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Styles of Struggle : Community Organizing, Youth Culture, and Radical Politics in New York City, 1968-1981

  • Author(s): Edwards, Cutler Curtis
  • et al.
Abstract

Styles of Struggle : Community Organizing, Youth Culture, and Radical Politics in New York City, 1968-1981 builds on a recent historiographic trend challenging narratives of the 1970s as a period of conservative retrenchment, and demonstrates that the multiracial, anti-imperialist visions fueling the radical dreams of the 1960s continued to inform local struggle in what me might call the "long 1970s." For a theoretical frame, it looks to emergent youth culture during the same period. The artistic and aesthetic principles shaping hip hop during its early years, based in a commitment to collaborative competition, unexpected reformulations of everyday material, and the elevation of innovation as part of a strategy for survival constituted a "freestyle politics." Hip hop culture and radical politics of the 1970s more broadly articulated and elaborated a freestyle politics that were multiracial, anti-imperialist, and deeply invested in struggles over race and space. Local efforts to transform social and spatial relations drew on a longer history of anti-racist and anti-imperialist organizing. By the late 1970s, activists combined the two threads into a powerful critique of the resurgent frontier discourse used to justify neglect or destruction of the city's minority communities. From the multiracial Black Theatre of Urban Arts Corps to the largely Puerto Rican United Bronx Parents' fight for community control of education, from the tenuous alliances of Columbia students and Harlem activists to South Bronx youth partnering with avant-garde art gallery Fashion Moda, communities in struggle worked to develop a range of approaches for survival and self- determination. I conclude by analyzing how these practices came together in 1980-81 protests against the anti-Black and anti-Puerto Rican film Fort Apache: The Bronx, when hip hop culture was first explicitly deployed as a political organizing tool. Contributing to Civil Rights, popular culture, and social movement historiographies, Styles of Struggle locates the historical continuities of the long 1960s against what is often characterized as a point of rupture, interrogates the relationship between transnational and local politics, and demonstrates how expressive culture shapes and sustains ongoing struggles for social justice into the 21st century

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