Appropriating Blackness: Performance and the Politics of by E. Patrick Johnson

By E. Patrick Johnson

Performance artist and student E. Patrick Johnson’s provocative examine examines how blackness is appropriated and performed—toward generally divergent ends—both inside of and out of doors African American tradition. Appropriating Blackness develops from the competition that blackness within the usa is unavoidably a politicized identity—avowed and disavowed, appealing and repellent, mounted and malleable. Drawing on functionality conception, queer reports, literary research, movie feedback, and ethnographic fieldwork, Johnson describes how varied constituencies many times try and prescribe the limits of "authentic" blackness and the way functionality highlights the futility of such enterprises.

Johnson seems at numerous websites of played blackness, together with Marlon Riggs’s influential documentary Black Is . . . Black Ain’t and comedic exercises by way of Eddie Murphy, David Alan Grier, and Damon Wayans. He analyzes nationalist writings by means of Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver, the vernacular of black homosexual tradition, an oral background of his grandmother’s event as a family employee within the South, gospel track as played by means of a white Australian choir, and pedagogy in a functionality reports lecture room. by means of exploring the divergent goals and results of those performances—ranging from resisting racism, sexism, and homophobia to aside from sexual dissidents from the black community—Johnson deftly analyzes the a number of significations of blackness and their myriad political implications. His reflexive account considers his personal complicity, as ethnographer and instructor, in authenticating narratives of blackness.

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Black Is also features gay black dancer Bill T. Jones. Regarding the critique of black masculinity, Riggs asks Jones to characterize the ‘‘woman inside’’ him. As Jones describes his inner femininity, he and dancer Andrea E. Woods choreograph a piece that symbolizes what Jones narrates: a black masculinity that embraces and celebrates the feminine as much as it does the masculine. Importantly, Jones resists constructing a feminine/masculine binary; rather, through the fluidity of his dance moves with Woods he suggests a fluidity of gender as well.

Work maybe a little today, rest a little tomorrow’’) undermines his valorization of these same ‘‘folk’’ as the site of racial authenticity. And given that Hughes himself was a product of and lived primarily as the black middle class, he ironically presents the black middle class, by implication, as lacking creativity, individuality, and indeed, authenticity. 16 A similar rhetoric of racial authenticity founded on class difference also circulated during the 1960s Black Power and Black Arts movements.

But just as the black church has been a political and social force in the struggle for the racial freedom of its constituents, it has also, to a large extent, occluded sexual freedom for many of its practitioners, namely gays and lesbians. ’’ In other words, gays and lesbians may actively participate in the church as long as they are silent about their homosexuality. 37 In Black Is, for example, the pastor of St. John’s ame Church in Drew, Mississippi, says to Riggs: ‘‘God loves the individual, but God does not love the homosexual part, the sin that is involved.

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