Black Male Poetics in America- Today
In an essay titled, “On Black Male Poetics” by Afaa M. Weaver, the question of what is black male poetics is explored throughout using poets such as Langston Hughes, Roberty Hayden, and Jay Wright. As an African-American male, I agree with Weaver for the most part; however, I disagree with what seems to be his motivation behind the piece, which says, “Time has moved on, and if black male poetics is to assume a more manifest place, even as poetry itself is marginalized in exponential leaps in every waking second, then black male poets must explore the beauty of the quality of being human.”
It seems that the power to overcome is always prevalent in the history of African-Americans. Since being brought over to the United States during the slavery trade, the black male has been oppressed, and when one is oppressed how does he define beauty? Racism is still alive and kicking in not only our country, but also all over the world. Langston Hughes dealt with it greatly and the color of his skin had a great influence over his writings.
Today we have our first African-American president, Barack Obama. When he was first elected, many news stations constantly pushed the idea of a post-racial America; however, racism like poverty, that also happens to affect majority of the African-American population of our country, isn’t going anywhere, even almost four decades after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Before I give my opinion on Black Male Poetics, I’d like to ask what has America done for the black male? Affirmative Action has done nothing but show us the black male in America is the underdog and not as well off with education as its white counterpart American. Yes, the poetic tradition figured by racially based political oppression, according to Weaver, is how black poets came to be, but that what being black is all about. You have to go through being discriminated against. You have to be called a nigger (at least once in your life). You have to feel oppressed. There is an unfair and oppressing system set-up so the black male can fail. That is why I disagree with Weaver. The beauty of the quality of being human for the black male poetic comes from the imagination and “the will to live in a world that too often would have us die” as Weaver said.
In my dreams of being a becoming a writer, I do not aspire for greatness. I aspire to inspire. I have the luxury of being able to express myself and express the situations of those I observe in my community. There are stories that need to be listened to, not just heard. For me, as a black male poet in my early stages, that is the beauty of the quality of being human—being able to express yourself.
The evolution of language has crossed over into other genres. Poetry is found in rap and hip-hop today in America. Whether its misogynistic, talking about killings, big chains, bettering the community, improving society, or damning the education system, it is a form of black male poetics because they are expressing the racially driven oppression that Hughes expressed during the Harlem Renaissance years.
Black male poetics for me, is telling it like it is. Rapper Jay-Z says “We ain’t thugs for the sake of just being thugs/ Nobody do that where we grew at, nigga, Duh!/ The poverty line, we not above/ So we come to mask and glove cause we ain’t feeling the love.” This represents black male poetics to me. We are forced into some situations. When the black male poet has his back against a wall that will never disappear, will he write about the quality of being human in an unjust society, or will he continue the legacy of what poets like Hughes started and “encourage” his audience and community?