Week of April 24: (Night Class) Def Poetry Jam and Assata

def-poetry-jam

Notes:

  • I gave out hard copies of the last written assignment of the semester. Download yours from the assignments page if you missed class. It’s due Tuesday May 8.
  • For anyone interested, I’m teaching Intro to Africana Studies (AAS 166) in the fall on Wednesday nights from 6-8:40 PM. Section XW81. Search by my name or the course/section in CUNYFirst. It satisfies the “World Cultures and Global Issues” core requirement and is a gateway to a major (or minor) in Africana Studies.

For Tuesday April 24 the assignment is to watch the Youtube videos of various poets from Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam, which ran for several seasons on HBO. Also read Ben Brantley’s New York Times review of Def Poetry on Broadway.

Questions to think about:

  • How does being in front of a live audience change the perception of the poetry?
  • In the Pedro Pietri interview I posted, Pietri was critical of slam poetry and thought it relied too much on people’s personalities and being performers–do you agree?
  • What do their stories say about the urban experience?
  • What, if anything makes them “urban” or ties them to urban themes?
  • Lastly, choose 2 poems you like, watch them a few times, take some notes, and be prepared to discuss in class.

Here are the poems. There are several, but they’re mostly short. It’s less than a half hour, total.

For Thursday April 26, read the first 69 pages (chapters 1-4) of Assata: An Autobiography. Be sure to read the foreward by Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds. Also make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 1,17,44, and 62.

Questions to think about:

  • How effective is her style of storytelling? Does the non-linear narrative with flashbacks make the book more engaging?
  • How does Assata go about re-telling history?
  • What role do poems play in an autobiography? What do they tell you about Assata or the other people that the regular story does not?

What physical spaces and places does Assata describe in the story? What is the significance of them?

We are not primarily concerned with figuring out guilt innocence here (and in any case don’t have all the court documents to review): the goal is to read her story as we would any other autobiography and focus on how the story develops and how she develops into the person she is today. Look for clues of these things in the story.

Extra: Listen to “A Song for Assata” by Common, from his 2000 Like Water for Chocolate release, featuring CeeLo Green.

 

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Week of April 24: (Day Class) Def Poetry Jam and Assata

def-poetry-jam

Notes:

  • I gave out hard copies of the last written assignment of the semester. Download yours from the assignments page if you missed class. It’s due Tuesday May 8.
  • For anyone interested, I’m teaching Intro to Africana Studies (AAS 166) in the fall on Wednesday nights from 6-8:40 PM. Section XW81. Search by my name or the course/section in CUNYFirst. It satisfies the “World Cultures and Global Issues” core requirement and is a gateway to a major (or minor) in Africana Studies.

For Tuesday April 24 the assignment is to watch the Youtube videos of various poets from Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry Jam, which ran for several seasons on HBO. Also read Ben Brantley’s New York Times review of Def Poetry on Broadway.

Questions to think about:

  • How does being in front of a live audience change the perception of the poetry?
  • In the Pedro Pietri interview I posted, Pietri was critical of slam poetry and thought it relied too much on people’s personalities and being performers–do you agree?
  • What do their stories say about the urban experience?
  • What, if anything makes them “urban” or ties them to urban themes?
  • Lastly, choose 2 poems you like, watch them a few times, take some notes, and be prepared to discuss in class.

Here are the poems. There are several, but they’re mostly short. It’s less than a half hour, total.

For Thursday April 26, read the first 69 pages (chapters 1-4) of Assata: An Autobiography. Be sure to read the foreward by Angela Davis and Lennox Hinds. Also make sure to pay attention to the various poems she includes in the story on pages 1,17,44, and 62.

Questions to think about:

  • How effective is her style of storytelling? Does the non-linear narrative with flashbacks make the book more engaging?
  • How does Assata go about re-telling history?
  • What role do poems play in an autobiography? What do they tell you about Assata or the other people that the regular story does not?

What physical spaces and places does Assata describe in the story? What is the significance of them?

We are not primarily concerned with figuring out guilt innocence here (and in any case don’t have all the court documents to review): the goal is to read her story as we would any other autobiography and focus on how the story develops and how she develops into the person she is today. Look for clues of these things in the story.

Extra: Listen to “A Song for Assata” by Common, from his 2000 Like Water for Chocolate release, featuring CeeLo Green.

 

Week of April 17: (Night Class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

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Photo: “Washington Heights Piece” by Flickr user Aoife. Creative Commons licensed.

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Announcements:

  • The next writing assignment is due Tuesday 4/17. It’s on the Assignments page if you’ve lost your copy and remember that you can stream the film from the Video page on the course website. Usual password.
  • New York City is involved in what’s called a participatory budgeting process, where you (and your neighbors) can actually vote to decide how some of your local city council rep spends their budget! (NYC residents on this only; sorry.) See details of what it is and how to vote at the city council’s page on it. Voting’s very easy: you can do it online and there are other options, too. Deadline is Sunday, April 15, however. Be sure to spread the word to family, neighbors, and on your social media platforms.
  • For anyone interested, I’m teaching Intro to Africana Studies (AAS 166) in the fall on Wednesday nights from 6-8:40 PM. Section XW81. Search by my name or the course/section in CUNYFirst.

On Tuesday April 17th, we continue with Soledad. Read pages 112-180 (chapters 6-8).

For Thursday April 19th, Read pages 182-230 (chapters 8-11). Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

Presentation by Lizbeth, Waleed, Natalie, and Angie.

  • We’ve discussed the settings in class: the split between the East Village and Washington Heights and what each represents. Watch for locations as you read, how Cruz presents them, and what different urban spaces mean to key characters.
  • Point of view. Soledad comes from a female author and the P.O.V. the reader gets is primarily from women. What differences (if any) do you notice?
  • Following on the last point, one key subtext of the book are the various forms of violence against women. Think about this as you read and what it feels like for the various characters to move through urban spaces.
  • Culture. Another point of tension in the plot is the difference between the younger and older generations of characters and between more traditional Dominican culture and the different outlook that the younger, Americanized characters have. What are the differences between how characters see the world and their place in it?

Week of April 17: (Day Class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad, continued

4532037658_c96e8fa3fa_o
Photo: “Washington Heights Piece” by Flickr user Aoife. Creative Commons licensed.

cvr9780743212021_9780743212021_lg

Announcements:

  • The next writing assignment is due Tuesday 4/17. It’s on the Assignments page if you’ve lost your copy and remember that you can stream the film from the Video page on the course website. Usual password.
  • New York City is involved in what’s called a participatory budgeting process, where you (and your neighbors) can actually vote to decide how some of your local city council rep spends their budget! (NYC residents on this only; sorry.) See details of what it is and how to vote at the city council’s page on it. Voting’s very easy: you can do it online and there are other options, too. Deadline is Sunday, April 15, however. Be sure to spread the word to family, neighbors, and on your social media platforms.

On Tuesday April 17th, we continue with Soledad. Read pages 112-180 (chapters 6-8).

For Thursday April 19th, Read pages 182-230 (chapters 8-11). Continue tracking the themes we’ve identified and how characters develop in the book.

Presentation by Daniel, Lily, Wajiha, and Kevin.

  • We’ve discussed the settings in class: the split between the East Village and Washington Heights and what each represents. Watch for locations as you read, how Cruz presents them, and what different urban spaces mean to key characters.
  • Point of view. Soledad comes from a female author and the P.O.V. the reader gets is primarily from women. What differences (if any) do you notice?
  • Following on the last point, one key subtext of the book are the various forms of violence against women. Think about this as you read and what it feels like for the various characters to move through urban spaces.
  • Culture. Another point of tension in the plot is the difference between the younger and older generations of characters and between more traditional Dominican culture and the different outlook that the younger, Americanized characters have. What are the differences between how characters see the world and their place in it?

Week of April 10: (Night class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad

Announcements:

  • I gave out the assignment sheet for the the second paper on The Warriors and it’s due April 17. Details on the assignments page. You can view The Warriors (or Do the Right Thing which we’re not officially watching this semester) on the Video page: same password as everything else. I suggest watching it at least one more time and taking good notes while you watch.
  • I’ll be returning the first paper to you via the same email address you sent it from. Look for it tomorrow.
  • I probably don’t need to say this, but we’re off next week for spring break
  • There’s an important event on Wednesday April 11: former Black Panther Party member Ericka Huggins will be visiting Lehman! The event’s from 4-5 PM in the Music Building’s Faculty Dining Room (right inside the main entrance on the first floor). Event flyer’s here (PDF). Extra credit is available is you’re attending and want to write something up. The assignment sheet for the extra credit will be available on the assignments page the week we return from break.
  • Have a great spring break!

On Tuesday, 4/10, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"
Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”

Read the first 3 chapters: up to page 45 (Chapters 1-3) in the new paperback edition. Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?

On Thursday, 4/12, Read pages 47-111 (Chapters 4-5) in Soledad.

Presentation by Bryan, Anthony, and Justin.

 

Week of April 10: (Day class) Angie Cruz’s Soledad

Announcements:

  • I gave out the assignment sheet for the the second paper on Do the Right Thing and it’s due April 17. Details on the assignments page. You can view Do the Right Thing (or The Warriors which we’re not officially watching this semester) on the Video page: same password as everything else. I suggest watching it at least one more time and taking good notes while you watch.
  • I’ll be returning the first paper to you via the same email address you sent it from. Look for it tomorrow if you haven’t gotten it yet.
  • I probably don’t need to say this, but we’re off next week for spring break
  • There’s an important event on Wednesday April 11: former Black Panther Party member Ericka Huggins will be visiting Lehman! The event’s from 4-5 PM in the Music Building’s Faculty Dining Room (right inside the main entrance on the first floor). Event flyer’s here (PDF). Extra credit is available is you’re attending and want to write something up. The assignment sheet for the extra credit will be available on the assignments page the week we return from break.
  • Have a great spring break!

On Tuesday, 4/10, we turn to Angie Cruz’s novel of Dominican immigrants in Washington Heights, Soledad.

Angie Cruz, author of "Soledad"
Angie Cruz, author of “Soledad”

Read the first 3 chapters: up to page 45 in the new paperback edition. Note: it starts slow and Cruz’s narrative is non-linear and slightly more challenging than what we’ve read so far, but the effort is worth it. It is also the first from a female POV and female author. Here are a few things to think about as you read:

  • What do the different urban spaces in the book (the East Village) and (Washington Heights) represent to Soledad?
  • What are Soledad’s feelings toward her family and the neighborhood and how do they change? (Spoiler: they do)
  • The narrative is “non linear” (i.e. it doesn’t proceed in chronological order, time-wise) and the narrator (person telling the story) changes. Try to track the characters and who is speaking.
  • What tensions are there between old school Dominican culture and the different strands of US culture?

On Thursday, 4/12, Read pages 47-111 (Chapters 4-5) in Soledad.

Presentation by Tandy, Jennifer, Chris, and Emma.

 

Week of March 27: (NIGHT class) The Warriors film

For Tuesday, March 27, we’re going to take a detour and watch and discuss the film The Warriors (Walter Hill director, Paramount Pictures, 1979). We’ll watch the first half of the film on Tuesday and finish it Thursday before spring break.

To prepare, read this Village Voice feature on the film and its legacy.

Also skim the storyline from the official film website.

The film is set largely at night, in 1970s New York, and mostly on trains, so mobility and movement is a major theme, as is the noir feel, coming from the gritty, underground nature of the city at that time and the emphasis on (fictional) streetgangs.

This is a contrast to some of what we’ve read so far, as it offers a dystopian (and somewhat anarchic) view of New York as a crumbling city in crisis, which is not far off the reality of the period, as NYC was emerging from a crippling fiscal crisis.

Optional: Surf around the film website, especially list of shooting locations. Also, the plot loosely mirrors actual events, as a early 1970s gang truce in the South Bronx was precipitated by the killing of a member of the Ghetto Brothers–who then decided not to retaliate. This is also a crucial moment in the formation of hip hop, as the gangs began to channel their energy into creative output. (See Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop for a fuller account)

For more background on actual 1970s New York street gangs, Henry Chalfant’s Flyin’ Cut Sleeves is essential viewing, and includes a lot of footage used in later films. It’s on YouTube as of this writing.

The documentary From Mambo to Hip Hop focuses specifically on the early period of hip hop and evolution of Bronx street gangs. It’s also on YouTube (as of now) and embedded below.

For Thursday, March 29, we finish watching The Warriors and discuss the film and major themes. Reading TBA. (Check back for an update.)