March 2017: It is written. And spoken.

It is written that as spring arrives, the sun beams a bit brighter. The living things that roam this earth sense the warming of the air. They emerge from landscape, where they’ve been resting to prepare their bones for the longer, abundant days ahead. Saplings surface above the horizon, soaking in this warmth that will fuel them for their role in this forthcoming verdant season. It is written.

Along with the lines and colors and shades and clippings that move about the pages of the Villagers sketchbooks, rustles their reflections, hopes, and musings that take form in the written word. These introspections flow in an array of compositions: structured poems, hastily jotted down ideas, free-flowing introspections, inspired contemplations that may take shape in visual art form… or not.

Some of these musings meander through the studio in conversation, through text messages that we send to one another, but sometimes, they lie quite within the pages. Only for the owner of the words to hold. Some might be shared, some might not. But they are all important, no matter what path they choose. Perhaps they come to us as quiet reminders. And that is purpose enough for us to keep these words flowing.

To our delight, LibroMobile invited us to present for their upcoming poetry event as an opening performance for Texas-based writer Kimberly Alidio. So we spent the coming of spring developing and preparing our poetry and musical showcase, taking place at the Grand Central Art Center Theater. We convened to rehearse, again and again, until we felt comfortable with the cadence of our spoken words.

Last month during Black History Month, La Verne had sent me a video of a five-year-old little girl named Promise who read Langston Hughes’ The Negro Mother with such vigor, that it resonated with us long after we had witnessed her performance. So, we decided to include our own rendition of this poem to stand with the black community who have bled from the lacerations of injustice. We stood side by side and read in solidarity, wondering how much longer they will suffer. How much longer we will suffer. Because when one suffers, we all suffer, for we are all connected.

La Verne, Sharonda, and I took turns reading each stanza, while Joe strummed on his guitar. But he didn’t just strum. Joe had carefully composed the chords that aligned with the verses. His fingers plucked D major and accompanying chords when we read about the beautiful black skin that shone like the sun. Then, he dove into A minor when we read of the sweat, the pain, the despair. This thoughtfulness is what makes this Village so unique. They don’t just show up to read feel-good poems and make pretty paintings. They read and write the work that helps them share the stories of life—the good and the bad—and they make the paintings that help share their hopes and histories. These are the residents of Heninger Village. 

 Our second rehearsal at the Village

Our second rehearsal at the Village

 Joey B. strums on his guitar, setting the rhythm to which Trinh, Sharonda, and La Verne read Lanston Hughes’  The Negro Woman

Joey B. strums on his guitar, setting the rhythm to which Trinh, Sharonda, and La Verne read Lanston Hughes’ The Negro Woman

 Terri reads her poetry as I help her translate

Terri reads her poetry as I help her translate

These folks are a village of Thinkers, Painters, Poets, and Musicians, and I am so very privileged to be working with them to help bring their talents and passions out to the community! I am so proud to know these people. So. Very. Proud.

Our program included this reading, along with original music written and performed by Joe Buffardi (A.K.A. "Joey B."), and original poetry written and performed by Teresa Roehmer. Outside of the theater, collection of original paintings by members of Heninger Village artists were on display to compliment this creative showcase.

[Unfortunately, our youngest Heninger artist, Parker, was not available for a guitar performance at our event, since he was busy at rehearsal, preparing for his upcoming show with his band, The Space Noodles! Go, Parker!]

 

The Negro Mother                                                                        by Langston Hughes

Children, I come back today
To tell you a story of the long dark way
That I had to climb, that I had to know
In order that the race might live and grow. 
Look at my face - dark as the night - 
Yet shining like the sun with love's true light. 
I am the dark girl who crossed the red sea
Carrying in my body the seed of the free. 
I am the woman who worked in the field
Bringing the cotton and the corn to yield. 
I am the one who labored as a slave, 
Beaten and mistreated for the work that I gave - 
Children sold away from me, I'm husband sold, too. 
No safety, no love, no respect was I due.

Three hundred years in the deepest South: 
But God put a song and a prayer in my mouth. 
God put a dream like steel in my soul. 
Now, through my children, I'm reaching the goal. 

Now, through my children, young and free, 
I realized the blessing deed to me. 
I couldn't read then. I couldn't write. 
I had nothing, back there in the night. 
Sometimes, the valley was filled with tears, 
But I kept trudging on through the lonely years. 
Sometimes, the road was hot with the sun, 
But I had to keep on till my work was done: 
I had to keep on! No stopping for me - 
I was the seed of the coming Free. 
I nourished the dream that nothing could smother
Deep in my breast - the Negro mother. 


I had only hope then, but now through you, 
Dark ones of today, my dreams must come true: 
All you dark children in the world out there, 
Remember my sweat, my pain, my despair. 
Remember my years, heavy with sorrow - 
And make of those years a torch for tomorrow. 
Make of my pass a road to the light
Out of the darkness, the ignorance, the night. 
Lift high my banner out of the dust. 
Stand like free men supporting my trust. 
Believe in the right, let none push you back. 
Remember the whip and the slaver's track. 
Remember how the strong in struggle and strife
Still bar you the way, and deny you life - 
But march ever forward, breaking down bars. 
Look ever upward at the sun and the stars. 
Oh, my dark children, may my dreams and my prayers
Impel you forever up the great stairs - 
For I will be with you till no white brother
Dares keep down the children of the Negro Mother.

 

 Left to right: Sarah Rafael Garcia, Founder of LibroMobile; Joe Buffardi, Artist; Kimberly Alidio, Writer; Trinh Mai, Artist; La Verne Culpepper, Artist; Teresa Rohmer, Poet; Ron Segura, Artist; Sharonda Caldwell, Artist

Left to right: Sarah Rafael Garcia, Founder of LibroMobile; Joe Buffardi, Artist; Kimberly Alidio, Writer; Trinh Mai, Artist; La Verne Culpepper, Artist; Teresa Rohmer, Poet; Ron Segura, Artist; Sharonda Caldwell, Artist

It is written that our paths crossed so that we could tread together through this journey, with our hands doused in paint and ink, powered with graphite, and our eyes to the sky. I just could not imagine not knowing these people and their hearts and their talents and their openness to new experiences, new ways of thinking, and new ways of seeing the world that was just a little less colorful before art danced her way into it. Together, we clutch onto the brushes and pencils and onto our chests they swell with the inspiration that runneth over so ferociously, that we must do something with it lest we drown. And so we do. In prose. In poetry. In swaths of color and light. In music. In words scribbled and spoken. It streams through our thoughts at such an alarming rate that our hands can’t work fast enough. But we learn to give it time. To sit with it. To commune with it in quiet and in conversation. Because we know that it will present itself in whichever form is fitting at the time. It always does.

 

 
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