Trying to Keep the Spirit of the Harlem Renaissance Alive

by on June 13, 2022 · 1 comment

in From the Soul, History

by Ernie McCray

I’ve lived a life
trying to keep the spirit
of the Harlem Renaissance,
the Golden Age
of Black intellectual
and ethnic revival,
alive,motivated by parents who were infused
with the likes of Richard Wright
and Langston Hughes
and their world views,
growing up in a home
in tune with Black culture,
a home often filled
with the soulful,
sometimes mournful sounds
of my mother’s fingers
playing gospel music
on our beat-up old piano,
and when I hung out with Mack,
my dad,
I would end up in rehearsals he
and his band had
where he would pound out boogie-woogie songs
on the 88,
and I’m soaking this all in
like a sponge,
with no more effort than
breathing air into my lungs,
other times mesmerized
by my mother’s record collection
that had me scatting and harmonizing
jazz songs
with Sarah Vaughn
or dancing jigs
to Fats Wallers’ song,
“Your Feets too Big”
and I was seeing Paul Robeson
at the picture show,
and later in life I hung out with Satchmo,
completely caught up in
an artful flow
originated by visionaries
in Harlem years ago,
finding myself following in their path.
all aglow in doing so,
as though they were guiding me by my elbow:
turning kids on to the arts in the learning environments
the school district sent me to,
breaking a leg on stage
doing a little bit
of all that one can do,
once on it,
singing tunes,
dancing to tunes
lampooning tunes,
being in tune
with castmates in plays,
once delivering a line,
in my loudest deepest bass,
with the fiercest look on my face,
meant to quiet the “dogs of Spain,”
riffs, Moroccan soldiers,
warning them that
“the mighty one approaches”
in a musical
about “colonial rule” –

a rule very much on
the brilliant artistic minds
of the creators of that Black cultural mecca
in Harlem,
minds dead set against
the horrors of colonialism,
be it a colony in America
or one in Africa
or in the Caribbean.

Oh, there should be no human beings
anywhere living less than hopeful lives
and therein lies
why I try to keep the spirit
of the Black Renaissance alive.

It keeps my hope alive.

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Thomas L Gayton June 14, 2022 at 2:47 pm



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