A Black Culture Renaissance!
By Vincent L. Hall
Texas Metro News
This final installment of our Black History Month series relies on the concept that Black Culture was pivotal as we rose from slavery to self-sufficiency. The Black Church, Black Preacher, and Black women laid the foundation, but our culture built the walls. The kidnapped Africans dropped on these shores arrived with social norms and art forms that ranged from ritualistic to spiritualistic. The mind, body, and soul of the same African who tended the cradle of civilization still moors us to a semblance of sanity. The fact that Africans in America in 2021 are not stark raving mad is partly because of our culture of resiliency and our commitment to formal and informal scholarship.
The Black Renaissance period was the pinnacle of that cultural awareness. It’s time for the 2.0 version. Horace Meyer Kallen, a Prussian emigrant, mastered philosophy at Harvard University so well that before being elected president, Woodrow Wilson hired him at Princeton. In 1908, Kallen returned to Harvard and earned a doctorate. While studying at Harvard, Kallen became friends with Alain Locke, the first African American Rhodes Scholar. There were no more until the 1960s. “Cultural pluralism,” according to Kallen, declared that different ethnic groups have enriched the American way of life. As immigrants and native-born citizens learned new cultures, America was fortified.
The art, food, education, history, music, and other differences became assets to the unique national experience. Locke made an appearance as the guest editor in the March 1925 issue of the periodical “Survey Graphic.” He headlined a special edition, ”Harlem, Mecca of the New Negro.” Locke waxed eloquently and effectively on the virtues and communal benefits of the Harlem Renaissance. Cultural pluralism was in full view. December of 1925, saw Locke expand the issue into “The New Negro.” It was a collection of writings by him and other African Americans and it was called the “first national book” of African America.
Locke contributed five essays: the “Foreword,” “The New Negro,” “Negro Youth Speaks,” “The Negro Spirituals,” and “The Legacy of Ancestral Arts.” The New Negro did more than educate the masses about Black culture. Locke’s writings and theories coagulated the diverse and warm-blooded artistic ability of former slaves. He was immediately hailed as the “Father of the Harlem Renaissance.” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy further widened the historical aperture to give us a more vivid snapshot of Locke’s philosophical value and worth. “Locke was a distinguished scholar and educator and during his lifetime an important philosopher of race and culture.
Principal among his contributions in these areas was developing the notion of “ethnic race,” Locke’s conception of race as primarily a matter of social and cultural, rather than biological, heredity.” African Americans continue to suffer from external beliefs that our biology and heredity make us less than. The Harlem Renaissance was important because it proved that we accomplish whatever we desire when we define ourselves and dismiss our naysayers. It is past time for us to prioritize and promote our own creativity and culture. European art, thought and culture cannot be the yardstick for the “Black experience.”
If Henry VIII could have developed gospel, blues, and jazz music, he would have. We can never lose sight of the advantages that our disadvantages have granted us. Lemonade without lemons leaves little to celebrate! The church, the preacher, our women’s strength, and our cultural ancestry serve to reprove our viability on this earth. The 11th and unspoken Commandment of our credo must be that we define ourselves for ourselves. Therefore, the best advice that this writer can give you sums up this Black
History Month series: Stay with the Black church, listen to the preacher, do what your mama tells you and be the best of who you are.