As to the larger question, I’m always split. I think of the two playwrights writing during the height of the Black Arts movement, the great Ed Bullins and the genius Adrienne Kennedy. Bullins believed art should serve the people, create change and organize community. Kennedy, with her abstract and brilliant Funnyhouse of a Negro, believed that art should serve itself. I personally, whether I’m creating or consuming, vacillate between the two positions.
TR: What are you working on now?
DH: Besides the essay I’m writing for the anthology you’re editing on black cool, I’m writing Industry Rules with Q-Tip. Tip is an amazing storyteller and represents so much of what is beautiful about hip-hop. I’m also peddling my first feature-length documentary, showing up with a DVD in my pocket and screening where I’m invited.
It’s [been] shown at Lincoln Center in NYC, D.C., Detroit and Chicago, and I’m willing to show it anywhere folks want to see it. It’s called The Black August Hip Hop Project and is about the benefit concert the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement produces to raise awareness of political prisoners and exiles in and from the U.S. It stars Mos Def, Common, Talib Kweli, Dead Prez and Assata Shakur.
Rebecca Walker writes frequently for The Root.