This is the last date on PAT THOMAS' Scandinavian tour to promote his Listen Whitey! release - the sights and sounds of Black Power 1965-75 book and compilation CD. No, London, isn't in Scandanavia but we are close enough to it to allow Pat to come and give this lecture at the new Institute for Visual Arts in a very modern building that owes a lot to the concrete brutalists of the 1950's. It's stuck down an alleyway a hundred yards or so from where The Jago would have started back when it was one of London's worst slums.
This Lecture is also in conjunction with the University of East London and is the first guest lecture of the new academic year for about half the audience in the fairly austere Lecture theatre. The institute didn't bother to keep the cafe open to allow us to buy a drink of some sort which seemed strange, but then the receptionist was handwriting the tickets! A lovely quaint touch in such a super modern building.
This lecture was quite similar to the one I saw at Cafe Oto earlier in the year, but less intense as Pat took us through the book once more telling us of the liberation struggles of the 60's and 70's through the prism of the music that accompanied the struggles of Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael. The need for the sit downs and on through Huey Newton and Bobby Seales ten point plan. Then we are in the world of the Black Panthers once more and as always the tale of Elaine Brown's rise to power and also all of the Panthers Reach Out programs bringing services to the communities around them.
But of course, this is leavened out by how mainstream culture is trying to cash in on the movement with even the Partridge Family having a Black Power episode called Soul Club. Pat shows us a very cool and funny clip from that with actual Black Panthers playing violins with the Partridge Family for added surreality.
As ever, for music nuts like me, the whole Motown Black Forum story always fascinates me, how the label Berry Gordy funded and distributed could be made to disappear from the story. And the music and lectures released on Black Forum all need to be heard still. Did Berry really need to shred the contracts?
Then we are onto one of the treasures on the CD; the first ever reissue of Bob Dylan's George Jackson: about his murder in Soledad Prison while allegedly hiding a gun under his afro!! This leads us onto the birth of rap with the Watts Prophets Rappin' Black in a White World and the brilliant comedy of Dick Gregory's Brown Strength Routine - a piece that still holds up as true in many respects today.
You can't hear the story of the Chicago 8 trial with Bobby Seal being chained and gagged in the court room and not think of the so called court hearings in Guantanamo Bay in recent years and how much we need to continue to fight to get justice and human rights for everyone and not just the ruling elite. Which contrasts with Eldridge Cleaver's consternation at his Algerian house guest Timothy Leary's attempts to equate taking LSD and getting high turning on with the struggles of the Black Power movements need for basic rights like food and housing and jobs is sobering and informative.
Then there's The Black Panthers' very own soulful protest singers, The Lumpen, with their song Free Bobby to help the campaign to free Bobby Seales and the revolutionaries tour they undertook to promote awareness. The lecture ends with Pat talking about Amiri Baraka's It's Nation Time: the album that gave us Who Will Survive In America? A tune that has been well sampled over the years no matter how rare this record from this Beatnik turned revolutionary poet and activist became.
For Part 2 of the evening we had Dan Brar give a reply to Pat's lecture. Dan is a student and expert on the Black Power movements and he thanked Pat for the lecture and book and CD and all the effort that went into making it. He then contextualized the book as being part of a current movement of study and reappraisal of what the Black Power movement achieved and how much a part of our consciousness it now is.
He also asked what it says to us now as a form of nostalgia and Romanticism. Were we romanticizing the struggle and fights of the near past, He also asked us. If the status of the militant images we were looking at could be used to reflect back on us now so we can look around and see how much is still wrong now. He also spoke on how he concurred with Pat on the importance of Amiri Baraka's Music as a weapon of the future and of course mentioned Amiri's very recent London performance.
They finished off with a short question and answer session. Not nearly as intense as the one at Cafe Oto but a good end to the lecture nonetheless. Afterwards, a good few of us repaired to the Barley Mow for the drink Iniva didn't sell us.