Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness

4.5 8
by Rebecca Walker, Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
     
 

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Black Cool explores the ineffable state and aesthetic of Black Cool. From the effortless reserve of Miles Davis in khakis on an early album cover, to the shock of resistance in black women’s fashion from Angela Davis to Rihanna, to the cadence of poets as diverse as Staceyann Chin and Audre Lorde, Black Cool looks at the roots of Black Cool and

Overview


Black Cool explores the ineffable state and aesthetic of Black Cool. From the effortless reserve of Miles Davis in khakis on an early album cover, to the shock of resistance in black women’s fashion from Angela Davis to Rihanna, to the cadence of poets as diverse as Staceyann Chin and Audre Lorde, Black Cool looks at the roots of Black Cool and attempts to name elements of the phenomena that have emerged to shape the global expectation of cool itself.

Buoyed by some of America’s most innovative thinkers on the subject—graphic novelist Mat Johnson, Brown University Professor of African Studies Tricia Rose, critical thinking and cultural icon bell hooks, Macarthur winner Kara Walker, and many more—the book is at once a handbook, a map, a journey into the matrix of another cosmology. It’s a literal periodic table of cool, wherein each writer names and defines their element of choice. Dream Hampton writes about Audacity. Helena Andrews about Reserve, Margo Jefferson on Eccentricity, Veronica Chambers on Genius, and so on. With a foreword by Henry Louis Gates that bridges historical African elements of cool with the path laid out for the future, Black Cool offers a provocative perspective on this powerful cultural legacy.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Despite the slenderness of this collection of essays on the zen of cool by several influential cultural visionaries, Walker (Black, White and Jewish) knows how to approach a fashionable theme from all angles. After an informed foreword by historian Henry Louis Gates Jr., the various commentaries on the fundamentals and potential of this African-American cultural export domestically and globally are written by such trendsetters as writer Mat Johnson, performing artist Staceyann Chin, critic Dream Hampton, photographer Dawoud Bey, writer Veronica Chambers, essayist Miles Marshall Lewis, critic Margo Jefferson, fashion maven Michaela Angela Davis, and educator-activist bell hooks. Three of the standouts are Chamber’s “Hunger,” Chin’s “Authenticity,” and hooks’s “Forever,” where elements of the personal give meaning to the topic and touch the reader in a significant way. While Hampton discusses “Audacity” as mastering fear and Bey explains “Swagger” as “a way to reclaim and celebrate viscerally an aspect of self that has historically eroded,” Lewis pays tribute in “Always Evoking” to the sound sorcerer Miles Davis, a musician of the cool sound whose constant mode was change. Walker and her band of scribes are in top form, giving a rich, varied picture of Black cool style at its most frosty. (Feb.)
From the Publisher

Praise for Black Cool

"Walker and her band of scribes are in top form, giving a rich, varied picture of Black cool style." —Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews
A collection of essays focused on the "cool" cultural legacy of African-Americans. In her latest work, writer/editor Rebecca Walker (Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence, 2007, etc.) assembles the writings of 16 prominent thinkers in an attempt to define "Black Cool," a phrase utilized to encompass African-American's self-confidence and swagger. Staceyann Chin's "Authenticity" recounts her coming-of-age in Jamaica, during which she stumbled upon the healing powers of cool. "My newfound swagger sustained me through the rest of my teens," she writes. "It nurtured an unyielding sense of self that served me well when I moved from Montego Bay to attend college in Kingston." In "Geek," Mat Johnson defines black cool by describing how it feels to lack it. A self-tagged "black geek"), he admits that "[b]lackness can be a rigid, didactic identity, with people stepping out of line facing ridicule and admonishment or worse: condemnation." Yet Hank Willis Thomas argues that black cool needn't be naturally possessed; it's simply a commodity for purchase: "A crisp, clean pair of brand spanking new Air Jordan sneakers was a supreme status symbol for anyone who wanted to be cool and ‘down with the streets.' " Thomas takes the intangible concept of black cool and quite skillfully grounds it between a pair of Nike swooshes." While the aforementioned essays employ personal anecdotes to spur thoughtful debate, a few of the pieces feel tonally at-odds with the rest. This is particularly true of Michaela Angela Davis' contribution, which reads more like a fiery manifesto in which she makes clear that non-blacks can never possess "our cool ass Black style." It's an interesting concept, but the author's informality and defensive tone proves less successful than the collection's subtler pieces. Other contributors include Margo Jefferson, Veronica Chambers, Dawoud Bey and the ubiquitous Henry Louis Gates Jr., who provides the foreword. An occasionally unbalanced yet probing collection grappling with the true meaning of "Black Cool."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781593764173
Publisher:
Soft Skull Press, Inc.
Publication date:
02/07/2012
Pages:
160
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)

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Black Cool: One Thousand Streams of Blackness 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
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