Black Renaissance/ Renaissance Noire• Edited and published by the Africana Studies Program and the Institute of African
American Studies at New York University
• Dr. Manthia Diawara, founder and
editor in chief “I’m a child of African independence,” says Dr. Manthia Diawara, the Mali-born
filmmaker and critic who’s also a professor of film and Africana studies at New York University. “When I was growing up, we had big utopias: pan-Africanism, African liberation. Our heroes were people like Kwame Nkrumah, Frantz Fanon, Patrice Lumumba.”
So it’s not surprising that when Diawara was talking with his friends Walter Mosley and Clyde Taylor about the need for a new Black journal, he wanted to call to mind two legendary moments from the African Diaspora: New York’s Harlem Renaissance and the Negritude movement that swept Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. Hence the name Black Renaissance/Renaissance Noire, now in its seventh year of publication.
Diawara admits to practicing a “strategic essentialism” in his editorial policy. “We try to keep the kind of space you don’t have in other magazines for a vigorous debate on ‘blackness,’ ” Diawara says. “We have Martin Kilson criticizing Cornel West and Skip Gates in our pages. We also have had essays criticizing Molefi Asante. We’ve had Hortense Spillers criticizing Hazel Carby and Paul Gilroy. But that is strategic essentialism if one blackness can criticize another blackness and get us to move ahead past the dead end.”
Lively, political, polemical, beautifully designed, Black Renaissance is, like most literary magazines, difficult to find. Subscriptions fluctuate between 500 and 1,000, though the print run is set at 3,000 to capitalize on sales in New York City’s newsstands and independent bookstores.
Expanding the magazine’s reach may become the province of the new managing editor. Diawara says he has the perfect candidate in mind: “We’re trying to bring in (the nationally renowned poet) Quincy Troupe.”
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