We see man dozing, perhaps after a long day at work. He sits across the street from Michaux’s African National Memorial Bookstore - the "House of Common Sense and Home of Proper Propaganda” - an important reading room of the Civil Rights Movement. Per Wikipedia, with over 200,000 texts for anyone interested in literature by, or about, African Americans, Africans, Caribbeans and South Americans, Michaux encouraged everyone, white and black, through his bookstore to begin their own home libraries. Those who were short of money were allowed to sit down and read in Michaux’s store.
Bob Gumbs - the AJASS artist and activist who co-designed the famous “Black Is Beautiful” poster with Brathwaite - tells us in his 2020 interview with Kwame S. Brathwaite, the artist’s son, that the ladder next to which the man dozes is the very same one that used by Carlos Cooks, head of the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM). The ANPM had been asked by Garvey to carry on his mission in America after Garvey himself was exiled from the United States. In a 1971 interview in the New York Times, Kwame Brathwaite recalls that, "Our father was a tailor on Seventh Avenue at 134th Street and we used to leave there at night and head for the crowds at 125th Street and Seventh Avenue. We couldn't leave. We'd stay there all night listening to these men speak. You could actually learn world history on that corner.” "Harlem Models Stress Unity Idea: A 'Naturally' Show Called Format for African Culture,” by Charlayne Hunter, New York Times, June 26, 1971. p. 20.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, in his 2010 book, "On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance,” recalls a similar experience, “One night while I was in high school, I went to hear Malcolm X speak at the corner of 125th and 7th Avenue. Unfortunately, Malcolm canceled that evening, but the speakers who did show up were from the African Nationalist Pioneer Movement (ANPM). The ANPM, organized by Carlos Cooks, were followers of the late Marcus Garvey, who had died in 1940. Their theme for the evening was “Buy Black”…The orator, Charles Peaker…outlined in detail the methods that were used to economically exploit black people.”
Abdul-Jabbar then goes on to talk about AJASS. "A group of high school musicians formed the Jazz-Art Society, which they named African Jazz-Art Society in honor of Marcus Garvey. One of their goals was to adapt the teachings of the ANPM lectures into a jazz form that would be more accessible to the average person wary of rhetoric…Just as the writers, musicians, artists and performers of the Harlem Renaissance had used their artistic skills, whether knowingly, or unknowingly, to promote the message of racial equality…so were these originators of the Black Arts Movement carrying on that same tradition.”
Brathwaite writes, “With photography as my medium of choice, I became an artist-activist.” Or, as historian Tanisha Ford comments, AJASS and "Grandassa called this blend of knowledge sharing and runway presentation, ‘edutainment.’”