D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

On Harlem

I wanted to do something on a lighter note today (it can feel a bit intense with all of these amazing, deep posts--right?) but my writing well is feeling a bit dry. I thought instead I would just link to an interesting analysis of a current pop culture trend that has gone completely over my head--the Harlem Shake. I thought the author of this piece did a great job of introducing the concept of what happens when we commodify and capitalize on things that we don't fully understand. We tend to think of this as benign and harmless, but it wouldn't hurt for us to think these things through a bit (especially in the age of the viral video).


And in that spirit, I wanted to share a poem I found in the beginning of Marcus Samuelsson's memoirYes Chef. I was interested in Marcus' story--an Ethiopian adoptee, raised in Sweden, schooled in elaborate restaurants around the world, eventually ending up in Harlem. Here's the poem he chooses to start his book with (the poem is anonymous, and is dated to around 1925):


Chant another song of Harlem;
Not about the wrong of Harlem
But about the throng of Harlem,
Proud that they belong to Harlem;
They, the over-blamed of Harlem
Need not be ashamed of Harlem;
All is not ill-famed in Harlem,
The devil, too, is tamed in Harlem.



This poem just makes me so happy. It's an important reminder that these issues of representation have been around for awhile, but it has a certain sense of humor that I find sorely lacking in myself most days. Living in the inner city, I want to sing this song daily (especially too, as we see the ills of the world AND the kingdom coming at the same time). PS: anybody else have some more sort-of activist-y poetry for me to read? There is a deficit in my life I would like to rectify.


In other news, I was rather proud of this piece I wrote for CandPC on bullying, and I am just thrilled about the War Photographer guest post for this  Thursday. And next Monday my very own dear husband will be writing! Exciting times, my friends. So stay tuned, and thanks for reading along.

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