Updated: Jan 16, 2021
Langston Hughes, 2017
By Makeba Rainey
Open Edition Print
Langston Hughes wrote a famous poem back in 1951. It was written with a freeform jazz sensibility that was reflective on the African American experience in Harlem. Actually, it was a suite of 91 poems that span about 75 pages. While it illustrated the culture of jazz music that was becoming more and more prominent, it also underscored the inequity and subjugation of the black community, their experience and context in history. The poem also highlights the thirst for social change and equality. The play Raison in the Sun was taken directly from the opening lines of the poem.
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raison 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?“
Flash forward to 2020. While Hip Hop has replaced Beebop, the message is still the same. Speaking about unity against racism, and not just African Americans but all people of color. Perhaps a message expanded to rail against the generations of police brutality and ingrained racism. Hughes wrote a Dream Deferred in 1951, Martin Luther King wrote the I Have a Dream Speech in 1963. Now, after a hotly contested election, who will write about a Dream Hastened.
The contribution of the Negra to Democracy in America, 1943
By Wilbert Charles White
Oil on canvas
With the evidence of traditionally red states flipping blue and the national demographics impacting our election trends, no one singular demographic holds a majority. A self-centered megalomaniac in our highest office was a complete failure. In an attempt to divide our country by bullying and name calling and treating our republic like a reality show, our democracy proved more formidable than any one self-serving idiot!
Masked up together in every major city in America, people celebrated together. Men, women, Black, Latino, White, young, old and everyone in between. A celebration to heal a nation and what divides us. A hope for restoring respectability to our highest office. Proof that American’s Melting Pot is more flavorful with many ingredients than just salt.
By Romare Bearden
With every passing generation from the early 1900’s to now, the constant blending of ethnicities and nationalities and race, a white American majority has a diminishing return. Our differences make our country great. You can feel completely different than me, and that’s ok. From the music you listen to, to the food you eat, to the person you voted for, can all be very different, but what’s no longer acceptable is basing those opposing opinions on how I look, who I love and how I decide to worship.
The Dream Unfolds, 1996
By Ernie Barnes
Oil on canvas
Lots of political pundits were saying that our new president elect needs to lower the fever of hateful rhetoric, so to that end, a collective sigh of relief. Now’s the time for a Dream Hastened. I did just write this, but I’m not a poet nor do I play one on TV.
In 2020 many people no longer supplement their intellectual foundation in fact, let that sink in a minute. Yes, literature, art and film and the like are the informed opinions of those who author them. There was a time when you were free to choose a variety of media to form your ideals without being ridiculed or brazenly judged. It simply boiled down to how “well read” or “cultured’ you were. Social media has dismantled facts and made it acceptable to reduce someone’s opposition to an idea as “stupid”. Social media algorithms sift specific facts for the sake of division. Socially corralling those with similar interest and of course politics. I don’t think this was the initial intent for social media, but once they found a way to monetize your attention, those “fscts” became irrelevant.
By Mark Vallen
Oil on canvas
For a moment, let’s imagine there’s a fatal car accident involving a 55 yr. old white suburban woman and a 24 yr. old Latino male. The woman was the fatality and the younger male was seriously injured. Also imagine this accident happened at an intersection that has a history of bad accidents over a thirty-year span. Finally, imagine the tragedy being discussed on social media. Half of the comments speak to the sadness and the need to redesign the intersection and display better signage. The other half of the comments zero in on whether that Hispanic individual was a legal immigrant or was even driving legally.
Doesn’t matter that the woman was distracted and on an unusual amount of pain killers, and that that male was a third-generation citizen coming off an overnight shift as a frontline healthcare worker. The end result is social media algorithms put you on one side of the fence with folks who align themselves with your interests and values. This is based on the thread count of all your discussions and every swipe and click on your phone or digital device.
Confrontation at the Bridge, 1975 By Jacob Lawrance
Oil on Masonite
Social media allows people an open forum to then shit on anyone who disagrees with them. Imagine going around 20 or 30 years ago calling half the number of people you encounter “Fuck’n Idiot” to their faces.
You’d be pretty lonely on your self-made island. Now, with social media, you are rewarded with “likes” by a whole club of people who may or may not agree with you. A widespread nondescript affirmation and a conversation thread that last 3 days.
Unfortunately, for every birth mother reunited with her biological son that she put up for adoption when she was 16, there’s 9 stories that have no base in reality, they’re just there to keep you engaged so that they (platform of choice) can hold and sell your attention span to advertisers. If your angry, all the better. And by the way, your thoughtful 6 paragraph response to someone’s post about the Affordable Healthcare Act is just what that specific platform wanted. It doesn’t matter that the person who originally posted the inflammatory remarks isn’t going to read your well-crafted retort, and they’re going to wind up blocking you anyway because, well, “You’re a Fuck’n Idiot!”
Perhaps the dream going forward is that as a nation we begin to diminish the nonsense on social media. Not to sound bleak, but the very culture of our civilization is depending on it. Can you imagine a world where people everywhere feel that getting any information off of social media is as ridiculous as quoting the National Inquirer as a credible news source? I know I’m dating myself on that reference. I’ll say it again, our differences makes us great. As I blossom into a fully developed curmudgeon, I disagree with just about everything. However, I respect the varying viewpoints. To the masses who feel a “threat” from socialism and that somehow protecting the right of all its citizens leans toward socialist, if we all felt the way you do, and never spoke up, that would be the prime example of what you accuse. Somehow those people don’t get that opposition is the bedrock of our democracy. Being a patriot isn’t finding a bunch of people who all agree with you, it’s making sure all Americans have the right to express themselves and that they are heard, as well as, having the right to affordable healthcare for their families.
Peace Between People, circa 1965
By Pablo Picasso
Some topics are too big to ignore. The current state of politics is one such topic. Having clearly stated where I land on those pressing issues, it’s time to digress. It’s mid-November and we’re in the throws
Of a pandemic that’s spiking for the second time. I have to figure out a relevant post on virtually enjoying stuffing and pumpkin pie, and whether or not to decorate the outside of my house for Christmas.