f

Get in on this viral marvel and start spreading that buzz! Buzzy was made for all up and coming modern publishers & magazines!

Fb. In. Tw. Be.

Donate Now            Our Story           Our Team            Contact Us             Shop

Langston Hughes And The River In Which My Lineage Flows

In Langston, I found that my own soul can grow deep and stretch throughout time and space. With Langston, I swim alongside our heritage. 

By Darby James Davis 

“I’ve known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the river”

“The Negro Speaks of Rivers” by Langston Hughes

Rivers are ever-flowing passages of time. From the banks of the Nile to the delta of the Mississippi, Blackness and our traditions have ebbed and flowed within their depths and danced around their shores, ensuring our lineage is carried through them. I was nine years old when I was baptized in the river flowing from Langston Hughes. Filled with dreams of moving from the South and taking on the “big city” known as New York, I expressed one day that I had an interest in writing. My grandmother gave me an inquisitive look, searching my eyes until her lips grew into a small grin and asked me if I had ever heard of the Harlem Renaissance. I gave her a look of utter confusion. I was already familiar with the Renaissance that took place in Europe centuries ago, but I never knew one happened in this country. This made the idea of living in New York become more exciting and necessary to me. What better place to be an artist than the city that held a significant cultural rebirth of Black artistic expression?

Later, she gave me a book titled “The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes”;  a knowing smile adorning her face as I stared at the book, confused. Who is Langston Hughes? Is he a part of this Harlem Renaissance? In a house where the importance of Blackness permeated through the walls, I knew this man was important to Black people in some way. Curiosity guided my hand to open this book of collected poems and when my eyes landed on the first title, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, my spirit knew. This man, with his talk of ancient rivers and Mississippi singing, this writer was like me. I began to inhale the language of every page; each word energized my imagination to dream and create stories for my people. Our people.

The only time I placed the book down was when I went down to the kitchen after being summoned by my grandmother. As we snapped peas and peeled potatoes, I told her about what I read in Langston’s poems and how much he talked about Black people and the stories of Harlem and that one day I wanted to write like him. “You will Darby” was her amused response as she guided me to the stove to complete the next step in our meal. My journey with Langston had begun.

“Well son, I’ll tell you:

Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”

– “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes

Harlem is a place where magic flows through the cracks and seeps into the people who dare to dream and wander in its depths. The birthplace of one the most artistic expressions of Black culture in the 20th century, Harlem carries a lineage that continues to inspire and impact those of us who honor the legacy born in its streets and remind us of the power in which our lineage flows.

Recommended: BLACK POETRY AND BLACK RAGE FOR GIOVANNI MELTON

It was a hot summer day when I was reminded of my own.

A fresh college graduate with a degree in theatre, I found myself in a deep depression. I had accomplished moving to New York and becoming an actor, received awards and a highly sought-after scholarship, and yet I was poor, nearly homeless, with little security to keep me afloat. I feared that I was on the verge of drowning with no lifeguard in sight. In one impulsive decision, I walked from my uncle’s apartment on the East Side to the West side of Harlem; the sun fueling each step and Prince’s “Baby I’m A Star” played in constant repetition through my earphones. His lyrics were the mantra that held my head up high. I arrived, unknowingly yet purposely, at the Schomburg Center.

A research library created by the prolific Arturo Schomburg, this place became a sanctuary for me as it not only held precious literature and difficult-to-find texts, but was also the home of the American Negro Theatre and keeper of the Langston Hughes ashes. Here, I hear my ancestors speak. Unbeknownst to me, it was the 75th anniversary of the American Negro Theater. I raced to the exhibit. I knew I needed to be here. I needed to witness images of young Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; to see Harry Belafonte and Sidney at the start of their journeys; to revel in the space where Alice Childress’s writings came to life. This is why my feet guided me to this place.

Inside I met a woman who was just as excited as I was and decided to walk on the stage, wanting to take on the magic of those who once created here before us. The first words she uttered were “Well son, life for me ain’t been no crystal stair” and we both froze. Immediately. I knew those words. I once inhaled them as a child. She turned to me and something is telling her to speak the poem to me and as she did, I knew. Here, in the building where Langston’s ashes lay, where Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis acted, where Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka danced, my ancestors were telling me, urging me, to move forward. Reminding me of the artistic lineage I was born into with Langston’s words guiding my way once again. Here they told me I would not drown, but swim.

“Beautiful, also, is the sun.

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

– “My People” by Langston Hughes

It was a Black queer man who first told me that my entire being was beautiful. From my face to my spirit, I am beautifully and wonderfully created—like the stars in the night sky. It was a Black Queer who urged a Black queer child to hold on to his dreams so they may not die, to walk on steps no matter how unstable they may seem. For the life of a Black Queer artist on a colonized land may be rough, but there is also fulfillment and to honor ourselves, our people, we must acknowledge beauty, the blues, the explosions, and joy we possess.

Recommended: WE DON’T NEED WHITE BOOKS IN BLACKFACE

In Langston, I found that my own soul can grow deep and stretch throughout time and space. With Langston, I swim alongside our heritage. 

“So boy, don’t you turn back.

 Don’t you set down on the steps

Cause you find it kinder hard.

Don’t you fall now-

For I’se still goin, honey

I’se still climbing

And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair”

Darby James Davis (he/him/his) is an interdisciplinary theatre artist and writer based in NYC. He received his degree in Acting at Fordham University where he is also a recipient of the Denzel Washington Endowment Scholarship. Darby’s work is based in the subjectivity of the Black Queer experience and Southern Black American traditions. 

You don't have permission to register