|INDEPENDENT LENS: GORDON PARKS|
It is with great sadness that I bring to you our eleventh installment of The Black Fist: Best & Brightest Everyday Black History Series. This will be a combined black history moment/loving tribute to one of the greatest photographers the world, not just the black world but the ENTIRE WORLD has ever seen. Our dear brother elder Gordon Parks died Tuesday at the ripe old age of 93. Parks, who also wrote fiction and was an accomplished composer, died in New York, his nephew, Charles Parks said in an interview.
Elder Brother Gordon Parks was also one bad man behind the movie lens. He directed the movie The Learning Tree and Shaft. Becoming hollywood's first major black film director. "The Learning Tree," in 1989 was among the first 25 American movies to be placed on the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. This registry is intended to highlight films of particular cultural, historical or aesthetic importance.
"The Learning Tree" was Gordon Parks very first film, in 1969. It was based on his 1963 autobiographical novel of the same name, which the young hero fights against his own fears and racism as well as experincing his first love and schoolboy triumphs. Gordon Parks wrote the films' score along with his directing duties.
And behind the lens of his camera he captured the struggles and triumphs of black life here in America, as a photographer for Life Magazine. He covered everything from fashion to politics to sports during his 20 years at Life Magazine, from 1948 to 1968.
This edition of The Black Fist: Best & Brightest Everyday Black History Series is dedicated to the memory of our dear elder/brother pioneer in the world of entertainment, politics, sports, photography and humantarism, Elder Brother Gordon Parks.
General Nikki X, as spokesperson on behalf of The Black Fist, with a heavy heart, calls this moving tribute to the lifeworks of Gordon Parks.....Independent Lens.
GORDON PARKS (1912-2006)
Gordon Parks was born November 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kansas., the youngest of 15 children. In his autobiography, "Voices in the Mirror," he remembers it as a world of racism and poverty, but also a world where his parents gave their children love, discipline and religious faith.
He went through a series of jobs as a teen and young man, including piano player and railroad dining car waiter. The breakthrough came when he was about 25, when he bought a used camera in a pawn shop for $7.50. He became a freelance fashion photographer, went on to Vogue magazine and then on to Life in 1948.
"Reflecting now, I realize that, even within the limits of my childhood vision , I was on a search for pride, meanwhile taking measurable glimpes of how certain blacks, who were fed up with racism, rebelled against it," he wrote.
When he accepted an award from Witchita State University in May 1991, he said it was "another step forward in my making peace with Kansas and Kansas making peace with me."
"I dream terrible dreams, terribly violent dreams," he said. "the doctors say it's because I suppressed so much anger and hatred from my youth. I bottled it up and used it constructively."
In his autobiography, he recalled that being Life's only black photographer put him in a peculiar position when he set out to cover the civil rights movement. "Life magazine was eager to penetrate their ranks for stories, but the black movement thought of Life as just another white establishment out of tune with their cause," he wrote. He said his aim was to become "an objective reporter, but one with a subjective heart."
In 1961, his photgraphs in Life, of a poor, ailing Brazillian boy named Flavio da Salva brought donations that saved the boy and purchased a new home for him and his family. The story of young Flavio prompted Life readers to send in $30,000, enabling his family to build a home, and Flavio received treatmnet for his asthma in an American clinic. By the 1970s, he had a family and a job as a security guard, but more recently the home built in 1961 has become overcrowded and rundown.
Still Flavio stayed in touch with Parks off and on, and in 1997 Parks said, "If I saw him tomorrow in the same condidtions, I would do the whole thing over again."
In addition to novels, poetry and his autobiographical writings, Parks' writing credits included nonfiction such as "Camera Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture," 1948, and a 1971 book of essays called "Born Black."
His other film credits included "The Super Cops," 1974; "Leadbelly," 1976 and "Solomon Northrup's Odyssey," a TV film from 1984.
Recalling the making of "The Learning Tree," he wrote: "A lot of people of all colors were anxious about the breakthrough, and I was anxious to make the most of it. The wait had been far too long. Just remembering that no black had been given the chance to direct a motion picture in Hollywood since it was established kept me going."
Last month, health concerns had kept Parks from accepting the Willliam Allen White Foundation National Citation in Kanasa, but he said by phone in a taped presentation that he still considered the state of Kansas his home and wanted to be buried there, in Fort Scott.
2 years ago, Fort Scott Community College established the Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity.
Jill Warford, its executive director, said Tuesday that Parks "had a very rough start in life and he overcame so much, but was such a good person that he never let the bad things that happen to him make him bitter."
Final Remarks From General Nikki X:
I remember Bro. Gordon Parks saying in an interview that, "Nothing came easy." "I was just born with a need to explore every tool shop of my mind, and with long searching and hard work. I became devoted to my restlessness."
What else can be said about this extraordinary black man named Gordon Parks? He will be missed. In his works in film and photos he will be forever remembered. The Black Fist celebrates the life of Gordon Parks and will be forever grateful for his contributions to the black stuggle in pictures, films, poems and politics.
And our deepst condolences go out to the surviving members of his family.
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(Alot of what you have just read was taken from an article written by The Associated Press writer Garance Burke in Kansas City, MO., and the rest are the views and opinions of General Nikki X based on her own study over the years of this remarkable black man and the regards & comments of the membership of The Black Fist)