Fred Logan: Why ‘we’ must support MoKa at Soho and ASALH 2024

The “We” means Black people in Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County, and in the US House of Representatives Pennsylvania District 12.

Here we speak to this specific population. Of course, Moka at Soho and ASALH 2024 attract support from many other diverse sources beyond the local African American community.

We recognize that not all Black folks in the local area support the arts.  This polemic is not addressed to them.

Why must local back folk support MoKa at Soho, you ask? Because, it is, in my opinion, an outstanding local African diaspora arts gallery. It features authentic African art and merchandise, and very important photos and information of Pittsburgh’s Black cultural history are posted on the walls.

Very important, the gallery is a very warm, old school, community institution.

Errol Mobuto Reynolds and Charlotte Ka are the driving force and co-proprietors of the galley.

FRED LOGAN

Brother Mobuto is an outstanding multi-media artist, with priceless knowledge of the city’s Black arts history. Sister Ka is an outstanding multi-media visual artist with priceless knowledge of Black arts history.

You must visit the gallery. But first, do your homework. Visit on line MoKa at Soho in Pittsburgh. Bother Mobotu and Sister Ka transformed an abandoned structure into a vibrant four-story testament to Black culture. It is located at Centre Avenue and SoHo Street in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and most appropriate it sits directly facing Pittsburgh’s Weil Pre-5 public school.

The institution is daily confirmation of the classic artistic excellence and the historic struggles of Black people.

This is one of the very important reasons while the Black community must support local Black art. Local African American professionals, attorneys, educators, elected officials, etc. are obligated to support Black art. For them to do otherwise is, in the words of Lady Day, “much worse than just bad.”

Equally important, during a Kuumba Trust lecture some years ago, the late Dr. Elizabeth Cattlet, a reigning master of African American art spoke. She said Black people are obligated to bring Black youth to programs and events that feature Black art. It exposes them to what Black people have accomplished and what they must strive to accomplish.

ASALH 2024 is such an occasion. ASALH 2024 is the 109th Annual Conference of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.

This year, the theme is “African Americans and the Arts’” It will be held in Pittsburgh September 25-29.

Again, do your homework. Visit on line the ASALH website for the official information on the conference.

Our obligations to support ASALH 2024 reach infinity. The local Black community must bring Black youth to ASALH 2024, particularly to counter the youth consumer market industry’s 24/7 bombardment of youth with negative life styles that at minimum must reap hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Without question, African American art is a dominant force in world culture. That is what makes Black art so contentious in the highest reaches of the cultural industry, in academia, on the street and among Black artists themselves.

Generations ago, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois argued that Black art must be artistic and it must be political in the service of the struggles of Black people. Du Bois said he didn’t give a damn about art for art’s sake. The late renowned artist and political activist Amiri Baraka said Howard University’s legendary scholar and poet Dr. Sterling Brown told his students that in Black music, field songs, gospel, jazz, Rhythm and Blues… is a record of Black life in this country.

Many Black artists and scholars vehemently reject this argument. They argue the individual not the community is the primary source for Black artists.  This very important Black dichotomy is still with us today.

In Pittsburgh, just below the surface are some festering long standing issues related to the relationship between local Black arts programs and the Black community at large. This may not be addressed in the workshops, lectures, or other presentations at the 2024 conference. But hopefully it will be discussed off-the-record during lunch breaks, in the hall ways and continued long after in the local Black community.

Pittsburgh Black arts neophyte Fred Logan volunteered for the 2004 and 2011 ASALH conferences in Pittsburgh. In both instances my expectations were very, very high. I expected the Sun and the Moon.

But in both instances I was very, very wrong. ASALH 2004 and ASALH 2011 far exceeded, in every respect, my grandest expectations.

 

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