Black is Definitely Back: Chuck D, Hank & Keith Shocklee, and I Invade the Heartland, Armed with Historic Photos and Fear of a Black Planet.


250px-jamestkirkThis is amazing: I’m back in Iowa; the Breadbasket of the Nation; the state that Ashton Kutcher, Ann Landers, Slipknot, T-Boz, gymnast Shawn Johnson, and Elijah Wood all call home, and that, in 223 years, will be the birthplace of Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, right.

Why am I here? Well, tomorrow, April 1st, marks one year to the day since I last visited the University of Iowa, to screen photographs that I took during my early life with Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Hank Shocklee, and others who formed our pre-Public Enemy crew.

I do this as part of a presentation I’ve been giving at schools around the country, titled Shooting the Enemy: My Life in Pictures with the People Who Became Public Enemy. (For example, last week I spoke at the University of Wisconsin: Madison, and had an excellent time.)

Well, this time, the University of Iowa has upped the doggone ante: For three months, now through June 27th, prints from my archives—ranging in size from 11 in. x 14 in. to 30 in. x 40 in.— will be shown by the University of Iowa Museum of Art (UIMA).

It’s part of UIMA’s exhibition, Two Turntables and a Microphone: Hip-Hop Contexts featuring Harry Allen’s “Part of the Permanent Record: Photos from the Previous Century,” curated by UI professors Kembrew McLeod (Copyright Criminals) and Debroah Whaley, and on display at the Iowa Memorial Union’s Black Box Theater. (Here’s an interview with me about the images, my thoughts on hip-hop, and more.) That morning, I’ll even be talking with a photography class about the work!

800px-herky_and_tigerhawkThis, in and of itself, is incredible to me, and would have been more than reason enough to return to the original home of the indigenous Ioway people, and now the Hawkeyes, right. This is the first showing of my work since the 2007 Eyejammie show that got the ball rolling.

But McLeod didn’t create that über-cool graphic, above, just for me. Here’s the really ill part; the detail that throws this all up to the level of major sickness:

today2At 7:00 p.m. in Iowa City’s historic, 98-year-old, recently restored Englert Civic Theatre,
right, I’ll be lecturing and showing some of those those images, again, but with a twist: I’ll be doing it as part of a live panel, featuring Chuck, Hank, and Keith Shocklee, that then leads into a discussion on the making of P.E.’s 1990 album, Fear of a Black Planet.
Released on April 10 that year, this new month marks the work’s 20th anniversary.

publicNot only have I never done a, no pun intended, public event on Fear, right, not to mention one with its original creators, but I’ve never presented my photos—of them—with them in the audience! I may break down in tears from the emotion of it all, y’all. Then, to top it off, there will be a rare, live performance by the Bomb Squad…which definitely takes me back to the era of my original pictures of Hank, below, Keith, and Chuck.

Though I know some of you won’t be in Iowa today, check this out: the four of us will be appearing on KRUI, the university’s excellent, student-run radio station, at 1:30 pm ET/12:30 pm CT, and the conversation will be streamed live, so definitely hit that.

hankwtmk0000And, don’t forget: If you go to, or are associated with, a university that would welcome seeing Shooting the Enemy, right, please get at me. Or, if you’re a scholar or programmer who values primary voices, and would like to have me present at your school or in concert with your department, this year or next year, please let me know: Drop me a note at, or tweet me @HarryAllen, and, as Chuck D says, let’s get it on.



There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment