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A lot of people know Quotable Poet Aberjhani more as the historian co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance than as a poet. That’s probably because libraries all over everywhere have the encyclopedia in their collection and it’s easier to find in bookstores than his novel and poetry books. It was the first encyclopedia published about the Harlem Renaissance and won some serious awards. After it was out for a couple of years, more and more colleges and high schools started doing courses on the Harlem Renaissance and other authors started publishing books about the different individuals and issues covered in the encyclopedia.

It’s not the kind of book most people familiar with Aberjhani as a poet would expect from a quotable poet. One thing about it though is that it’s full of poets and other creative people like him…Gwendolyn Brooks for example and Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, and other diverse writers like Ralph Ellison, Richard Wright, and Zora Neale Hurston. This is the only modern poet I know about who’s done an encyclopedia. But I only found one poem by him about the HR so it’s the final word.

“That the Harlem Renaissance represents one of those rare moments in history when the greater integrity of the human spirit triumphed brilliantly over the lesser impulses of human bigotry and prejudice remains indelibly evident.”
–from introduction to Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance

“The Harlem Renaissance marked a time when African Americans were caught up, so to speak, with the travel bug. They were experiencing mobility. This freedom to travel allowed them to go to different places, and one place they went to was Paris. Once there they were able to experience their lives without having to constantly refer to a sense of repression. They were being allowed to pursue goals as individuals rather than being defined by race.”
–– from Connect Savannah “All that Jazz” cover story by Jim Morekis.

“As much as we already know about the Harlem Renaissance, we are still discovering it and likely will be discovering it for some time. Names and events that were previously overlooked are surfacing every day. And it’s important for us to heed that fact because what W. E. B. Du Bois and Arthur Schomburg pointed out in the last century remains true; namely, that much of what we refer to as Black American history is in fact the history of the United States.”
––from interview with Angela Kinamore (African Voices Magazine)

“Just as the highly successful Harlem Renaissance blossomed out of the innate creative talents of African Americans, so did the crossover triumph of Hip Hop. Just as advances in technology, the growth of the publishing industry, diverse forms of black music, and everyday folk culture provided the Harlem Renaissance with the raw material necessary to achieve prominence, so have corresponding elements propelled Hip Hop to the forefront of global popular culture.”
— from essay Is Hiphop the New Harlem Renaissance

The world's first encyclopedia on the Harlem Renaissance, by Aberjhani and Sandra L. West

The world’s first encyclopedia on the Harlem Renaissance, by Aberjhani and Sandra L. West

“The validity that society affords art and the value that society does or does not place upon the lives of creative artists working in any given medium was very much an issue during the [Harlem] Renaissance and is very much an issue now.”
–from Interview with Angela Kinamore (African Voices Magazine)

“The Charleston and dance in general represent only part of the dynamic explosion of black culture that often had its beginnings in the South and was later popularized in the North as an important element of the Harlem Renaissance. In fact, the literature, music, theatre, visual arts, and politics of the movement drew its creative substance and momentum to no small degree from the lives of black southerners, which often meant black Georgians.”
––from The Harlem Renaissance Way Down South

“I believe and hope that people, especially adolescents and young adults, will be inspired by reading this book. The barriers to personal achievement for young people are so extraordinary these days that I think it’s very important for them to know that others have had to wrestle with similar challenges and risen above them. They need to know that someone like the comedienne Jackie Moms Mabley not only survived being raped twice as an adolescent and having a child from each incident, but that she went on to thrive and become one of the most celebrated entertainers in the world. They need to know that a man like Oscar Micheaux created the legend of his own life by doing for himself rather than waiting for others to do for him, working first as a homesteader (or pioneer farmer) then writing about his struggles, publishing his own life’s story, then creating his own film company to turn his story into a movie, then turned many more stories after that into many more movies. They need to know about the thousands who pursued education and knowledge all their lives not just because it might get them a better job but because education enhanced the greater qualities of their individual character and empowered the convictions of their spiritual intelligence.”
––from Interview with Angela Kinamore (African Voices Magazine)

“That Harlem, New York City, was the living thriving center of the Harlem Renaissance proper is something on which all agree. It is important, however, to acknowledge Savannah, Georgia––along with Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C., London, Paris, and other locations––as one of the cities that made the renaissance an enduring cultural phenomenon instead of just one more interesting moment in history.”
––from The Harlem Renaissance Way Down South

Jazz Harlem Renaissance Baby Doll

Jazz Harlem Renaissance Babydoll
does the music mold your face
like a mask of mink desires
and rainbow butterfly wings
or does your face
shield the heated heart of the music
when your lips diddly-be-bop-sweet
like Ella Fitzgerald swing-singing
back-up and up-front, catching
God’s Coltranic future love supreme
as if making it up yourself?

Jazz Harlem Renaissance Babydoll
I saw your favorite saxophone strip you
naked. And what was love gonna do
except beg to lick those crazy solos
straight off your throat. I saw you
twirl A-flats like swords
on the tip of the tongue of your tears
until E refused to equal Mc squared
and Einstein’s gorgeous silver afro
crackled “Blow your soul-horn Jazz
and don’t you take jive for no answer!
Said swing that horn and take not jive for thine answer!”

Jazz Harlem Renaissance Babydoll
you inhaled seven known planets
and out of your creation came
four billion heavens.
Each time you exhale a star
I recall a previous life
and I comprehend flawlessly
the trigonometric bolts of rhythm
that shoot from your hips to your lips.
Shall we do the be-bop Lindy-hop waltz
and dance Josephine Baker
laughing out of her grave?
Let’s do the be-bop Lindy-hop waltz
diddly-dee diddly-be-bop-too-sweet
and give all these poets something to rhyme about.

by Aberjhani

post by MS/25