arts 01.21.14

NYPL: Schomburg
Every Person in New York

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Today, some love for the NYPL. Tomorrow, not so much.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture grew out of The Division of Negro Literature, History and Prints, a special collection of NYPL's 135th Street branch. Scholar Arturo Alfonso Schomburg added his large collection of books, ephemera and artwork the next year and he later became the curator of the division. It was named in his honor in 1940. Today, the collection has grown to 10,000,000 items.

A visit to the Schomburg should include some time with the Rivers art installation. That is the terrazzo and brass cosmogram on the floor, designed by Houston Conwill, Estella Conwill Majozo and Joseph DePace, built over a tributary of the Harlem River. It was created to honor both Mr. Schomburg and poet Langston Hughes, whose poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers, written when he was 18-years-old, is quoted on the cosmogram. Mr. Hughes' cremated remains are buried under his own words, "My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

The Negro Speaks Of Rivers

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Jason Polan started Every Person in New York in March of 2008. He plans on working on the project until it is finished. Look for Every Person in New York on Tuesdays in MUG and daily at Jason's site.

Moma (from 2011)

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