I think Malcolm X, whom I met in Buffalo, and some of the artists and writers who were in New York, sort of like inspired me to go there, of course I was in my 20s and didn’t know any better. So, when I was 22, I went to New York and did a bunch of odd jobs, but I came in contact with the Umbra Workshop, which included a lot of people who were — very well known now. Calvin Hernton, Lorenzo Thomas, David Henderson, Norman Pritchard, N.H. Pritchard and others. So, we were very hard on — Askia Touré, who was like the co-founder of The Black Arts Repertory Theatre. We were hard on each other, but we learned from each other.

 

Well, I mean we were beset by a lot of outside pressure. I mean it was the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and there was a transition from non-violence to self-defense because of Malcolm. And so, Umbra was split between Black nationalists and integrationists, and finally they went their separate ways. But Askia Touré, who was a serious Black nationalist, he still is, he’s the one who sort of converted, transformed LeRoi Jones into Amiri Baraka. And they went uptown to form the Black Arts Repertory Theater. So, in the early 60s, I was — we were roommates; Askia Toure, Charles Patterson, William Patterson, all those people were the nucleus for The Black Arts Repertory Theatre.

 

That’s a kind of circle — but I also had my foot in the — I had feet or one foot in the counterculture.1 As a matter of fact, in the Woodstock program, I’m mentioned as one of the three favorite writers of the counterculture, because I was associated with a newspaper called East Village Other, which I named and co-founded with Walter Bowart. And so, I was there also, and I was living with a choreographer-dancer who later became my spouse, and she’s the one who sort of like turned me onto multiculturalism, because she was in contact with the Japanese and Indian communities. And so, that’s when I began to look at the country as a mosaic of different cultures.

  1. Epidemic
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