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January 16, 1989 - Image 13

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1989-01-16

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Monday, January 16, 1989

Page 13

The Michigan Daily


Brooks voices
pain in poetry

C ONDUCTOR Eva Jessye and
composer Undine Smith Moore, two
women who helped open doors for
Blacks and women in the field of
music, will hold a lecture/recital to-
day as part of the University School
of Music's celebration of Martin
Luther King's birthday.
Jessye was the first Black woman
to succeed as a professional choral
conductor, a success that paved the
way for many other young musi-
cians, both male and female. She
began her career at the age of 12,
when, through her own initiative,
she organized a girls' singing group.
Her career development was espe-
cially aided by Will Marion Cook,
whom she first met when he brought
a musical production to her home
town, Coffeyville, Kansas. She later
studied with him when he was in
New York, during which time she
became active in musical circles and
sang with several pit orchestras.
Jessye's active pace continued
throughout her career. She organized
the Original Dixie Jubilee Singers,
who appeared in 1925 on the Major
Bowes Family Radio Hour. The Eva
Jessye choir was established in 1926
and became known as one of the+
' leading choral groups throughout the1
United States. During the same year,
she was engaged by NBC and CBS
to organize and direct choral groups
for performance on radio and later+
was selected to be choral director for
the King Vidor film, Halleluiah
(1929). She directed works by Virgil
Thomson and George Gershwin, and
directed choruses for opera revivals
through the 1960s.

A dream relived
The University arts community marks a day
for a martyr by showcasing the works of trail-
blazing Black women artists

your soul," commented Gwendolyn
Brooks during an 1987 October in-
terview with the San Francisco Ex-
aminer. "It makes things difficult.
Also, it's inspiring in a way, not
that any of us wishes pain. There are
many of us who are drawn to lan-
guage to express what we feel. Hor-
rors have inspired some beautiful
Brooks, who began writing po-
etry at the age of seven, became the
first Black to receive a Pulitzer Prize
in 1950 and now is a symbol of en-
durance and spirit in contemporary
Brooks' poetic energy began be-
fore the Pulitzer and has continued
long after. Brooks' first major
work, A Street in Bronzeville, pub-
lished in 1945, established a voice
for which Brooks would eventually
become famous: the voice of strug-
gle amidst a world of discrimination,
poverty and dreams. While Brooks
has used other venues to further the
Black American dream, such as her
work in the 1930s as publicity
director of the Chicago NAACP
Youth Council, she sees poetry as
an excellent way of turning hurt and
disappointment into a voice of sur-
Although the voice that Brooks
created evolved from suffering, it
was not one of raw emotion. Instead,
Brooks webbed that voice into what
critics have labeled refined tech-
niques,' demonstrating her fascina-
tion for colorful and unusual word
associations and groupings.
This style of Brooks' placed her
on a different level from younger
Black American poets and writers
who seemed more devoted to ex-
pressing raw emotion than to craft-
ing their art within more traditional
techniques. But during her participa-
tion in the 1969 Second Black Writ-
ers' Conference at Fisk University in
Nashville, Brooks became aware of
the new spirit of the Black American
artist possessed by the younger
The conference became a major
turning point in her career. After the
conference, Brooks adapted free verse
in her poetry and broke her 25-year
relationship with Harper & Row
publishers in order to support Black
publishing companies. Brooks con-
tinued to encourage Black artists by
editing anthologies of Black poets,
including Jump Bad: A New
Chicago Anthology, published in

The 71-year-old poet remains a
major figure in contemporary poetry
as she continues to edit anthologies
of other poets and her own work.
Her latest poetry collection,
Gottschalk and the Grande Taran-
telle, was published in November.
"Winnie," the main poem of work,
based on the life of South African
activist Winnie Mandela, was also
published in a separate work.
Brooks' recognition has in no
way faded since her Pulitzer three
decades ago. Her latest awards in-
clude her past appointment as Con-
sultant in Poetry to the Library of

Jessye's generous contribution to
the School of Music made possible
the establishment of the Eva Jessye
Collection of Afro-American Music
here. A similar collection was orga-
nized in 1979 in southeast Kansas.
Moore, presently a University
King/Chavez/Parks scholar in resi-
dence, is one of the leading Black
women composers in the nation. Her
compositional output includes a
large number of choral works, many
of which are her well-known ar-
rangements of spirituals. In fact, she
says, her most-preferred genre is

writing for unaccompanied chorus.
However, she is quite versatile, and
has written for other mediums, in-
cluding solo voice, chamber ensem-
ble, and various solo instruments.
Besides her busy schedule of
composing, Moore takes great pride
in her teaching. "Teaching has been
a tremendously important activity in
my life," she says. "A number of
my students held eminent posi-
Her advice to young Black com-
posers is to listen to all varieties of
music and to perform. She also be-

lieves that it is important for young
composers to be not only well-
rounded in the area of music but to
also let their life be stimultated by
other arts. And, above all, she says,
they should remain close to their
people, sharing their thoughts, their
feelings, and their anxieties.
The lecture/recital will take place at
3 p.m. today in the University
School of Music Recital Hall. Ad-
mission is free and the recital is
open to the public.

...will read from her poetry
Congress, her title as Poet Laureate
of Illinois, and her November induc-
tion in the National Women's Halln
of Fame. In September, Brooks will
also be presented with the Monarch
Award for Excellence in Lifetime
Achievement in the Literary Arts by
the National Council for Culture and
speak and read from her works this
afternoon at the Diversity Day sym-
posium "Blacks in the Arts: Re-
sources for Diversity." The sympo-
sium begins at 2 p.m, and is spon-
sored by the School of Information
and Library Studies and the Bentley
Historical and University libraries.
Other speakers at the symposium
include Maurice Wheeler.

Bombay dispels 7 percent illusions


Living in the most culturally influential
country in the world, it is all too easy for us to
overlook the fact that Americans comprise a mere
seven percent of the earth's population. The
distorted view most Americans have of the world
is reaffirmed by most of the movies shown in
this country. The majority of these is filmed in
the United States, while a few are set in western
Europe. Those that aren't often take their white
heroes to "exotic" locales - think of James
Bond or Indiana Jones - and depict native
peoples via gross caricatures.
But a precious few of the films released here
show us something of what life is like for the
other 93 percent of the people in this world.
Salaam Bombay! is one of these. It also happens
to be a remarkable movie.
Salaam Bombay! is best labeled as a realist
fiction film. Director Mira Nair, who was born
in India, educated at Harvard, and who previously
made several documentaries about her native
country, provides us with a window into
Bombay's underclass, showing us many of the
: grim realities of its members' lives. This film

does not have a conventional plot; instead, it
presents us with a core group of characters, and
depicts their interactions with one another and the
uncaring world beyond. In its essentially episodic
style, it shows us some of the difficulties these
people face, including poverty, alienation, and
We see the film's events mostly through the
eyes of Krishna, a young boy who, having just
arrived from a small village, is almost as much
an outsider in this environment as we are.
Working as a tea delivery boy and living on the
street, he befriends an array of poor adults and
children, including Chillum, a friendly but
desperate drug addict and dealer; Manju, a tiny
girl who is growing up in a whorehouse with her
prostitute mother; and Sweet Sixteen, an
innocent young woman who has been sold into
Nair handles her material effectively. Her
camera has a wonderful tendency to linger on
images, absorbing all of their complexities and
taking full advantage of the visual density of the
film's settings. While the subject matter is
weighty, her direction is never heavy-handed. She
also directs the film's many emotion-laden mo-

ments with a great adroitness, never allowing
them to sink into melodrama. Instead they are
both believable and touching. In general, Nair
has made the filmmaking process unobtrusive:
the cinematography, editing and production
design almot never stand out to remind us that
what we are seeing is actually staged.
Salaam Bombay! 's strongest asset is, without
question, its actors. The adults all come through
with great performances, notably Raghubir Yadav
as Chillum and Aneeta Kanwar, as Manju's
mother. But this film's real stars are its child
actors, all non-professionals. Shafiq Syed is a
marvel as Krishna - his performance has a great
spontaneity. And Hansa Vithal is almost eerie as
Manju, a girl who is getting old too soon.



.(BU 1 A(E-E0
,:45 K oG ER?

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