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People Get Ready

People Get Ready: African American and Caribbean Cultural Exchange

Kevin Meehan
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    People Get Ready
    Book Description:

    Throughout this book, Kevin Meehan offers historical and theoretical readings of Caribbean and African American interaction from the 1700s to the present. By analyzing travel narratives, histories, creative collaborations, and political exchanges, he traces the development of African American/Caribbean dialogue through the lives and works of four key individuals: historian Arthur Schomburg, writer/archivist Zora Neale Hurston, poet Jayne Cortez, and politican Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

    People Get Readyexamines how these influential figures have reevaluated popular culture, revised the relationship between intellectuals and everyday people, and transformed practices ranging from librarianship and anthropology to poetry and broadcast journalism. This discourse, Meehan notes, is not free of contradictions, and misunderstandings arise on both sides. In addition to noting dialogues of unity,People Get Readyfocuses on instances of intellectual elitism, sexim, color, prejudice, imperialism, national, chauvinism, and other forms of mutual disdain that continue to limit African American and Caribbean solidarity.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-282-5
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. INTRODUCTION. People Get Ready Recalling African American and Caribbean Solidarity
    (pp. 3-21)

    This study attempts to situate, historically and theoretically, a long tradition of dialogue and collaboration between African American and Caribbean peoples for the purposes of liberation. The basic premise is that within and against the circuits of political, economic, and cultural domination that have structured hemispheric relations in the Americas since 1492, African American and Caribbean solidarity represents a highly developed force for creating decolonizing social change. This legacy is not free of contradictions and misunderstandings on both sides, and the chapters that follow grapple with intellectual elitism, sexism, color prejudice, imperialism, national chauvinism, and other forms of mutual disdain...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Theorizing African American and Caribbean Contact Comparative Approaches to Cultural Decolonization in the Americas
    (pp. 22-51)

    From the moment when African people began to be dispersed across the Americas by the Atlantic slave trade, artists, writers, and everyday people of African descent have created linkages that would allow them to communicate and collaborate from diverse global locations. Yet critical efforts to excavate, theorize, and interpret legacies of black internationalism have—as Brent Hayes Edwards has noted about the Harlem Renaissance—been limited to the work of “a handful of scholars” (2–3). For students of literary and cultural production, up to the mid-1990s much of the available theory on African American and Caribbean interaction was, as...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Vested in the Anonymous Thousands Arthur A. Schomburg as Decolonizing Historian
    (pp. 52-75)

    The division separating colonized intellectuals from the masses is one of the fundamental structuring devices of colonial societies. Yet African American and Caribbean writers have never met this fractured social reality with automatic or uniform acceptance; on the contrary, the stratified relation between intellectuals and the masses has, over the decades, served repeatedly as a focal point for opposition and resistance to colonial and neocolonial power. Traveling on separate paths, but with recurring moments of intertextual contact and direct collaboration, African American and Caribbean intellectuals have continuously registered and criticized colonial and neocolonial stratifications; in creative writing and critical theories...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Decolonizing Ethnography Zora Neale Hurston in the Caribbean
    (pp. 76-100)

    At the height of the Great Depression, in 1936 and 1937, African American novelist and folklorist Zora Neale Hurston traveled to Jamaica and Haiti on consecutive Guggenheim grants in order to study folk religion. It was during this period that Hurston produced her best-known piece of writing, the novelTheir Eyes Were Watching God. After her time in Haiti was cut short by a mysterious stomach ailment—caused perhaps by aboko, or vodou priest, who was guarding his turf against the anthropologist’s prying gaze—Hurston returned to the United States, where she completedTell My Horse: Voodoo and Life...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Red Pepper Poetry Jayne Cortez and Cross-Cultural Saturation
    (pp. 101-130)

    Like arthur schomburg and Zora Neale Hurston, contemporary jazz poet Jayne Cortez is a person whose life and work testify to the continuing impact of New York City as a pivotal hub of decolonizing cultural contact.¹ In Cortez’s case, her encounters with Caribbean writers, artists, and musicians begin in New York but connect her to a network of institutional linkages that extend far beyond her local scene. Cortez’s life and poetry are defined by collaborations with major figures in the Caribbean Artists Movement, the Negritude movement, and the Cuban revolution (to name just the most prominent formations engaged in this...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Mass Media Contact Zones Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Dialectics of Our America
    (pp. 131-154)

    The history of Caribbean and African American solidarity finds another powerful expression in recent efforts to support the struggle for democratic rule in Haiti. After sketching out a view of Haitian popular democracy in its national or domestic context, the bulk of this chapter focuses on the central role played by African American journalists Jesse Jackson Sr. and Charlayne Hunter-Gault in disseminating the rhetoric of Haitian democracy internationally to a mass audience in the United States and beyond.

    In light of the framework for cultural decolonization explored throughout this study, the emergence of Haiti’s popular democratic movement and its most...

  11. EPILOGUE. One Love in the Classroom Why Comparative Links between African American Studies and Caribbean Studies Matter
    (pp. 155-161)

    I want to conclude with a final reflection on the role of culture in decolonization, and more specifically on the legacy of convergence that makes African American and Caribbean cultural dialogue a pivotal decolonizing tradition in the Americas. At the same time, I want to project the analysis and the argument beyond a strictly demarcated, formalist cultural critique, for Schomburg, Hurston, Cortez, and Aristide are important not only because of their liberating cultural expressions but also for their broader social engagements; their insistent linking of cultural activity with political, economic, and other social arenas; and the existential models they provide...

  12. APPENDIX. An Interview with Jayne Cortez
    (pp. 162-171)
    Kevin Meehan and Jayne Cortez
  13. Notes
    (pp. 172-201)
  14. Works Cited
    (pp. 202-220)
  15. Index
    (pp. 221-231)