There are only two subjects— race and sex— and we alternate between the
two.” We recall the filmmaker Sandye Wilson dropping this maxim on Lisa
Jones around 1986. Most likely after Lisa had made some self- deprecating
comment about the content, or supposed lack thereof, of one of her own
smart, racy, surreal plays about the politics of Black desire for her com-
pany Rodeo Caldonia High Per formance Theatre. Wilson’s quip stuck with
me (and to me) because like every other growing American boy I had
long been equally obsessed with both of those vast, irreducible, and in-
exhaustible subjects. Race, generally equated with politics, is really in the
American context a branch of metaphysics, aesthetics, and anthropology
representing a far broader body of concerns where you can readily leap-
frog between sex, death, religion, criminality, linguistics, music, ge netics,
athletics, fashion, medicine, you name it, in the name of African libera-
tion and self- determination. For a Black American artist at this stage
of history race is the gift that keeps on giving, an encyclopedic way of
framing, examining, and mirroring the world in ways that can aspire to be
as poetic, prophetic, polemical, and poignant as that metamorphic, meta-
phoric machine we know by that crafty and elusive catchall “Black Culture.”
Of course, what I myself have really been intrigued by all along is
something less quantifiable than Black Culture and even Black Identity
and Black Consciousness, and that something is what my friend Arthur
Jafa has termed Black Cognition— the way Black people “think,” men-
tally, emotionally, physically, cryptically how those ways of thinking and
being inform our artistic choices.
Stanley Crouch once told me he thought my real subject was Myth,
and to a certain extent that’s true, inasmuch as I think that the most
fabulous things about any people are the legends they produce. But as
true as that is, I’m interested in the play and whimsy, the pro cess as it
were, which preceded the formal production of the myth. Black Rock
guitarist Ronny Drayton relates how when he was learning to play, older
cats told him when he studied someone’s solo to try and imagine that
player’s intentions— what had he been feeling to make him play a certain
Lust, of All Things (Black)
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