Ray Charles ‘Rapping’ In ‘Electronic Video Recording’ (1970)
Kay Bourne, in an article titled Black TV Programming As Art – published in the Boston based newspaper the Bay State Banner on 3 September 1970 – described a video production by Steve Hussein (a.k.a. Hemingway) in which Ray Charles was interviewed (and that bit of information is about the only thing I understand from his rant):
“Black programming for television is its own art form, suggests Steve Hussein in a six-part definition and analysis. Hussein is an independent producer whose ‘One More Time’ has broadcast 35 half-hour programs over WNAC-TV ([Channel] 7).
A recent video tape recording (EVR-electronic video recording) gives the viewer a practical means of grasping Hussein’s philosophy.
Ray Charles in casual attire is sitting on a couch rapping about young blacks in show business. That’s who it is – Ray Charles. With sync screening a host’s silhouette is imposed on the screen. ‘What do you think of the war on poverty – poverty cutbacks?’ Ray Charles tells us.
And his music continues to tell us ‘Them That Got’ as the camera moves down a Roxbury street: Washington street, ‘wine alley’, moving behind Louie’s Lounge and Shantie’s Bar down the rural citystreet, a fence, a dog, a car comes by, people, other people, shapes, details. Ray. Charles knows. ‘Tears.’
Hussein breaks a black show down into sensory and communicative parts, each having three aspects.
The sensory is comprised of visual, tactile and auditory. Black people seek concrete images, rich textures and familiar jargon. They are less intrigued with abstractions, simple designs and over-institutionalized dialogue.
The communicative is comprised of idea, translation and language. Black people seek subjective understandings, immediacy of information and environmental sounds. They are less intrigued with intellectual nitpicking, romantic sensibility or standard English.
Hussein puts the black priority in viewing this way: ‘If a black person has a plumbing problem in his home, he would rather 1) figure out a way to stop rent payments, 2) punch the landlord in the nose, or 3) learn how to fix the plumbing himself, than he would initiate legislation that aims at solving plumbing problems in the home.
The implications of Hussein’s experiment fall into three immediate categories.
1) That Hussein is working in EVR video tapes – a process akin to video cassettes – is a practical insurance that black programming as an art form will be developed […].
Network and public television, firmly in the hands of big business and its charities, has shown no interest in television other than to sell and lull. Black art is not a reaction to a TV ‘white art’. Television has had no art form at all. (Possible exceptions are football games and some journalism).
Television faces a media revolution and its response has been to attempt to rid itself of any other interest, namely blacks, with a real voice in determining programming and policy. Hussein, and any other artist, is wise to look to video tapes, cassettes and CATV.
2) Where grants for ‘specialized’ programming can be got, it’s best to have a viable theory as to what black programming really is rather than the money going to a ‘white’ experience in a black face or to the person who can talk the fastest, but may be saying the least.
3) Having stated a priority for people’s viewing habits, we are saved the stench of yet another study.”
Who knows more?