Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Introducing: Clayton Bates.
I just watched the latter half of the classic film "Tap" earlier today, and my mind quickly flashed to the first time I saw the herein embedded video of Clayton Bates. Bates was not only an incredible dancer, but a striking example of how often disabled men and women are left out of the moments of Black performance we communicate to each other through oral and written history. It's almost like Black disabled performers have to pretend that their difference is nonexistent, cast it as an unfortunate, negligible circumstance rather than a celebrated part of their identity (think here of how you've never heard a Ray Charles song that even references his blindness,or a Ying Yang Twins track about cerebral palsy).
The same argument could be made about race I suppose, but there are a number of Black performers with disabilities who addressed their racial background in their work (e.g. Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone). Still got a lot of ideas to work out, but I'm in the process. The main goal is to provide a historical counter-narrative to the one we're always given; one that seeks to render disabled Black musical performers invisible, or at the very least to only take up the parts of their identity deemed worthy of mention.
It's looking like my senior honors thesis is going to deal with this very subject, and Mr. Bates is certainly a welcome addition to the body of work I plan on creating, a set of essays and poems interested in giving many of these folks the props they deserve. I can't wait to see how it goes, and hope that I have enough time between touring and other schoolwork to give the proper time and energy to the research project. Keep me in your prayers.
In the mean time, peep this dude's skills. What a showman.