Tag Archives: African American Poets

Remembering Langston Hughes, the “O.Henry of Harlem”

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed – 
Let it be that great strong land of love 
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme 
That any man be crushed by one above.   Langston Hughes

The words of hope were written by African American poet Langston Hughes, born this day in Joplin, Missouri, in 1902. His early years were difficult, many moves and the loss of parents and his caregiving grandmother. Hughes found solace in reading, reflecting later, “then it was that books began to happen to me, and I began to believe in nothing but books and the wonderful world of books – where if people suffered, they suffered in beautiful language not in monosyllables, as in Kansas.”

Restless and apparently weary of traveling the world, Hughes settled in Harlem where he was active in the Harlem Renaissance, a utopian environment for creative African Americans. His writing reflecting the world around him; when asked, Hughes shared this description of the topics he explored and reflected in his prolific writing. His words ring true for many in these times:

People up today and down tomorrow, working this week and fired the next, beaten and baffled, but determined not to be wholly beaten, buying furniture on the installment plan, filling the house with rooms to help pay the rent, hoping to get a new suit for Easter – and pawning that suit before the Fourth of July.

When Hughes died of cancer in 1967 the New York Times reported: “Mr. Hughes was sometimes characterized as the ‘O. Henry of Harlem.’ He was an extremely versatile and productive author who was particularly well known for his folksy humor.'”

There’s much to learn about this renowned poet, essayist, novelist, playwright and prolific letter writer:

  • Learn about the Langston Hughes Center at the University of Kansas, a repository of Hughes’ work and a center for research and teaching about his life and literary contributions. https://langstonhughes.ku.edu

UPDATE:  Read more Langston Hughes quotes here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/91742/20-inspiring-quotes-langston-hughes



Twin Citians Remember Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) at the Capri

Many who may know poet and playwright Amiri Baraka (nee Everett LeRoi Jones) may not know his close association with the Twin Cities.   Next weekend’s celebration ,  “Spirit Reach: A Twin Cities Tribute to Imamu Amiri Baraka” offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to remember or to learn.

The community curated event is set for Saturday, April 12, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at the Capri Theater, 2027 West Broadway in Minneapolis.

Spirit Reach represents the impact that the artist, who died at age 79 in January 2014,  has had on the Twin Cities area literary and performing arts communities.  The event will be hosted by author Alexs Pate and arts community leader Arleta Little.  Performers include a host of nationally and internationally recognized artists that call the Twin Cities home.

A prominent member of the Beat Generation, LeRoi Jones began his literary life on New York’s Lower East Side where he founded the avant garde poetry magazine Yugen.   Other members of the Beat Generation included Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.  After the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 Jones changed his name to Imamu Amiri Baraka.  At the same time, he moved to Harlem where he played a major role in the explosion of the Black Arts Movement, generally regarded as the cultural mirror of the Black Power Movement.

In 2008 TPT produced an hour long video entitled “Amiri Baraka: The Power of the Word” in which the poet reads from his work and discusses writing, politics and the African American  experience with author Alexs Pate – in front of a live audience of Twin Citians. http://www.mnvideovault.org/index.php?id=16438&select_index=0&popup=yes.

If you were fortunate enough to be in that audience you’ll want to revisit the experience – if you missed the 2008 performance, here’s your chance to learn more.

Local artists including Douglas Edward, Toki Wright, Sha Cage, Emmanuel Ortiz, Leah Nelson, E.G. Bailey, Donald, Fare and Kevin Washington, Mankwe Ndosi, Bao Phi, Tish Jones, J. Otis Powell, Lisa Brimmer, Bob Cottman, Andrea Jenkins, Davu Seru, Chaun Webster, Truthmaze and Louis Alemayehu are expected to join in the celebration!

The free and open celebration is sponsored by McKnight Foundation, Insight News, Givens Foundation for African American Literature, Pangea World Theatre, KFAI Radio, and the University of Minnesota.