I, too, sing America … Langston Hughes poem at the opening of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture

National Museum of African American History and Culture, opens September 24, 2016

National Museum of African American History and Culture.  Opens September 24, 2016

AMERICAN POETRY: Langston Hughes’ I, too, sing America will be used in the opening ceremonies on Saturday for the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian in DC.

The poem predates the Civil Rights Movement by about ten years:

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

– Langston Hughes

The website with details on the grand opening is HERE.

The photograph is by Fuzheado under CC BY-SA 4.0 license

ONE WOBBLIE’S LIFE … Joe Hill, labor activist and songwriter

Joe Hill (1879-1915), born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, Swedish-American labor activist, song writer, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the "Wobblies")

Joe Hill (1879-1915), born Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, Swedish-American labor activist, song writer, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (the “Wobblies”)

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Hill wrote "The Rebel Girl," which was inspired by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn , founder of the American Civil Liberties Union

Hill wrote “The Rebel Girl,” which was inspired by Elizabeth Gurley Flynn , founder of the American Civil Liberties Union

Music – the sister art to poetry – is always an engaging subject and labor rights and history are – or should be –  of serious interest for those of us in the 99%. Hence what a delight to learn that HamiltonSeen, a Canadian film production company, is in the process of exploring the life, work and relevance of Swedish-American labor activist and songwriter, Joe Hill.  In this interview, Zena Hagerty, producer and musician, explains …

JAMIE: How did the project Who Was Joe Hill get started?

ZENA: After finishing our film Harperman: A Dissident Serenade (releasing online in September), we felt  strongly about showcasing the strength that music has in protest and in political movements. There is a power in voices that rise together. Joe Hill was an early American musical hero who brought about real change in the Union Movement and who died under terrible and strange circumstances in front of a firing squad.

JAMIE: How many shows and what kind of content? Why should people be interested and how is Joe Hill’s life and work relevant to our times?

ZENA: We’re going to be creating twelve episodes that explore who Joe was, what shines forward to today from his life, his music, and his legacy, and we’re going to take a hard look at whether many of the same battles for freedom that were being fought in his time are still being fought today. The plan is to speak to the musicians who carry forward his spirit and use their thoughts and words to draw a picture of now through the lens of Joe Hill.

JAMIE: What do you hope to accomplish?

ZENA: Our mission (yes, it’s that important) with every film or series is to shed illumination from a new perspective on a topic that points to the very heart of who we are as human beings. Now, that sounds intense, but what it really means is that in our work we seek to find the emotional core, to enable viewers to connect to the importance of the subject matter.

JAMIE: When is the release scheduled?

ZENA: Our release schedule is very dependent on budget at this point, with a goal of series’ completion by second quarter of 2017. It should be sold for television by that point. We’d love to see it as a weekly series over three months with an online or Netflix release to follow.

If you are reading this post from email and want to view this trailer, you’ll probably have to link through to the site to do so.

HamiltonSeen:
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Producer Zena Hagerty
has a long history of community engagement and involvement in the arts scenes of Hamilton and San Francisco and seeks to further strengthen the human spirit with her work. Zena has broad experience in media, including recording albums, performing her own music, radio broadcasting, graphic design, and many others. As director of Sublimatus as a band, an art gallery, and an entity that inspires the creative spirit within all, Zena honed a skillset that includes the ability to drive and complete large projects with expansive intentions.

Director Cody Lanktree is most inspired by dialogue created by the connection between time, beauty, and our personal truths. In the six years since HamiltonSeen’s inception, Cody has guided the company from small commercial production to whiteboxing partnerships with major marketing firms, and finally to the creation of documentaries focused on community and social issues. His vision is one that will not stop at less than fundamentally changing and challenging perspectives and the world.

Jessica Sovie is a journalism student at Mohawk College and intern with HamiltonSeen. As the project lead for The Soapbox, Jessica provides direction, insight, camera operation, and editing skills that are creating a platform for the voice of the public. She is a purebred eccentric, supporter of music and of the arts, and aims to be a champion of the underdog and underrepresented through the use and continuous growth of her skillset.

Photo credits: Joe Hill’s photograph,”The Rebel Girl,” Joe Hill’s signature and death certificate are in public domain; Zena Hagerty’s photograph is hers and under copyright.

A LOOK BACK TONIGHT: To the first Woman and first Black to run for the U.S. presidential nomination of the Democratic Party

Shirley Chishom, 1925-2005

Shirley Chisholm, 1925-2005

Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (November 30, 1924 – January 1, 2005) was an American politician, educator, and author. In 1968, she became the first African-American woman elected to the United States Congress, and represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she became the first major-party black candidate for President of the United States, and the first woman to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination.

In 2015, Chisholm was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In Memory

Brooklyn Girls Rock!

Happy Father’s Day with Mexican-American Poet and former California Poet Laureate, Juan Felipe Herrera … the immigrant experience

Juan Felipe Herrara (b. 1948), American poet and writer, photo by SlowKing

Juan Felipe Herrera (b. 1948), Mexican-American poet and writer, photo by SlowKing under GNUFDL

I posted this a few years ago here and just included it in this month’s issue of The BeZine.  I’m re-posting it now because it highlights the quality and character of immigrants to the United States of America, which seems a good thing to do at this time. I’ll post this Sunday’s Poesy later today. 

Juan Felipe Herrera is a Mexican-American poet and performance artist, a writer and cartoonist, a teacher and an activist.

“Many poets since the 1960s have dreamed of a new hybrid art, part oral, part written, part English, part something else: an art grounded in ethnic identity, fueled by collective pride, yet irreducibly individual too. Many poets have tried to create such an art: Herrera is one of the first to succeed.”  Punk Half Panther by Stephen Burt in the New York Times

Herrara incorporates into his writing his experience of family and the life of the compesinos, migrant farm-workers.

“Into the tilted factories, the smeared taxis,
the stunted universities, into the parlor of bank notes,
in the cramped cookhouse where the dark-skinned
humans still stoop and pitch the daily lettuce bags …”

He sometimes tells stories that arise from what is for him a pivotal moment: the early school experience of trying to fit in though he had no English-language skills. He also writes stories that illustrate the problems of immigration, which often separates families.

In 2012, California Governor, Jerry Brown, named Herrera California Poet Laureate, the first Chicano poet to be so honored.

Many of us – like Juan Felipe Herrara – had fathers or grandfathers who came to the United States to make a better life for themselves and eventually for their children and future generations and who went on to make substantive contributions to this country. Sometimes we like to remember and acknowledge them for their vision, courage and hard work. Today seems like a good day to do so. The video below is charming children’s story, A Tale for Father’s Day, about Herrera’s immigrant father. Enjoy!

Happy Fathers’ Day to all the dads and to all the moms who, for one reason or other, are both dad and mom.