Category Archives: Langston Hughes

Newsworthy Ties with Cleveland!

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An Alternative Title for this Post:

“Two Films, New Life and a Funeral”

There was a photograph on the front of the Plain Dealer newspaper,

of a man’s funeral being held in Cleveland. It was for the founder of the

company Progressive Insurance, Peter Lewis.

Lewis passed away down in Coconut Grove, Florida and the services

and funeral were held up here in Ohio. He died on November 23, 2013,

a man who was a billionaire and had given over $500 million dollars to

numerous charities, the three main, renowned ones being Case Western

Reserve and Princeton Universities, along with the ACLU.

Peter Lewis was buried in a simple pine casket with his black Stetson on

top of it. He had waited until September, this year, to marry his longtime

lady friend and partner, during his later years who he loved dearly.  The

essence of this report of his death is to tell you that this Jewish man, Peter

Lewis, held high regards for the rights of people of all backgrounds in our

country. His proof was in his support for the agency that can either be

sneered upon or praised. He chose philanthropic projects that served and

added to peoples’ lives. He wanted workers’ rights to receive a lot of his

financial support, even at the “expense” of losing some of his valuable clients.

Mr. Peter Lewis’ memorial service was peppered with others who declared his

outspoken, kind and humorous nature, held at the Temple Tifereth Israel on

University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio.

Such praiseworthy descriptions for the deceased, were given, that anyone would

wish to be remembered in such a manner:

“A loving father” and an “ethical leader.” The family flying in the “Untouchables,”

a jazz band, who played and filled the air along the Cleveland streets during the

procession from the memorial service to the gravesite:

“When the Saints Go Marching In…”

There were a few people interviewed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer who said, Peter Lewis

had acted as “saint” in his 80 year lifetime.

Another photograph that caught my eye, was of Kevin Costner. Sorry, men! I

am sure that you know we, women, cannot resist his “charms!” Anyway, there

were a group of attractive people gathered in a local watering hole. The movie,

“Draft Day” will be released in April, 2014. It is a fun movie that any Cleveland

Browns’ fans will love and a story that is fictional. It is about the Browns having

a General Manager played by Kevin Costner, joined with the beautiful actress,

Jennifer Garner and witty Denis Leary. The Cleveland Brown alums will also

be exciting to view, with legends, Jim Brown and Bernie Kosar. The Lionsgate

movie was filmed around Greater Cleveland area. This will be all about the

NFL draft, coming out a month before the NY drafting process  begins.

In 1961, a Clevelander Langston Hughes wrote a play about an African American

celebration of Christ’s birth. He entitled his play, “Black Nativity.” I am proud

and excited that this play has been annually performed and celebrated around

the U.S. by varied groups but its origin from Cleveland’s poet, playwriter and

novelist is important to bring people up to date in that there is a movie being

shown now based on this play. “Black Nativity” has Forest Whitaker, Angela

Bassett, Jennifer Hudson and Mary J. Blige in the cast. It has been not well

received by critics, but will be worth seeing by the people I believe due to

the beautiful music and meaningful message. There is a teenager who has

been acting up in it, asks his grandmother this question. A line that is being

attributed to the original play goes like this:

“How do you keep your faith when so many bad things happen?”

Her wonderful and powerful, but so simple answer was,

“God’s grace is all around you.”

An exciting and happy news event occurred at the Cleveland Metroparks

Zoo: Announcing the rare birth of a Giant Anteater! It is their first to

be born here in Cleveland, in our Rainforest exhibit.

This occurred on Monday November 25, 2013. The “baby” is less than

2 pounds and is being closely guarded and protected by its mother.

The sex will be hard to determine for awhile. The proud mother, “Pica,”

will be having this baby clinging onto her, almost appearing like a

marsupial in its infant appearance. She is 13 years old.

Travis Vineyard, the zoo’s animal curator, tells a few facts about these

animals.

Anteaters are insectivores, or bug eaters. (Myrmecophaga tridactyla).

Hey, does that last word sound like a dinosaur? Well, they are one of

the oldest animals… The females can weigh as much as 80 lbs.,

while the males can weigh as much as 100 lbs. Their origin is from

South or Central America.

Another interesting fact that I learned about the reason why these are

challenging creatures to take care of, they have a slurry or flurry or

slushy concoction that appears as a milkshake made of tiny pellets and bugs.

The zoo now does not have to blend this up on the premises, but a company

out there produces these and sells them.

So, there are always things happening in Cleveland and I was happy to give

you a few ‘ties that bind’ me to this place on Lake Erie, Ohio!

Famed Author’s Home Up for Sale

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For a mere sum of $85,000, you can purchase the home of famed

playwright, poet and author, Langston Hughes. It has been recently

renovated but still has the beauty of an older home, including the

third floor attic garret, where Langston, in his high school years would

sleep, write and create. This is located in Cleveland, Ohio where the

area is being kept up like the old neighborhoods in Columbus, like

German Village or Victorian Village. These are the side streets that

people drive down to see Christmas lights on. The homey type of

neighborhood where you may be content or like Langston, may want

to flee from.

His home, at 2266 East 86th, was along the bus route to Central High

School and Karamu House, an internationally acclaimed centerpiece

of plays, dramatic arts and dance productions, featuring varied cultures

and backgrounds. This is known also as the “oldest African-American

theater in the United States.” This is where Langston Hughes would

premiere many of his plays.

Born James Mercer Langston Hughes in 1902 and passing away in1967,

Hughes contributed greatly to the writing community and especially,

helping the world to recognize the talents of African-Americans.

Although Hughes was well known for writing to represent his racial

background, he had Caucasian, African American and Native American

roots.

He was originally from Missouri, later in his junior high years moving to

live with his mother and stepfather in Cleveland, Ohio. This is where the

home is on sale.

Langston Hughes graduated from Central High School, honed some of

his creative writing skills at Karamu House. He then moved on to become

one of the first writers (innovators) to form what is considered the Harlem

Renaissance era (1920- 1930’s) in New York. His journals of short stories,

poems and social commentary began under the roof here in Cleveland.

Langston Hughes’ heritage was of two great-grandmothers who were

African-American slaves and two great-grandfathers who were Kentucky

land and slave owners. Hughes is known for the origin of writing a form

of poetry called, “jazz poetry.” He has a lovely lyrical and rhythmic style

that contributed to the annals of black poetry, being included in many

high school literature textbooks. Hughes was “ahead of his time,” in my

opinion. He had already died when I was exposed to his writing in the

70’s and our literature teacher had us reading his poetry aloud, so we

could listen to its lyrical “notes.”

This is how I came across his writing and was aware of Langston Hughes.

One of his more famous poems is titled,

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers

“My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I danced in the Nile when I was old

I built my hut by the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi and Abe Lincoln went

down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen the muddy bosom turn all

golden in the sunset.”

(1920)

Hughes attended one year of engineering school at Columbia, but dropped

out. He felt the weight of prejudice upon him and his true calling of writing

pulling him away from his studies.

Here is a beautiful example of Hughes’ poems:

“The night is beautiful

So the faces of my people.

The stars are beautiful,

So the eyes of my people.

Beautiful, also, is the sun

Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.”

From the poem, “My People,” (1923).

The realtor, Sherry M. Callahan, said there has been an offer or bid on the

house, from an aspiring writer who may be hoping to have inspiration come

from the walls of this author’s home. There is a nice fireplace to sit by, write

and soak in the ambiance. It could be claimed by a historical group or a

person seeking to have a tour stop for visitors to Cleveland, too.

This house includes a “page out of literary history,” Sherry noted.

Do you need a place to find your “muse?”

Safe world vs. protected and insular one

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I was on my way to work while enjoying the banter between two

local radio cohosts, Dino and Stacy. I honestly have seen Dino

Tripodis, out and about, also at the Children’s Hospital fundraisers.

The music is always easy listening on Sunny 95 (94.7). Their choice

of subject matter may make you “cringe.” Dino is frankly a great

late night comedian at the Funny Bone located at Easton Towne

Center, Columbus, Ohio.

Dino is Greek, he mentions this a lot. He is dark, attractive and I

would term him, “swarthy looking.” A dapper dresser when  a host at

fundraisers and I think most people would find him a tad ‘raunchy’

(dare I say, “potty mouthed?”) when performing as a comedian. Sorry,

but  who isn’t when they are entertaining a night crowd of drinking

adults at a comedy club?

Dino made his opening introduction of the “call in” topic of the day:

“How does your workplace do in their handling controversial

subjects?”

Dino’s first three examples may offend you but they were meant

to open discussions and receive more call ins. One example of

bigotry Dino explained happened to him, “Hey, exactly what ethnic

group are you a member of?” Dino said there was no preamble or

lead in lines, either. Just jumping right in.

His next one was aimed at a fellow coworker who had brought in

his own family specialty. Dino overheard someone coming into the

radio station, saying,

“Hey, who is cooking that smelly food?”

Last example given, was asked of a friend while they were

walking together around the Columbus Jazz and Ribfest,

“Are you black or are you Indian?”

These are ‘cringe worthy’ comments. I think that sometimes

the people know they are politically incorrect and proceed

to aim them, with some kind of animosity. But, on the other hand,

sometimes they may be just plain ignorant of social norms. In this

case, they need to start moving in a wider circle and embracing

more differences in their lives!

I am appalled to tell you that my third grade grandson, Skyler, was

walking in for his first day of school with his stepdad and little

brother, Micah. A classmate came up to him, while they were both

trying to find their lockers. They had been given for the first time,

the number of a “big kid” locker and Mike and Micah had dropped

back a few paces to allow the learning experience to unfold. This

boy asked him the following question, really truly…

“Is your Dad black or is he one of those terrorist groups?”

Skyler blinked a few times, looked up at his stepdad and with a

whole lot of moxie and so much intelligence, answered,

“Hi Jacob, this is my stepdad, Mike. Actually, he is half black and half

white, his son is my brother. My biological Dad is white. I call my

stepdad, “Dad” when I am around him.”

When my children were little, I made a point as my parents had

done before for my brothers and me, to introduce many cultures

including their foods. I found my son to be the one who enjoyed

the spices in curried chicken, who loved the sardines and different

fish from cans. My father had introduced us to gefilte fish with his

good friends, the Lezbergs. We liked going to their unusual house

that had a two story atrium where birds flew around and lizards

crawled. The children became our friends and we had the great

experience of seeing the eldest son’s Bar Mitvah in their synagogue.

Dad, in fact, at NASA, had another coworker who was named

Samuel Palmer, who introduced him to pigs’ feet, corn “pone” and

black-eyed peas, bringing home some of Samuel’s wife’s homemade

Southern family dishes for us to try, too. We ended up being one of

only three white families at their daughter’s wedding.

While in California, Dad really enjoyed the Chinese food he had

discovered in Chinatown and tried buffets where the selection was

fantastic. He would call home, just to hear that we were having hot

dogs, salad and mac ‘n cheese. Mom said it bothered her more when

he was eating steak and lobster, since she missed “surf and turf” more.

While traveling we would try Japanese food, watching the fascinating

Chef/servers with their sharp knives chopping the vegetables and

meats up. The strange treats of chocolate covered ants and crickets

were given us, without much fanfare. We liked the sweet and sour

sauces and eventually the spicy General Tso’s sauce, too.

Living a life full of plain mashed potatoes, corn and chicken, one

of my ex-husbands loved his time in Japan. He learned to immerse

himself on weekends in the culture. He spent time getting off the

base and participating in local theatre, trips up gorgeous mountains,

exploring and sightseeing. He discovered beautiful gardens, special

museums and worship places where they took part in spiritual

ceremonies like churches.

This surprised him when he would inquire of his fellow Air Force

buddies if they would like to join him. There were few who were

interested in venturing out. He mentioned to me, on one of our

early dates,

“I felt alive while exploring more there than in our own country.

Somehow, a little “risk” and becoming involved in a different part

of the world, made it even more exciting than his past vacation

experiences.

Back to the subject of parenting, my youngest daughter, some

may have read that I chose to raise her on her own. When she

started to get curious, she would have her “real” Dad come and

visit.

Mainly her sources of love and father role models were her two

uncles and her grandfather.

Her stepfather, having an Irish name, had more of a tan complexion

and coal black hair, along with dark brown eyes. He was often asked

where his coloring came from, he would say his mother’s side of the

family. He could have said, there are also “black Irish,” too.

In Spain and France, located in  the Pyranees Mountains, a group

lighter skinned and blonde ancestors were supposed to originate.

While in Mexico, one of the students on our Spanish Club trip, got

a lot of attention. Gina was blonde and blue eyed. While in Spain,

a year later, she was not accosted as often nor called, “muy bonita

Senorita!” as often, due to this strange fact that there are blonde

inhabitants more in the Northern region.

Recently, a friend of mine who was raised on a farm, confided that

her family wasn’t very open minded sometimes. In her lifetime, she

could remember her Dad using the word “n—— rigged” when he

would take two parts and try to connect without any connection

or meaning “making do.” She also mentioned that her Granny used

the name with “n” in it to talk about in those days,people who my

family was still using “colored” people or “folks.”

We did advance to the seventies, where my Mom introduced in her

English classroom modern “Black Literature.” Her curriculum

included books like , “Black Like Me,” by John Howard Griffin,

(written in 1961.)

Other famous writers during those times were James Baldwin, Toni

Morrison and Langston Hughes. While Mom assigned these to her

high school students, the books were given to us on our family

bookshelf for summer reading.

When my middle brother, Randy read John Steinbeck’s “The Pearl”

and his fourth grade teacher, Miss Root, doubted he really read it.

Even after hearing his book report this was challenged.  With some

fierceness in her approach, my Mom went in to back him up on this.

Books open many peoples’ lives and give them dreams, along with

knowledge of other cultures and the world, too.

My discussion started with the impetus or spark of a controversial

radio show this morning. It continued to “fester” and include some

‘close to home’ examples. Then, it became how families need to

evolve sometimes to meet the challenge of our multicultural

environment.

The gifts to our children and grandchildren can include tasting a

variety of foreign foods. A new lease on life can be found in all the

wonderful festivals that surround us. It may involve visiting some

museums around that feature culture in many dimensions of the

word.

All Fine Art Museums include international art. There are examples

of cultural artifacts, tapestries and sculptures. In Columbus, Ohio

our art museum is totally free on Sundays! (There is a donation

box but no one pressures anyone on these family days!)

History or Science Museums can open doors to a variety of unique

and fascinating subjects. The subject of nature and its exploration

was mentioned in my last post, so no need to go to that as a way

to widen little ones’ horizons.

I love this simple old fashioned comment,

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

It is so much deeper than I thought it meant. Especially,  when it

includes changing and accepting more exciting worlds than your

own back yard! By opening your doors, you may just open your

children or grandchildren’s ways of thinking, too.

And that is a “gain” no one can put a price tag on…