Perhaps it’s a generational thing or a sign that I am, indeed, growing old but I now wonder what the “new” old school is? Are our cities of today capable of being the background to the creative expression of its inhabitants?
As a little girl, a warm sense of pride would always wash over me when I looked at pictures from the 1960’s of my parents and their friends posing in their bell bottomed pants and mini skirts, perfectly coifed afros and platform shoes. The pride came from knowing that the picture represented a moment in time – a moment that belonged to a historical and cultural context filled with struggle, triumph, frustration and growth. There was a hunger, a fire in the belly of all those affected by the consequences of this time.
As a teenager, I was interested in history of the late 1970’s – concerning inner-city youths and their reciprocal relationship with the city. This space, the city, was the fertile and creative ground for the development mediums of music, dance and art – some would call this ‘hip hop’. The movement out of the unplanned collage of restless inner-city youths – and it focused on creating “something” out of “nothing”. Breakdancing took nothing more than your body. Rap took nothing more than the ability to innately, cleverly and rhythmically string together stories with words. Colorful murals (yes, graffiti – not always welcomed) happened with cans of spray paint. These types of expressions were not happening inside – they were happening outside, in and around neighborhoods of cities. To me, this has always been the most interesting part of this period – creating something from nothing while the streets and buildings became the stage or props in the creation of this urban art form. To me, this was old school…
While both ‘movements’ are different in their cause, activities and outcome, the goal remained the same: for voices to be heard. The voice for equality and the voice for expression. In both instances the city played a major role; some cities more “engaged” than others, but the urban landscape helped to shape, contain, exploit and encourage the timeline of the movements.
I am certain there are ‘movements’ happening within our cities that I am either not aware of or perhaps I prefer to reminisce about a time when the youth of cities had a fire in their belly about an injustice or a need for expression and were willing to ceaselessly fight for it.