Washington DC: Literary Art[s] Program, 1971. Printed heavy cardboard sleeve containing four bifolia and one poster. Sleeve measures 12½” x 12½”; bifolia (each with four printed pages) slightly smaller; poster (printed both sides) measures 59¾” x 23 5/8”. Sleeve good: moderate wear and dust soiling with a couple of heavy creases, four inch separation at foot. Bifolia generally very good with light creases and toning at extremities. Poster very good with light creasing and small separations at intersections.
This is the art and literary journal for the District of Columbia Public Schools Literary Arts Program (“LAP”) documenting its early efforts at teaching creative writing, graphic design, film making and photography to inner city high school students. Based on the image on the back of the sleeve, all but one of the students who worked on this creation were African American. We tracked down a former teacher in the LAP who told us the program started in 1968 when a teacher at Cardozo High School, David Aaronson, received a grant for an after school program he called “Cardozo Raps.” Aaronson then received another grant to expand the program and moved into a rented house at 1310 Vermont Ave NW (“LAP1310” is on the spine of the sleeve), where this item was produced. The program initially taught high school juniors and seniors who traveled to the Vermont house in the afternoons to take creative arts classes for credit. In 1974 LAP was moved to the Lemuel A. Penn Career Development Center where it was combined with vocational classes, and by 1977 it had blossomed into a program where, according to a Washington Post Article, “they work to the clatter of machinery and the thump of WOL soul, and by the time they have wound up this academic year, they will have produced two 16mm and twelve 8mm films, six issues of an all-city newspaper, one bound collection of children's stories, two issues of a glossy city magazine, two literary magazines, one photography magazine, one graphics-adorned calendar and an array of posters, pamphlets, architectural models and mounted black and white photographs.”
This “magazine” consists of poetry, photography and artwork printed on several bifolia and a poster. The poster, which is approximately five feet tall and two feet wide is printed both sides (the coffee cup in the photo is for scale and does not accompany the item). With creations by students of at least ten high schools, one side has 28 poems and the other contains 17 images of works of art and photographs. The bifolia, all printed in blue, contain another 15 poems, five drawings, four photographic images and one short story.
The poems are a mix of confrontational, gritty, ugly, scary and beautiful. One narrative poem on the poster by a student from Cardozo High School told the story Jelly and Darlene, two addicts who “by 1963 . . . had had two deformed kids and was now 'tricking' to support their ever growing expense for their habit. Jelly was pimping girls as young as 15 and was hauling in as much as $800.00 a week. Darlene, now old with the much-too-
soon age wrinkles the dope brought was tired looking and very used. At a careful glance of Darlene, you could tell she had once been a beautiful girl who'd had much respect for herself.” Darlene then decided she had to kill Jelly for ruining her life and when Jelly struggled to take a gun from Darlene, she fell to her death from the top floor of a fire escape.
A few stanzas from another, entitled, “This is Communication?” reads:
“Woman, don't you tighten your grip
If you do I'll bust your lip
You better pray cause your time is near
And don't you call that cop in here.
Help! Help! Help me please
This man done kicked me with his knees
How my lips is bleeding so
And he said he gonna beat me some mo
Boy you better let her go
Cause if you don't I'll hurt you so
And don't you pull out no damn knife
Unless you gonna take your life.”
OCLC records no copies of this issue, and finds one copy each of four other publications from the program.
An eminently displayable and visceral production by African American youth in Washington, D.C. Very good. Item #1596