MAP #172-1 Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance


(for Langston Hughes) by LeVan Hawkins

Excuse me for disturbing your peace

But I rob dead men's graves seeking

Bones of wisdom.

Angry fists on the periphery

Have left me wanting.

The women who do men's work

Cannot teach me what it is to be a man.

I migrated north seeking the manna

Father withheld from my dinner table.

Northern men versed in Leviticus

Slammed their door upon my arrival.

I have wept ink upon a forest

But the brethren would not hear.

I scraped my words from the page

And returned them to my heart

Still, they would not listen.

So, I have come to you, Poet

To learn what it is to be man.

The poet replies:

I cannot teach you what is God-ordained

But I will tell you

The brethren will become lost

And a scout will come searching;

The words will be there.

Thousands will stay behind

But someone

Will come searching.

I welcome

You, friend.

No apology is necessary

I, too have wept ink upon a forest.

A table has been set for your arrival -

Smile and accept your fate.

There are workers in the watchtower -

They will guide you.

Unleash your words and

Turn them into a simple song

Take your heart and let it play.

© LeVan D. Hawkins


2. Deep Rivers by Maritza Rivera

Like rivers that flow

etched deeply in the earth...

(my nails grow long with anticipation).

Like rivers that crest

after a long awaited rain...

(they eagerly imbed your ready flesh

and slowly drag along the smoothness of your skin).

Like rivers that ebb

in the calm of a storm...

(they leave silent streaks of evanescent pain

that fade and disappear in the absence of my touch).

My nails have grow long

like rivers.

© Maritza Rivera


3. jass by Jerry Hoff

what a time to be a man langston

to be

on the edge

of a moment in harlem

to be free to live

without notice

and travel and write

and find a way through the

alchoholic haze (and

other poisons)

of the lost generation

you and richard

should have been nicer

to Hurston--she didn't even

know any whites

till she went to high school

she wasn't sucking up

they were just


she was an anthropologist

not a politician

how deep and wide

was the pride langston

what was that like

that trumpet man from chicago

and the duke

nobody ever played

that way before

nobody what a time

© 2001 Jerry Hoff


4. Shh! whisper beat by James Thompson


whisper beat

slow toe piano stroll

quiet monk

down the keys

through the stacks

oh the horn

so soft and sweet

down aisles

past miles, so dizzy

gentle pads

and jazzy verse

snap the fingers

tap the tap


but shh! shh!

quiet rhythm

langston rhymes

and a soulful moan


the trane and bird

between the pages

in the books

finger dance with me

jazz library

© James M. Thompson


5. Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance by Marvin Kimbrough

The un-Civil was was over

And WW I was over and the "Red Summer" was, too

And Frederick Douglass was dead

And Booker T. Washington was dead

And the Ku Klux Klan was onmipresent

And Jim Crow was crowned King

And Lady Day was singing sad songs

About "Strange Fruit" hanging from trees

And W. E. B. DuBois was putting an African song in his book

With words he didn't understand

But he put them there because his African grandmother sang them

And the sons and daughters of Africa ascended onto Harlem

The Mecca, the dream catcher, keeper of dreams,

the protector of dreams

And Langston Hughes instructed them to "Hold Fast to Dreams"

And James Weldon Johnson bid the African sons and daughters to: "Lift every voice and sing till earth and heaven ring, ring with the harmonies of liberty"

And they did

And they came to Harlem, the ordinary and the extraordinary came

They came from all points, north and south, east and west

Claude McKay from Jamaica, Zora Neale Hurston from the all-black town of Eatonville, Florida; Mata Warrich Fuller and Alain Locke from Philadelphia, Aaron Douglas from Kansas, James Van Der Zee from Massachusetts, Louis Armstrong from New Orleans by way of Chicago and Gwendolyn Benett from Giddings, Texas

And they all held fast to their dreams

Marian Anderson built a career in classical music

Thomas A. Dorsey introduced gospel, while Nathaniel Dett, Harry Burleigh and J. Rosmond Johnson composed spirituals and William Grant Still composed


And Langston Hughes, the "Shakespeare" of Harlem, composed poems and plays, sories and essays, arias and operas.

And Van Der Zee recorded Harlem life on film.

And the people, the sons and daughters of Africa,

danced the lindy, the shimmy, the snake hips and the Susie Que and the trucked and they held down day jobs and night jobs, and week-end jobs

And when times were hard and money was "tight", the

sold plate after plate of chittlins and collard greens and sweet potatoes at rent parties

And they sang and prayed and praised God on Sunday

But, in time, the Great Depression came

And Langston and all the sons and daughters of Africa

realized "Dreams can lie"

And Harlem became a "Dream Deferred"

© 2001 Marvin G. Kimbrough


6. R U a Brudder by Danzr Von-Thai

for Langston Hughes

...without madness one knocks at the doors of poetry in vain

-- Plato (Phaedrus)

warship of azure

burn ebony roots to smoke

dome hovering blue

take no pride in yesterday

we all stand as slaves today

hi jack dead as christ

must join the resurrection

right now is tomorrow's war

light the way and torch the hue

thus dam the ignorant fool

for hour free dumb is prison

that future bastard kicks wombs

innocence rarely protects

spend every dime

leave ya blind

what ain't stolen

be borrowed in time

© Danzr Von-Thai


7. If you know Larry Jaffe, then you know he loves Langston

Langston Hughes Weary Blues

Langston Hughes sings them

weary blues and my heart just wants

to break at his lines.

© 2001 lgjaffe