Langston Hughes, a well-known poet associated with the Harlem Renaissance, was featured in a poetry reading presented by the Literature Committee of the department of English and philosophy. The event captured the attention of students and faculty throughout the university. Peter Olson, a lecturer at University of Wisconsin–Stout, along with his fellow colleagues on the Literature Committee, hosted the Langston Hughes Poetry Reading on Thursday, Nov. 30, in the Robert S. Swanson Library at 4:30 p.m. “I’ve always been interested in African-American Literature, and that led my interest in Langston Hughes,” said Olson.
At the beginning of the event, Olson gave a synopsis of who Langston Hughes was and previewed many of his works, as well as giving an overview of the Harlem Renaissance. “A year ago, I was having a casual conversation with Dr. Virginia Lea about Ragtime, both the book and film, and soon that sparked a conversation about Langston Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance,” said Olson.
Virginia Lea is a huge contributor of the Hegemony Project, and is also an associate professor of multiculturalism here at UW-Stout. The Hegemony Project is a research community that is shared amongst themselves and the general public. Many of their research topics are of race, color, categorization and other topics of social justice and equity. To check out the Hegemony Project, you can look it up through the Stout webpage or online.
After Olson’s synopsis of the topic, Virginia and American percussionist Babatunde Lea highlighted what Langston Hughes did and who he was as an artist. Their presentation included clips of [Langston Hughes’] works and how he influenced art, and at the end of the slideshow they played a empowering video called “Make AMERICA Again,” which was based off of Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again.”
Babatunde plays percussion for Afro-Cuban jazz and Worldbeat. His art is heavily influenced by jazz from the Harlem Renaissance. “The creators of jazz and jazz itself is a big part of my life,” said Babatunde, “It’s been my life. I’ve been playing for over 50 years. Jazz is very spiritual; jazz is the fabric of your life; jazz for me is history, it’s the wind in my sails. It’s what pushes me forward.” Babatunde has played with many jazz artists throughout his lifetime and is a true advocate for the history and soul of jazz.
As the formal presentation ended, students and faculty came forward with readings of their own. “As the readings were happening, I personally thought a lot of them were very well read and presented,” said Olson. Each reading was a reminder of who Langston Hughes was as an artist.
The Literature Committee promotes literature and serves as a source of current information of literature practices, pedagogies and theories; they do this through outreach, course offerings and involvement in the curriculum. They host events every semester and enjoy the involvement throughout our Stout community.
If you want to learn more about the Literature Committee or their events, you can check out them out on the Stout webpage or email Peter Olson.