STACKS: A Call for Materials
A Call for Materials
“Michael, this is my youngest daughter, Irene.”
“Hello, how are you?”
“She was 1 when I was at Diverse Works.”
“And now you’re..?”
Michael Peranteau is older now. So am I. But he still possesses that ‘do’ that never seems out of place
and that special quality of asking a question as if sharing a secret. Not to mention that conversations with
him are like infomercials, he has his hand on the pulse of so many things in this city. Good people. Good
to see him.
Art League was packed. Packed in the front and the back. Parked in the back and subsequently came
in that way. Lots of ‘folk’ I didn’t know. At one time in the not so distant past, BLACK, dealt with the
need for acknowledgement, especially among ourselves. The world had exercised its spell of invisibility
and we were determined to break it. You saw someone who looked black or colored or brown like you,
you spoke. Hardly the norm these days. Unless of course you gravitated into the orbits of unexplored
clicks and there was someone there that validated you.
Gonna be straight with you. At first, I was disappointed in the scope of the submissions. Felt that there
was not a great deal of imagination exercised when it came to the items to be given up on the offering
block. Felt like most of the participants failed to engage in any meaningful dialogue. They courted the
edges of the unresolved for the most part. Mainly performance, which was cool, since the CAM had their
stuff on BLACK performance that same night.
Kept revisiting how these materials was going to be used. That in order to rebuild something, the
integrity and essence of the materials had to be taken into account. How were items deemed worthy of
transformation? Conceptually what items were placed at the deep end of the gene pool and why? The
core of each person’s submission, is a brick in the cornerstone of a new BLACK creativity. Ghosts in the
house, ghosts in the house….
And in all fairness, these submissions were a (un)reliable barometer of where the notion of BLACK in
Houston. It was like listening to some of the slave interviews that were spawned by the WPA in the 30’s
and 40’s. You have segment of the population that have been conditioned to speak to another segment of
the population in a certain way. There in the twilight of their lives they were asked to come clean, to tell
it like it was to an interviewer who represented the same system that had oppressed them. I know of no
black interviewers hired by the WPA.
To most of the submitters, it was a negotiation. Some took chances. I did not. Native Son, Light in
August, Heart of Darkness, I Know Why the Caged Birds Sing, Invisible Man, the blues anthology
plucked off the music rack at Ross, a cola of okra from my garden and the straw hat my wife bought me
for 1.50 at Sand Dollar, were things I could do without. They symbolized BLACK for me, in a myriad of
ways, on different levels, some unsavory, others chauvanistic, many unresolved, all dated. I knew I won’t
see any Hambone figurines or Gold Dust twins refrigerator magnets but things that were relegated ‘off
limits’ by their exclusion, were puzzling and disappointing.
No Tyler Perry videos. No copies of ‘Off the Wall’ or ‘Thriller’. Nary a Cat Williams suit. Not one
single photograph of Cabrini Green or the ‘Q’. Have yet to find one menu from The Breakfast Club. And
it obviously was a pro Islamic crowd, since there was no copy of the Koran offered up.
Do I write this off as a generational thing? Hard to say. At first I thought an opportunity was squandered
when the tally sheet of items and their donors was destroyed. That was more important to me than what
they gave. But in the end, the artists were right in destroying the list, wouldn’t have made any difference.
They would have pigeonholed themselves and BLACK into a different but still limited and constricting
set of parameters that they were trying to break out of in the first place. For BLACK is as much a state of
mind as it is a physical condition. It is about the individual as well as the collective.
My daughter, who is bi-ethnic and my wife who is not, were having conniptions when they destroyed
the Kool and the Gang and Maze albums. Irene made an interesting point that maybe the demeaning
element of these two groups resided in their general embracement by white people. Think she may be
on to something as it relates to Brother Kool (even so, will always love what Nike did with their Summer
Madness… “hold that, hold that thought I’m call you back.”) but correct me if I’m wrong, haven’t heard a
lot of Frankie Beverly on television much less rolling through West U or the Montrose on Friday evening
or at gatherings on the weekend in that part of town.
Very telling on where the youngsters position BLACK.
I wanted to see more of a reach outside the Black Atlantic. Wanted to see how ‘other’ people surrendered
their own personal offering of BLACK to reconstruct something futuristic. What would have been
cool is to have an Eastern Indian Woman broker some kind of gesture that spoke of the transcontinental
connection that she and other black women have over them ‘weaves’. Or a guy from South Korea with
different components of some Air Force 1s making similar gestures toward young black men.
Bert Samples and I happened to engage an older Anglo woman who was distraught at the destruction
of some much BLACK. BLACK that she had grown up with, that she adored and treasured, kept close
to her chest. She was stressing over the notion that all this history was being destroyed. She acted as
though some of the atmosphere, atmosphere that she was accustomed to, had been sucked out of the
“It’s like the story of Little Black Sambo. I love that story.”
Hold up BLACK! Let’s see what she has to say.
“What do you love so much about that story?” Bert asked.
“Why it was so funny the way he tricks the tigers into chasing each other around the tree.”
Lord have mercy…
She was being real. The stigma attached to this story had been internalized, never looked at straight on
or maybe it had and she was simply comfortable in the fog of denial. This brings up a deeper issue- the
historical blurring and of transfer of racism. Cause you see, Samito, started out as a little Eastern Indian
brother (remember, aint no tigers in Africa BLACK!) and then got caricatured into a darker more African
stereotype. As their conversation moved down the road toward Porgy and Bess, I quietly excused myself.
Needed to have my homegirl Beth pour me another Saint Arnold.
The question then begs to be asked, how many other items started out in other sections of town, only to
be transferred over to ours? So again, one of the questions that exercises such as this exhibition bring to
light is what is important and what is not, what items are afforded a gravitas and what items are thrown in
the junk heap?
I found Kearny’s eulogies irreverent, right on in their delivery, funny as hell; especially when he relegated
Nag Champa to hell. With all that sulphur and other funky gases, they need something to exorcise
the place. Think it is best to laugh now (but hell, to tell the truth, we are always laughing at ourselves)
because if this ‘Laboratory’ lives up to the hype, there should be more than two tears in the bucket.
Smashed egos, vehement call outs, body parts all over, blown up landscapes are probably going to be the
norm. What this exhibition is broadcasting in loud and in unapologetic terms, is that BLACK people have
a direct say so in recrafting BLACK.
Are you all really ready for this?