By acting as the vessel through which Black art is anthologized, Owens puts himself in a space that is fraught with struggle and contradiction. He sustains his own image as a Black artist by obliterating the notion that there is a unified definition of Black art, and as such, he also problematizes the way an anthology is supposed to function. Different scores seem to scrape against each other, creating a conceptual friction between identity and its meaning. Through his labor, Owens reveals a broken narrative of Black history, and Black art history, with himself at the vortex, channeling the ideas of his fellow artists while serving as the site and subject of his audience’s projections.
“Can the hungry go on a hunger strike? Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience. What can you do when you have no audience? People have the right to resist annihilation.”—arundhati roy from the guardian (via counterworlds)
There’s a lot wrong with “If I Was a Poor Black Kid,” not the least of which is the grammar in the title. But the biggest issue with the piece and everything like it is that it assumes being poor and black are the only two things on poor black kids’ plates. Content to generalize based on simplistic depictions of black poverty from TV and film, Marks believes that the only thing low-income minorities have to overcome is terrible teachers and a lack of technological knowledge; the rest of their problems stem from outright laziness. “If I was a poor black kid,” writes Marks, “I’d become expert at Google Scholar.” To Marks, poor children exist in a vacuum where their only problem is poverty. In real life, poverty is a cloud that darkens every facet of a child’s life, from his academic career to how he sleeps at night knowing his home is a brothel.
“The majority of blacks in Montgomery had witnessed or personally been harassed on the buses like Parks had been that day in 1955. The city code segregated buses by race, not only preventing black passengers from sitting next to or across the aisle from white, it also required black passengers to pay their fares at the front of the bus, disembark, and then enter at the back door. Hostile white male bus drivers would not only verbally harass black passengers; also they would frequently drive away before black passengers could reach the second set of doors.”—Professor Blair L. M. Kelley, Rosa Parks, One of the Most Familiar Yet Least Known Civil Rights Icons