Black Power Sampled and Remixed: Sex-Positive Black Feminism in Early Street Lit

Sunday, January 5, 2020: 1:30 PM
Regent Room (New York Hilton)
Naomi Extra, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Red Jordan Arobateau is a living underground black transgender writer who began self-publishing street lit in the 1970s and has since published over 50 books of fiction. Arobateau’s first major literary work, The Bars Across Heaven (1975) is set against the backdrop of the summer of love in 1967 and the nascent political energy of the Black Power movement. The Bars chronicles the story of Flip, a biracial butch lesbian who cruises the streets of San Francisco in search of love and sexual intimacy. In this paper, I consider the ways in which soul music, black crime fiction, Black Power and feminism are riffed on, sampled, and challenged in The Bars. I position Arobateau as a pro-sex queer black feminist writer who challenged masculinist and heterosexist narratives in black politics and popular culture of the 1970s through literature. I argue, that by sampling the work of black women singers in his writing, Arobateau carved out a more expansive definition of Black Power. He reformatted/remixed black popular culture in terms that amplified working poor black queer sexual subjectivity and was at the vanguard of what is today thought of as sex-positive black feminism.
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