May 26, 2009

Long Live Langston

"We spent a month reading poetry from the Harlem Renaissance in our English class. Then Mr. Ward--that's our teacher--asked us to write an essay about it. Make sense to you? Me neither. I mean, what's the point of studying poetry and then writing essays? So I wrote a whole bunch of poems instead. They weren't too shabby, considering I'd only done a few rap pieces before. My favorite was about Langston Hughes." Bronx Masquerade by Nikki Grimes, Page 2.
When Wesley "Bad Boy" Boone turns in poetry instead of an essay the teacher asks him to read one of his poems out loud. More and more students want to share the poems they have written until Mr. Ward decides to institute and "Open Mic Friday" for some of the class sessions.

The Harlem Renaissance was about embracing the artistic and intellectual changes in the African American culture in the 1920s and 1930s focusing on blending the historical experiences of black America with the rising urban experience. This rise was fueled by the establishment of the

Cover of

African American middle class. Many notable writers, artists, musicians, and intellectuals were part of the Renaissance. Throughout the book Bronx Masquerade, many of them are even mentioned by name. These modern day students begin finding themselves in the writing of novelists and poets who lived generations before them.

Westly Boone stood before his English class and read the following poem. The stories and poems through the remainder of the book are just as compelling.

Long Live Langston
by Wesley Boone

Trumpeter of Lenox and 7th
through Jesse B. Semple,
you simply celebrated
Blues and Be-bop
and being Black before
it was considered hip.
You dipped into
the muddy waters
of the Harlem River
and shouted "taste and see"
that we Black folk be good
at fanning hope
and stoking the fires
of dreams deferred.
You made sure
the world heard
about the beauty of
maple sugar children, and the
artfully tattooed back of Black
sailors venturing out
to foreign places.
Your Sweet Flypaper of Life
led us past the Apollo and on
through 125th and all the other
Harlem streets you knew like
the black of your hand.
You were a pied-piper, brother man
with poetry as your flute.
It's my honor and pleasure to salute
You, a true Renaissance man
of Harlem.

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