|Hughes poster, EBR Digital Collection|
While searching through the Eugene B. Redmond African American Cultural Life Digital Collection, one of the most striking and interesting discoveries for me were the roles of St. Louis and East St. Louis played in the furthering of Black Arts. Often when we hear about the Black Arts Movement, places such as Chicago, New York, or even Atlanta come to mind. However, right here, close to home, St. Louis and East St. Louis reveal a cultural wealth of African American music, poetry, and performance.
One poster in particular announces the second annual Langston Hughes St. Louis World Black Poetry Festival. With a bright orange background and bold type, the poster details a myriad of events, celebrating various forms of poetry and African American rhetorical traditions, from rap, to haiku to open-mic readings. These events, to take place over various parts of St. Louis, East St. Louis, and Illinois, offer a chance for people young and old to demonstrate their passion and creativity and to encounter poetry in ways that extend beyond the page.
Too often perhaps, East St. Louis is painted as a grunge and dangerous city, one many wouldn’t suspect as an important historical center for the promotion of black culture. However, it is wonderful to know that is and has been a Black Arts community thriving here, and that there are organizations, festivals, programs and opportunities for our people to get involved.
Related: The EBR Digital Collection