Black Forum Magazine joined the Black Arts Movement in 1972

Black Forum Magazine exhibited in the new National Museum for African American History and Culture.

In 1971, inspired by Amiri Baraka and the Black Arts Movement, and Otto Neals, Ademola Olugebefola and the artists at the Weusi Art Academy in Harlem, and my own prior work in anti-drug endeavors I got the idea to start a magazine that would cater to young black beginning writers to help further the cause the Black Arts Movement was pursuing – an awakening of African American consciousness through cultural awareness.

Malcolm X had been doing the same thing until his untimely death in February 21, 1965. Malcolm’s method used politics, social conditions, racial awareness, history and character building. Upon Malcolm’s death, LeRoi Jones gave up his Beat Generation affiliations, his white wife, and he changed his name to what was, in time, chiseled down to Amiri Baraka. He moved from Greenwich Village to Harlem to start The Black Arts Repertory Theatre with the help of fellow poet Larry Neal and others; the overall goal was black liberation, their weapons were poetry, graphic art and play acting – they had a vision of using black ecstatic to alter black perceptions – to lift up the African American people using culture.

The Weusi Art Academy, a collective of ten or twelve artists formed about the same time as the Black Repertory theatre, saw the same need to develop a black ecstatic that helped to transform and elevate black perceptions – to use art to remake black self-images.

Black Forum Magazine was born of that same motivation. I was able to convince the other founding members of the need for a grass-roots publication to nurture and encourage the work of young black writers and poets who would be pioneers in the new Black Power drive. These other founding members were Charles Pole, a playwright and actor from the Bronx, Julia Coxum, an editor and writer, Revish Windham, a published poet whose family owned the influential Black Book of the Month Club, Fred Richardson, a budding poet from Manhattan, Reggie Ward, a photographer from New Jersey and Gene Niland, a manager from Brooklyn.

These people formed the nucleus of the original 1972 Black forum Magazine staff. I was its first editor-in-chief and I led the magazine for its first 5 years. After the second edition Black Forum began to receive literature from black poets and writers from all over the United States – the magazine was an instant hit – we had found the right audience; a extensive cadre of intellectual talents who had been up to then, untapped.

Over the years, the magazines had a revolving staff of interesting and talented people but the core members always remained at its helm. The magazine published the works of hundreds of new poets and writers, It interviewed and profiled established poets and authors like John Oliver Killens and Louse Meriwether. I personally drove a reporter/photographer team to the Newark, NJ home of Amiri Baraka for an interview.

I left the magazine in 1979, Black Forum printed its last issue in 1982.

In February 2017 the National Museum for African American history and Culture opened its doors to the world. It is the only museum in the country devoted exclusively to the history and culture of African American people. Black Forum Magazine made a large enough impact on African American literature to be included in the museum’s exhibition on the history of the Black Arts Movement (BAM). The surviving founding members of the magazine all expressed their delight to have been honored in such a fashion. We had never gauged the impact of the magazine, but to be included in this museum tells us something about how important others think we were.

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