Thank You, Langston Hughes!

hughes1Image courtesy of Travalanche.

Today is not only the first day of Black History Month, but it’s also the birthday of poet, novelist, playwright, and activist Langston Hughes (1902-1967).  Hughes is one of the reasons why I write poetry today.

Growing up, I spent countless hours in the library losing myself in Hughes’ masterful poetry.  His poetry was jazz.  It was blues.  It was filled with so much spirit and life.  He captured the richness of our culture and history so eloquently.

Even given the social ills of the day, his work was evidence of his hope for a world where unity and equality trumped racism, inequality, and injustice.  Though the times may be (somewhat) different, the relevance of his writing remains strong.  The same can be said for the influence and inspiration of his artistry.

Thank you Langston Hughes for not dimming your light.  We honor you for your greatness and the blessings of your many contributions.  Here’s to you!

I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes

I, too sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.

Influences: Sonia Sanchez – Catch The Fire

Image courtesy of the Black Bird Press News & Review blog.

Where is your fire?  I say where is your fire?
Can’t you smell it coming out of our past?
The fire of living. . . . . . Not dying
The fire of loving. . . . . Not killing
The fire of Blackness. . . Not gangster shadows.
~ Sonia Sanchez, “Catch The Fire” (1997)

Sonia Sanchez is a phenomenal writer, poet, playwright, storyteller, educator and activist. Sanchez, one of the most influential poets of the Black Arts Movement, has written nearly 20 books of poetry and prose. Her poetry is rich with imagery, history, culture and emotion.  Her words have the ability to incite the mind, warm your heart and touch your soul. And she makes it look so easy.

Sanchez doesn’t take the past struggles or the current plight of our people lightly. In her poem “Catch The Fire” (written for Bill Cosby), she honors our ancestors and encourages our youth to find themselves, love themselves, go after their dreams and live up to the promise and passion of their “fire.”

Sonia Sanchez originally published “Catch The Fire” in Wounded in the House of a Friend (1997).  “Catch The Fire” was also featured in (and inspired the title of) Derrick I. M. Gilbert’s Catch The Fire: A Cross-Generational Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry (1998).

For more information about Sonia Sanchez, please go to: www.soniasanchez.net.

Black Bloggers Connect: BHM Entry | Kevin Powell – How To Make History (Event Review)

Image courtesy of Vibe Magazine.

Last week, my partner and I had the chance to attend AT&T’s 28 Days Speaker Series here in DC at the Lincoln Theatre.  Hosted by the ever funny comedian Rickey Smiley, the event featured renowned political activist, public speaker, writer, poet, and entrepreneur Kevin Powell.  AT&T’s 28 Days serves as a celebration of Black History Month and a community service initiative.  The program encourages us to recognize our history, find ourselves, and discover ways in which we can make history.

In Kevin Powell’s inspiring and motivational speech, he talked about the importance of knowing our history.  He said “not knowing your history is like a tree without roots.”  Our history helps us gain a better understanding of who we are and where we’re going.  Powell noted three imperatives to history:  faith (having a belief in something greater than yourself), vision (realizing anything is possible and that you can’t make history without a plan), and love (history must be rooted in love; you hate yourself when you don’t know who you are and when you don’t know your history).

Knowing our history is one of the building blocks to both personal and collective success.  Powell said, “Individual success means nothing if the community isn’t doing well.”  With a failing educational system, inherent generations of poverty, dire levels of incarceration and unemployment, there’s still much that we need to do to move our community forward.  Like Powell, I agree that we need to have spaces to engage in dialogue so that we can address the issues in our community and work to resolve them.  Programs like AT&T 28 Days are just one of the ways to fulfill this mission.

Powell closed out his speech by providing a list of six elements that are essential to making history.  These elements are as follows:

  1. A Spiritual Foundation
  2. Political Awareness
  3. Fiscal (or Financial) Responsibility
  4. Manifesting Our Cultural Swag
  5. (Optimal) Physical Health
  6. Mental Wellness 

I firmly believe that our community will be better when we all work to better ourselves both individually and collectively.  We must be selfless.  We must remember our ancestors and our families, for we’re standing on their shoulders.  If it weren’t for their sacrifices and achievements, we wouldn’t be where we are today.  For the the sake of those coming after us, we must pay it forward.  We have to give our people hope.  And as Powell said,”[We can] give hope to people by example.”  So let’s be the example!

For more information about the AT&T 28 Days Speaker Series, go to the AT&T 28 Days site. 

Black Bloggers Connect 2nd Annual Black History Month Blogging Contesthttp://www.blackbloggersconnect.com/articles/173/2-100

Happy Birthday Trayvon Martin

Image courtesy of the Answer Coalition site.

Today would’ve been Trayvon Martin’s 18th birthday.  He’s another young brother who was gone too soon.  Tragic.  Having just turned 17 weeks before he was killed, his was a life of so much promise.  Promise that will remain unseen and unfulfilled. 

The loss of Trayvon Martin on February 26, 2012 changed everything.  The lives of his family, friends, and other loved ones will never be the same.  All we can do is hope, pray, and demand that justice will one day be served.  Good news today is that Judge Debra S. Nelson denied George Zimmerman’s request for a five-month delay in Martin’s case (New York Times).  The trial will move forward as scheduled on June 10, 2013.  While we cannot bring him back, justice for Travyon Martin’s killing will bring some closure for all of us. 

Trayvon Martin, we’re fighting for you.  We will never forget you.

In Honor Of Our Mother (For Rosa Parks)

Image courtesy of the AlterNet site.

 
Today is Rosa Parks birthday.  Often dubbed the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, she would’ve turned 100 today.  We owe much to Rosa Parks, and it’s important that we honor her legacy.  In agreement with Rachel Griffin’s article on the Ms. Magazine Blog, we need to praise Rosa Parks for doing more than refusing to give up her seat on a bus.  In continued praise, I’d like to share the following poem from my book Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics:

In Honor Of Our Mother
For Rosa Parks

Legend,
Icon,
Hero,
Mother of a Movement:
Those are just some of the terms often used to describe Rosa Parks.
As Nikki Giovanni described her, she was a woman “who did an extraordinary thing.”
She exemplified strength, dignity, humility, and great character.
She was a leader who devoted her life to fight against injustice.

And on December 1, 1955
After living in a time of segregation,
After living in a time of inequality,
After living in a time when we were considered less than human
Rosa said enough is enough.
She was tired of being treated as “less than”
Because she knew were so much more.
It was time for the tables to turn,
And to reclaim our freedom.
In that moment, when she refused to give up her seat to a white man,
When she refused to go to the back of the bus,  
Her life, the brothers and sisters of the Movement, and our lives changed forever.
Her act of defiance caused us to rally together to fight for our civil rights,
So that we could free ourselves and this nation. 

Rosa’s actions should serve as an inspiration
To stand up against any act of hatred, intolerance, prejudice, or discrimination.
So when you feel any form of injustice taking place, be it racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and
     the like,
Stand.
When you feel that your or someone else’s rights are being trampled over,
Stand.
If one person’s or a group of people’s rights are being neglected, disregarded, or deemed null and
     void,
We are all affected.

Don’t be afraid to go out on that limb
And do what’s right.
Don’t be afraid to be like Rosa
And do the extraordinary thing.
Because change will only happen when we allow it to
When we’re ready to accept it into our lives—
When we’re ready to take on the position and follow through with our actions.
Only then will we see the outcome;
And we all will feel it.

It speaks volumes when a nation mourns the loss of an individual.
And when our nation mourned the passing of Rosa Parks, it was a defining moment,
For she become the first woman to lie in the Rotunda of the US Capital.
Because many of the rights we take for granted were fought for by people 
Like Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Bayard Rustin, Thurgood Marshall, Medgar Evers,
     Malcolm X, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Paul Robeson and Mary McLeod Bethune.
It begs to question, when our foremothers and forefathers see us carrying on the way we do each day,
     are they proud?
Do they feel that we are honoring their legacies?
Do they think we’ve turned our backs on the fight, our rights, our people, and personally, ourselves?

All the more reason why we should continue to honor, celebrate and commemorate Rosa Parks,
Because we’ve come a long way,
And we still have a mighty long road to follow.
And if Rosa had not refused to give up her seat,
Our fight along this road would’ve been a great deal longer.
History would be quite different, and so would we.

So bask in the glory of Rosa Parks and that moment.
Be grateful for the work and the many achievements of 
Rosa and the other brothers and sisters of the Movement.
And please don’t forget your ties,
And your obligation to honor, and when called upon,
To strengthen the legacy.

May the Mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks, rest in peace! 

© 2012 BuddahDesmond 

Happy Black History Month!

Prevail: Poems on Life, Love, and Politics is available at iUniverse, Amazon (Paperback | Hardcover | Kindle), Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million (Paperback | Hardcover), and other retailers.

Related Post:
101 Days Project: Prevail

Nikki Giovanni – Quilting The Black Eyed Pea

Image courtesy of the Jackson State University News Room site.

The trip to Mars can only be understood through the history of black Americans. Because Mars is Middle Passage. And we’re going to have to study Middle Passage if we want a future on Earth.  If we want to move forward we have to study it. ~ Nikki Giovanni, “Meet The Poet,” Learn Out Loud
Nikki Giovanni has been a favorite writer of mine since I was a teenager.  I’ve always found her writing to be honest, witty, and soulful.  It exudes the feelings and elements of soul, blues, jazz, gospel, and folk music.  Giovanni’s social and political commentary is searing, at times jolting, but usually on point. 

 Her eloquent poetry reflects not only the African American experience, but the human experience.  And even if you don‘t agree with her perspectives, your eyes, ears, heart, and mind will be open in ways that they might not have been before.  I believe Giovanni’s poem “Quilting the Black Eyed Pea (We’re Going to Mars)” is a great example of this. 



Happy Black History Month!

Happy Black History Month

Image of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, Father of Black History, courtesy of the ASALH site.
Today marks the beginning of Black History Month!  When celebrating Black History Month, we owe much credit to Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History.  Dr. Woodson committed his life to uncovering the oft untold history, contributions, and achievements of people of African descent.  Black History Month is an extension of his legacy.  
 
In 1926, Dr. Woodson initiated Negro History Week during the second week of February (which coincided with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln).  Negro History Week was later extended to a month-long celebration, becoming Black History Month in 1976.  
 
Other important facts:
  • Dr. Woodson was the second African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard.
  • He was a member of Sigma Pi Phi (the first Black fraternity) and Omega Psi Phi.
  • Dr. Woodson was an educator, he served as a public school teacher, a professor and Dean of Colleges of Arts and Sciences at Howard University and Dean of the West Virginia Collegiate Institute (known as West Virginia State University today).
  • In 1915, Dr. Woodson and Alexander L. Jackson published The Education of The Negro Prior to 1861. 
  • Also in 1915, Dr. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, which is known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). 
  • Notable ASALH publications included the Journal of Negro History (1916) and Negro History Bulletin (1937)
  • One of Dr. Woodson’s most famous works is The Mis-Education of The Negro (1833). 

While February is designated as Black History Month, we don’t have to wait for the calendar to change to the respective month to celebrate Black History.  Black History has and will continue to be made every day.  So why not celebrate it year-round?