Red Summer: Text and meaning in Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die” (part 1 of 4)

The summer of 2015 marks the 96th anniversary of the publication of Harlem Renaissance poet Claude McKay’s masterful poem, “If We Must Die.” This essay is presented in commemoration of that literary milestone and in remembrance of the extraordinary Red Summer of 1919 that inspired it.

There were many good reasons to believe America had entered––or at least was about to enter––a golden era of post-racialism following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Among them was the election of the country’s first African-American president itself, an increasingly diverse American population, and a sociopolitical landscape made more democratic (in appearance at least) by the various influences of technological innovation.

Unfortunately, none of those good noble reasons were able to withstand the onslaught of reality as the number of hate groups in the country began to increase almost immediately, even while the Black prison population and Black unemployment rates continued to do the same. In a word, the country was nowhere near “there” yet.

Red Summers of Yesterday and Today

The growing number of cities where protest demonstrations have occurred over the past few years in response to extreme uses of force by policemen against African Americans, and the very oppressive conditions under which many African Americans continue to live, is eerily similar to another riot-filled time in U.S. history. The period which might first come to mind for most people is the 1960s, a decade in which “race riots” flared up every other year in places such as Greensboro, N.C. (1960), Los Angeles (Watts), Calif. (1964), Detroit, Michigan (1967), and Baltimore (1968).

However, the historical moment which possibly resembles the current intense state of racial affairs the most is that of the period leading up to the Red Summer of 1919. As pointed out in Facts on File’s Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance:

To enjoy this complete article by Aberjhani with accompanying video please click below:

Red Summer: Text and meaning in Claude McKay’s “If We Must Die” (part 1 of 4) – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

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Savannah Community Marks 100th Anniversary of Group’s Legacy of Knowledge

Cultural arts advocate Dessie Baker and librarian Mark Darby at Carnegie Branch Library historical marker dedication in Savannah, Georgian Nov 13, 2014.

Cultural arts advocate Dessie Baker and librarian Mark Darby discuss new historical marker for the 100-year-old Carnegie Branch Library in Savannah, Georgia. (photograph by Aberjhani)

 

Among those assembled on the lawn beside the majestic front steps of the library, located at 537 East Henry Street, were: Senator Lester G. Jackson (D-Savannah and Chatham County), cultural arts advocate Dessie Baker, librarian Mark Darby, author and composer Ja A. Jahannes, historian Charles Lwanga Hoskins, Library Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Daniel Brantley, Georgia Historical Society Executive Director Todd Groce, founder descendant Ursuline Dickey, Dixon Park Neighborhood representative Helen Washington, Library Foundation Director Lester B. Johnson III, the library’s current branch manager Adriene Tillman, and many others.

In his remarks on the historical significance of the library, Sen. Jackson noted that one of the reasons his father first moved their family many years ago from Statesboro to Savannah was to gain access to the library. They settled in a house only two blocks away: “He said son, this neighborhood will be an investment in your future. It has a library… Every Saturday morning before I could go out to play, I had to visit this structure…”

Sen. Jackson added the following:

“A hundred years ago, 11 men got together and invested in this community’s future by gathering books. And that’s what this marker here stands for today, an investment those men made in the future of not only young people but everyone. It gave them access to knowledge, it gave them access to history, but most importantly it gave them access to the world… where they could come read books, where they could come collect books, where they could come to understand what was [happening] in the world. And that knowledge is still needed today.”

To read the full article by Aberjhani please click this link:

Savannah community marks 100th anniversary of group’s legacy of knowledge – National African-American Art | Examiner.com.

Text and Meaning in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (part 2 of 3) | Aberjhani | Blog Post | Red Room

Advocates for racial and social equality march in Wasington D.C. (photo by Getty Images)
Protesters in Washington D.C. (photo by Getty Images)

“Most philosophers see the ship of state launched on the broad irresistible tide of democracy, with only delaying eddies here and there; others, looking closer, are more disturbed.” ––W.E.B. DuBois (from The Wisdom of W.E.B. DuBois)

Upon signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, President Lyndon B. Johnson shared, among others, these remarks:

We believe that all men are created equal. Yet many are denied equal treatment. We believe that all men have certain unalienable rights. Yet many Americans do not enjoy those rights. We believe that all men are entitled to the blessings of liberty. Yet millions are being deprived of those blessings–not because of their own failures, but because of the color of their skin.”

In fact, race was only one of the issues the act addressed. It also confronted discrimination based on religion, gender, and national origins. Many would, and do, argue that President Johnson’s remarks are no longer applicable in the 21st century. Many would, and do, argue that the words of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 itself should no longer matter.

Yet they mattered enough to President Johnson that he reportedly signed it with 75 different pens, presenting one each to those who had supported the bill, including Roy Wilkins and Martin Luther King, Jr. The pens undoubtedly were intended to help commemorate the achievement but perhaps they also served to reinforce the commitment and accountability necessary to make the political gesture a functional democratic reality.

To read the full post by Aberjhani please click this link:
Text and Meaning in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (part 2 of 3) | Aberjhani | Blog Post | Red Room
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Juneteenth 2012 Editorial with Poem: Every Hour Henceforth

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Cover of forthcoming eBook Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black.

The story behind the annual Juneteenth celebration is now fairly well known. The event commemorates June 19, 1865, the day slaves in Galveston, Texas, and other parts of the state learned for the first time they had actually been freed via the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier.

There is not much with which to compare such an event to in the year 2012. But try this: imagine how a group of prisoners might feel if they learned their innocence had been proven years ago and orders for their release signed but left forgotten in someone’s desk drawer.

At this point in time, just three years before the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, the holiday has come to represent a great deal more than recognition of delayed freedom. A statement from the Juneteenth Worldwide Celebration website founded by Clifford Robinson put it as follows:

“Juneteenth is a day of reflection, a day of renewal, a pride-filled day.  It is a moment in time taken to appreciate the African American experience.  It is inclusive of all races, ethnicities and nationalities – as nothing is more comforting than the hand of a friend.”

To read the full article and poem by Aberjhani please click this link:
Juneteenth 2012 Essay with Poem: Every Hour Henceforth

The Approaching 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance

Post card with image of the great Harlem Renaissance author Zora Neale Hurston.

 

 

 

The celebration of major historic milestones is a favorite pastime in pretty much every culture. This year, 2011, in the United States many are commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War. That means four years from now numerous festivities will take place to observe the same anniversary for Jubilee Day, or the liberation of America’s slaves.

In addition, countries around the world are currently honoring the first United Nations-declared International Year  for People of African Descent.

Flip the calendar forward by almost a decade and we find ourselves approaching another major milestone: the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Harlem Renaissance. The past couple of years have already seen celebrations of the centennials of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Urban League. Both organizations during the Harlem Renaissance played key roles–– as advocates for racial equality and as publishers of influential magazines that featured prize-winning works by now major authors like Dorothy West, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston.

Exactly When did the Harlem Renaissance Start?

For proposed answers to the above question please click here .

by Aberjhani

5 Notable women of the past and present (special series part 5): Savannah’s Dr. Abigail Jordan

World famous African-American monument on River Street in Savannah, Georgia, USA.

5 Notable women of the past and present (special series part 5): Savannah’s Dr. Abigail Jordan

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