My lecture will be about the period of time between 1979 and 2008. 1979 marks the end of Good Times, a sitcom about a black American family living in the twilight of the “goodtimes”—the “goodtimes” being the Civil Rights moment, the moment of the Great Society, the moment just before the forces of neoliberalism are unleashed on “the black metropolis.” 1979 is the year Margaret Thatcher, the queen of neoliberalism, rises to power. 1989 represents another moment in this history. This is the moment of regeneration/gentrification and the relocation of the urban poor to the periphery, the suburbs—a relocation that subsequently begins to collapse in 2007, triggering the global economic crash of the following year.
The German philosopher Hegel thought and taught that there was reason in history, and that the whole meaning of its development through time was to reach a point at which it (reason) and matter (reality) became one. As fantastic as all of this sounds, Hegel correctly saw that human history was shaped by real forces, real desires, hopes, and heaps of dashed hopes. Hegel was right to recognize the spirit of history, but that spirit is not supernatural but an emergence of human pressures. Thus, human history has in it accidents, but also principles—principles that cannot be separated from, say, the pressures of an empty stomach.
With that in mind, my lecture will fuse pop music (‘80s R&B and hip hop), TV shows (from Good Times to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), the art of Chakaia Booker, the cinema of Ice Cube, and the story of Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell into one movement. In that movement we should see something like Hegel’s geist (the spirit coursing through time). That spirit, however, has nothing to do with God, or an end, or goal, but is like a flow of light being generated and motivated by actual social pressures—by inner city pressures, by hunger, by desire, by the struggle to be recognized as a human.
Charles Mudede—who writes about film, books, music, and his life in Rhodesia, Zimbabwe, the United States, and the United Kingdom for The Stranger—was born near a steel plant in Kwe Kwe, Zimbabwe. Mudede is also a filmmaker: two of his films, Police Beat and Zoo, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and Zoo was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. Mudede has written for The New York Times, Cinema Scope, Ars Electronica, C Theory, and various academic journals. He also wrote the liner notes for Best of Del Tha Funkee Homosapien: Elektra Years.