Editor's note: The Langston Hughes Project purchased an advertisement in the Daily Lobo for this edition of the newspaper. This purchase did not affect the coverage of the event.
In celebration of Black History Month, the Langston Hughes Project is commemorating 100 years since the Harlem Renaissance through two concerts and a master lecture.
"I think (Langston Hughes) transcended the Harlem Renaissance," said event organizer and associate professor of literary studies Finnie Coleman. "But, not very many other authors are thought of outside of the Harlem Renaissance."
The Ron McCurdy Quartet will perform the Langston Hughes poem "Ask Your Mama: The Twelve Moods of Jazz" on two separate occasions. The first performance will be held at Popejoy Hall on Friday, Feb. 21 and will be free to all.
The second performance will be a benefit concert held the next day at the Outpost Performance Space at 7:30 p.m. The $25 entrance fee will go toward the African American Student Services (AASS) scholarship fund.
"Well, it’s not often you have an epic poem by one of our county’s greatest poets. And this is a poem that he set to music himself," Coleman said. "Much of his poetry was accompanied. He would often read his poetry (with) either a blues band or jazz band. So, he was ahead of his time in some respects."
Along with the concerts, the event also includes a masterclass on Thursday, Feb. 20 with Ron McCurdy. "The Poets, Dancers and Musicians of the Harlem Renaissance" will be held in the Student Union Building Ballroom C from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. with another from 2-3:15 p.m. in Keller Hall. Both of these masterclasses are open to the public, but UNM students, faculty and staff have seating priority.
According to Coleman, the start of the Harlem Renaissance is disputed but began sometime between 1919 and 1937.
"We can pick any year in that," Coleman said. "So, we have a lot of celebrations that will happen 100 years ago this year. And that will go on until 2037."
According to History.com, the Harlem Renaissance marks the "development of the Harlem neighborhood in New York City as a black cultural mecca in the early 20th century and the subsequent social and artistic explosion that resulted."
"The Harlem Renaissance didn’t happen all in Harlem," Coleman said. "It speaks to a moment within black culture across the country about the importance of art, literature, music and culture and how we can use that to help us through some remarkable trauma."
During the early 1900s through the 1920s, many black Americans migrated from the southern United States to the north in search of work and to flee from segregation laws — Harlem being one of the more popular destinations. This shift in population is known as the Great Migration.
"That poetic genius, that literary genius, never faded, never faltered," Coleman said. “And it was a way for black people to cling to — to claim the humanity that so many people in our country were determined to deny them. This was not just resistance but an expression of humanity and forgiveness and understanding and love that was not being shown to them."
He said that Hughes was coming of age during this era at the start of the Harlem Renaissance. Coleman called Hughes’ death in 1967 the loss of "the most prolific African- American author."
Bringing the Langston Hughes Project to UNM has been a collaborative project a year in the making and gained support from a variety of University entities such as all the college deans, Associated Students of UNM and AASS.
Coleman mentioned five individuals by name whom he said the event would not be possible without: Albuquerque community member Carla Baron, UNM Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Cinnamon Blair, Program Specialist in the department of English Susan McAllister, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Assata Zerai and AASS Director Brandi Stone.
Other events being hosted by AASS for Black History Month all surround the theme "Radical Self Care."
"Our goal for Black History Month was to take a deeper dive into that theme and provide a variety of programs meant to engage different student and community interests," Stone said. "Some of these programs include workshops focusing on how we see post-traumatic slave syndrome playing out in the mental health of our community, holistic health practices passed down since slavery — and before — and the history of soul food in our community."
Stone said that Langston Hughes’ art exemplifies the theme of "Radical Self Care."
"His expression of art is a form of 'Radical Self Care,' as it always stressed racial consciousness and as a result was considered some of the most influential work during the Harlem Renaissance," Stone said.
Makayla Grijalva is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MakaylaEliboria