Black History Month Day 11 – Harlem Renaissance


Harlem Renaissance

Since childhood, I have always been fascinated with the phrase Harlem Renaissance. Together the words sound powerful, transcendent, regal and mysterious and inviting.

Singularly, Harlem rolls off the tongue, feels full flowing through the articulators, leaves a smile on my face and in my mind, and lastly the gregarious sounds of big band accompanied by the loud whispers of anger and pain filled poetry and song lead my soul to the rivers of our ancient home.

Meanwhile, Renaissance feels just like its synonym, rebirth. The release of the word from my mouth feels invigorating. Immediately after the thought occurs in my brain, and shortly after the word is let loose from my lips, I feel the drums and heartbeats of our forefathers and mothers. Something about the way those words stand individually and together gets my blood flowing. I ponder how they make you feel.

This time in the course of American life, art, and ultimately history seemingly never dies. I would argue that the same energy that exploded during the roaring ’20’s began spinning furiously into the ’60’s and exploded in the ’80’s and found quiet anger in the 2000’s through “neo-soul”. In fact, I think during the centennial anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance we might see another explosion of creativity and artistic protest considering the problematic presidency some of us simply regard as the 45th presidency.

If we take a moment to re-visit the tumultuous ’60’s and the sound of “love over everything” that we more commonly refer to as the “Motown Sound”, one could deduce that those artists were aware of the moment and found ways to connect with the pain of that moment and somehow maintain hope for a more loving future. By investigating the ’80’s, one should find that the youth of the era dusted off old James Brown records and created a new way to deliver messages through music to inspire their contemporaries. The leaders of the new-found art called their creation Hip-Hop.

Reflecting on the many movements in the sound of music I look forward to the centennial celebration of the Harlem Renaissance. For more specific information on the Renaissance see some of the references below, maybe you’ll find your own correlations.

Article by Brian Epps