How did BAM effect American society and culture?



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Effects of the Black Arts Movement on Society and Culture

“I think what Black Arts did was inspire a whole lot of Black people to write. Moreover, there would be no multiculturalism movement without Black Arts. Latinos, Asian Americans, and others all say they began writing as a result of the example of the 1960s. Blacks gave the example that you don't have to assimilate. You could do your own thing, get into your own background, your own history, your own tradition and your own culture. I think the challenge is for cultural sovereignty and Black Arts struck a blow for that.”

-Ishmael Reed

The Black Arts Movement (BAM), itself originally inspired by politics and the Black Power Movement, encouraged political engagement in its writers and readers. It also supported independent publishing, as many of its writers were initially unknown. BAM incorporated new ways of using language, including Black English, music, performance, and call and response. Call and response can now be seen in rap music and performance poetry. BAM also led to the creation of poetry slams, which many different multicultural groups have taken up (Salaam). A poetry slam is, "the competitive art of performance poetry. It puts dual emphasis on writing and performance" ("Stage a Poetry Slam!). It is, "an event in which poets perform their work and are judged by members of the audience” (“Stage a Poetry Slam!”). BAM not only created new ways of expressing oneself, but also opened up space for many different voices to be heard.

Poetry Slam with Steve Colman:

BAM's Continuing Influence


BAM altered society at its foundation, and its influence can still be seen today. For instance, the Nuyorican Poets Café, founded in 1973, is, “a multi-cultural venue that both nurtures artists and exhibits a variety of artistic works” (“History”). It has, “emerged as one of the country's most highly respected arts organizations and has become an acclaimed forum for innovative poetry, music, hip hop, video, visual arts, comedy and theatre” (“History”). The Café is just one major example of the wide-ranging scope of artistic expression that BAM inspired.

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