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Friday, February 24, 2012

Honoring Ophelia Devore: A True Pioneer Who Forever Changed The Perception of Beauty…





Long ago and far away, when I was a shy and skinny student in high school, I recall there was this one girl who stood out far and above the rest. She was beyond fine, in fact, supermodel-pretty... and her skin was the color of good chocolates. She was very tall… almost my height, 6’1, and her style and swag were striking in every way. She had the proud posture of a seasoned Alvin Ailey dancer. She walked differently, spoke differently, even sat, stood and ate her food differently. Hard to say exactly what it was about her that so arrested and then captured the imagination, but she possessed a certain poise, grace and fashion-sense that seemed to be uncommon amongst other young women of her age, and especially at that time.

She was, of course, swiftly hated on, thought to be ‘siditty’ and projected an image or attitude that signaled she believed herself to be better than everyone else.

Well, everyone else was wrong. After finding the gonads to approach her, to speak with her and slowly become her friend, I discovered that all those impressions of her were erroneous, and she was a very cool, real down-to-earth person. The only exception: she had attended Charm School, thank you very much. But NOT just any charm school, mind you. It was some elite, high-faluting place known as The Ophelia Devore School of Charm... darrrhling! The whaaaaa?

And thus, this tidbit of information became my initial introduction to the existence of a woman called Ophelia Devore....“The Architect of the Charm and Modeling Business for People of Color.”


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You see, long before the dawning of Donyale Luna...

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who many fashion historians consider to be the "First Black Supermodel"...

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and before there was a Naomi Sims

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or a Pat Cleveland

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...and before the doyens of the rag trade began to revere the names of Beverly Johnson

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Iman

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Naomi Campbell

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Tyra Banks

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Veronica Webb

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Or the ‘exotic’ Alek Wek

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And waaaaay before Jessica White

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her goodlookin' mama or her daddy were even born… more than sixty-five years ago, Ophelia DeVore pioneered the way for Blacks and other minorities in the modeling profession when she founded Grace Del Marco Models.

She was born in 1922. At age fifteen, Ophelia DeVore became a model in New York City, the mecca of the fashion and modeling world, where she started a career in the “Beauty Business.”


In the realm of modern history and of SOUL, pioneer is her role. Long before Black people en-mass had enlisted in the “Black Awareness Revolution” which exploded in the 60’s, Miss DeVore was engaged successfully in persuading big business that sales propaganda and advertising are inadequate without the Black mystique.

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In 1946, Ophelia DeVore organized one of America’s first Black owned model agencies, Grace Del Marco, which pioneered in the development, counseling and placement of models of color. It was one of few places where black and brown models could actually find work. The DeVore/Del Marco models became pioneer image-builders in the minority communities. They inspired others, gave them a new faith and motivated them to reach-out and seek higher, bigger and more rewarding goals for themselves.


Miss DeVore offered industry and the public Black models not simply as pretty, beautiful or attractive faces, according to traditional Western standards; she offered models, who, with their utter diversity and wide-ranging skin colors said more than: “I’m Black or a minority person in the ads”– but the inner beauty of these models revealed itself externally, communicating the all-important, most imperrative message that the earth is populated by people of many colors, as within the rainbow. People stood be appreciated as individuals, and when together, they comprised a beautiful floral bouquet.


Miss DeVore’s models learned quite early that external appeal and one's physical attractiveness is a necessary possession to achieve success within the modeling field, but this alone is not enough. The inner beauty should be at least as uniquely lovely as the external... and then and only then, is the individual truly a “Beautiful Person.”


Some of those who benefitted greatly from Miss DeVore’s “success philosophy” would be actress/singer Diahann Carroll, actress Cicely Tyson and actor Richard “Shaft” Roundtree…Photobucket


Also included among their esteemed alum are: Barbara McNair, WNBC anchorwoman Sue Simmons, news reporters Lynne White and Melba Tolliver, actresses Gail Fisher and Ellen Holly, and beauty authorities Audrey Smaltz and Susan Taylor.
Miss DeVore served as consultant to industry for many years, counseling in all major areas of marketing; new ideas, product testing and development, research, packaging, copy writing, concepts, advertising and distributions relating to the consumers, retailers and the media. She participated in creating new needs and wants, locating and developing new markets, and devising innovative methods of achieving maximum results.


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Ophelia DeVore-Mitchell is also the publisher of the 37-year-old thriving Black weekly newspaper, The Columbus Times in Columbus, GA. Her newspaper and printing business are managed on a day-to-day basis by her enterprising daughter, Carol P. Gerdes. These businesses have continually expanded and are completely self-sufficient with all necessary printing and production equipment.


In her lifetime, Ophelia DeVore has received well over 300 awards from various business institutions and civic and community organizations for her valued services and outstanding contributions in creating a better quality of life for all people. Having made her mark, she is still as active today as she was when she created what is known today as the “Black Modeling Business”, with more than 50 years of proven experience as a lecturer, business executive, writer, promoter, and developer. The results of her initial efforts in her chosen field have since become legendary. This woman's continued contribution has been large and storied.

Not one to depend upon sheer luck, or to rest solely on her God-given genetic gifts, Miss DeVore was educated in New York City at Hunter College High School and New York University. While there, she majored in mathematics and minored in languages. Ms. Devore is been indeed, driven, although she never let an industrious career intrude upon her having an equally successful personal life. To that fact, she is the mother of five children, grandmother of nine and the great grandmother of six.


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Today, even in her 90s, Ophelia is still very much alive and kicking. She resides in both New York City and Columbus, Georgia when not traveling extensively nationally and internationally.


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And so, during this Black History Month, we salute you, Ophelia Devore for helping to forever change the perception of this illusive, most subjective thing we call Beauty.





One.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Honoring Romare Bearden, Harlem Renaissance Man And Black Picasso





He was OUR Picasso. He Was Our Shining and Most Artistic Prince. Unfortunately, unless you were/are a hardcore art groupie/consumer, historian or appreciator of Fine Art, chances are you may never have even heard of him. His name was Romare Bearden.

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Romare Howard Bearden was born on September 2, 1911, to Richard-Howard and Bessye Bearden in Charlotte, North Carolina. He died in New York City on March 12, 1988, at the age of 76. His life and art reveal an exceptional talent, encompassing a broad range of intellectual and scholarly interests, including music, performing arts, history, literature and world art.


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Bearden was also a celebrated humanist, as demonstrated by his lifelong support of young, emerging artists.


Romare Bearden began college at Lincoln University, transferred to Boston University and completed his studies at New York University (NYU), graduating with a degree in education. While at NYU, Bearden took extensive courses in art and was a lead cartoonist and then art editor for the monthly journal The Medley. He had also been art director of Beanpot, the student humor magazine of Boston University. Bearden published many journal covers during his university years and the first of numerous texts he would write on social and artistic issues. He also attended the Art Students League in New York and later, the Sorbonne in Paris. In 1935, Bearden became a weekly editorial cartoonist for the Baltimore Afro-American, which he continued doing until 1937.

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After joining the Harlem Artists Guild, Bearden embarked on his lifelong study of art, gathering inspiration from Western masters ranging from Duccio, Giotto and de Hooch to Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse, as well as from African art (particularly sculpture, masks and textiles), Byzantine mosaics, Japanese prints and Chinese landscape paintings.


From the mid-1930s through 1960s, Bearden was a social worker with the New York City Department of Social Services, working on his art at night and on weekends.


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His success as an artist was recognized with his first solo exhibition in Harlem in 1940 and his first solo show in Washington, DC, in 1944. Bearden was a prolific artist whose works were exhibited during his lifetime throughout the United States and Europe. His collages, watercolors, oils, photomontages and prints are imbued with visual metaphors from his past in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Harlem and from a variety of historical, literary and musical sources. In the process, he would go on to become America’s Greatest Collagist.

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In 1954, Bearden married Nanette Rohan, with whom he spent the rest of his life. In the early 1970s, he and Nanette established a second residence on the Caribbean island of St. Martin, his wife's ancestral home, and some of his later work reflected the island's lush landscapes. Among his many friends, Bearden had close associations with such distinguished artists, intellectuals and musicians as James Baldwin, Stuart Davis, Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Joan Mirรณ, George Grosz, Alvin Ailey and Jacob Lawrence.

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Bearden was also a respected writer and an eloquent spokesman on artistic and social issues of the day. Active in many arts organizations, in 1964 Bearden was appointed the first art director of the newly established Harlem Cultural Council, a prominent African-American advocacy group. He was involved in founding several important art venues, such as The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Cinque Gallery. Initially funded by the Ford Foundation, Bearden and the artists Norman Lewis and Ernest Crichlow established Cinque to support younger minority artists. Bearden was also one of the founding members of the Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1970 and was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1972.


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Recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the twentieth century, Romare Bearden had a prolific and distinguished career. He experimented with many different mediums and artistic styles, but is best known for his richly textured collages, two of which appeared on the covers of Fortune and Time magazines, in 1968. An innovative artist with diverse interests, Bearden also designed costumes and sets for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and programs, sets and designs for Nanette Bearden's Contemporary Dance Theatre.


Among Bearden's numerous publications are: A History of African American Artists: From 1792 to the Present, which was coauthored with Harry Henderson and published posthumously in 1993; The Caribbean Poetry of Derek Walcott and the Art of Romare Bearden (1983); Six Black Masters of American Art, coauthored with Harry Henderson (1972); The Painter's Mind: A Study of the Relations of Structure and Space in Painting, coauthored with Carl Holty (1969); and Li'l Dan, the Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story, a children's book published posthumously in September 2003.


Bearden's work is included in many important public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. He has had retrospectives at the Mint Museum of Art (1980), the Detroit Institute of the Arts (1986), as well as numerous posthumous retrospectives, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (1991) and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2003).


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Bearden was the recipient of many awards and honors throughout his lifetime. Honorary doctorates were given by Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Davidson College and Atlanta University, to name but a few. He received the Mayor's Award of Honor for Art and Culture in New York City in 1984 and the National Medal of Arts, presented by President Ronald Reagan, in 1987.


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When he passed, it marked not only the end of an era, but the death of one of the last Great Artists whose work primarily focused on the lives, the joy, the pain, the reality and the celebration of African American culture.

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We thank you, Mr. Bearden, for so eloquently helping to tell, illustrate and define our story.



One.

Monday, February 13, 2012

If Only You Had a Vision And Someone Had Listened: For Michael And Whitney...


Sometimes, you don’t have to be a fortune teller, a psychic or even clairvoyant to see into the future.

Sometimes, if you just live long enough, you can see the destiny of others unfold before your eyes.

Sometimes, you’d rather not know any details of that destiny, because it isn’t always so pretty.

Sometimes, you come to know things, only GOD should know, like what will happen, to whom it will happen, and when

Sometimes, if you live long enough, you see the warmth of youthful smiles turn older, colder, as the glory days come, go, and slowly burn away from the heat of a million suns.

Sometimes, it hurts to see, to watch, to grieve, to experience Life’s twists and turns and such sadness manifest from an impotent distance…

If only you had a vision, and someone would have listened. If only you had a vision and someone would have listened. If only… if only you could have said:

I’ve seen this movie already. Trust me. It doesn’t have a happy ending.”

Who would have listened? Who would have believed it?


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Michael: “Smile! The future’s so bright, we’ll BOTH have to wear Wayfarer shades, Whit!”



Damn. Just damn. I just caught a chill. Did you?




One.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney: Au revoir, la bonne nuit, l'Adieu, Notre la plupart de Glorieux Diva.




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1963-2012


Those Who Knew You In Newark Still Call You "Nippy." To Close Friends And Family, You Will Always Be "Nippy." To The World, And For The Ages, You Will Always Be
Whitney... Just Whitney...

Our Greatest Songbird! Our Iconic Princess! Majestic and Regal!
Our Hope! Our Most
Magnificent Whitney!!!


We Thank You So Much For Your Gift. You Possessed A Voice, Kissed By the Gods. It Was Spine-Tingling! It Was Sublime! Though, Sometimes This Sadness In Us Wishes You Had Treated It, And Yourself, Kinder.


Still, We Shall Never Forget The Force, The Gusto, The Sheer JOY This Voice
Could Bring To Us All. All Grit And Gospel! All Passionate Pop! All Shimmering Angelic Soul. Oh! God! How We Lived For The Sonic Thrill And The Soar Of It!
That Voice Could Pour Out Like Honey And Holy Water And Soundly, Most Profoundly Baptize Us All.

That Voice Was The Stuff Of Star-Fire, and Waterfalls...

Then Suddenly The Sky Darkened... And That Voice Was Gone.

You Can Rest Easy Now, Whitney... Soar Your Highest, Most Pristine Note
Inside The Heavens Now. Open Your Mouth, And Let That Symphony
Within Your Soul Fly Free, Now!


And As You Did Here, On Earth, Leave The Gossips With Something
To Talk About... Just Sing And Bring Those Goosebumps Upon
The Angels Skin!

The Lights Have Dimmed. Take A Bow. Fly Home Now, Nippy. And God's Speed To Whitney Houston. Our Most Beautiful...
And Troubled
Diva.



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One.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Introducing: The First Official Pics of Baby Blue Ivy Carter, For Real…




Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z have shared the first pictures of their daughter, Blue Ivy Carter.

The superstar couple - who welcomed their first child into the world on January 7 - unveiled a set of intimate family shots on social networking site Tumblr, which show a beaming Beyonce tenderly cradling the tot in her arms and the rapper comforting his adorable daughter as she sleeps.

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In an accompanying message, the couple wrote: "We welcome you to share our joy.
"Thank you for respecting our privacy during this beautiful time in our lives."


After Beyonce gave birth to Blue Ivy last month, the pair admitted they were "in heaven" and described becoming parents as the "best experience" of their lives.

They said in a statement at the time: "Hello Hello Baby Blue! We are happy to announce the arrival of our beautiful daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, born on Saturday, January 7, 2012.

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"Her birth was emotional and extremely peaceful, we are in heaven. She was delivered naturally at a healthy 7 lbs and it was the best experience of both of our lives.

"We are thankful to everyone for all your prayers, well wishes, love and support."
The duo recently filed paperwork with the US Patent and Trademark Office to trademark Blue Ivy Carter's name to prevent others from profiting from the moniker in the future.



It looks like the J & Bey dynasty is most likely to continue well into the foreseeable future.


Wishing all the best to the proud new parents, & of course, you too, baby Blue Ivy.


One Love.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

In Praise of Langston Hughes


A DREAM DEFERRED

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?



The above piece was written by the poet Langston Hughes. It is a powerful statement that addresses not only the condition of being poor, or being a minority, but about being a human who dreams and the supreme disappointment one feels when that dream is not allowed to be realized, or even worse, is crushed and destroyed.


I relate. God, how I relate!

A poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist, I discovered Langston in my 7th grade English class. Our teacher, Miss Sally Harper stood before us and read one of his poems to the class. Strangely, no one seemed very interested or intrigued by those words being read to us. No one really seemed to GET IT, but me. "Weirdo!"

I was soon inspired to write a similar poem. Trust. It paled in comparison, because I was 12 or 13, trying to write like Langston, and not like myself. I had so much to learn.

Suddenly, I wanted to inhale that same Harlem air, and to bathe inside his poetic brilliance. Suddenly, I wanted to do what he did, and to walk in his footsteps. And mind you, he'd set the bar mighty high!

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This was my introduction to him, to his gift, his awesome wordsmithery, his unique rhythm, his sensibility and his mastery of the written/spoken word.

In fact, I can truthfully state that it was the work, the voice and the vision of Langston Hughes which inspired me to become a poet. Before I graduated high school, my first poem was published in a national magazine (Young America Sings). Langston gets at least partial credit for this accomplishment because, before him, I never knew that moving people with the sheer power of words was even possible.

* * *



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(James) Langston Hughes began writing in high school, and even at this early age was developing the voice that made him famous. Hughes was born on February 1, 1902. He was a native of Joplin, Missouri, but lived with his grandmother in Lawrence, Kansas until he was thirteen and then with his mother in Lincoln, Illinois and Cleveland, Ohio where he went to high school. Hughes's grandmother, Mary Sampson Patterson Leary Langston, was prominent in the African American community in Lawrence. Her first husband had died at Harper's Ferry fighting with John Brown; her second husband, Langston Hughes's grandfather, was a prominent Kansas politician during Reconstruction.

During the time Hughes lived with his grandmother, however, she was old and poor and unable to give Hughes the attention he needed. Besides, Hughes felt hurt by both his mother and his father, and was unable to understand why he was not allowed to live with either of them. These feelings of rejection caused him to grow up very insecure and unsure of himself.

When Langston Hughes's grandmother died, his mother summoned him to her home in Lincoln, Illinois. Here, according to Hughes, he wrote his first verse and was named class poet of his eighth grade class. Hughes lived in Lincoln for only a year, however; when his step-father found work in Cleveland, Ohio, the rest of the family then followed him there. Soon his step-father and mother moved on, this time to Chicago, but Hughes stayed in Cleveland in order to finish high school. His writing talent was recognized by his high school teachers and classmates, and Hughes had his first pieces of verse published in the Central High Monthly, a sophisticated school magazine. Soon he was on the staff of the Monthly, and publishing in the magazine regularly.

An English teacher introduced him to poets such as Carl Sandburg and Walt Whitman, and these became Hughes' earliest influences. During the summer after Hughes's junior year in high school, his father reentered his life. James Hughes was living in Toluca, Mexico, and wanted his son to join him there. Hughes lived in Mexico for the summer but he did not get along with his father. This conflict, though painful, apparently contributed to Hughes's maturity. When Hughes returned to Cleveland to finish high school, his writing had also matured. Consequently, during his senior year of high school, Langston Hughes began writing poetry of distinction.

* * *

Mother to Son
________________________________________
Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair.
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor --
Bare.
But all the time
I'se been a-climbin' on,
And reachin' landin's,
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you finds it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now --
For I'se still goin', honey,
I'se still climbin',
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.


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Hughes entered Columbia University in the fall of 1921, a little more than a year after he had graduated from Central High School. Langston stayed in school there for only a year; meanwhile, he found Harlem. Hughes quickly became an integral part of the arts scene in Harlem, so much so that in many ways he defined the spirit of the age, from a literary point of view. The Big Sea, the first volume of his autobiography, provides such a crucial first-person account of the era and its key players that much of what we know about the Harlem Renaissance we know from Langston Hughes's point of view. Hughes began regularly publishing his work in the Crisis and Opportunity magazines. He got to know other writers of the time such as Countee Cullen, Claude McCay, W.E.B. DuBois, and James Weldon Johnson. When his poem "The Weary Blues" won first prize in the poetry section of the 1925 Opportunity magazine literary contest, Hughes's literary career was launched. His first volume of poetry, also titled The Weary Blues, appeared in 1926.


Epilogue

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I'll sit at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.

Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed.

I, too, am America.
From The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes,
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1926.


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Du Bose Heyward wrote in the New York Herald Tribune:

"Langston Hughes, although only twenty-four years old, is already conspicuous in the group of Negro intellectuals who are dignifying Harlem with a genuine art life. . . It is, however, as an individual poet, not as a member of a new and interesting literary group, or as a spokesman for a race that Langston Hughes must stand or fall. . . Always intensely subjective, passionate, keenly sensitive to beauty and possessed of an unfaltering musical sense, Langston Hughes has given us a 'first book' that marks the opening of a career well worth watching."

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In Langston Hughes's poetry, he uses the rhythms of African American music, particularly blues and jazz. This sets his poetry apart from that of other writers, and it allowed him to experiment with a very rhythmic free verse. Hughes's second volume of poetry, Fine Clothes to the Jew (1927), was not well received at the time of its publication because it was too experimental. Now, however, many critics believe the volume to be among Hughes's finest work.

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The Negro Speaks Of Rivers
(To W.E.B. DuBois)

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.


Langston Hughes was, in his later years, deemed the "Poet Laureate of the Negro Race." It was a title he encouraged.

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Hughes meant to represent the race in his writing and he was, perhaps, the most original of all African American poets. On May 22, 1967 Langston Hughes died after having had abdominal surgery. Hughes' funeral, like his poetry, was all blues and jazz: the jazz pianist Randy Weston was called and asked to play for Hughes's funeral. Very little was said by way of eulogy, but the jazz and the blues were hot, and the final tribute to this writer so influenced by African American musical forms was fitting.
* * *



In Praise Of Langston
By. L.M. Ross


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I’ve sang your songs
My whole life long. Inside my head
Your songs play daily, nightly. They
Rumble rhythmically in the subways and
Holler mightily from the pews of Baptist churches.
Your songs serenade old & new lovers. They soar high
Over these "Negro Streets", leave their bleat over Birdland's
Jazz like beautiful black & orange robins... And even they
Will s-i-g-h... cry out.... and caw... your name: Langston!”

Oh Langston!
To honor you, in Harlem
They’ve placed your ashes
Beneath the Schomburg Museum’s floor.

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You rest there, our most eloquent father,
Our most poetic warrior, watching over us, as
You always did… part sentinel, part solider...
Oh Langston! Are you charting our heartbeats? Oh, Langston!

Are you ghost-walking
These streets, still
Marveling at our beauty? Are you
Looking to crash the nearest "rent party"...
Nodding your head to our hip-hop? Or perhaps
You are even smiling... Yes... Smiling... just
A little bit... At the rhythm, the rhythm of our
Swagger. . . and the footsteps, the footsteps
Of our Progress.



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One.




© 2012 by L.M.Ross moaningmanblues All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 6, 2012

Black History Month... Remarkable Progress & Still Some Road Left To Go





Last week, the tragic death of Don Cornelius came as a sudden shock to a lot of people... myself duly included. It delayed the plan I had to blog about the importance of us all observing this month of February in remembrance of Black History. Today, with the dawning of a new week will mark the first in a series of entries posted in celebration of the history, accomplishments, and triumphs of Black American culture.


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Dr. Carter G. Woodson…


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and Rev. Jesse E. Moorland (above) wanted to highlight the often overlooked role black people played in both American and world history. To accomplish this goal, they co-founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History.

The pair hoped that their various projects would help instill their race with a sense of pride.

Woodson later founded “Negro History and Literature Week” in 1920, while he was a member of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Harvard University. Woodson later became the second black person to receive a degree from Harvard.

He chose February as the month of celebration to honor Abraham Lincoln…


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and leading abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

Black History Month is now widely recognized and celebrated throughout the month of February.

The following are but a few interesting facts about a handful of influential African Americans:



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African-American surgeon Charles R. Drew is often credited with the invention of the first large-scale blood bank.


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African-American mechanical engineer, David Crosthwait, Jr. created the heating systems for the Rockefeller Center and New York’s Radio City Music Hall.


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African-American inventor Garrett Augustus Morgan created the gas mask—then became renowned for using his mask to save workers trapped in a toxic fume-filled tunnel. Even more famously, Morgan created the first patented modern day traffic light in 1923.


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During WWII, segregated units, such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the U.S. 761st Tank Battalion proved their value in combat. Approximately 75 percent of the soldiers who served in the European theater as truckers for the Red Ball Express and kept Allied supply lines open were African American. A total of 708 African Americans were killed in combat during World War II.

The distinguished service of these units was a factor in President Harry S. Truman's order to end discrimination in the Armed Forces in July 1948, with the promulgation of Executive Order 9981. This led in turn to the integration of the Air Force and the other services by the early 1950s

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On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke the baseball color line when he debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers.. As the first black man to play in the major leagues since the 1880s, he was instrumental in bringing an end to racial segregation in professional baseball, which had relegated black players to the Negro leagues for six decades.

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In 1954, Dorothy Dandridge became the first Black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress for her starring role in the film
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Carmen Jones” in which she costarred with Harry Belafonte.





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In 1959, playwright Lorraine Hansbury, whose best known work, A Raisin in the Sun (inspired by her family's battle against racial segregation in Chicago) would make history as the first straight (non-musical) Broadway play by an African-American produced and mounted on The Great White Way. It starred Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeal and Diana Sands… each of whom would later reprise their roles in the film of the same name.


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Sidney Poitier was the first male Black actor to be nominated for a competitive Academy Award (for The Defiant Ones, 1958). He was also the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor (for Lilies of the Field in 1963).

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In 1964, The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the age of 35, the civil rights leader was the youngest winner of the prize that Dr. Alfred Nobel instituted since the first was awarded in 1901. The prize honors acts "for the furtherance of brotherhood among men and to the abolishment or reduction of standing armies and for the extension of these purposes."



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Dr. Maulana Karenga created the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa, in 1966.


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Comedian Bill Cosby’s 1984 sitcom, The Cosby Show, became the highest-ranking sitcom for 5 years in a row. The program aired for eight years.

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Music legend Aretha Franklin is one of the most honored artists in Grammy Award history, with 20 wins to date.

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In 1980, singer and performer Michael Jackson secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry—37 percent of the album’s profit.

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Tyra Banks was the first African-American woman on the covers of GQ magazine…

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and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.


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Barack Hussein Obama II, born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, a former Illinois State Senator, and on November 4, 2008, he was elected as the first African-American to hold the Office of President of United States of America.



In the course of a century, there can be no denial of the remarkable progress made. And yet, as a people, a culture and as a nation, we've still so far to go.



One Love.