Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Maya Angelou: Even the lame go unspared

By Sekou OSEI and William PLEASANT

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

"Generally Speaking, Negro writing in the past has been confined to humble novels, poems 
and plays, prim and decorous ambassadors...

Richard Wright

The Negro writer who seeks to function within  his race as a purposeful agent has serious responsibility. In order to do justice to his subject 
matter, in order to depict Negro life in all of its manifold and intricate relationships, a deep, 
informed, and complex consciousness is necessary; a consciousness which draws for its 
strength upon the fluid lore of a great people, and moulds this lore with the concepts that 
move and direct the forces of history today"

(Richard Wright, Blueprint of Negro Writing--1938)    

It must be said that one of the  political struggles that must be waged is around the question of aesthetics and art. But this struggle must be tied to material and political goals, or it will collapse--as it has done before--into commercialized symbolism or worst. A truism says that "time" catches all of us, even the "lame." Maya Angelou just left the world in death as everyone will do at some point. And now, Afrocentric, middles class Negroes will come up with something to celebrate; to rationalize her years of formally silly tropes, her sentimental Black petit-bourgeois narcissism as "art." 

Her's was a poetry of personal grandstanding. While there may be those who argue that she was once "left," but so was Gus Hall of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), who spent his time reading the "winds of change" rather than the impotence of the disorganized and mis-organized US working class. Bob Avakian was "left," too. Exploring the crannies of his navel, he prophesied a spontaneous revolutionary storm with the regularity of December 25th and the infantile breathlessness of Santa worship. While neither Hall nor Avakian pretended to be artists or poets, they, nonetheless, had a lot in common with Maya Angelou. They all wallowed in sterile performances as social insight and political prescription. Angelou, like them, substituted vulgar symbolism and metaphorical extrapolation for anything even approaching a material understanding (or expression) of the imperative historical task at hand for the ascending class in this country or elsewhere. In the end, Maya Angelou merely demonstrated an artistic and political propensity to celebrate the color of the clock while intentionally mis-appreciating the critical nature of the TIMES.

Again, many will insist that Maya Angelou was a communist, even a radical fellow traveler who was once investigated by the witch hunting House Un-American Committee (HUAC), but that only demonstrates that the US Left lacked and lacks any political/artistic standard to determine who it chooses to embrace other than the declarations and denunciations of the STATE.

Malcolm X and Angelou in Ghana

On the black hand side, other pundits would style Angelou as a distinguished Nationalist. After all, she did welcome Malcolm X to Ghana. But that was long ago, in a galaxy far away with regards to WHAT NEEDS TO BE LEARNED AND DONE NOW to staunch the fascistic consumption of our people in America and in the so-called Motherland. The truth of the matter is that, like Malcolm X, Angelou was at best a guest of a faltering neo-colonial regime. And her presence in Ghana, like that of Malcolm X and other Black expatriates at the time, failed to advance the cause of Pan Africanism or the Black Liberation Project one centimeter.

Was Maya Angelou a kindly, elderly lady? Probably. Did she throw what political and cultural clout that she had at the time behind the Supreme Court nomination of the arch neo-fascist negrophobe Clarence Thomas? Indeed! Was she Bill Clinton's poetic jester? Most certainly!

Clarence Thomas, the scum of the earth.

Was Maya Angelou an inspirational figure to many Black writers, particularly female writers? Yes.
After all, what literary artist would shun fame and a steady paycheck and fail to worship those who strived for such blessings'?

But Maya Angelou was no Phyllis Wheatley, who elegantly pleaded her very humanity to a vicious American slavocracy. Maya Angelou was no Sojourner Truth, who could shout down the fortress of white supremacy and sexism  with but a breath. Maya Angelou was no Zora Neal Hurston, who could sensuously weave in words a people's tapestry of suffering and struggle.

Phyllis Wheatley
Sojourner Truth

Zora Neal Hurston

Maya Angelou must be appreciated as a victim and beneficiary of her time. Like many members of the contemporary negro-ratti, particularly the female variety, she found her niche in the cultural toy boxes of white liberals. In death, she joins the pantheon of NEO-MAMMY DOLLS, tearjerkers and pacifiers, that crowd America's bookshelves, for the benefit of retail exploitation and nothing more.

Just leave it at that.



  1. Not only do I find this treatise pretentious and silly clap/trap, but solid evidence that Harold Cruse was absolutely right when he said that black writers must IGNORE THE MINDLESS BROMIDES OF THE MARXIST LEFT IF THEY ARE TO SUCCEED AS ARTIST!!!! He was a paragon of wisdom when he warned that the only politics that Afro-american artists should be concerned with is "the politics of culture! this commentary leaves no doubt that the black left is HOPELESSLY LOST ANS IRRELEVANT!!!!!!! Great way to build a movement: Insult the popular poets of the people!!!!!

  2. Sorry, Charlie, this won't wash...Tyler Perry is the popular theatre artist of the people. Lil Wayne is the popular poetic artist of the people. If I fart, can I call it art? If I throw a tantrum, then can I call it REVOLUTION? Your criticism actually makes our point. The Black petit-bourgeoisie is clueless, so it staggers about in search of pre-fabricated and politically vapid icons. It celebrates everything but analyzes nothing. It has NO AESTHETIC, merely emotionalism and careerist wet-dreams.What "politics of culture?" Harold Cruse would not know "politics" nor "culture" if it was not validated by the commercial prostitution of the artist and the vulgarest exploitation of the audience's CULTURAL AND POLITICAL UNDERDEVELOPMENT.. Dollah bill, y'all! RIGHT? Cruse's "politics of culture" is merely a harlot's song.The next time you contemplate what is irrelevant, ask a typical Black youth who was Maya Angelou. BTW: We are not interested in building a movement. We want a PARTY of intellectually disciplined people. Please don't bother to apply.