“Art must discover and reveal the beauty which prejudice and caricature have overlaid.”
A bluesy drenched the old south.
The roaring twenties hummed a woeful dirge-
ushering in the great migration.
The north looked attractive with an artistic hue and
literal jazzy paradise that I just wanted to soak in.
A perfect haven for an African poetess to thrive.
Harlem sat seductively on an intellectual bed of cultural,
social and artistic reformation.
I felt the refreshing breeze filled with epiphanies from
the Harlem river.
The tickling caress of freedom ushered in a new
A cloud of artistic magic covered Harlem.
My eyes feasted on Aaron Douglas’s silhouette like
painted murals on public buildings- exemplifying
the “New negro”.
“Migration series” sent nostalgic shivers all
over my body- reminding me of my history and heritage.
I felt at home.
I run my fingers all over Meta Warwick fuller’s sculpture,
“Ethiopia awakening” which depicted the essence of
Archibald J. Motley’s 1929 painting of the blues tickled
my musical mind. I fitted right in!
The flowers of literature, philosophy and activism
bloomed across Harlem- igniting my poetic flame.
I witnessed Alain Leroy Locke birth the Harlem
Renaissance with his compilation, “The new negro”.
I met Claude McKay at the edge of my consciousness.
He became my mentor amidst injustice and molded
me a fighter.
His poem, “If we must die” became my inspiration in
the presence of social injustice.
I fell in love with Langston Hughes- quietly stalked him
in blues and jazz clubs.
His well crafted Jazz Poetry bribed my soul with the
His travel experience and knowledge took me back
to Africa with his poem, “The Negro speaks of rivers”.
I got hooked to his vibe like glue after the 1926 essays,
“The Negro artist and Racial Mountain” where he
said; “One of the most promising of the young Negro poets said
to me once, “I want to be a poet–not a Negro poet,” meaning,
I believe, “I want to write like a white poet”; meaning subconsciously,
“I would like to be a white poet”; meaning behind that,
“I would like to be white.” And I was sorry the young man
said that, for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself”.
This enlightened me deeply and made me understand the kind
of poet I want to be.
Langston Hughes’s torch still lights inside the mansion of my heart.
I celebrated with my girl, Zora Neale Hurston when her Novel-
“Their eyes were watching God” became a success.
Worked with Alice Dunbar Nelson for a considerable time.
Campaigned with her for the passage of the dyers anti lynching
bill amidst challenges.
Her articles, academic journals re-awakened the activist in me.
I cheered for Arna Bontemps when his first novel, “God sends
Sunday” got considerable attention. I was so proud of him!
I had dinner with W.E Du Bois and he took me for a long ride
through history and Pan-African concepts.
Initiated me through the “Crisis” and taught me how to use
art to promote black causes.
The sound of jazz created a heavenly concert in Harlem-
A combination of the boogie blues, ragtime and minor
I danced the jitterbug to Duke Ellington’s swing feel at
the cotton club.
Got lost in a day dream as he romanced the chords and
his bassist lay down a great groove.
I grooved to Louis Armstrong’s hot jazz- a mind blowing
mix of drums, bass, banjo, and the guitar- creating an
See, I was the flapper doing the Lindy hop at the
And right now, I am the poetic globetrotter, the griot,
the time traveler peering through the Harlem
Reliving the 20th Century- a period where black poets,
artists, musicians, actors, and intellectuals
A period, a poet in these times can only imagine.
The world needs more writers, poets and artists.
***Langston Hughes Citation: The Nation, 1926***