Role of the Art Center:
"The art center served the general public. All aspects of art were supported at the center"
Discussion of the Black Aesthetic:
"Ebonics is an affirmation of human life"
"The aesthetic difference between black and white culture is white culture believes in art for arts sake."
"European art celebrated art for arts sake. Black art had art with a purpose of teaching, affirming certain values through the use of coherent imagery"
"As human beings with logical minds, black artists were interested in therapy as opposed to escapism"
"There is an expression in Ebonics, 'it iz that way sometimes.' This is an affirmation of ontological certainty. Unlikely in white culture, where there is a lingering question of what it is to be, for example Hamlet and his famous soliloquy, there is no uncertainty in the black aesthetic of what it is to be."
"In black culture, you have to just be. There is no doubt. What is important is to e and to affirm that being"
"There is no competition or comparison between blacks and whites, rather there is an affirmation of black human life. Even the poorest of people have a need to affirm human life"
Black art in the modern world
"Modern black artists prostitute themselves. They become slaves to what will sell and mold their personalities accordingly"
"Human dignity is what is important, not what a purchaser will give you"
"I would ask the black artist, are you so desperate to be a star that you will do whatever someone wants you to do? You are selling yourself instead of having the dignity of being human. This is a continuation of the slave block"
"Black art happens within the context of human history."
"White America has an incoherence in belief system"
"White America discredits the cultural alternatives of black America despite the fact these cultural alternatives are more viable"
Future of America/ Black Arts
"The mandate of history is somebody provides a better alternative to the current standards"
"Illusion. This is white America. It is so wrong, it will become a delusion and that is what destroys our human society. You will do anything to defend your stance until you finally destroy yourself"
"The system will have to destroy itself. Only white people can solve the problem of white supremacy"
The Black Arts/ Black Power movement is one of the twentieths centuries most misunderstood and misrepresented artistic and social revolutions. In the wake of Martin Luther Kings' assassination, the Black community was confronted with a problem- the peaceful approach towards integration wasn't working; therefore, by any means necessary, black youth was going to gain liberation. The BABP movement is associated with violence, hyper masculinity and aggression, but at its core, it still was a movement of healing. When interviewing Mr. Seals, he illuminated several intricacies of the BABP movement that are often overlooked in modern reflections on the period. Although somewhat disjointed and tangential, this interview was enlightening.
Mr. Williams was brief in his discussion of the South Side Community Arts Center. He stated that he had worked for the Center since 1961, but it was actually the product of a Roosevelt instated WPA project. He stated, "The art center served the general public. All aspects of art were supported at the Center." However, what this insightful comment laid the groundwork for were his future assertions on the purpose of black art, its purposes and its aesthetics.
During the interview, Mr. Seals, hit on three main points; firstly he discussed black aesthetics. Primary in his discussion was the central claim that the fundamental aesthetic difference between white and black culture is that white culture believes in 'art for arts sake,' whereas black culture 'has the high purpose of teaching, affirming certain values through the use of coherent imagery.' Black arts are therapeutic means of expressing a black voice that had previously been silenced by white power. In his final point about the black aesthetic, Mr. Seals brought in the use of Ebonics in explaining black artistic ideology. He stated, 'There is an expression in Ebonics 'it iz that way sometimes.' This is an affirmation of ontological certainty... there is no uncertainty in the black aesthetic of what it is to be.' This emphasis on an affirmation of being, an unconditional claim of identity, is analogous with the writings of Black Power politics.
Next, Mr. Seals discussed the current state of black art. I asked him specifically about the commoditization of the black artist and the implications of the stereotyping that is happening in mainstream representations of black arts and black culture. He stated, "Modern black artists prostitute themselves. They become slaves to what will sell and mold their personalities accordingly." I asked him then, as a follow up, what should the black artists do in a culture that supports a very limited and stereotypical type of black arts. To this, he responded "I would ask the black artists, are you so desperate to be a star that you will do whatever someone wants you to do? You are selling yourself instead of having the dignity of being human. This is a continuation of the slave block." Mr. Seals words are strong and resounding. The implication of this statement is large, namely because these mainstream black arts are so proliferated throughout the media that these images and identities are become what people view as black culture. White America is controlling the way in which black culture is represented in the media.
Finally, Mr. Seals discussed the future of the black arts movement, and the future of black men and women in America. Invoking one of many metaphors, which I have omitted for the means of clarity, he likened America to the Roman Empire. The Roman empire fell because a more viable cultural alternative came along, and along the lines of this metaphor, Mr. Seals believes white America will fall under the pressure of its perpetuating illusion. "Illusion. This is white America. It is so wrong, it will become a delusion and that is what destroys our human society. You will do anything to defend your stance until you finally destroy yourself." Therefore, according to Mr. Seals, the only solution to white power is the dissolving of white America.
Overall, this interview was extremely difficult at the time. Mr. Seals is tangential and heated, somewhat condescending and defiant, but upon reflection of what he said, his attitudes and thoughts are brilliant. His insight is immense, and his background in the field tremendous. Mr. Seals has seen the movement mutate into a variety of forms, the newest manifestation still playing itself out.