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November 7, 2013

Langston Hughes’ poetry explored through music

By Ronnie Holman

The department of Black Studies held a special lecture given by Prester Pickett, coordinator of the Howard A. Mims African-American Culture Center. The lecture was “Black music of two worlds in the poems of Langston Hughes.” Several students, men and women of many different ethnic backgrounds turned out to hear the very animated Pickett render his energized poem quotes written by Langston Hughes. He called on a male (brother) to read because the women had represented in the readings almost every time he asked for a volunteer. The “brother” just happened to be a white male sitting in the third row listening to Pickett break down the meanings of each poem he presented.

Dr. Prester Pickett speaking on Hughes poetry“When I use the term brother, through other traditions that I participate with, that means any other human being that is considered a male entity,” Pickett said.

Pickett lectured on how Langston Hughes celebrated the black music tradition through his poetry. The students that were there had already received an introduction to certain aspects of the music that were being discussed up to the point of the Harlem Renaissance. Pickett spoke with power and confidence as he conveyed the poems by Langston Hughes. The lecture focused on the Harlem Renaissance and its music. Pickett reviewed some of the discussions of Negro spirituals, blues and jazz in the poetry of Hughes.

“Everybody today that is talking about diversity and multiculturalism we already have in America experienced,” Pickett said. “Don’t think of the Harlem renaissance as just musicians coming together to play music.”

Langston Hughes is a famous poet from Cleveland and a lot of people don’t consider him as a “Clevelander.” But it can’t be taken away that this powerful poet is from the city. He explained music through poetry in many different ways for many to reflect on still today and people in general, especially African Americans, who are proud to celebrate someone like Hughes being from Cleveland.

“Cleveland has a unique history and I believe once these young people understand that, they can hold their heads up to the point of receiving more information,” Pickett said. “And then for young people who are African American descendants, they won’t be challenged when other people start to celebrate their cultures.”

There was a group of high school students attending the lecture with college students. They sat in the back of the room and listened attentively to the meanings of Langston Hughes poetry and what it represented. Pickett mentioned high school students particularly in Cleveland, once they realize that the world is treasuring something that came from these grounds, it allows them to lift their heads up. McHenry Crawford, teacher at MC Squared Stem High School located on the campus of Cleveland State in Rhodes Tower west, thought this was a great experience and opportunity for the students. The school has a project based learning approach to education.

“We had a lesson on the Harlem renaissance so this serves as a great activity for the students to experience,” McHenry said. “All these students will be historians and teachers when they attend college.”