How do we use our freedom after it is granted to us? After it is gently placed in our hands? Do we make something out of it, or do we abuse it, because we feel that nobody can take it away? African Americans were strapped down into a world of anxiety and distress. They were ripped from their culture and their way of life, only to be known as three fifths of a person. I always wonder if African Americans ever lost hope out in the fields, singing their hymns, or if they ever thought that things would actually change. Well a day came where eyes were opened after being shut for so many years, a day called the Harlem Renaissance, where it was African Americans turn to shine. To be placed under a spotlight that was known to be shun at Caucasian faces only. The day colored people became free to express every thought that came to mind. They didn’t see a pile of dirt or trash when they looked in the mirror but they saw a human being, someone who could do great things, someone that was actually worth something. They left their shackles on the ground and ran to their promise land where the grass was greener on the other side, where the streets felt as though they were gold. They arrived in a time period that will never be forgotten, the Harlem Renaissance.
So many different styles of music and dance as well as poetry and art started to branch out. At this point in time African Americans were able to explore and project their culture. Jazz and blues became very famous, so many unknown voices where finally heard. Music was incorporated and people started seeing African Americans playing the saxophone and the piano, and any other instrument you could think of. Other than music, different varieties of dances were created, cultural dances that allowed African Americans to express their heritage and emotion. Then art slid its way in, hidden talents were finally able to shine. Colored people painted about life before the Harlem Renaissance when they were enslaved and also paintings and drawings of life after, life during the Harlem Renaissance when they were happy when their dreams finally came true. Poetry went along and made its way to the spotlight while famous poets like Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou made their notice. Through their culture, colored people let go of anger and sadness through all their talents. There was something for everyone to do and if not, just seeing happy, free faces was enough of a healing from so many years of seeing captivity and crooked smiles.
Colored people were able to show off their outstanding talents, talents that they were forced to put aside. Aaron Douglas was one of many colored people that decided to use their skills and put them to good use. He picked up a paintbrush when he was just a child, his mother Elizabeth Douglas pushed him to keep going forward in his career as a painter. He started to publish his illustrations for both “The Crisis” and “Opportunity” one of the two most important magazines associated with the Harlem Renaissance. (He became famous right away) His paintings showed emotion and the feelings that came along with being a slave. He used a lot of blues, blacks and dark colors to emphasize a feeling of sadness when people seen his work. He wanted his audience to see the pain but the sense of hope that slaves endured before the Harlem Renaissance and to compare how things have changed dramatically.
One of his paintings was called “Acclaimed Harlem” it’s shown to be a remake of Noah’s ark. It shows men known to be African Americans getting ready for the flood that’s ready to come. He uses his blues and blacks and a tinted yellow light that shines on one of the men. I believe that yellow light is hope, it’s him looking straight forward and never wanting to look back. The symbol, I believe that Douglas was trying to portray in this painting was a new beginning, a new start, to show that African Americans left their shackles and sorrows in the waters and moved to higher lands, to a place where they were safe from any storm or trial that came their way. They got on that boat with hope to reach their promise land, that there was something more out there for them to see.
While browsing, I encountered a picture that incorporated with the concept of Noahs ark that was illustrated December 09,2005. Its colors were vibrant and attracted my eye right away. I related it to the culture of the Harlem Renaissance, where people were drawing and painting what they felt or how they seen things, at that certain moment in time. I believe mindsets have changed and people now and days are painting maybe just because they are good at it and that’s all they have to look forward too. While I see the paintings, painted during the Harlem Renaissance I see so much more feeling, I see broken hearts, painting their life on day’s old paper that they thought they would never be able to sketch on or even touch. Times have changed drastically and I feel like sometimes we forget where we came from.
When I compared the two paintings I had seen automatically the color change. I looked over the Harlem renaissance painting and I see Douglas’s blues and blacks and all his dark gloomy colors, then I looked at the more modern painting and seen more yellows, gold’s and reds that stood out and caught my attention. Another analysis was how in the Harlem Renaissance painting, the bodies were just outlined and you couldn’t really see the details and features of the faces or any object for that matter, while I looked at the painting that was recently painted and I realized that even though the animals were far and were a small size that every animals face was shaped out. I also wanted to mention that the Harlem painting was more abstract while the modern illustration was seemed more real life. You can see the difference in how skilled the African Americans were compared to the artist of today, that no how to mix colors and have various abilities to make an artwork look its best. Yet I have to give the colored people credit that they did a beautiful job with the solid colors and little knowledge they had.
I can related both of these paintings to the Harlem Renaissance, to the fact that African Americans were willing to take that chance, to change old ways and visualize that rainbow at the end of all their suffering and hard work. And just like Noah and his family, African Americans arrived in their promise land a place that they thought would never exist. They believed and with their faith their dream came true.
Years kept passing by and everyday more and more African Americans were becoming famous, almost stealing the spotlight from white faces. It came to a point where some Caucasians wanted to be like blacks, the people that they slaved, the innocent people they tortured because of the color of their skin. I can imagine a colored person looking into a Caucasians eyes and torturing them with a stare while on that unknown stage, thinking to themselves, yet wanting to scream it out “we made it, we did everything that you told us we would never be able to do”. African Americans broke free from their low self-esteem and became the main highlight in all of our history. Colored people became part of the story that puts America to shame even today, but they conquered slavery and they never lost hope, and as they say “if u believe, you will achieve” and I believe that if colored people were able to escape slavery and become many of the most famous people in the world, that we as the United States with the wide range of knowledge we have, what we can do. Our world has become so divided and independent almost like it’s every man for themselves but what if we got together as a family, not allowing the different colors, faces and styles of clothing to separate us, and make this world a better place for the next generation to come. Let’s not be a slave to materialistic things and break free and sing or dance or write all of our pain away. Freedom is a gift that not everyone has so why are we so unappreciative. I believe we should analyze African Americans during the Harlem Renaissance to show us today how good we have it and how much we lack appreciation for all that we have. How do we use our freedom after it is granted to us? After it is gently placed in our hands? Do we make something out of it, or do we abuse it, because we feel that nobody can take it away? Let’s answer these questions with a different mindset, let’s take our freedom to heart and allow it to make the best of us as did the African Americans. Let’s get on the ark and leave all of our problems in the waters so they can be washed away and start again, let’s make our own New Beginnings.
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.I would like to translate this poem