Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Houston A. Baker, Jr., "Betrayal..."

Attended Houston A. Baker Jr.'s lecture and book signing at Howard University yesterday. Ethelbert Miller and Dr. Lila Ammons, interim chair of Afro American Studies, gave wonderful introductions of Baker. Ethelbert's introductions are like prose poems; when I asked him about how he constructs his introductions of writers, he started explaining to me that he models the Michael Jackson video. I take this to mean that the way that Michael Jackson restructured the music video is the same method that Ethelbert uses in introducing writers. That is, he doesn't deliver the stereotypical biographical sketch that lists accomplishment after accomplishment. I hope one day to have Ethelbert introduce me for as a speaker. I wonder what he will do with my bio.

Baker's lecture was provocative. And I came home and immediately started reading his book, "Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era." The black intellectuals whom Baker takes to task in his book are: Stephen Carter; Cornel West; Henry Louis Gates, Jr.; Michael Eric Dyson; and Shelby Steele. I'm 35 pages in and I am riveted. Baker's lecture reinforced in my mind the need to continue to produce good scholarship and not to capitulate and start writing pamphlets. Well, not that anyone has approached me with a six figure contract to write pamphlets. But, if in the event they do, I'll have to consider Baker's warning.

Speaking of scholarly books, my manuscript that I worked so hard to get to the editor is being sent our for "re-review." It was reviewed by my peers once, this is how I secured the publishing contract. Now it's being sent to the same reviewers (ideally, that is if they can be tracked down) to be reviewed again. See this is why folks resort to writing pamphlets. You just get tired of all the craziness of the academic presses.

Besides, who is even going to take the time to read a book that has a slew of endnotes, bibliography, and inter-textual references. Alright, I'm sleep deprived and pissed that my book is going out for re-review. But I know that Baker is right. Ultimately, a society is measure by its art, music, and intellectuals. Now I'm sounding elitist. I'll stop writing this blog here and get some rest. No, do my taxes.


E. said...

Guess I have to read it before I make any judgments.

Still I'm a little undecided about many things. What makes a scholar, professor or writer a true brother? That's more of what my concern is. Too often I see people in academia not treating each other very well and that, coming where I come from, really hurts.

If these guys haven't passed the torch the way its supposed to be, then maybe a bit of criticism is healthy. But what's the expectation? Is it all about the style or volume of certain works or is it about empowering people?

I'm confused.

Am I not supposed to feel grateful that Cornel West signed my copy of "Race Matters"?

Is he different from some of the people I often meet in higher ed that are simply mean and cold?

Never really had a brother that I could look to and say....he's showing me the way, even when I'm listening to contemporary speeches.

On some level I can't identify with these guys at all, everything is so socially distant in conversation. I come from the statistics they write and debate about. WE DYIN' OUT HERE!!

I don't know how I feel about doggin' anybody when it seems like people are doing work and making things happen.

I just want to respect them and learn from them and hopefully grow and be a beacon for someone else....

I'm afraid this book is going to make me shake my head some more.....

in confusion.

unbekannte said...

Houston Baker has done more to look and act like a "farm animal" than has any member of the 2006 Duke University Lacrosse Team.

Anonymous said...

you should fully explain asinine comments like that. People like me may get the wrong idea and not know what the hell your point is. Why am I even addressing you...?