Colleen’s Coming Attractions – “Renaissance – The Nora White Story,” by Yecheilyah Ysrayl

Learn more about Renaissance in Colleen’s Feature of my soon to be release. As stated I am still away from the blog but I will be re-blogging any guest posts or interviews as they come in. Introduce Yourself will also continue to go out on Mondays so be sure to stay tuned for a chance to meet some amazing authors in our Indie community.

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Capturing the Good in Harlem

 

Yes indeed, twins make history again. Meet Marvin and Morgan Smith, painters who focused on capturing the positive side of Harlem during the decline of the Harlem Renaissance and the birth of The Great Depression.

“During the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s, Harlem spread itself before the cameras of Morgan and Marvin Smith like a great tablecloth, and eagerly they went about devouring what it had to offer.”

– Gordon Parks Sr.

We often discuss the writers of the movement and the musicians while the artists are often left out. Names like Kwame Brathwaite, Aaron Douglass, Lois Jones, and Morgan and Marvin Smith, are not as well known.

Morgan (right) and Marvin (left) Smith were born on February 16, 1910 in Nicholasville, Kentucky. The boys found a talent for art but wouldn’t pursue it much until the sharecropping family moved to Lexington in the late 1920s. Here Morgan and Marvin attended Dunbar High School, the only Black High School in Lexington at the time, and developed further their artistic abilities. They worked with oil paintings and sculptors until eventually, cameras.

In 1933, Morgan and Marvin graduated High School and pursued their art full time. However, Kentucky at the time provided little to no support for the young men and as I imagine, they could not grow in the way that they wished. They moved to Cincinnati with hope of a better future but not finding opportunities there, decided to move on to New York.

Marvin and Morgan

When they arrived to Harlem the twins did manual labor for the WPA or Works Progress Administration and took art lessons from Augusta Savage (another sculptor of the Harlem Renaissance) at her studio. Through Savage the twins became connected with the 306 Group, a collective of African American artists who worked and socialized together in Harlem, New York in the 1930s. The name of the group came from the address of a studio space, 306 W. 141st Street, used by two of the artists, Charles Alston and Henry Bannarn.

Marvin and Morgan became acquainted with prominent figures through Savage but it wasn’t until 1937 when the twins really came into the public’s eye when Morgan won an award for his photo of a boy playing.

Awwue!

After 1937, the twins decided to focus their attention on the  community of Harlem overall. Their interest was in capturing the good instead of the bad. With the stock market crash of 1929 and The Great Depression smacked down in the middle, there was plenty to complain about, I am sure, and much of the glitter and glam of the Harlem Renaissance had begun to fade. People weren’t as interested in Black culture and art during these tough times which brings Marvin and Morgan into focus.

They look more alike as old men than they did when they were younger…or is it just me??

Over the next 40 years with their paint brushes and cameras, the brothers would record what remained, refusing to document anything negative. What’s cute is that the brother’s married identical twin sisters on the same day and three years later both divorced on the same day. They would die exactly ten years apart, Morgan smith at 83 and Marvin at 93. I am happy to see that they both lived full lives.

The 306 Group

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The artists of the 306 W. 141st Street WPA Art Center. Back row, left to right: Add Bates; unidentified; James Yeargans; Vertis Hayes; Charles Alston; Sollace Glenn; unidentified; Elba Lightfoot; Selma Day; Ronald Joseph; Georgette Seabrooke; ——— Reid. Front row, left to right: Gwendolyn Knight; unidentified; Francisco Lord; unidentified; unidentified.
© Morgan and Marvin Smith. Reproduction from the Photographs and Prints Division, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundation, http://iraas.columbia.edu/wpa/introartists.html

Black History Fun Fact Friday – 5 Harlem Renaissance Women You Probably Don’t Know

If you’re anything like me, you get tired of the same repeated history. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Langston Hughes, and Zora Neale Hurston. These are names to which we are exceptionally familiar. They were great but we know them. Let’s talk about something else.

Admittedly, I didn’t have a lot of time on my hands this week so I decided to compile a list of women who took part in The Harlem Renaissance to which we aren’t too familiar for this week’s fun fact. Enjoy.

Dorothy West

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The daughter of a freed slave, the only child of Isaac and Rachel West, Dorothy West’s father built a fruit and vegetable business that provided the family a more affluent life among Boston’s middle class. Nicknamed “The Kid” by Langston Hughes and sharing an apartment with Zora Neale Hurston, Dorothy West was a young member of the Harlem Renaissance. Not yet 20 in 1926 when her short story ”The Typewriter” won a prize from the Urban League’s Opportunity magazine, Dorothy moved to Harlem and joined the poets, novelists, musicians and other artists.

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

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When I first came across Alice I kept trying to figure out what was so familiar about her name. It wasn’t until I researched her that it became apparent. She was once married to Paul Lawrence Dunbar before they separated in 1902. Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to mixed-race parents. Documented as African American, Anglo, Native American, and Creole, her works cover the complex subjects of race, ethnicity, and oppression. Her first book, Violets and Other Tales (1895), was published when she was just 20. A writer of short stories, essays, and poems, Dunbar-Nelson was one of the few black female diarists of the early 20th century.

Clarissa Scott Delany

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Clarissa looks as if she was fly back in the day lol.

Born in 1901 in Tuskegee, Alabama Delany is most known for her powerful poem “The Mask”. Dying at an early age (26) she did not contribute many works but still contributed by publishing poetry and journal articles into the newspaper Opportunity. After her young years in Alabama, she was sent to New England where she graduated from Wellesley College in 1923. During Delany’s years at Wellesley, she attended meetings of the Boston Literary Guild. Speakers were featured each week. Delany started writing and gained the attention and became associated with the Harlem Renaissance.

May Miller

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“To read across May Miller’s life is to read across the history of 20th century America.”

– Myra Sklarew

It begins with May’s father, Kelly Miller. Born a year before Emancipation he was the first African American to attend John Hopkins University and among the first blacks to learn to read in public schools. He studied mathematics, physics, and astronomy. His daughter, May Miller was the most widely published playwright of The Harlem Renaissance. Myra writes how May often told about having to give up her childhood room for visits by W.E.B. Du Bois, author of The Souls of Black Folk, and the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. She spoke of visits by Booker T. Washington, Carter G. Woodson, and Alain Locke.

Maria Bonner

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One of four children, Marita Bonner was born in Boston to Joseph Andrew and Mary Anne Bonner. She was raised and educated in Boston, attending Brookline School, where she received musical training and in 1918 she entered Radcliffe College, concentrating in English and comparative literature. In Washington Bonner became closely associated with poet, playwright, and composer Georgia Douglass Johnson, whose “S” Street salon was an important gathering place for many of the writers and artists associated with the New Negro Renaissance of the 1920s better known as The Harlem Renaissance: Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Jessie Fauset, May Miller, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, Willis Richardson, and others. She also began to publish her writing in journals like The Crisis of the NAACP and Opportunity, the official journal of the Urban League. Her first published pieces, “Hands” and “On Being Young-a Woman-and Colored,” appeared in The Crisis in 1925.


Yecheilyah Ysrayl is the YA, Historical Fiction author of eight books most notably, The Stella Trilogy, Blogger, and Poet. She is currently working on her next book series “The Nora White Story” about a young black woman writer who dreams of taking part in The Harlem Renaissance movement and her parents struggle to accept their traumatic past in the Jim Crow south. “Renaissance: The Nora White Story (Book One)” is due for release July 15-16, 2017. For updates on this project, sneak peeks of other projects, nuggets and tidbits, video tutorials, writing inspiration, and more, be sure to follow this blog and to subscribe to Yecheilyah’s email list HERE.

Movie Night Friday – Harlem Nights

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I know yall were hoping I forgot about Movie Night Friday, nope! lol. So, today’s pick is Harlem Nights.

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Whenever I am in the mood for some real laughter I have to put this in, by far one of Eddie Murphy’s best to date, which is kind of ironic sense I think it won the worst directors award or something. I want to watch it just thinking about it.

Harlem Nights (’89) was written, executive produced, and directed by Eddie Murphy, who also starred in the movie alongside Richard Pryor. After a young Quick (Murphy) shoots a man trying to play Sugar Ray (Pryor) in a dice game, Ray decides to raise Quick as his own son when he discovers both his parents are dead.

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Having discovered just how much money the men are bringing in, Ray comes home to find a stranger in his home looking for the owner of the club. Calhoun has sent a corrupt detective, Phil Cantone, to threaten Ray with shutting the club down unless Calhoun gets a cut. Ray uses the wisdom of his old age to decide it may be best to shut down and move to a different location. But the young and fiery Quick on the other hand is not to be ran away by anyone. Nonetheless, Father and Son must make a decision and time is running out.

The film also features Michael Lerner, Danny Aiello, Redd Foxx, Della Reese, and Murphy’s brother Charlie Murphy.

Movie Trailer:

Funny Movie Mistakes:

In the opening scene when the guys are shooting craps, Little Quick shoots the large man squarely between the eyes. The man wasn’t looking downward and it would have been impossible for a 4 foot tall kid to shoot a 6 foot tall man at that angle squarely in the forehead.

LOL!

Pop Quiz:

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In what other movie did this kid act in that I featured in another Movie Night Friday post? Comment below if you know!

Spoken Words for Silent Wars

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I speak for the people in places where hope

hangs its strings in the crack filled streets of Harlem
where iron style floors and bronze heavens

are polluted with “I told you so’s”
morgues loitered with toy soldiers

who died believing

defending a street corner

was keeping it real