Eugene B. Redmond and Enlightenment
Responding to my comments on Angela Jackson’s Where I Must Go as a luminous web, Eugene B. Redmond raised the stakes. Might we not need “a theo-religo-soular corollary,” namely a reconsideration of Howard Thurman’s The Luminous Darkness (1965)? The answer: Yes. In thunder.
Just as the literary discourse of Nathan A. Scott, Jr. drew my attention to presence within the text, Howard Thurman’s Christian writings quicken my noticing that theological and religious allusions in the novel’s text bespeak absence or yearning in the act of reading the text. The critical absence pertains to subtle morality that makes the act of reading an existential act. Once again, Redmond has done a bit of “re-w (rap) ping.” Thurman’s meditation on what happens to the human spirit and neighborliness after the walls of segregation have tumbled down is explicit in the plot of Where I Must Go. By way of making an intertextual connection, Redmond gave me an onus that exceeds any finitude I might assume exists in the aesthetics of reading. Using the wisdom of racialized oral tradition, Redmond sends me back to roots.
I react to Redmond’s onus of memory much as I react to Curtis Mayfield’s Roots album, recorded at Chicago’s RCA Studios and released October 1971. Listen to the tracks “Underground” and “Keep On Keeping On.” Redmond has sponsored a shock of enlightenment, a shock of recognition. Behind all the veils of spectacular theory and well-wrought criticism the obligation to examine one’s soul remains permanent. Nature abhors a vacuum. The soul abhors absence.
Never underestimate the power of real poet/critics and righteous singers and philosopher/theologians in African/African American traditions to make a reader ponder how the souls of black folk got over the bridge of black writing.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr.
September 24, 2013