Local foundation celebrates African-American poet

UNA Opera’s choir sings at “Portrait of Langston” at Norton Auditorium Feb. 16. “Dr. (Terrance) Brown did a fantastic job organizing the choir together,” said freshman Preston Burks. “They sounded really great.”

The Florence branch of the Walk With Me Foundation performed a tribute to Langston Hughes through visual art entitled “Portrait of Langston” at Norton Auditorium Feb. 16.

Hughes was an African-American poet and was a contributor to the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s.

The performance included reading of Langston Hughes’ most famous poems, including “Silver Rain” and “Danse Africaine.”

Eleanor McClellan, member of the board of directors for the Walk With Me Foundation, said the foundation’s mission is to preserve culture through arts.

“We decided that Langston Hughes was not only important to the American poetic dream during the Harlem Renaissance, but also his passionate words about keeping the dream inspired us (to perform in his tribute),” McClellan said.

Children from Kilby Laboratory School and W.A. Threadgill Primary School, UNA students and community members attended the performance.

Both McClellan and Terrance Brown, assistant professor of music, recited Hughes’ works.

The elementary students in the audience giggled as Brown recited Hughes’ words in his deep voice: “the low beat of the tom-toms, the slow beat of the tom-toms,” he recited from “Danse Africaine.”

The performance also included an opera choir that freshman Preston Burks said was his favorite part of the event.

“Dr. Brown did a fantastic job organizing the choir together,” Burks said. “They sounded really great.”

The choir performed a piece of Hughes’ poem “Dream.” The lyrics said, “Hold fast to the dream, for if dreams die, life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.”

Additionally, the performance featured a flutist, pianist and clarinetist who performed composer Valerie Coleman’s interpretations of Hughes’ poems.

“Any time is a good time to celebrate Langston Hughes, but especially in Black History Month because he’s such a significant part of the poetic movement in America,” Burks said.