Tag Archives: Langston Hughes

Merry Christmas

The Christmas season is hard on folks who are too broke to pay attention. But if you are a literary giant like Langston Hughes, your DIY Christmas cards end up on display at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Michael Morand, the Beinecke Library’s communications director, told Hyperallergic:

Langston Hughes’s extensive archives provide numerous insights into his long life and career. His 1950 typewritten Christmas postcards illuminate a period when his finances were limited though his friendships remained abundant. He wittily addressed his wide circle of friends that year with verse that tell how times were tough and still convey resilience and joy. Likewise, the 17 boxes in the archives of Christmas cards he received and kept over many decades demonstrate the breadth and depth of his personal and professional relationships with other cultural and civic leaders.

Langston Hughes - Broke and Busted2

Harlem on My Mind

Gentrification is displacing longtime residents in historically African American neighborhoods from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn to Baldwin Hills in Los Angeles.

Gentrification - Historically Black Neighborhoods

I grew up in Bed-Stuy and went to college in Harlem where an iconic mural, the “Spirit of Harlem,” was covered up by Footaction, a sneaker and apparel company.

Spirit of Harlem Mural2

Langston Hughes famously asked, “What happens to a dream deferred?”


We know what happens if we don’t fight the collateral damage of gentrification. African American cultural heritage and presence will be erased from public memory. So Harlem activists are organizing to give the boot to Footaction.

Give the Boot to Fooaction

For me, it’s déjà vu all over again. In 2015, Pennrose Properties demolished the “Tribute to John Coltrane” mural in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood in North Philadelphia.

Tribute to John Coltrane Mural2

But rather than simply lament its destruction, I made some noise in my capacity as director of All That Philly Jazz. Fast forward two years, Pennrose Chairman and CEO Richard K. Barnhart thanked me for my activism. Barnhart told me that in raising awareness of the importance of cultural heritage preservation I “made him a better person.”

On September 24, 2017, the “Why We Love Coltrane” mural was dedicated.

Why We Love Coltrane-3

The mural was funded by Pennrose Properties and the City of Philadelphia, in partnership with All That Philly Jazz, Strawberry Mansion Neighborhood Action Committee and Fairmount Park Conservancy.

Why We Love Coltrane Acknowledgements

Footaction is owned by retail giant Foot Locker. Together, we can make Footaction a better corporate citizen. Let’s make some noise.

UPDATE: After making some noise on Twitter, I received a DM from Footaction.

Footaction - Direct Message - 12.12.17

True to its word, restoration of the “Spirit of Harlem” mural is in progress.

Footaction - Restoration in Progress

Advocacy works!

April is National Poetry Month

April is Jazz Appreciation Month. It’s also National Poetry Month.

National Poetry Month 2016

It’s probably no coincidence the two art forms are celebrated during the same month. After all, the Harlem Renaissance gave birth to jazz poetry. The most celebrated jazz poet is Langston Hughes who collaborated with jazz musicians, including Charles Mingus and Thelonious Monk.

In his 1926 essay, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain,” Hughes wrote:

But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul—the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile.

In 1958, Hughes recorded his poem, “The Weary Blues,” over jazz composed by Mingus and Leonard Feather.

Also, check out a reading of “The Weary Blues” by Rev. Dr. Allen Dwight Callahan, a Philly native and former professor at Harvard Divinity School.

Black History Month 2016

Here at All That Philly Jazz, we celebrate black history 365. Outside the African American community, black history is recognized, if at all, in February, the shortest month.

For the first time, the New York Times is sharing unpublished photos from its archives:

Hundreds of stunning images from black history, drawn from old negatives, have long been buried in the musty envelopes and crowded bins of the New York Times archives.

None of them were published by The Times until now.

Were the photos — or the people in them — not deemed newsworthy enough? Did the images not arrive in time for publication? Were they pushed aside by words here at an institution long known as the Gray Lady?

[…]

Photographers for The Times captured all of these scenes, but then the pictures and negatives were filed in our archives, where they sat for decades.

This month, we present a robust selection for the very first time.

Every day during Black History Month, we will publish at least one of these photographs online, illuminating stories that were never told in our pages and others that have been mostly forgotten.

It’s better late than never.

For more information, visit Unpublished Black History.