[By Jerry W. Ward, Jr.]
In ideal situations, it would be easy to have collective centennials. We live, however, in reality and amoral actuality. Our cultural studies and remembering thrive on interdisciplinarity which is governed more by ideology than by reason. Viewed comparatively, remembering the achievements and life histories of Dudley Randall and Joe Lewis or of Billy Eckstine and Sonny Boy Williamson might illuminate similar comparisons of William Westmoreland and Daisy Bates or of Sun Ra and Lester Flatt. We talk multiculturalism and the Omni-American. We talk, make hot air, and put with Z “in conversation” A, but we do not have critical absorption that minimizes cultural amnesia.
In my work as one of the “little people” from Mississippi, the commitment of Dudley Randall as a poet and founder of Broadside Press is a stronger candidate for memory than Ralph Ellison and the novel Invisible Man. Putting Randall’s Life and accomplishments under the microscope of 2014 does not minimize the need to attend to other writers born in 2014. It accelerates my interest in looking at the Black Arts Movement from the perspective of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, in hearing Sonny Boy Williamson from the angle of Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude, in asking whether Daisy Bates made a more substantial contribution to the moral dimensions of the American mind than did William Westmoreland or William Burroughs.
For my centennial rituals in 2014, I shall examine again
Boyd, Melba Joyce. Wrestling with the Muse: Dudley Randall and the Broadside Press. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
Miller, R. Baxter. ” ‘Endowing the World and Time’: The Life and Work of Dudley Randall.” Black American Poets Between Worlds, 1940-1960. Ed. R. Baxter Miller. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1986.
Thompson, Julius E. Dudley Randall, Broadside Press, and the Black Arts Movement in Detroit, 1960-1995. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1999.