This page includes an in-depth description of each artifact for each unit that we are covering. These descriptions include context, meaning, and ideas behind each artifact.
Primary Source Description One: Gil Scott-Heron’s NAMES project AIDS quilt
This panel is the centerpiece of block 5905 of the NAMES Project AIDS quilt. Seven other panels surround this piece in a vivid fashion. The four panels on the bottom are adorned with navy as the main color scheme. The two panels on the top have a dark and mysterious color that leads the bright yellow of the panel below and Gil Scott Heron’s simple white panel to stand out. Compared to the rest of the panels, my panel appears to be simply and formally done. The background is made of all white stitching, made of what appears to be cotton, and is decorated with only seven photographs outlined in black. His name is decorated with multicolor plaid bright stitching and the time period in which he walked the earth is brightened with a light red lettering.
The only picture that is repeated twice in this panel appears in the top left and bottom right of the panel(pictured below). It contains a flag with a red, black, and green stripe in order from top to bottom. Each flag contains a single scallop shell in the center. This flag is known as the Pan-African flag and shows how deeply embedded Scott-Heron is with his roots. According to the flag constitution “the red represents the noble blood that unites all people of African ancestry, the color black for the people, green for the rich land of Africa.” Also known as the Black Liberation flag this picture speaks volumes about how Gil Scott-Heron lived out his life. As the topic of my study, Gil Scott-Heron was a very influential activist of his time and used his reach in music and spoken word to speak out on the racism and unfairness regarding African American people. In one of Scott-Heron’s songs, he mentions this flag and aptly names it the Liberation Song(Red, Black and Green). Click on the title to read the full song, but for a brief overview, Scott-Heron describes each color of the flag and the meaning of it to him and the African American people. Here is the first stanza:
I’ve seen the red sun in the autumn
And I’ve seen the leaves turn to golden brown
I’ve seen the red sun in the autumn
And I’ve seen the leaves returning to golden brown
I’ve seen the red blood of my people
Heard them calling for freedom everywhere
If you’ve seen the red blood of your people
All you’ve got to do it
Reach out your hand and we’ll take you there
Red stands for liberation
It is appropriate and meaningful that this picture is on this panel twice as it incorporates everything Scott-Heron stood for and shows in his work.
Another important picture in this panel is located in the center right of the panel in between the date 2011 and Heron. This picture is the last stanza of his most famous spoken word that many artists say have influenced their own work. Some examples include Common, Kanye West, Public Enemy, and Eminem. This last stanza is a call to action in a time period where the United States as we know it today was not completely the same. For context, this was written in the 1960’s in a post-war period where the civil rights movement was starting to take hold. The Nixon Watergate Scandal has just happened and there were changes in the way the general population viewed women and people of color. All of this was being documented by mass media, and televisions were extremely popular in every home. Gil Scott-Heron warned against this mindless ingesting of media and was telling people to get off of the couch because the revolution will not be televised. It is live and happening now so take part in history and participate now. Throughout the work, he calls out his fellow brothers and sisters and tells them that you will not be able to sit at home and cop out and wait for things to change and watch commercial breaks. He tells them that the Schaefer Award Theater, Natalie Wood, and Steve Mcqueen will not broadcast the revolution. All of which were major programs or film stars of the time. Scott-Heron implores people to act and make yourself and your situation better by saying the revolution will not give you sex appeal, make you five pounds lighter, or get rid of nubs. You have to go out and act, get up and make a change. This work reached far and wide across America and hit a spot in each and every soul who was moved by it. In every single source that I researched, this song was mentioned as a highlight of Gil Scott’s career. Therefore it is very important that it is mentioned in this panel.
To read this song and the meaning behind some lyrics click here.
This picture is located in the bottom left of the panel and features the cover photo of Gil Scott-Heron’s album titled “Reflections”. This was released in 1981 and was his third album of that decade. The photo features Scott-Heron with a full beard and reflective sunglasses with pictures of the KKK on a dollar bill, the statue of liberty and police on the left frame and protests, black children and mourning faces on the right.
This photo is perhaps my favorite in the panel. Located in the left center, the picture shows the shape of Africa adorned with a version of the Pan-African colors and in the center a clenched fist. This symbol of a clenched fist is used universally. “By brandishing the fist, these people are able to express their rejection of the unjust authority that suppresses them as well as unite with like-minded individuals, to form a collective, and often more effective, means of resistance.”(Blackpower.web.unc.edu). Most famously used during the 1968 Olympics pictured in my “About” page, this fist was used during the Civil Rights Movement and by many African American activists to protest unfair policies and unwarranted biases that the black community experienced. Gil Scott-Heron used this fist in his own way, protesting and marching by using his music and voice to speak to millions.
This picture is in the dead center of the panel which would mean it is of great importance. Released two years before he died, this album features the best songs Gil Scott-Heron released for his untimely death. Appropriately named storm music it features some of his more thunderous and fiery works including “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, “Pieces of a Man”, “Free Will”, “Is That Jazz” and more.
This last picture is located in the top right of the panel. It features Gil Scott-Heron at a young age in one of his signature hats that he never really grew out of.
To conclude this panel has way more to offer than I can describe on a single page. It is simple and elegant and details all the best part of Gil Scott Heron’s life. He was a father figure, an influential and inspiring man, a legend, and a kind soul. May he rest in peace.
Primary Source Description Two: Gil Scott-Heron’s NAMES project AIDS quilt
In this second primary source description, I will be looking at this same panel in a different more objective light.
This panel is made of a cloth-like white material, just a little thicker but a similar feel than a white bed sheet. It smells like a wool jacket that you would find at my grandma’s house. It appears to be new and untarnished; probably made inside due to the cleanliness of the material. The entirety of the background of the panel is the same white cloth, without a border or different material around the edges. The adjacent panels however appear to give it a dark border and make it stand out. Seven other panels surround this piece in a vivid fashion. The four panels on the bottom are adorned with navy as the main color scheme. The two panels on the top have a dark and mysterious color that leads the bright yellow of the panel below and Gil Scott Heron’s simple white panel to stand out. Due to this panel being the center and one of the only lighter colors it draws your attention to the panel. That is one of the reasons why I choose this panel.
Within the panel resides an array of pictures, letters, and numbers. The letters in the panel spell out the name Gil Scott Heron and are made out of red, yellow, green, and orange plaid like material. The numbers are made out of a bright red material and spell out the dates 1949 and 2011. There are seven pictures in the panel which I will describe below.
This picture is featured twice inside of this panel in the top left and the bottom right. The picture contains three stripes: red black and green in that order from top to bottom horizontally across the picture. In the center of the flag there is a single scallop shell in the center. This flag is known as the Pan-African Flag. This picture is also the only one without a black border in the entire panel.
This picture is located on the bottom left of the panel. It has a picture of Gil Scott-Heron wearing reflective sunglasses in a blue background. Scott-Heron appears to be older and his facial hair is grown out. In the sunglasses on the left side of the frame, if you zoom in you can see Klansmen marching inside a one dollar bill, police officers, and the statue of liberty in the background. On the right side you can see a black man playing the trumpet with a city being struck by black lightning is in the background. There are also little kids and a face in the sky.
This picture is located in the middle left of the panel. In the picture there is a shape of Africa with a clenched fist in the center. The colors stand out a lot to me in this picture. There is a red yellow and green stripe going sown the painting vertically and the fist in the center is black. These colors mean a lot and are important to the meaning of the picture. The background is a fuzzy black and there is again a black border surrounding the picture.
In this picture, located in the middle, there is an animated picture of Gil Scott Heron looking off camera to our right. The colors that make up the background of this picture are mostly in the orangish brown hue. The brown is splotchy and appears as if it had been painted before it was transferred into a digital image. GSH is wearing a olive green shirt and has a chinstrap beard and appears to be in his younger days. In the top right there is the title “Storm Music” and in the bottom “Gil Scott-Heron.”
This picture contains a white sheet of paper with black words on it. These words are “The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.” There is a small citation on the bottom stating that this is a quote from “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. This picture too has a black border around it.
This last picture is located in the top right of the panel. It features a modelesque picture of Gil Scott-Heron wearing a hat. The background of the picture is black and the forelight is bright, illuminating Scott-Heron’s face. The hat is shadowing his eyes making him look mysterious. The rest of his face is brightened except for the facial hair that covers his chin and sides of his face. A black border surrounds the portrait.