The Jazz Theologian

Malcolmx_2 Ray Bakke calls it the "second conversion."  Malcolm X called it a "Psychic Conversion."  It is what happens when we realized that we are not just individuals but also part of a group.  It occurs when we realize that our culture can live in concert with the cultures around us.  It is born of rage and internal conflict and Jazz is essential to experience it.

Cornel West, when speaking of Malcolm X and his "Psychic Conversion," speaks of jazz as being more than music but a consciousness

“Furthermore, the cultural hybrid character of black life leads us to highlight a metaphor alien to Malcolm X’s perspective—yet, consonate with his performances to audiences—namely, the metaphor of jazz.  I use the term “jazz” here not so much as a term for a musical art form, as for a mode of being in the world, and improvisational mode of protean, fluid, and flexible dispositions toward reality suspicious of “either/or” viewpoints, dogmatic pronouncements, or supremacist ideologies.  To be a jazz freedom fighter is to attempt to galvanize and energize world-weary people into forms of organization with accountable leadership that promote critical exchange and broad reflection.  The interplay of individuality and unity is not one of uniformity and unanimity imposed from above but rather of conflict among diverse groupings that reach a dynamic consensus subject to questioning and criticism.  As with a soloist in a jazz quartet, quintet or band, individuality is promoted in order to sustain and increase the creative tension with the group—a tension that yields higher levels of performance to achieve the aim of the collective project.  This kind of critical and democratic sensibility flies in the face of any policing of borders and boundaries of “blackness,” “maleness,” “femaleness,” or “whiteness.”  (Race Matters, p150-51)

To be continued…

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