In the aftermath of Malcolm X’s assassination in 1965, the tone of the Black artists changed. The need to reshape and define the aesthetic and socio-political voices and standards of Black culture grew.
“Whatever field the Black artist was in, the metrics changed primarily because Malcolm X was really the father of us all. He spoke truth to not only power but spoke truth to his own people,” says Dr. Haki Madhubuti, Black Arts Movement poet, educator and publisher of Third World Press. “As a result of that assassination, we all went inward and started looking at ourselves. We began to organize at another level. As we grew, self-definition became critical and that’s what most of us began to move toward.”
With a deeper knowledge of Black history, artists began moving away from the conceptual “negro” and white structural ideals, and toward Black or “people of African ancestry” to self-identify. This awakened consciousness transformed the artistry and elevated the mental mobility of Black people, paving the way for institution building and the rise of the Black Arts Movement. Within this space, Dr. Madhubuti, born Don L. Lee, became one of the leading voices of the movement alongside literary giants Nikki Giovanni, Amiri Baraka, Gwendolyn Brooks and a host of revolutionary minds and talent across the arts.
In 1967, Dr. Madhubuti’s progressive vision extended to founding Third World Press in Chicago – a publishing, educational and political institution, cited as the largest independent Black-owned press in the country. That same year, he debuted his first collection of poetry, “Think Black” and published over 30 books while cultivating an artistic space that offers an outlet for voices critiquing the Black experience in America spanning across themes of life, society, politics and morality.
Dr. Madhubuti’s latest collection of poetry, “Taught By Women: Poems as Resistant Language (Third World Press, 2020),” marks the writer’s first single-authored works since 2005. Using his style of Black cultural vernacular and observation, the new and selected poems pay homage to the women who have challenged, taught, guided and helped shape Dr. Madhubuti as a contributor to the Black literary tradition.
Reading “Why Women” from the collection, Dr. Madhubuti shares, “‘Taught By Women’ is my acknowledgment and thank you to Black women and the world of women for saving my life.”