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Urban Graffiti: The Radiant Child

By Tim Hazell

Many of America’s ethnic groups have multiracial backgrounds. Black poets assimilated language and style of the dominant white urban mainstream to show their audiences how concepts of liberty and freedom rang hollow in the tenements of those who were excluded from the basic principle that “all men are created equal.” Irony and ambiguity characteristic of early black poetry conveyed the abolitionist message with use of double entendre, exhorting both people of color and the white population to take action against oppression.

These writers exposed the incongruity of African-American history, contrasting the stereotype of a land of equality by appropriating the striking verbal landscape of their own environments and dialects to celebrate change. Their experiments in reshaping language rejected formal modernism, resulting in images that shock but are also a form of catharsis.

New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, (1960-1988), first achieved notoriety as part of SAMO (is a graffiti tag used on the streets of New York City from 1977 to early 1980.) with Al Diaz. The graffiti duo illustrated the cultural ferment bubbling in the lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s, where hip hop, post-punk, and street art movements converged. During the 1980s, his star in the jaded art world rose meteorically, with sold-out exhibitions in international galleries. His neo-expressionist style can be considered as post-modernist. Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies,” such as “affluence versus want” and “integration versus segregation.”

Marc Mayer had this to say about the artist in his Basquiat in History: “Basquiat speaks articulately while dodging the full impact of clarity like a matador.”

Jazz in the sixties created an explosive proliferation of African-American poetry reminiscent of the Harlem Renaissance of the twenties, undergoing a transformation to a genre which was essentially confrontational. Gwendolyn Brooks evoked the racial cauldron of Chicago slums and became the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950.

Fast foods are a fundamental part of the urban experience. Try this delicious “up-town” version of the grilled cheese sandwich at home!



1/2 cup pecan halves

1 tbsp. canola oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened

Eight 1/2-inch-thick slices of sourdough bread

4 tbsp. hot pepper jelly or other preserve

1 chilled round of Brie or Camembert cheese (8.8 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch slices



Preheat the oven to 350̊. In a pie pan, toss pecans with the oil and salt. Bake for 8 minutes or until toasted. Let the pecans cool, and then coarsely chop. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the butter on one side of each slice of bread. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of the pepper jelly on the other side of each slice. Arrange cheese on the jelly side of 4 slices of bread and top with the pecans. Cover each sandwich with another slice of bread, butter side facing out. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over moderate heat. Add two sandwiches and grill for about 4 minutes. Flip the sandwiches and cook until golden brown on the bottom and cheese is melted, 4 minutes more. Transfer to a work surface and cook the remaining two sandwiches.



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