For the full Lost New York program click here.
(photos via princeton.edu)
We’re quite excited to have Daphne Brooks of Princeton University speaking in the first of two keynote sessions on Saturday, Oct. 3. Her talk, “‘Blue Light ‘Til Dawn’: Jackie ‘Moms’ Mabley’s Showtime at the Apollo,” will examine the career of the legendary stand-up comic, who performed in New York and elsewhere right up to her death in 1975.
Brooks teaches in Princeton’s English department and Center for African American Studies, but her work is difficult to pin down in disciplinary terms: she studies performance, popular music, race, and gender — most often in sites that involve most if not all of the above. As one reviewer of her work puts it, “Her approach is particularly interesting when she is examining the intersections of gender, race, sexuality, and other categories of identity. In fact, the more complex the performance, the better Brooks’s reading.” In Bodies in Dissent: Spectacular Performances of Race and Freedom, 1850-1910, she takes on a range of performers and cultural situations — from the escaped slave Henry “Box” Brown to the racially ambiguous stage celebrity Adah Isaacs Menken to the dancer and actress Aida Overton Walker — as she examines the intersection of performance and race in a turbulent period. For Continuum’s 33 1/3 series, used Jeff Buckley’s Grace not only as an inroad to the East Village in the 80s and early 90s, but also as a window onto the long history of race and popular music in America. Her recent writing ranges from black women’s soul and R&B performance to corporeal comedy in the work of Mabley and Josephine Baker to the Brooklyn-based band TV on the Radio. She’s also a teacher and member of the board of directors at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls.
Here’s a clip from Moms Mabley’s album Live at the Apollo to whet your appetite for Brooks’s talk. I’m anxious to hear her reading of Mabley in general, but for my own purposes I find this clip an apt illustration of what I call the “counter-nostalgic” strain in some New York writing: a reminder that some aspects of the past are better off being left behind, or, as Moms points out, that the good old days weren’t always so good for everyone. At the same time, Mabley preserves those memories specifically to make that very political point. Enjoy: