Today, on Langston Hughes’ birthday, Renée Watson, author and executive director of I, Too, Arts Collective, writes about how the influential poet and activist inspired her to preserve his Harlem brownstone and transform it into a space for the community and emerging artists.
By RENÉE WATSON
Bring me all of your dreams,
Bring me all your
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.
As a child reading the poems of Langston Hughes kept me “away from the too-rough fingers of the world.” In the lines and stanzas of his poems, my grandmother called out to me, my dark skin and crinkly hair was beautiful and the stories of my ancestors were honored. There was strength and resistance, grace and celebration, all there for the taking. I needed that as a child and I believe our young people need that now.
I want young people to have a space where they can process what is happening in our world and I believe poetry—and art in general—can be a place to process, question, and heal. That is what Langston’s poetry did, and continues to do, for me. It has helped me make sense of what is sometimes a chaotic, unjust world. It has inspired me to celebrate the small things, to remember where it is I come from.
This is one of the reasons I launched I, Too Arts Collective. I, Too Arts Collective is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. We are dedicated to preserving the legacy of Langston Hughes and building on it by providing space for emerging writers to create. In July 2016, we launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to lease the Harlem brownstone where he lived and created during the last 20 years of his life. Over 1500 people donated to help us secure funding for our first year of programming.