Thursday, April 26, 2007

Free Within Ourselves.

There's a beautiful passage by Langston Hughes that comes to mind as I think about my work and the writing of other Asian American artists:

"...We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn't matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn't matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves. "

And I think these are important words to bear in mind.


Anonymous said...


But that is exactly the problem, self-centered, martyring victimization!!!

(Another point: can you substitute any ethnicity of "white" into "colored" and get anywhere, let alone have it allowed as valid?)

No, not beautiful to me, as it is. Would be beautiful if you stop at the end of the first sentence.

That would make me think of Uhura - and if she isn't a strong, beautiful "colored" (of any version) person, not to mention a fantastic role model, then I don't know who is!


Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you; these words are beautiful and resonates with me deeply.


Thank you so much for sharing this.


Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

Beautiful, and just what I needed today. Thanks for sharing your blog link! I'll add you to my bloglist soon.


bjanepr said...

hi bryan, first i have to say that anonymous' comment perplexes me. specifically, concretely, how is this a "self-centered, martyring victimization"?

this is a reality faced by practitioners of art who are called upon the "represent," as a so-called "voice for the voiceless" of his own community, and simultaneously as an ethnographic representative to others. this is a very concrete situation langston hughes addresses here.

what interests me about this hughes quote is that he is specifically speaking as a "young negro" artist, quite conscious that his readership is both white and black folk, and finally, and perhaps most importantly, as an author, that responses to his work are based upon expectations placed upon him to "represent" a certain way. black readers expect, and white readers expect. and these are racially determined and individually determined.

and you know what else?

these expectations placed - really imposed - upon the author really have little to do with the author himself.

the writer writes what he believes he must write. the writer will never please everybody, and if he were to write in an attempt to please each and every reader, then what terrible sh*t he who write. and how absent from posterity he and his work would be. and that would be a waste of a great writer, to have to pander at the expense of the dilution of his art.