August 24, 2016; Chicago Crusader
Nearly a thousand people have responded to a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to save the former East Harlem home of legendary poet Langston Hughes from gentrification, restoring the building and transforming it into an arts collective. More than $61,000 has already been raised against a goal of $150,000.
“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support. We will be able to sign a three-year lease with the option to buy or renew,” says Renee Watson, a writer in Harlem who is leading the campaign.
Hughes’s home was “an epicenter of the Harlem Renaissance, with jazz and poetry regularly heard by anyone passing by.” But the building has been uninhabited for a while and has been periodically up for sale.
The building is worth $3 million, but it is landmark-protected. The owner agreed not to try to sell the home again if $40,000 could be raised by September 1st to cover six months of rent.
The collective’s name is drawn from one of Hughes’ poems and is called the “I, Too” arts collective. And, to remind you why you should pay attention to this campaign and to seizing every moment, as the organizers of this campaign have done, here’s one of Langston Hughes’s poems, “Democracy.”
Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Through compromise and fear.
I have as much right
As the other fellow has
On my two feet
And own the land.
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I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
Is a strong seed
In a great need.
I live here, too.
I want freedom
Just as you.