The spirit of the 1960s’ Black Arts Movement is captured in Amiri Baraka’s “AM/Trak,” which addresses the theory of the underlying relationship between art and culture. This simple theory of how culture works and how art reflects and influences the culture that produces it was the whole purpose of the literary movement led by Baraka. In order for one to understand their own experiences, they must acknowledge what factors have influenced how they have shaped their lives. By doing so, they will self-consciously discover and create themselves. The basis of Baraka’s poem, “AM/Trak” illustrates the defining concept of the Black Arts Movement; the notion of creating identity influenced by experiencing racial and social alienation. The development of a modernized black culture is continually drawn to question because there are many outliers that can influence the basic fundamentals of experience. “What makes experience such an important concept for Baraka is how it frames the relation between the individual and the collective”(Punday 782). The Black Arts Movement was a period of an assembled reaction against several things including the Korean War, capitalism, and the assassination of Malcom X. Although Baraka incorporates these historical events into “AM/Trak”, the history of the Beats is approached more by expressing an individual’s reaction, rather than a single technical change or influence of history on society. The appreciation of the degree of exposure from an artist or individual models how the Beats linked the identity of black culture to specific trials and tribulations. A desirable relationship between culture and society is a focalized theme in African American literature, but has been obliterated by the constant severance between historical transitions and the lack of ethical alertness (Quayson 1). Isolation of the African American population from white America has been influenced by harsh racism and inequality for several centuries. Although the discrimination thrived for thousands of years, the collective attitude towards the relations of the past began to deviate into a different outlook in the 1960s. The black community began to celebrate an emphasized change when exercising their self-proclaimed freedom of personal expression to improve social and economic conditions of the African American community (Yost 2). In order to establish a distinct black identity against the social reality of separation, they incorporated music, literature, and other forms of art as a way of advocating their presence not only in the United States, but the world. Baraka captures the true meaning of the new scholarly awakening with the influence of the Beat-generation by describing John Coltrane in “AM/Trak”, in which he uses a distinct style of writing to portray not only the life of the artist, but specific annotations of his music. The musical embodiment of his work prevails that he was undoubtedly a major contributor to the spirit of the 1960s’. By analyzing Coltrane’s passion and transformation during this decade with extreme expression and struggle against racism, “AM/Trak” is brought to life:
Trane was the spirit of the 60’s
He was Malcom X in New Super Bop Fire
Wheeeeeee . . . Black Art!!! (152-155).
The poem is a clear representation of not only the musical development of John Coltrane’s career and repressed life, but also the importance of how African-American musical expression extrapolates the expectations and contributions of individuals under the pressure of alienation (Quayson 3). According to literary critic, Henry Lacey, Baraka uses imagery to encompass the variety of ways the poem portrays the inspiring musician to be the “interpreter of the Black experience” through his music (Lacey 14). The different stages of achievements, hardships, and responses during Coltrane’s life are a direct narrative of the same ones produced throughout the history of the Black...