february cafe, 28 days of black creativity: the negritude arts movement

Most poets tend to identify with a particular style or era of poetry. As a poet myself, I’ve always subconsciously identified with any poetic form that helped me tell the story of my community through my own experiences with race, social justice, love and relationships, and my life being a women.  As a result, I have always strongly identified with The Harlem Renaissance with the likes of Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, and others of that era.

However, not knowing much about this poetic movement called “The Negritude Movement“, I find that, even without knowing, I easily identify with this group of poets, even though most of them were French-speaking and some from the continent of

Africa.  I strongly identify with some of the poetic themes in Negritude for Black Americans to escape a country (America) that didn’t provide them equal rights.  We saw this “escapism” with many poets who fled to Europe, in particular Paris, France where they found a sort of freedom to be liberal and recognized and appreciated for their talents and the ability to speak freely about the plight of their people  back home in America. People try to discount that racism still exists daily just because we now have a Black President, however, poets still write poetry about a struggle because the struggle will never go away.  Perhaps another “Negritude” movement is in order so that writers can create a new language for freedom. Read below an excerpt from www.poets.org about the Negritude Movement and a poem from one of the movement’s most well-known poets, Leopold Sedar Senghor and a portion of his fantastic poem, Elegy (for Martin Luther King).

(Excerpt from www.poets.org): Negritude was both a literary and ideological movement led by French-speaking black writers and intellectuals. The movement is marked by its rejection of European colonization and its role in the African diaspora, pride in “blackness” and traditional African values and culture, mixed with an undercurrent of Marxist ideals. Its founders (or les trois pères), Aimé Césaire, Leopold Sedare Senghor, and Leon Gontran Domas, met while studying in Paris in 1931 and began to publish the first journal devoted to Negritude, L’Étudiant noir (The Black Student), in 1934.

The term “Negritude” was coined by Césaire in his Cahier d’un retour au pays natal (1939) and it means, in his words, “the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.” Even in its beginnings Negritude was truly an international movement–drawing inspiration from the flowering of African-American culture brought about by the writers and thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance while asserting its place in the canon of French literature, glorifying the traditions of the African continent, and attracting participants in the colonized countries of the Caribbean, North Africa, and Latin America.

Leopold Sédar Senghor. Senegal (1906-2001).

Elegy for Martin Luther King (IV of V) (for jazz orchestra)


It was the fourth of April, nineteen hundred and sixty-eight,
A spring evening in a grey neighborhood, a district smelling
Of garbage mud where children played in the streets in
And spring blossomed in the dark courtyards where blue
Streams played, a song of nightingales in the ghetto night of
Martin Luther King chose them, the motel, the district,
The garbage and the street sweepers, with the eyes of his heart
in those
Spring days, those days of passion wherever the mud of flesh
Would have been glorified in the light of Christ.
It was the evening when light is clearest and air sweetest,
Dusk at the heart’s hour, and its flowering of secrets
Mouth to mouth, of organ and of hymns and incense.
On the balcony now haloed in crimson where the air
Is more limpid, Martin Luther stands speaking pastor to
“My Brother, do not forget to praise Christ in his
And let his name be praised!”
And now opposite him, in a house of prostitution,
And perdition, yes, in the Lorraine Motel – Ah, Lorraine, ah
Joan, the white and blue woman, let our mouths purify you
Like rising incense!–In that evil house of tomcats and
A man stands up, a Remington rifle in his hands.
James Earl Ray sees the Reverend Martin Luther King,
Through his telescopic sight, sees the death of Christ: “My
Do not forget to magnify Christ in his resurrection this
Sent by Judas, he watches him, for we have made the poor
into wolves
Of the poor. He looks through his telescopic sight, sees only
the tender
Neck so black and beautiful. He hates that golden voice
The angels’ flutes, the voice of bronze trombone that
thunders on terrible
Sodom and on Adama. Martin looks ahead at the house in
front, he sees
The skyscrapers of light and glass, He sees curly, blond heads, dark,
Kinky heads full of dreams like mysterious orchids, and the
blue lips
And the roses sing in a chorus like a harmonious organ.
The white man looks hard and precise as steel. James Earl
And hits the mark, shoots Martin, who withers like a
fragrant flower
And falls. “My brother, praise His Name clearly, may our
Exult in the Resurrection!”

(excerpt from  http://web.uflib.ufl.edu/cm/africana/senghor.htm)

Thank you for reading and supporting Grown Up Creativity.

Follow me on Twitter: @ivywriter


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