Birth of the (Black) Cool
Rebecca Walker’s Black White and Jewish was one of the few memoirs I read when preparing to put down the autobiographical parts of my own first book, Scars…, back in 2003. The first place I ever saw cultural critic Greg Tate do his music thang (was Women in Love his band at the time?) was at Fort Greene, Brooklyn’s Kokobar café, coöwned by Walker and closed in 1997. Back in college I’d read every novel her mom had ever written up to that point.
Sometime in 2009 it was nice, to say the absolute least, to hear from Rebecca about her idea for a new book dealing with the elements of black cool. She wanted a mix of personal essay, art history, cultural critique and editorial—“in other words, what you do best,” she said—on any aspect of black cool that tickled my fancy. She’d spent some time reading me, and really liked my Nina Simone tribute. (Blogging pays.)
After toying with a renaissance-man theme, we settled on a piece about my namesakes, Miles Davis and Jimi Marshall Hendrix: their constant evolution, being beyond categorization, a bit of a Miles on Miles story. At the time, two other writers asked me for essays to include in book proposals their agents would be shopping: a collection of marijuana stories, a sex anthology. I just didn’t have the time to write unpaid for books that might not work out. Theirs ultimately didn’t. Rebecca’s I knew would.
Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness is available as we speak, just in time for Black History Month 2012, featuring bell hooks, Veronica Chambers, dream hampton, Mat Johnson and many others; foreword by Skip Gates himself.
Rebecca Walker, the Pulitzer-winning author Margo Jefferson and MML will all be reading at Soho’s McNally Jackson bookstore on Wednesday, February 15, 7:00. Do come through.
(Brooklynites: I’ll also be reading on Monday, February 13, 8:00 at Frank’s Lounge—A Night of a Thousand Writers, with BK music scribes extraordinaire Michael A. Gonzales and Amy Linden, and novelist-poet Sharon Mesmer. 8:00.)