of scientific research. Not only the corpses of Black ancestors but also their arts and all their most valuable treasures are still today in European possession.
Not only are Europeans in control of the Black man’s ancient artistic treasures, but today through the force of economic oppression, the finest artistic products of the black mind still end up in European control.
Prior to European colonialism, in places like Ethiopia and Kemet, and other African societies as well, the Artist was viewed as a priest. He was a medium between the people and the spirit world, and he protected the community by going to those inner sacred places where the multitudes seldom go. In these sacred places he found the guidance that the people needed, and he therefore communicated to the people the thoughts of God. Because the people had not yet been hypnotized by The White God-head, they were able to recognize and appreciate the important role of the artist. Because of this supportive environment, the artist was able to focus on producing spirit art, art that was far more than a commodity on sale to the highest bidder.
But today, in the age of the spiritual auction block where no one any longer knows the true meaning of the word integrity, the artist has become a cultural prostitute. Let us look at the words of famed Ethiopian film producer Haile Gerima:
“What is happening here? It's hijacking the creative process. African film is being affected because I'm baking bread for Paris. There is no more baking bread for my consumption. I am culturally producing for Europe to eat. So what do I do? I fashion my cultural products to nurture that society’s expectation of me, which means I postpone my ideas in my head. I go into my brain and postpone every pregnancy. Waiting for some day that I will do a film about my grandfather and his story, someday when I gain the resources. And so what is happening? A whole intellectual genocide of creative power is taking place as far as I'm concerned. Because, to me, I think all human beings should express from their cultural point of view a given art work or product and all human beings try to nibble it and try to get to see how other people looked at love, hate, good, evil, all this context have to be put in perspective of our cultural origin.”
It is against this background that we must look at the role of the Black Cultural Center and the role of visual arts. If The Black Cultural Center is not just a U-ropean gimmick that is smoke-screening continued cultural genocide, then it clearly has a huge responsibility to invest in the resurrection, sustenance, and preservation of THAT TYPE OF ART THAT STIMULATES BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS AND RESTORES BLACK INTEGRITY.
Because there is no one funding the development of this type of art, the responsibility is left with The Black Cultural Centers (where they do exist) to be the main patrons of such art. The uninformed may not see the need to make this an urgent priority, but that is because they do not understand that every aspect of human society is shaped by THE VISUAL IMAGES that dominate that society. This fact has never been lost to the Europeans who have historically furthered their colonizing efforts by promulgating A WHITE WORLD VIEW THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE VISUAL ARTS. The Roman Catholic Church is the best example of this. With the advancement of technology, the same Eurocentric forces continue this insidious mind-manipulation game through the use of THE ANIMATED VISUAL IMAGE. (LOWLYWOOD)
Every major social malady that presently plagues the Black community today can be directly traced to this continued manipulation of THE VISUAL IMAGE. Incentives have to be introduced to encourage the production of conscious art that addresses the urgent needs of Black civilization. Currently, any artist who makes this his focus does so at great personal sacrifice, because he is resisting overwhelming colonizing conditions that have been set up to disfigure the black psyche and promote cultural prostitution. When you look at the kids on the block with their pants dropping off, and the black girl with blue eyes and yellow hair, you are looking at our failure to recognize the destructive power of the colonizing image. Our lack of urgency so far in these matters continues to belittle our claim to Afrocentricity, basic honesty, and above all VISION.