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Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

17/05/2017

“It is not the honor that you take with you, but the heritage you leave behind.” Branch Rickey

Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

Heritage by Countee Cullen via AllPoetry.com
What is Africa to me:
Copper sun or scarlet sea,
Jungle star or jungle track,
Strong bronzed men, or regal black
Women from whose loins I sprang
When the birds of Eden sang?
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree, Contd Below

What does Heritage look like to you? Our heritage is both our ancestral legacy and the lens through which we view and claim our world. It includes the spoken and the unspoken narratives of our lives, the visual, the musical, our literature, language and all our histories meshed into a universe we create inside … and outside.

 

 

“Our heritage and ideals, our code and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.” Walt Disney
Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

What is Africa to me?
So I lie, who all day long
Want no sound except the song
Sung by wild barbaric birds
Goading massive jungle herds,
Juggernauts of flesh that pass
Trampling tall defiant grass
Where young forest lovers lie,
Plighting troth beneath the sky.
So I lie, who always hear,
Though I cram against my ear
Both my thumbs, and keep them there,
Great drums throbbing through the air.
So I lie, whose fount of pride,
Dear distress, and joy allied,
Is my somber flesh and skin,
With the dark blood dammed within
Like great pulsing tides of wine
That, I fear, must burst the fine
Channels of the chafing net
Where they surge and foam and fret.

Africa? A book one thumbs
Listlessly, till slumber comes.
Unremembered are her bats
Circling through the night, her cats
Crouching in the river reeds,
Stalking gentle flesh that feeds
By the river brink; no more
Does the bugle-throated roar
Cry that monarch claws have leapt
From the scabbards where they slept.
Silver snakes that once a year
Doff the lovely coats you wear,
Seek no covert in your fear
Lest a mortal eye should see
What’s your nakedness to me?
Here no leprous flowers rear
Fierce corollas in the air;
Here no bodies sleek and wet,
Dripping mingled rain and sweat,
Tread the savage measures of
Jungle boys and girls in love.
What is last year’s snow to me,
Last year’s anything? The tree
Budding yearly must forget
How its past arose or set—
Bough and blossom, flower, fruit,
Even what shy bird with mute
Wonder at her travail there,
Meekly labored in its hair.
One three centuries removed
From the scenes his fathers loved,
Spicy grove, cinnamon tree, Contd below

Countee Cullen was born and raised in New York and started writing poetry at the age of 14. He had a keen imagination and was adept at writing about his observances, as a young black man, of 20th century American life. He was a key member of the Harlem Renaissance and won awards for his powerful poetry. He attended NYU and Harvard University and published 4 books of poetry. His writings dealt with issues of race, heritage, loss, beauty, and the complexities of romance and life. His first book of poetry – Color “celebrated black beauty and deplored the effects of racism” and received a lot of praise and attention. Heritage is taken from the Color collection. In 1928, Countee Cullen received a Guggenheim Fellowship which allowed him to travel abroad and form new literary friendships. In addition to writing, he taught English, French, and creative writing at Frederick Douglass Junior High School in New York and later wrote for theater in collaborations with with Arna Bontemps. Countee died in 1946 but his works live on in libraries across the country. In 2013, he was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame. Heritage is one of my favorite poems from his body of works and, even though it is a long and vivid piece, I have included it in this post in three parts. Read it and consider what you would include in your personal heritage story. What do we leave out? What do we include?

 

More below


“America’s answer to the intolerant man is diversity – the very diversity which our heritage of religious freedom has inspired.” Robert Kennedy

Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

Photo Challenge: HERITAGE

What is Africa to me?
So I lie, who find no peace
Night or day, no slight release
From the unremittent beat
Made by cruel padded feet
Walking through my body’s street.
Up and down they go, and back,
Treading out a jungle track.
So I lie, who never quite
Safely sleep from rain at night—
I can never rest at all
When the rain begins to fall;
Like a soul gone mad with pain
I must match its weird refrain;
Ever must I twist and squirm,
Writhing like a baited worm,
While its primal measures drip
Through my body, crying, “Strip!
Doff this new exuberance.
Come and dance the Lover’s Dance!”

In an old remembered way
Rain works on me night and day.
Quaint, outlandish heathen gods
Black men fashion out of rods,
Clay, and brittle bits of stone,
In a likeness like their own,
My conversion came high-priced;
I belong to Jesus Christ,
Preacher of Humility;
Heathen gods are naught to me.
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
So I make an idle boast;
Jesus of the twice-turned cheek,
Lamb of God, although I speak
With my mouth thus, in my heart
Do I play a double part.
Ever at Thy glowing altar
Must my heart grow sick and falter,
Wishing He I served were black,
Thinking then it would not lack
Precedent of pain to guide it,
Let who would or might deride it;
Surely then this flesh would know
Yours had borne a kindred woe.
Lord, I fashion dark gods, too,
Daring even to give You
Dark despairing features where,
Crowned with dark rebellious hair,
Patience wavers just so much as
Mortal grief compels, while touches
Quick and hot, of anger, rise

To smitten cheek and weary eyes.
Lord, forgive me if my need
Sometimes shapes a human creed.
All day long and all night through,
One thing only must I do:
Quench my pride and cool my blood,
Lest I perish in the flood,
Lest a hidden ember set
Timber that I thought was wet
Burning like the dryest flax,
Melting like the merest wax,
Lest the grave restore its dead.
Not yet has my heart or head
In the least way realized
They and I are civilized.

Over the years, I have collected masks and other pieces from my own African background and from places around the world. African art is dear to me on many levels, first and foremost because it is part of my heritage and the memories I have of their usage at festivals and important rituals means they hold great currency in my personal narrative. Sure, some of the masks lend a certain gravitas to events but they are not all solemn. That said, they offer a sliver of my extensive heritage. What about you?
This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: HERITAGE – This week, share a photo of something that says “heritage” to you. It can be from your own family or culture — a library, a work of public art, a place of worship, an object passed down to you from previous generations. Or, like me, you can choose to focus on a tradition to which you don’t belong, but to which you’ve been exposed whether through travel, moving, or the people in your life. I look forward to seeing your take on this theme!

 

Positive Motivation Tip: Embrace your heritage!

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos from my personal collection

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. Akamatra permalink
    18/05/2017 5:12 am

    This is an impressive collection. Heritage for me comes from the feelings my parents have install in me rather than things, though I do have treasured things too. So probably a combination of the two

    Like

  2. Jane Davidson permalink
    18/05/2017 6:33 am

    Wow this is really insightful. Heritage was a great prompt that really makes you stop and think.

    Like

  3. Jessica Taylor permalink
    18/05/2017 6:37 am

    Great photos! I actually don’t know much about my heritage , but I’d love to learn more.

    Like

  4. 조이 Czjai (@RebelSweetHrt) permalink
    18/05/2017 7:17 am

    Coincidentally, my son and I have just returned from a trip to the Namsangol Hanok Village here in Seoul. It’s one of the more popular tourist attractions here, showcasing traditional houses and how Koreans in the past used to live. 🙂

    Like

  5. DC (@GameOnMom) permalink
    18/05/2017 7:53 am

    Great collection of images. Those masks are so interesting.

    Like

  6. Erin (@FaithFoodFamFun) permalink
    18/05/2017 8:58 am

    Very neat article on Countee Cullen! I had never heard of him so it was neat getting an inside peek into who he is!

    Like

  7. daniella flores permalink
    18/05/2017 9:22 am

    These are some great works of art you have captured. I love ancient works of art!

    Like

  8. Lily@militaryfamof8 permalink
    18/05/2017 9:41 am

    Wow. Such a great heritage you have. Wish i have some collections too in our home.

    Like

  9. Melissa Chapman permalink
    18/05/2017 9:51 am

    Countee Cullen seems like such a special person. I loved those masks you have such a great collection. Those are thoughtful quotes by Rickey and Kennedy.

    Like

  10. Kristy (@Momhatescooking) permalink
    18/05/2017 10:00 am

    Knowing your heritage and where your roots are is so important to passing on your family history. Loved reading your poem!

    Like

  11. Corinne & Kirsty 🌸 (@corinnekirsty) permalink
    18/05/2017 10:59 am

    I didn’t know this poet before. I really enjoyed reading it, although english not being my first language, it was a bit hard for me sometimes. the pictures are great. The quotes before each pictures are great too! will be using them 😉 xx corinne

    Like

  12. Cindy Ingalls permalink
    18/05/2017 11:24 am

    It’s so interesting, I think I pay more attention to my families heritage than the heritage of where we come from. I would love to explore that heritage more.

    Like

  13. Blythe Alpern (@blythea) permalink
    18/05/2017 11:26 am

    I’ve always liked the saying, “You can’t know where going if you don’t know where you came from.” Our heritage definitely plays a role in our lives, which is why it should be celebrated. I’m a huge fan of history and have always wanted to learn more about my family’s heritage.

    Like

  14. Emily permalink
    18/05/2017 12:05 pm

    I really should take the time to look into my cultural background, thank you for sharing yours!

    Like

  15. Kristine Nicole Alessandra VA permalink
    18/05/2017 12:13 pm

    I am proud of my heritage too. Although I was not able to save or keep any object to remind me of it, but I did learn to cook dishes that are distinctively from the place where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents were born and raised. The dishes may have been tweaked a bit (because I could no longer find the same quality ingredients) but it still makes me feel like I was a girl again, eagerly awaiting for my grandmother’s rice cakes to be done.

    Like

  16. Amber permalink
    18/05/2017 12:21 pm

    I am proud of my heritage. I think it’s important to always know about where you came from.

    Like

  17. Shannon Graham permalink
    18/05/2017 1:37 pm

    I guess I view my heritage as something I inherited through past generations of my family. It’s something I can alter and pass on to my kids with my own touch added to it.

    Like

  18. theplaceswetravel permalink
    18/05/2017 2:22 pm

    I love learning about history and the heritage of the places I visit. I also love capturing it in photos.

    Like

  19. Shoshana Sue permalink
    20/05/2017 8:39 am

    Here in South Africa, we have Heritage Day somewhere in September and it really is amazing to see people showing off their heritage. Interesting to read and know about Countee Cullen.

    Like

  20. Gennifer Rose permalink
    20/05/2017 9:45 am

    I recently went on a museum tour at San Francisco’s De Young Museum and we learned about the significance of many African masks. It was really interesting to learn about how integrated they are in the culture.

    Like

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