My Perception of Culture

James Snead’s Repetition as a Figure of Black Culture (1984) changed my perception of culture and its development through time. Prior to reading this piece, I believed that culture was static in its improvements – that culture did not necessarily change but people did instead. When Snead claims that cultural repetition is not repetition at all but transformation instead (59), I (of course) made the connection to Black Panther (2018). One of the first images we examined in class was a still of the marketplace with futuristic buildings in the background (33:20) and it struck me as I had never noticed the cultural fusion they had built. I remember thinking of survivance, a term used in Native American studies and refers to the importance of survival and resistance during the Native American genocide. Wakanda survived due to the initiative that past leaders took after observing the grief in surrounding countries, closing their borders, and hiding their most precious resources. These actions also curbed outside cultural influence, thus further sealing the already established traditions and rituals in a nice, vibranium-filled package. Overall, this class has piqued my interest because it is making me reevaluate my stance on cultural discussions and has invigorated a passion for asking more questions about why things are the way they are.
l Continue reading “My Perception of Culture”

The appropriation of black repetition

General understandings of time tend generally, but wrongly, to conflate change with progress. In Snead’s writing, however, he parses out the implications of repetition and change, particularly along the black/white racial distinction, in such a way that challenges an oversimplified, direct relationship between change and progress. Most effectively, Snead advocates that changes does not necessarily indicate progress, and, instead links black repetition with historical value, as opposed to white change/cultural cycles with capitalist values: “Black culture highlights the observance of such repetition, often in homage to an original generative instance or act … In European culture, financial and production cycles have largely supplanted the conscious sort of natural return in black culture,” (65-66). With these statements, Snead, whether intentionally or not, sheds light on the problem of white folks appropriating and coopting black culture, without understanding its resonance or implications. For the purposes of Snead’s argument, black and white cultures essentially function in a condition of opposites: black culture preserves the past, and white culture generates revenue for the future. When broken down this way, Snead’s thesis makes it obvious why the appropriation of repetitious black culture by people who don’t understand the “homage to an original .. act” essentially robs cultural elements of anything but their pure aesthetic value (65).

response week 3

Reflecting on the course as a whole thus far, I would say my favorite reading was Tolson. I think this is because and not despite it was so difficult. Reading it was very different than reading anything I’ve ever read before. Phrases like “O peoples of the Brinks, come with the hawk’s reserve, the skeptics’ optic nerve, the prophet’s tele verve…” fill this libretto, language none of us are accustomed to understanding, and the libretto also contains a lot of foreign languages and references to African tribes and traditions that I have never heard of. Because of this, I had to do a lot of research: reading footnotes, using google translate, reading reviews and analyses online. I feel like I learned a lot about African history just from reading this poetry, as well as learning a lot about the form of an epic poem ( or Libretto ) and how it conveys stories and weaves them into a complicated, descriptive, whole tale.

My question about this piece that I might propose would be:

  1. Why would Tolson chose this form, a libretto, of writing to convey the African history it contains? It was a deliberate choice, and a difficult form, so what is the significance of it?

Keep to the Rhythm-Kazon Robinson

In the depth of my past and the repetition of everyone within my sphere, music is core to our character.  For my mother, she sings passionately in her room to Whitney Houston. My younger brother is dreaming of Chance the Rapper and the rapper’s next big single. My grandmother, in her frustration to call me, sings out her familiar negro spirituals; a reminder of the bad times but the good times to come. All of that juxtaposes with not only what Snead discusses but our general discussion in class: the perception of wrong and right.

Continue reading “Keep to the Rhythm-Kazon Robinson”

Week 2 Response

Melvin Tolson’s poem Libretto for the Republic of Liberia was very difficult to read and comprehend. From what I understood, the poem was about a history of African peoples and their story that is untold. Almost like Tolson is filling in the blanks left by the white man in the official story. I thought it was very interesting that Tolson chose to use the solfège scale to separate the verse paragraphs. At first, I did not realize what it was until I continued to the rest of the poem. Continue reading “Week 2 Response”


These poem excerpts were hard reads but this is what I grasped from Tolsons writings. There was one quote that stuck out to me that I believed I immediately understood. “Europe bartered Arica crucifixes for red ivory, Gewgaws for black pearls, pierres d’aigl’is for green gold:
Soon the rivers and roads became clog almanacs! “. I think this quote specifically relates to the direct pillaging of not only Africas resources, but also the art and culture associated with different African cultures. Continue reading “tolson”

Looking at Libretto for the Republic of Liberia

When Tolson stated that “the Futurafrique, the accent on youth and speed and beauty, escalades the Mount Sinai of Tubman University, the vistas of which bloom with coeds from seven times seven lands,” I began to look at Afrofuturism in a different light. Previously I thought of Afrofuturism with consideration of Black Panther as an example, while Tolson’s statement describes Afrofuturism without attaching unnecessary constraints on the definition. Continue reading “Looking at Libretto for the Republic of Liberia”


One moment that stuck out to me and gave me a clearer picture of afro-futurism is the paragraph starting with “In Milan” (lines 65-70), in this section we can see examples of the ways the european and then western culture lied to, took advantage of and enslaved the african people. It leads someone to think about the ways these people would have advanced if they had not been influenced or poisoned by other more developed parts of the world. I believe Continue reading “Moments”