Tag Archives: Langston Hughes

Black History Month 2016: Nina Simone

21 Feb

nina-simone2Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to one of my personal heroes, Nina Simone. Simone would have been 83 years old today.  I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  Emeli Sandé credits Simone as one of her major influences

Eunice Kathleen Waymon was born in Tryon, NC, and aspired to be a classical pianist. Despite her prodigious talent, she was denied scholarships and admissions and pursued a career in clubs instead. Eventually signed to Colpix, she was boxed into a pop-jazz mode for a few years. She took the standards she was given and began subverting them with her unique style — she was described as being a piano player, singer, and performer, “separately and simultaneously.” Over the years her stage set became famous for her powerful interpretations and righteous original songs.

Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was Mississippi GoddamIn Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans – who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of that song. The song Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood was written specifically for Simone. Her version works simultaneously as a love song and a protest song, showing her emotional depth and complexity.

Sadly, it is painfully clear how much we still need Nina Simone’s voice and activism. I suspect she still inspires many of us. Happy Birthday to the national treasure that is Nina Simone.

LGBT History Month 2013: Langston Hughes

19 Jun

LangstonHughesToday I would like to honor and pay tribute to Harlem Renaissance poet/writer, Langston Hughes. Although Hughes’ sexual orientation has traditionally been downplayed, like James Baldwin, he was black and openly gay. Hughes was attracted to the ideals of Communism, given the racism and homophobia  in the United States. Though Hughes never officially joined the Communist Party, he was called before the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led by Joseph McCarthy.

Sadly, even today (46 years after his death) men of color take enormous risk to be openly gay.  We, as the LGBT community, do not do enough to support of brothers and sisters of color.  We must stand in solidarity.

I fell in love with Hughes poetry the first time I read Dream Deferred.

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?

Another favorite of mine is Dream Boogie.  I will conclude this post with they lyrics of Ella’s Song by my favorite a cappella Social Justice group, Sweet Honey in the Rock:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes

Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers’ sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers’ sons (Refrain)

That which touches me most is that I had the chance to work with people
Passing on to others that which was passed on to me
To me young people come first, they have the courage where we fail
And if I can I’ll shed some light as they carry us through the gale (Refrain)

Struggling myself don’t mean a whole lot, I’ve come to realize
That teaching others to stand and fight is the only way the struggle survives
I’m a woman who speaks in a voice and I must be heard
At times I can be quite difficult, I’ll bow to no man’s word (Refrain)

Rick (The P is Silent) Santorum Strikes Again…

17 Apr

I Will Check Every Bedroom For Gay Sex

The ever charm-free Rick Santorum was using the quote Fighting to Make America  America again.  This quote is from a poem by Langston Hughes and  supports unions, social justice and racial equality.  The functioning illiterate Santorum, when informed that this quote was from Hughes, a black homosexual, quickly dropped his new campaign slogan.  I suppose it would not play well for Santorum to quote a poem by a black homo, when he just told Glenn Beck’s radio audience that states should be allowed to outlaw gay sex.  Do we need to worry that Santorum is going to personally police this? Will Robert and I wake up one morning to find Santorum’s nose prints on our bedroom window again?  All I’m saying is that he sure does think about gay sex an awful lot for a “straight” man.  I’m sure the Tea Party must be so proud of Rick–he stands for everything they do: Hate women, hate the homos, hate blacks, hate anyone who is not a white heterosexual christian.  Click here to read the full story, if you can stomach it.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 11

11 Feb

The Legendary Nina Simone

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Nina Simone. I remember crying my eyes out on April 21, 2003 when I heard that Nina Simone died. I fell in love with her smoky jazz voice so many years ago.  I can’t drink gin without thinking of our Nina. Simone’s response to the assassination of Medgar Evers, and the bombing of the church in Birmingham that killed four children, was, Mississippi Goddam. In Mississippi Goddam, we see Simone taking her place in the civil rights movement. Unlike Dr. King, Simone advocated violence if necessary in order to establish a separate state for African-Americans–who could blame her. You can only feel beaten down so much without building up a great amount of rage. I have such a great admiration for Dr. King for sublimating his rage into non-violent means. The song Backlash Blues was written by her friend Langston Hughes. Simone was also friends with Lorraine Hansberry and turned one of her plays, To Be Young, Gifted and Black into a civil rights song.  In 1972, Aretha Franklin did a cover of the same song. Nina Simone you are missed and cherished.

Celebrating Black History Month: February 8

8 Feb

Celebrating Langston Hughes

Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Harlem Renaissance poet/writer, Langston Hughes. Although Hughes’ sexual orientation has traditionally been downplayed, like James Baldwin, he was black and gay. Hughes was attracted to the ideals of Communism, given the racism/homophobia  in the United States. Though Hughes never officially joined the Communist Party, he was called before Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Joseph McCarthy. I fell in love with Hughes poetry the first time I read Dream Deferred.

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?

Another favorite of mine is Dream Boogie. I hope you will enjoy hearing this reading of Dream Boogie. If you have not been introduced to Langston Hughes, I hope you will find some of his poetry; I can guarantee it will become a part of you.

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