Monday, December 13, 2010

Update as of Thursday 12/16.

Hi guys -

As of Thursday, I'm still out of town due to a death in the family. If you were scheduled to give a presentation Tuesday, you can email me your visuals or notes if that's possible, if not; don't worry about it and I'll calculate your participation grade without it. If you still owe me an essay, please email it to me or post in your blog. You can also continue to post your public art posts or bonus posts. I will most likely be turning in the final grades next Monday.

Tomorrow, Friday, you can meet as scheduled from 10:30-12:30 in E264; I will pass the essays that are in New York and all your grades to colleagues who will be able to give them to you. If I have your essay with me, I will include comments about it and you can pick up the physical essay at the start of January. If I don't have all your work, I will indicate this on the sheet I give to my colleagues and ask you to get in touch with me.

Feel free to contact me at laura.tanenbaum@gmail or 917 710-7341. with any questions or concerns.

Thank you for understanding. You've been a great class and I'm sorry I won't be there to Friday. Do stop by come January or stay in touch.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bonus Posts

To complete your work for the semester be sure you have:

1) Turned in your research essay with all the elements listed on your checklist.

2) Posted your "Public Work of Art" post to your blog.

3) Deposited your research essay without your name (or mine) following the instructions on the handout.

4) Done your oral presentation in class. (Come see me if you missed this).

5) Completed our blog posts (1-6) - topics can be found by scrolling down. You can also find old bonus topics which you can respond to enhance your partcipation grade.

In addition after completing the work listed above, you can raise your grade with an additional bonus post by responding about one of the texts in the packet from the last part of course. For any of these texts, summarize the text and its argument or purpose, describe your response and how you think it relates to the themes we've been discussing throughout the semester. You can complete your posts anytime through Monday, December 13th.

Texts you can write about for bonus posts:

Alice Walker, "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens"
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
Tricia Rose, "All Aboard the Night Train"
Anna Deavere Smith, Twilight
Public Enemy "Party for Your Right to Fight," "Fight the Power," and "911 is a Joke"
Thomas Frank, "Why Johnny Can't Dissent"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

An Invitation: Publish your work and Join Us for a Holiday Luncheon

Next Wednesday, December 8th, during club hours - 2:15-4, the Creative Writing Club will be holding an end-of-the luncheon and celebration in M317. We will have hot and cold food and wonderful treats from club officer and master chef Jennifer Phanomrat. Come take a break from end of the semester studying, meet other creative writers and hear about our exciting plans for the future.
We're pitching in with a food drive being held by the Natural Science department and Nursing club to benefit a soup kitchen in South Jamaica, so please bring a canned good or small cash donation.

The Club is also taking submissions for a chapbook of work from club members. Short fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction are all welcome. If you'd like to submit, send your writing as an attachment to

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sample Public Art Post

*Note: below is a sample of your Public Art assignment which is due on Thursday, December 2nd, on your blog. Start looking around your neighborhood for ideas and taking notes. Proofread your work before posting*

This painting of Bob Marley is on the grate outside what was the Vox Pop cafe until a few months ago, about a ten minute walk from my apartment in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn. It's on Cortelyou Street, where there is a strip of cafes, food markets, restaurants and wine bars. There's also a public library, a farmer's market in the summer, and some new semi-luxury apartments for sale. This street is most often described as Ditmas Park. Sometimes I refer sarcastically to it as the 'prefab gentrification strip' because of its similarity to other blocks in other neighborhoods, down to the locavore restaurant menus. Vox Pop was different - it was always on the edge of closing. The tables were unbalanced; the shelves were following down. It apparently closed because of tax issues. Of course, now that it's closed, Marley and the other grate paintings are more visible. Store grates are a quintessentially urban canvas. You see more of the slotted ones; the full ones like this offer a great example of New Yorkers finding any space to fill with images.

I would include this painted grate in my New York (2010) exhibit because the coffee shop is a key part of New York life for many people. The film in the Nueva York exhibit talked about bodegas as community centers; coffee shops often play a similar role. People post flyers, pass out free newspapers, advertise for services, have free or cheap musical performances.
Students and freelancers use them as their offices. They play a role in our perception of neighborhoods and how we think about gentrification. The people who used to hang out at Vox Pop can now be found down the street at a more upscale cafe.

The Marley we see here is mostly apolitical: his presentation and the "be happy" written across the top is the Marley of "One Love," which was used in a Jamaican tourism commerical, rather than the Marley of "Redemption Song" (How long will they kill our martyrs/while we stand aside and wait?) or "War" (Until the philsophy which hold one race superior/And another/Inferior/Is Finally/And Permanently/Discredited/And abandoned/Everywhere is war). It even brings to mind the 1988 hit "Don't Worry, Be Happy," which Public Enemy took a shot at in "Fight the Power." Interestingly, there are two other figures above Marley and next to the instructions to "Be Happy" I can't identify the one on the left; the one on the right is Martin Luther King. "Be happy" seems an odd label for his philosophy. Similarly to Marley, an interpretive choice is being made: this would be the King of "I have a Dream" rather than the one who said "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." In both cases, I might say that the images makes a political statement through its seeminly apolitical nature: in taking away the challenging pieces of the message, musical, spiritual and political icons gain a presence in our everyday lives but lose some of their power to confront us, to shape our day instead of smiling at us as we go about it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Updated Schedule

Here's a overview of our readings and work for the rest of the semester.

For Tuesday, November 2nd
Complete Post #6 (see below)
Read Young Lords, 13 Point Platform
Read Collection of poems from the Nuyorican Poetry Movement (following platform in your reader)

Thursday, November 4th
Continue discussion of Nuyorican Movement
Discuss Presentations of Research Projects
Introduction to Politics and Sports Discussion

For Tuesday, November 9th
Read Robert Lipsyte, "Clay Refuses Army Oath"
Read Dave Zirin, "Sports on the Edge of Panic"
Continue to post sources and drafts

Thursday, November 11th
Trip to Museum of the Barrio (meet in classroom)

For Tuesday, November 16th
Continue to Post Sources and Drafts of Staged Essay
Begin work on Final Blog Post: A Public Work of Art
Read Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

For Thursday, November 18th
Work with Drafts of Research Essays
Continue discussion of Alexander and songs by Public Enemy

For Tuesday, November 23rd
Turn in or post Drafts of Research Essays
Read Anna Deveare Smith, Twilight, Los Angeles.

Weeks of November 30th and December 7th: Presentations of Research Projects, Final Drafts of Research Essays, and Final Blog Posts (Public Art Projects)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Post 6 and more extra credit posts

For Thursday, October 28th, read the collection of poems from the Black Arts movement from your packet along with Alice Walker's essay "In Search of Our Mother's Gardens" Think about how each present an argument about what art is and what it should do.

For Tuesday, November 2nd, post on the sources you've found so far for your research essay. Describe each one, link to it if possible, and describe how it will help your topic. Keep in mind you can use wikipedia for backgound and to lead you to other sources, but it's not one of your final four.

Also begin to do some early drafting on your essay. Begin with the questions in Part I of the paper outline:

Drawing on your sources, describe and analyze the political situation the text was mean to address. Some questions you might consider:
What was the artist/activist’s relationship to this issue?
What kind of analysis or argument does the text/act put forward?
Is your text an example of protest art? Or something else?
What did the artist/activist think needed to be done in response to the issue?
How does the text/act suggest alternatives and/or solutions?
What does the text/act ask of the viewer/audience?
How did the text/act draw on/connect to a larger social movement?
What was your first reaction to the text/act? Do you think you would have reacted different when it was first created?

Finally, some more extra credit topics. Please note: if you are behind on your posts, you may substitute one of these (or other extra credit topics found below) for your missing posts). Here's an interesting article about activism going on right now by young people and young women in particular. What techiniques are these activists using? Who has the power regarding this issue, and what do you think will be effective in helping these activists gain power?

If you attended the poet laureate reading, describe your experience. What struck you about Ms. Ryan's poetry and the presentation? How would you say it compares to some of the poetry we've been discussing?

And here is the website for the It Gets Better project, an activist project using social media tools to fight against homophobia. Watch some of the videos and describe your reaction. What is the purpose of the project? Which videos do you think will be more effective - those from leaders like Presiden Obama or from 'everyday people'? Do you see connections between this movement and the Civil Rights movement against racism we've been discussing?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Post #5: For Tuesday, October 26th

For Tuesday, October 26th, write a post that responds to one of the following topics. Be sure your post is at least 300 words. Use specific examples and direct citations from the readings to support your ideas.

1) As we've been studying the Civil Rights movement, we saw how civil disobedience, lawsuits and legislation (the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965) helped overturn some of the key injustices of the Jim Crow south, such as segregated businesses and literacy tests. In James Baldwin's essay "Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem," and the first chapter of Malcolm X's autobiography we see powerful descriptions of the different (but related) injustices that African-Americans faced in the north. What techniques do we see African-Americans using in these texts to resist injustice or to gain power? Do you think the techniques used in the south would be effective in the north? What other techniques do you think might have been or might be effective and why?

2) Art, music and other forms of cultural expression are often especially useful in changing people's consciousness about their own lives. In the first chapter of Malcolm X's autobiography, he discusses internalized racism: the way that African Americans have absorbed the ideology of white supremacy. Describe how this issue comes up in Malcolm's early life, how he analyzes these early expereinces, and the shift in consciousness you think he wants to create in readers. If you wish, you can also discuss other examples of how oppressed groups have internalized the messages of a dominant society, drawing on other texts and your own knowledge and experiences.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For Tuesday, October 19th: Essay Topics Brainstorming

For October 19th: Select a political work of art or a culturally-based activist act. It should be a specific text or act – a song or album, a poem, a short story or a book, a play or a movie, a painting or mural, or a culturally-based act of protest – not the whole career of an artist or activist, and not a whole social movement.

You can use a text that’s in our reader, one that’s mentioned in Reed’s texts, or that you’ve come across through your own experiences and interests. It can be related to the Civil Rights movement, or another movement described in Reed, or another social movement (from any country or time period) that interests you. If you’re having a hard time finding a topic, do some brainstorming about the kinds of texts and the social movements that interest you. Post your thoughts on the blog and your classmates and I will respond with suggestions, so be sure you’re also checking your classmates’ blogs.

Begin by looking at/reading/listening to the text itself. On your blog, post a description of the text/act and the issue(s) you think it addresses of at least 300 words. Talk about your own responses: what does the work of art or act make you think about, make you feel? What do you want to find out about it? You can do a little poking around online for names and dates, but hold off on research: focus on your own reactions. If you can, include a link to the text or post an image or embed a video. Due Tuesday, October 19th.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In-Class work and Links

In your groups, answer each of the following questions. You'll hand in one set of responses for your group.

1) What do you think is Malcolm X's overall argument in the speech "What does Mississippi Have to do With Harlem?" (This should be a complete sentence or couple of sentences, and it should be an argument, not a fact, event, or emotion.)

2) Who do you think is the audience(s) for this speech? Do you think he wants different groups to get different things from his argument?

3) What specific historical events and political figures does the speech refer to? Explain these events and figures and their importance to his argument?

4) How does Malcolm X's speech relate to Nina Simone's song "Mississippi Goddam"? Refer to specific passages of both texts to explain the connection.


Malcolm X describes one relationship between Mississippi and Harlem - North and South. We'll see more about this relationship in the first chapter of his autobiography and in James Baldwin's "Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem"

Some historical background about North and South:

Here are some links to materials you might enjoy and that might help us think about our issues in class in a new way. Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments, on your blog for extra credit, and to offer any links you find to related articles or political works of art we might enjoy.
As with regular posts, be sure your responses are well thought out, specific, make specific reference to the text, and at least 300 words.

This article talks about the 'strong social ties' that helped the lunch counter sit-ins we've discussed come about and be successful. The author also argues that the internet promotes 'weak ties' that don't lead to successful, organized political change. It might be interesting to think about the role of art, music, writing and so on in creating 'strong' or 'weak' ties and whether the ways we communicate ideas about change affects the outcome.

This article discusses a current case of injustice in Mississippi. What does this article tell us about the state of Missisippi forty-six years after Freedom Summer? What connections do you see between the issues faced by civil rights activsts and those Herbert describes?

Here is more of the interview with Isabel Wilkerson about the Great Migration. How does her research help us understand the situation in the North that Baldwin describes?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Post #3: For Thursday, October 6th

In class, we'll bring our story up until 1963-4 and begin our next installment of Eyes on the Prize. Be sure to bring your identifications on your syllabus up to date.

Keep in mind that your weekly posts are required and will count as 30% of your final grade.

For Thursday, we'll look at four short texts that respond to the events of 1963-4 depicted in the film. These include a short story (Eudora Welty's "Where is the Voice Coming From?",) a speech (Malcolm X's "What does Mississippi Have to do with Harlem?") and two songs (Bob Dylan's "Only a Pawn in their Game" and Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam")

In your post, choose one of these four texts and describe it as a piece of political art. What do you see as its purpose? Who was its audience? Does it make an argument? Produce an emotion? Something else? Do you think it was likely succesful. Remember that your posts should be at least 300 words.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Post #2: For Thursday, September 30th & October 5th

In a post of at least 300 words, respond to one of the following questions. Keep in mind that your weekly posts are required and will count as 30% of your final grade.

1) In "Singing Civil Rights: The Freedom Song Tradition," Reed identifies a number of 'myths' that he believes are popular misconceptions about the movement. Select at least two of these myths to write about: have you been taught or exposed to the view that Reed sees as 'a myth'? How does Reed's view change your understanding of the movement and why do you think it might be important to challenge that myth?

2) What is Reed's argument about why music was so important to the Civil Rights movement? What are some of the specific roles it played in the movement? How does this relate or compare to your own experiences of the role of music in everyday life, or the relation of music to politics?

Reading for Tuesday, October 5th: Look at the website for Eyes on the Prize and read the description of the first five episodes, "Awakenings," "Fighting Back," "Ain't Scared of Your Jails," "No Easy Walk" and "Mississippi: Is this America?" Follow the links to get more information about the events of each episode. Fill in identification terms from your syllabus. In your notes, describe 1) What were some of the main areas of society in and over which these struggles took place? and 2) What were some of the techniques used by Civil Rights Activists?

Then go to the website's page of primary documents. Select one document from 1955-1964. Read it, print it out and bring it to class on October 5th. Think about what a primary document is and what it can tell us.

Three Songs: September 28th In-Class Discussion

Look at the lyrics in your packet as we listen to each of these three songs. How would you describe the particular type and function of each song?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Tuesday, September 28th

For Tuesday, read Richard Wright's essay and do post #1 (see below) if you haven't yet. Be sure to leave me the address for your blog.

Also, read the first chapter of Reed's book, "Singing Civil Rights." Fill in any identifications from your syllabus as you read. Think also about this question: why was music particularly important to the Civil Rights movement? We'll talk about this next week - and listen to some!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Welcome to the Art, Politics and Protest Blog for the Fall of 2010. Soon you'll see topics for your weekly short responses, announcement, links and more. Once you've set up your blog, leave its address in the comments. Soon, you'll be linked through this page. Once our blogs are linked you'll also be able to read and comment on one another's writing.

Each week you'll find here the topic for your short response to post on your own blog. Your response should be about 300-500 words (that would be about a page or two in a double-spaced word file).

Here are topics for our first week. We don't meet again until Thursday, but post by next Tuesday so your colleagues and I can respond. Post a response to ONE topic of your choice on your blog. You don't have to respond to each part of the question in order: go with what gets you interested and writing. Respond in any format or organization you wish but be specific, make direct reference to the text(s), and be sure to make sense! Along with your post, read the selection of Harlem Renassaince poems and Richard Wright's "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow" from your packet for next Thursday. Bring both the packet and Reed's book to class.

1) In his essay "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain," poet Langston Hughes talks about the challenges faced by Black artists. What does he see as the main challenges? Then look at the selection of poems from the Harlem Renassaince from your packet. What connections do you see between Hughes' essays and these poems?

2) In his essay "The Ethics of Living Jim Crow," Richard Wright describes his experiences as a young man learning about the power system of the South. How would you describe this system: who has the power? How do they hold on to it? How do people without power respond and resist? What forms of resistance do you think would be effective in this system?

3) On Thursday we watched the first hour of the documentary Eyes on the Prize, a history of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Describe the main factors that lead to the emergence of this movement at this time. What have you learned about the Civil Rights movement - in school or outside? What more would you like to learn?