Dread Poetry and Freedom

Dread Poetry and Freedom:
Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution

David Austin
with an introduction by Lewis Gordon

What is the relationship between poetry and social change?

Standing at the forefront of political poetry since the 1970s, Linton Kwesi Johnson has been fighting neo-fascism, police violence and promoting socialism while putting pen to paper to refute W.H. Auden’s claim that ‘poetry makes nothing happen’. For Johnson, only the second living poet to have been published in the Penguin Modern Classics series, writing has always been ‘a political act’ and poetry ‘a cultural weapon’.

In Dread Poetry and Freedom — the first book dedicated to the work of this ‘political poet par excellence’ – David Austin explores the themes of poetry, political consciousness and social transformation through the prism of Johnson’s work. Drawing from the Bible, reggae and Rastafari, and surrealism, socialism and feminism, and in dialogue with Aime Cesaire and Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James and Walter Rodney, and W.E.B. Du Bois and the poetry of d’bi young anitafrika, Johnson’s work becomes a crucial point of reflection on the meaning of freedom in this masterful and rich study.

In the process, Austin demonstrates why art, and particularly poetry, is a vital part of our efforts to achieve genuine social change in times of dread.

David Austin is the author of the Casa de las Americas Prize-winning Fear of a Black Nation: Race, Sex, and Security in Sixties Montreal, Moving Against the System: The 1968 Congress of Black Writers and the Making of Global Consciousness, and Dread Poetry and Freedom: Linton Kwesi Johnson and the Unfinished Revolution. He is also the editor of You Don’t Play with Revolution: The Montreal Lectures of C.L.R. James.

Lewis Gordon teaches in the United States and in South Africa, where he is the Nelson Mandela Visiting Professor of Politics and International Studies, and in Toulouse, France, where he holds the European Union Visiting Chair in philosophy. His recent book What Fanon Said has become a primary source on understanding the work of Fanon. He is known not only for his writings on Frantz Fanon, W.E.B. Du Bois, Frederick Douglass, Anna Julia Cooper, Steve Bantu Biko, and many others, but also his work in philosophy, politics, and varieties of thought in the global south.

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May Made Me

An oral history of the 1968 uprising in France
With author Mitch Abidor
at New Perspectives Studio
456-458 West 37th Street (near 10th Avenue)/Manhattan

The mass protests that shook France in May 1968 were exciting, dangerous, creative and influential, changing European politics to this day. Students demonstrated, workers went on general strike, factories and universities were occupied. At the height of its momentum, the protests brought the entire national economy to a halt. The protests reached such a point that the French and international bourgeoisie feared civil war or revolution.

Fifty years later, here are the eye-opening oral testimonies of those young rebels. By listening to the voices of students and workers, as opposed to those of their leaders, May ’68 appears not just as a mass event, but rather as an event driven by millions of individuals, creating a mosaic human portrait of France at the time.

Published on the 50th anniversary of those days in the spring of 68, May Made Me presents the legacy of the uprising: how those explosive experiences changed the individuals who participated and their lives as lived since then.

Mitch Abidor is a translator from Brooklyn whose many translations include A Socialist History of the French Revolution by Jean Jaurès and Anarchists Never Surrender and other works by Victor Serge.

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Emergence of a New Left: Civil Rights from Reform to Revolution

We begin with Malcolm
Noble Bratton

Two more sessions prior to One-Dimensional Man: February 28 and March 7

Noble Bratton will conduct a 3-week history of the Civil Rights movement with CORE, SNCC and analyzing the growing militancy in African-American life that led to the revolutionary politics of The Black Panther Party as the 60s developed.
Noble Bratton is a graduate of Cornell University and is on the editorial board of Working USA/Labor and Society. He taught a class on the US Presidency at The Brecht Forum. He has participated with the Leo Downes Harlem Y Study Group. He is also a former member of District Council 65 of the UAW, UNITE Local 169.
Readings for the next two weeks will include chapters from Manning Marable’s Race, Reform and Rebellion.

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