After engaging in a preliminary “thick” description of Frank King and Gil Scott-Heron’s panels, I was left with many questions concerning the significance of the many characteristics featured on them. Further, I was curious to discover how those pieces of material culture are still relevant to the political and social state of America today.
The two individuals memorialized on these panels share a similar cause of death, yet lived entirely different lives. Gil Scott-Heron, known for his thought-provoking music and revolutionary politics, was one of three black students chosen to integrate his ‘whites only’ high school. His experiences there lead to the centering of his activism around the usually belittled plight of black Americans.
Frank King, although not a well-known historical figure like Gil Scott-King, was also an activist, but lived a civilian life as a biologist– devoting his life to researching HIV/AIDS before being diagnosed with it himself. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, King grew up being discriminated against for his sexuality and was disowned by his biological family.
When the HIV/AIDS pandemic began to grow in America, he witnessed his closest friends die from it, who he considered his true family. This explains the centering of his activism around the LGBTQ+ community and HIV/AIDS awareness, since he was personally and directly affected by both.
Considering both individuals were activist in New York through the 60’s and 80’s, I was curious to find where their activism may have overlapped, and where they may have diverged. Further, I was curious to discover how those pieces of material culture are still relevant to the political and social landscape of America today. What do the lives of these two activist say about our country today? What can their lives and activism teach us?
After describing the varying qualitative and quantitative qualities presented on King and Heron’s panel, the next step was to conduct secondary research to answer these questions. This process is similar to that which an archivist would engage in when investigating related archives to form a collection. For our purposes, I will investigate the related pieces on the panel, in hopes of constructing a more complete understanding of their significance and relevance to us today.
Axford, Barrie. (2011) Talk About a Revolution: Social Media and the MENA Uprisings, Globalizations, 8:5, 681-686, DOI: 10.1080/14747731.2011.621281 Date Accessed: 30 March 2018
Barrie Axford is the lead political science professor and director of the Centre for Global Politics at Oxford Brooks University. Axford’s scholarly source offers a critical examination of the role of social media in popular uprisings. The author intended for this article to highlight the influence of social media in revolutions, which results in the decentralization of information and power. This source was most likely intended for individuals in the professional and graduate level of international politics. A student who is researching the different influences on the Arab Spring would find this source useful.
This source connects to my artifact by paralleling the role of social media in revolutions to Gil Scott-Heron’s music and its role in the black revolution in America during the 70’s and 80’s. Though this is helpful, the majority of the article is concerned with the Arab Spring and how it was largely brought about by the decentralization of information on social media. Regardless, this source has still helped me understand my artifact more.
Burrage, Joe and Alice Demi. Buddy Programs for People Infected with HIV. Journal of the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. Vol. 14, No. 1. January 2003. Association of Nurses in AIDS Care. Date Accessed: 21 February 2018.
Joe Burrage and Alice Demi are the authors of the scholarly article Buddy Programs for People Infected with HIV. This source provides a scholarly source in the form of a complete statistical study. The purpose of the article is to report the results of a study conducted on the relationship between clients and volunteers at buddy programs.
Although this study is intended for nurses in AIDS care, I believe anyone who is interested in joining a buddy program, but wants proof of its benefit, would be interested in this source. This study on buddy programs is extremely thorough, allowing a deeper understanding of a detail mentioned in the letter that accompanied King’s panel.
In the letter, King is described as an AIDS activist who was an original member of GMHC’s Buddy Program. This study helps us understand the roles one would play as a volunteer and a client in this program, showing exactly how King was likely involved in this type of program.
Decker, Jeffrey Louis. “The State of Rap: Time and Place in Hip Hop Nationalism.” Social Text, no. 34, 1993, pp. 53–84. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/466354.Date Accessed: 30 March 2018
Jefferey Louise Decker is an adjunct associate humanities professor at UCLA and cultural theorist who earned his doctorates at Brown University. Decker’s scholarly source offers a cultural theory concerning the emergence of black nationalism in today’s rap music. The author’s aim is to root the emergence of black nationalism within rap music with the Black Aesthetic Movement of the 60’s and 70’s.
This source was intended for individuals studying or working in the field of cultural studies, specifically concerning issues of gender, sexuality, race, and the environment. A cultural theorist who is researching the influence of the Black Aesthetic Movement of today’s politics would find this source useful.
This article helps me understand the significance of my artifact as a piece of material culture by contextualizing Gil Scott-Heron’s artistry and activism with the Black Aesthetics Movement. I was unaware of this movement before, which has prompted me to do more research into it. Most importantly, I have found that this scholarly source has helped guide my further research on my artifact.
Eckardt, Stephanie. The Met Breuer Wants You to Take Candies, Not Photos. W Magazine. Conde Nast. 16 March 2016. Date Accessed: 21 February 2018.
Stephanie Eckardt is an Art & Design journalist for W magazine who wrote The Met Breuer Wants You to Take Candies, Not Photos. This source offers basic information on Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) and gives an image analysis. The purpose of this text is to help audiences understand an installation art work that was previewed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Met Breuer.
As indicated by the title of the text, this source is intended for young people who frequent the Met Breuer, but may not understand the significance of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). Furthermore, someone who may have visited the Met Breuer and saw this piece, but perhaps did not understand it, would be interested in this source.
This source connects to my panel by showing the lasting impact of Haring’s AIDS activism in the art world. Felix Gonzales-Torres’s Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) is an installation piece of 175 pounds of candy in a corner. Visitors are encouraged to take pieces of candy, causing the 175 pound pile of candy to lose its weight. This pile of candy is representative of Torres’s late friend Ross’s weight, which slowly depleted till his death due to his diagnosis with AIDS.
Fredrick, Candice. On Black Aesthetics: The Black Arts Movement. New York Public Library. 15 July 2016. Date Accessed: 30 March 2018
Candice Frederick is a NABJ award winning journalist and editor for Essence Magazine. Her article offers a historical and informative look at the Black Aesthetic Movement. The authors purpose in writing this article is to inform others on the origins of the Black Aesthetic Movement, as well as introducing the key persons and historical events of that time.
The audience this source intended to reach is those unaware of the significance of the Black Aesthetic Movement. A high school student learning about the civil rights movement may find this source helpful.
This article has aided me in understanding the Black Aesthetic Movement more clearly. I am able to now further contextualize Gil Scott-Heron’s work within this movement, giving me more information concerning his political/activist background. However, this source did not offer specific Scott-Heron work within the movement, which prompted me to do further research.
Gefter, Philip. The Place Beyond the Fire Island Pines. The New York Times. T Magazine. 23 October 2017. Date Accessed: 22 February 2018.
Philip Gefter is a journalist for T Magazine, the New York Time’s style magazine, who wrote The Place Beyond the Fire Island Pines. It offers historical information on Fire Island Pines, NY and its LGBTQ+ safe haven history, as well as primary source photographs. The purpose of this text is to inform audiences of the influence Fire Island Pines had on the LGBTQ+ community and how this relationship changed Fire Island Pines then, and now.
The audience this is intended to reach is young people, with interest in fashion, who are curious of why modern day Colombia County, NY is considered a gay utopia. A young gay man who is visiting Fire Island Pines for the first time and wonders why so many other gay men visit this park may be interested in this source.
This source clarifies a detail mentioned in the letter submitted with King’s quilt. In the letter, it is reported that King visited Fire Island Pines religiously– nearly every summer. He loved it so much that he spent his last moments there and requested that his ashes be sprinkled there. This source helps us understand why Fire island Pines would be such a significant part of Frank King’s life.
Maycock, James. Gil Scott-Heron: Musician, writer and political activist whose years lost to drug addiction could not erase his influence. The Independent. News: Obituaries. 29 May 2011. Date Accessed: 30 March 2018
James Maycock is a freelance print journalist for noteworthy British newspapers, such as The Guardian, The Independent, and The Telegraph. This source offers insights into Gil Scott-Heron’s black nationalist activism and artistry. The author’s purpose for writing this article is to give an overview of Scott-Heron’s life and explain why he was a significant historical figure.
The audience intended to receive this information is technologically active adults reading obituaries for influential figures. This source would be useful to a young musician who would like to learn how to infuse political activism into their artistry.
This article aids me in my research by providing information on specific works that characterized Gil Scott-Heron’s political activism. It also gave technical terms to types of political music styles that Scott-Heron founded, such as “storm music“. Maycock’s article has prompted me to do more research into specific works by Gil Scott-Heron.
Nichols, John. Gil Scott-Heron’s Revolution. The Nation. 29 May 2011. Date Accessed: 30 March 2018
John Nichols is an author and The Nation‘s national-affairs correspondent. His article offers an explanation of the meaning behind many of Scott-Heron’s songs, including “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised“. The authors purpose in writing this piece is to highlight the messages Scott-Heron taught in his songs, as well as the impact these songs/messages had on society.
Written after the news of Gil Scott-Heron’s death, this article intended to reach an audience of people who may have been unaware of the significance of his death. I would recommend this article to individuals who may have heard of Scott-Heron’s death, but were not aware of the impact his music had on American history.
By explaining the meaning behind some of Gil Scott-Heron’s most popular songs, I have a better understanding of the social and political impact his music had on society. The article explained Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, clarifying its purpose to critique the disengaged attitude of broadcast news and commercialism.
In addition to this, the article mentioned Scott-Heron’s open disapproval of the neocolonialist economic groups emerging at the time, like the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund. Considering the United States had a strong involvement in these organizations, I wondered if Scott-Heron was investigated or pursued by the FBI like many other African-American civil rights leaders at the time. Like the rest of my sources, this prompted me to do further research.
Sheff, David. Keith Haring: Just Say Know. The Rolling Stones. August 10, 1989. Date Accessed: February 21, 2018.
David Sheff is a journalist for the Rolling Stones who wrote the piece Keith Haring: Just Say Know. This source offers an interview that Sheff conducted with Keith Haring in 1989. The purpose of the interview was to give audiences a personal look at Keith Haring’s life after his AIDS diagnosis and to help them further understand the sex campaign he was conducting at the time.
This interview was intended to reach is young adults, since the focus of Keith Haring’s safe sex campaign was to educate young adults. I would recommend this source to someone who is interested in learning about how LGBTQ+ activism and the art world interconnect.
This source helps contextualize the Debbie Dick illustration on King’s panel by hearing Keith Haring explain its significance himself. In the interview, Haring explains how his Just Say Know campaign incorporated the character Debbie Dick in order to make young people more comfortable when talking about safe sex. He also touches on his own journey after being diagnosed with AIDS and sarcoma, a cancer that often accompanies AIDS diagnosis.