MHC Seminar 1, Professor Casey Henry

Prompt for November 6

Write about how these musical and literary texts (Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool,” Langston Hughes’s “Weary Blues,” and Bobby Womack’s “Across 110th Street”) express representations of physical space—Harlem in particular—and black experience. Or, you may address this topic through your experience visiting the Studio Museum.

1 Comment

  1. preetiprez

    Both poems and the song lyrics depicted the close-knit and busy life in the streets of Harlem.

    The following line from Books poem, “we real cool. we left school. we lurk late”, describes how life is more about the rush and fast life as opposed to the seriousness of committing to a school, job, or a certain task.
    It seems as if there is not a care in the world and the only thing important is to live in the moment.

    Within Womack’s lyrics,
    “I’m not saying what I did was alright
    Trying to break out of the ghetto was a day to day fight”,
    this line to me represents how life in the streets are tough. The pressure of trying to stay in a certain clique or group is high because people depend on one another like family.
    Thus, when trying to leave gangs, some may have difficulty because it may be seen as an act of betrayal, and lead to being a target of potential danger.
    Another verse that spoke out to me was
    “Hey brother, there’s a better way out
    Snorting that coke, shooting that dope man you’re copping out. Take my advice, it’s either live or die
    You’ve got to be strong, if you want to survive”
    There’s a sense of feeling lost and hopeless here, which is why many people here turn to drugs in order to cope.
    Life feels like there is no purpose or worth to many, and thus they start wasting their lives away.
    “Across 110th Street
    You can find it all in the street”
    This line depicts Harlem as a small space with so much going on: Women lurking, men preying, druggies searching and dealing. It’s a busy street yet speaks truly about Harlem culture.

    Lastly in Hughes poem,
    “Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
    Ain’t got nobody but ma self.

    This line represents proof that although we are surrounded by people each and every day, in the end, we are ultimately depending on ourselves to see the next day. People break trust, go behind your back, and make empty promises. Thus, the realization that a person only has his or herself, marks the point of understanding one of the harsh realities of life.

    Thus, through these three texts describing the black experience, we can comprehend that there’s more than average daily struggles in the lives of those living in Harlem.

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