Langston Hughes Legacy Revived Through Arts Collective

So, I’m killing two birds with one stone on this post, actually three because I love doing the most.

Giving much deserved props to my fave poet–Langston Hughes–during National Poetry Month (check).

And featuring an arts collective org launched by Coretta Scott King Award winner. Introducing our other #WCW…Renee Watson.

The New York Times Bestselling author of “Piecing Me Together” was so inspired by Langston Hughes’ work she created “I, Too, Arts Collective” org (a nod to the iconic poem) in the scribe’s own Harlem brownstone.

Yes Ma’am!! The same parlor Langston used his famous typewriter, is now being occupied by kids taking part in African drumming and adult poetry readings.

It’s among the many creative programs offered by the non-profit, whose goal is to foster creativity within Harlem and sustain Langston’s legacy.

“This was a person that didn’t just write about Harlem, but loved Harlem,” Watson told CBS News.

What better way to repay that love affair than preserving the last creative space Langston Hughes worked in.

Through crowd sourcing and using hashtag #LangstonLegacy to get support, Watson was able to lease the brownstone in 2016.

The new goal is getting the collective to buy the building, which should’ve been a museum, anyway.

“There’s stories about Langston sitting in the parlor room with friends, and just talking politics, and talking about art, and we do that here. And so I hope that, yeah, if he knew it was going on, I think he would be proud. I feel like he’s cheering us on,” Watson said.

I am too.

Happy Black History Month

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To celebrate the first of Feb that kicks off  Black History Month (a whole 29 days this month because of the leap year.) I want to highlight an often overlooked writer and poet: Mr. Langston ‘What Happens to a Dream Deferred’ Hughes.

For two reasons. One, he’s my favorite poet  (Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou are tied for my book-loving affections, TBH.) And because today is his birthday. No brainer there.

Other than that it’s not hard to appreciate the Joplin, Missouri-bred turned Harlem transplant’s pen. For instance, he wrote “The Negro Speaks Rivers” when he was a teenager. How often does a seventeen year old capture a whole race’s struggle using a body of water as a focus. Don’t believe me? Watch him recite the powerful poem below.

After hearing that poem it’s no mystery how Hughes became one of the legendary artistic architects behind the Harlem Renaissance. Building literary masterpieces–“I,Too” “Mother to Son” and “As I Grew Older”— of the Black experience like Gehry constructs buildings.

The wordsmith died in 1967 from complications treating prostrate cancer. He’s interred at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in (where else?) Harlem. As a lasting reminder of his legacy his epitaph reads “My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”

Doesn’t it give you chills?

Who are some of your favorite Black American heroes and sheroes? How will you celebrate Black History Month this year? Let me know in the comments below.