Happy Birthday Langston Hughes!

With today being the start of Black History Month, what better way to kick things off than by paying our respects to the great Langston Hughes.

Among the finest poets of the 20th century, Mr. Hughes’ words continue to capture the hearts and minds of people across the world.

Check out one of his most famous works, “I, Too,” below:

Black History Spotlight: The Poetry of Langston Hughes

Emerging during the Harlem Renaissance to great acclaim and controversy, Langston Hughes was one of the most important literary voices of the 20th century.

At a time when the Black intelligentsia stressed “talented tenths” and “putting our best foot forward,” Hughes’ work was steeped in the experiences of the the working class, and was a celebration of our nuances and complexities. He believed in the idea that “black is beautiful” at a time where it was very controversial to do so.

But I’m sure you knew that already. So we won’t bore you with an overwrought biography.

Instead, honor his legacy today by checking out a few of his classic poems below, read by the man himself.

Tyler Perry Is Full Of Sh*t….

This past week, at a press conference regarding his latest Madea flick, Tyler Perry told Spike Lee to go straight to hell. Clearly fed up with discussion of Lee’s comments a few years ago regarding the “coonery and baffoonery” that is Tyler Perry’s film career, Mr. Madea finally took a stand:

“Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him saying, ‘this is a coon, this is a buffoon.’ I am sick of him talking about black people going to see movies. This is what he said: ‘you vote by what you see,’ as if black people don’t know what they want to see.”

Now Perry actually has a point here. To somehow frame his work as “the problem” is actually condescending to his audience. People pay money to see what they want to see. End of story.

But then Perry went too far.

“Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois went through the exact same thing; Langston Hughes said that Zora Neale Hurston, the woman who wrote ‘Their Eyes Were Watching God,’ was a new version of the ‘darkie’ because she spoke in a southern dialect and a Southern tone…”


Like A Gena 6 (Is the world on the same page with Black folks?)

Oh no! The folks back home will never stop smacking their lips over this one. As African American Studies grows across the nation, its scholarly diversity does not fall behind. Could white professors be added to the “things keeping Black people down” list? Possibly, but the fall of Black academia shouldn’t be instantly expected. Many of you, with folded arms right now, have already made the fatal mistake of pitting experience as the only knowledge of struggle. Did you hear me? I said that a white teacher can understand why Langston Hughes has to say he knows rivers; or similarly, scream with Nina Simone in Mississippi.

My Soul grows deep like a river—with sadness

Soul like river

I have not known rivers. I have never experienced rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins. I am not as lucky as Langston, even in the context of metaphors and similes. But my soul has grown deep with sadness.

I am the artistic director for a community service group at University of Chicago called P.A.E.C.E. (Performing Art for Effective Civic Education).  This past weekend we had our first performance at a community center on the south side of Chicago (Gary Comer Youth Center). The student’s performance—titled Don’t Shoot , I wanna grow up—went well, it was a selection of original poems, skits, and stories that presented the desensitization of violence amongst youth in the black community.

paece performance

After the performance was over half the students went home with their parents, and all but one took public transportation home. Which left Marcus (I have changed his name for his privacy).  Shortly after everyone left, Marcus explained that he couldn’t go home tonight. When asked why, he gave an anecdote about him and his mother getting into a fight earlier that day. “It wasn’t the first time” he explained while lifting up his shirt and revealing to us the teeth marks that that dug into his skin, leaving a stapled ring of scabs around his shoulder. Marcus made my soul grow deep like a river—with sadness. At the end of the night some of the other PAECE mentors and I took Marcus to McDonalds and dropped him off to spend the night with his uncle.