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05.05.24 | Community

Celebrating Older Americans Month 2024: “Powered by Connection”

May marks an important observance in the United States — Older Americans Month (OAM), a time dedicated to honoring the enduring contributions of older adults and advocating for their well-being. At Sage Collective, we treasure this observation that aligns with our 9 Ways of Vibrant Living and all we believe in.

Established in 1963 and evolving from “Senior Citizens Month” to “Older Americans Month” in 1980, this annual celebration not only highlights the achievements of older adults but also addresses the critical issues they face today. The theme for 2024, “Powered by Connection,” underscores the significant role that social connections play in enhancing the health and well-being of our senior population.

This year’s theme, “Powered by Connection,” invites us to reflect on how vital social relationships are to sustaining physical, mental, and emotional health. Studies have shown that older adults who maintain a network of relationships experience better health, live longer, and enjoy a higher quality of life. The theme encourages communities and individuals alike to foster these essential connections, combating the isolation that too often accompanies aging.

Strategies for Building and Maintaining Connections
As we continue to explore effective ways to build and maintain connections at Sage Collective, here are some of the most potent — and simple — strategies we suggest:

Community Engagement: Active participation in local events, clubs, or groups can provide consistent social interaction and a sense of belonging. Older adults are encouraged to engage in community centers, religious organizations, or hobby-based groups to expand their social circles.

Leveraging Technology: In an increasingly digital world, technology offers a lifeline to maintain and grow relationships. Whether it’s video calls with family, joining online forums, or participating in virtual events, technology can bridge the physical gap between friends and loved ones.

Volunteering: Offering time and skills to causes can connect older adults with like-minded individuals while contributing positively to the community. Volunteering is also a powerful way for older individuals to feel valued and purposeful.

Older Americans Month also serves as a platform for discussing and addressing the policy issues affecting the elderly. It’s an opportunity to advocate for improvements in healthcare, social security, and retirement benefits, ensuring that older adults can enjoy their later years with dignity and security.

A Call to Action
“Powered by Connection” is a call to action for every member of the community to ensure that our older adults are integrated, respected, and cared for. As we celebrate Older Americans Month, let us all commit to fostering these crucial connections. It’s about making sure that our communities are places where older adults can thrive and continue to contribute their vast knowledge and experience.

Let’s use this month to honor the immense value that older adults bring to our lives and our societies. By supporting their health and well-being through meaningful connections, we not only enhance their lives but also enrich our own.

To learn more about Older Americans Month, visit the Administration for Community Living website. Let’s celebrate this month by embracing our elders with open arms and open hearts, proving that community strength truly is powered by connection.

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04.19.24 | Arts & Culture

Igniting Inspiration: Celebrating World Creativity and Innovation Day with Sage Collective

April 21, 2024 marks an occasion close to the heart of the Sage Collective community — World Creativity and Innovation Day. This year, under the inspiring theme “Step Out and Innovate,” we are called upon to embrace the boundless potential of our minds and encourage people everywhere to push beyond their boundaries and tap into their innate creative and innovative spirit. At Sage Collective, this day is both a celebration and a profound reflection of our core belief in the transformative power of creativity and innovation to enhance lives, particularly as we age.

Contrary to the misconception that creativity wanes with age, the reality is strikingly different. Older adults possess a vast reservoir of experiences, insights, and wisdom that can profoundly fuel creative endeavors. Each of us has the potential to contribute something groundbreaking to the world, regardless of our years.

Innovation involves applying creativity to solve problems or make improvements, envisioning the world not only as it is but as it could be. Sage Collective is deeply committed to fostering an environment where innovative ideas can thrive, especially those enhancing the quality of life for older adults. Through the arts, technology, or new community living models, we recognize innovation as the key to addressing the challenges faced by older generations.

Celebrating Creativity and Innovation at Sage Collective
Under the banner of “Step Out and Innovate,” we, as a community, celebrate World Creativity and Innovation Day by:

  • Showcasing Talent: Highlighting the creative talents within our community, from artists and writers to musicians and thinkers. Through virtual galleries and performances, we celebrate the myriad ways creativity manifests in our lives.
  • Engaging Workshops: Hosting workshops and seminars designed to ignite the creative spark within. These sessions invite members to explore new hobbies, rediscover forgotten passions, and embody this year’s theme by stepping out of their comfort zones.
  • Intergenerational Collaboration: Encouraging projects that bring together younger and older generations, fostering diverse perspectives and co-creating solutions that benefit all ages. These collaborations embody the spirit of stepping out and innovating, showcasing the richness that comes from combining the wisdom of age with the fresh ideas of youth.

As World Creativity and Innovation Day approaches, we urge every member of the Sage Collective community to embrace your creative and innovative potential, engage in activities that challenge you, share your groundbreaking ideas, and most importantly, celebrate the limitless capacity for innovation within each of us.

In celebrating this special day, we’re reaffirming our commitment to building a vibrant, dynamic community where creativity and innovation are integral to everyday life. Join us in this celebration, and together, let’s redefine the boundaries of what’s possible, one innovative step at a time.

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04.18.24 | Arts & Culture

Introducing Sage Vibrant Living —The Podcast: A New Chapter in Storytelling

In an ever-evolving world where connection and engagement stand as pillars of humanity, Sage Collective proudly announces the launch of an exciting endeavor: Sage Vibrant Living — The Podcast. This innovative series is more than just an addition to our platform, Sage Advice®; it is a bold step towards redefining the narrative around aging and celebrating the vibrancy of life at every stage.

Why podcasting?
At Sage, we believe in challenging the status quo and embracing innovative ideas that enrich the lives of older adults and the community at large. Podcasting offers a radical new framework where older adults are valued and engaged…where they experience a life lived vibrantly. It is a medium that transcends traditional boundaries, allowing us to connect, engage, and explore humanity’s boundless knowledge collaboratively. From how-to discussions and cultural perceptions of aging to dynamic storytelling and housing as health insights, Sage Vibrant Living — The Podcast covers a broad spectrum of topics that resonates with our mission: to promote a better quality of life for older adults and those who support them, to extend the reach of Sage, and to foster a sense of community and belonging.

Listening to inspirational voices|
Our inaugural series boasts a lineup of interviews that promises to captivate, educate, and inspire our listeners. Each guest brings a unique perspective to the table, sharing their journey, wisdom, and insights into living a life full of purpose, health, and joy.

Episode 1: Barbara Bates | Fashion and Philanthropy: Join us as we dive into the world of fashion with Barbara Bates, exploring how she weaves philanthropy into her work and remains a relevant force in the industry.

Episode 2: Alfred Edmond Jr. | Money & Muscle: Alfred Edmond Jr. reveals his secrets to building wealth and health post-60, offering listeners a blueprint for financial and physical wellness.

Episode 3: Cheryl Woodson, MD | A Journey Towards Joy: Dr. Cheryl Woodson shares her expert insights on navigating the challenges of aging and finding pathways to joy and fulfillment.

Episode 4: Dwain Kyles & Emilie McKendall | Speak Up!: This empowering conversation with Dwain Kyles and Emilie McKendall underscores the importance of self-advocacy and standing up for others.

Episode 5: Dr. Geneva Williams | How to Make Your “Dash” Mean Something: Dr. Geneva Williams discusses the significance of the ‘dash’—the time between our birth and death—and how to make every moment count.

Episode 6: Don Jones | The Power of Storytelling: In this compelling episode, Don Jones delves into the transformative power of storytelling, highlighting its role in preserving history, fostering connections, and inspiring change.

As we embark on this journey, we invite you to join us. Whether you’re a listener, a storyteller, or a supporter, your involvement is crucial to the success of Sage Vibrant Living—The Podcast. Together, we can change the experience of growing older and celebrate a life lived vibrantly, one story at a time.

To access all the podcast episodes, simply click on the link here.

Sage Vibrant Living Podcast
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04.10.24 | Arts & Culture

The Healing Power of Melody and Rhythm

Music transcends mere entertainment, serving as a universal language that speaks to the soul. Its profound impact on human emotions and cognitive functions has been recognized for centuries, leading to the development of music therapy as a powerful tool for healing and wellness. At Sage Collective, we explore the intricate ways in which music therapy harnesses melody and rhythm to foster health, offering valuable insights for audiences seeking to understand its benefits, particularly for older adults.

The Essence of Music Therapy

Music therapy is a clinical and evidence-based practice that uses music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. It addresses physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs, providing a holistic approach to wellness. For older adults, music therapy offers a versatile means of improving quality of life, whether it’s through reminiscence, movement, relaxation, or cognitive exercises.

Emotional and Psychological Benefits

One of the most immediate effects of music therapy is its capacity to enhance mood and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. Familiar tunes can evoke memories, transporting individuals to moments of joy and comfort from their past. This connection not only combats loneliness but also strengthens identity and personal history. Moreover, active participation in music-making can empower individuals, providing a sense of achievement and boosting self-esteem.

Cognitive and Memory Support
Music therapy plays a significant role in cognitive health, particularly for those experiencing memory loss due to conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. The rhythm and repetition inherent in music aid in memory recall, helping patients remember lyrics and melodies long after other memories have faded. Furthermore, music therapy can stimulate cognitive function, encouraging focus and engagement through listening, singing, or playing instruments.

Physical Health and Rehabilitation
The benefits of music therapy extend to physical health, aiding in the rehabilitation of individuals recovering from strokes or other conditions that affect motor skills. The rhythm of music can facilitate movement and coordination, improving gait and hand-eye coordination. Additionally, the soothing properties of melody can lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and alleviate pain, contributing to overall physical well-being.

Social Connection and Intergenerational Bonding
Music therapy also fosters social connections, bridging gaps between generations and promoting shared experiences. In group settings, music serves as a communal activity that encourages interaction and cooperation. For older adults, these connections are vital, enhancing a sense of belonging and community. Intergenerational music therapy sessions can further enrich this experience, allowing older adults to connect with younger participants through a shared love of music.

Incorporating Music Therapy into Everyday Life
While professional music therapists offer tailored interventions, the principles of music therapy can be applied in everyday life to enhance well-being. Creating personalized playlists of favorite or meaningful songs can serve as a simple form of self-care. Engaging in communal music activities, whether it’s attending concerts, singing in a choir, or participating in drum circles, can provide both the therapeutic benefits of music and the joy of social engagement.

Conclusion: A Symphony of Wellness
Music therapy stands as a testament to the healing power of melody and rhythm, and makes it an invaluable tool for enhancing the quality of life, especially among older adults. As we continue to explore innovative ways to support wellness at Sage Collective, the harmony of music therapy resonates as a clear, melodious call to soothe, inspire, and heal.

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Illustration credit: Creative Commons CC BY-ND 4.0 Deed
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04.03.24 | Arts & Culture

Ta-Nehisi Coates: Mastering the Art of Storytelling Through Reflection and Reality

In the rich landscape of contemporary storytelling, few voices are as compelling and influential as that of Ta-Nehisi Coates. As part of our ongoing exploration into the art of storytelling, Sage Collective is delighted to spotlight Coates, a writer who masterfully weaves together narratives of race, identity, and the American experience with both grace and unflinching honesty. Coates’ work not only captivates readers but also invites profound reflection on the society we inhabit and the changes we aspire to see.

A Voice for Our Times
Ta-Nehisi Coates emerged as a powerful voice in American literature and journalism through his thought-provoking essays and books. His ability to articulate complex issues related to race and society has made him a pivotal figure in national conversations about racism, democracy, and historical memory. Coates’s writing is characterized by its depth of insight, lyrical quality, and the personal perspective he brings to bear on topics of public concern.

The Beautiful Struggle: A Personal Odyssey
In The Beautiful Struggle, Coates offers a vivid glimpse into his formative years in Baltimore, navigating the complexities of boyhood within the broader context of racial and economic strife. This memoir is not only a tale of personal growth and familial bonds but also a reflection on the broader struggle for Black identity and liberation. Coates’ relationship with his father, a figure steeped in the legacy of the Black Panther movement, serves as a powerful narrative thread, illustrating the impact of history and activism on individual lives.

Between the World and Me: An Intimate Letter
Between the World and Me expands Coates’ exploration of America’s racial history through a deeply personal lens, structured as a letter to his teenage son. This work captures the fears, hopes, and realities of being Black in America, weaving personal narrative with historical analysis. Coates’ use of the epistolary form creates an intimate conversation on race, identity, and the quest for understanding in a country marked by systemic injustice.

The Water Dancer: Merging Fiction with History
Coates’ foray into fiction with his debut novel, The Water Dancer, further cements his status as a versatile and imaginative storyteller. The novel combines historical elements with magical realism to tell a captivating story of slavery and resistance in the antebellum South. Through the eyes of his protagonist, Hiram Walker, Coates explores themes of memory, freedom, and the unbreakable bonds of family. The Water Dancer showcases Coates’ skill in creating rich, immersive worlds that illuminate the struggles and resilience of the human spirit.

We Were Eight Years in Power: Reflecting on an Era
In We Were Eight Years in Power, Coates assembles a collection of essays that chronicle the Obama presidency’s significance against the backdrop of America’s racial landscape. The title, echoing a lament from the Reconstruction era, frames the book as a meditation on the cyclical nature of racial progress and backlash in American history. Through essays that examine the cultural and political implications of Obama’s presidency and the subsequent rise of Donald Trump, Coates offers a critical analysis of the forces that shape American society and the ongoing struggle for racial justice.

Across his works, Coates’ storytelling artistry lies in his ability to blend the deeply personal with the sweepingly historical. His narratives invite readers into a space of reflection, challenging them to consider the intricate tapestry of American identity and the indelible impact of race on the nation’s conscience. Through his incisive analysis, lyrical prose, and unflinching honesty, Coates has crafted a body of work that is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the complexities of contemporary America.

As we celebrate Ta-Nehisi Coates’ contributions to the art of storytelling, we are reminded of the power of literature to illuminate the darkest corners of society, to heal, and to inspire change. His voice is a clarion call for awareness, empathy, and action — a testament to the enduring strength of the written word to move hearts and minds.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Anthology of Rap, 92YTribeca. Photo: 92YTribeca, Flickr Creative Commons, CC BY-NC 2.0 Deed
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03.27.24 | Community

Rediscovering Local Libraries: A Gateway to Lifelong Learning

In an era where the digital world dominates our sources of information and entertainment, the timeless charm and invaluable resources of local libraries stand as beacons for communities everywhere. At Sage Collective, we deeply value lifelong learning as a key component of vibrant living. It’s in this spirit that we explore the local library not just as a building with books, but as a vibrant gateway to endless learning opportunities, cultural enrichment, and community connection.

The Local Library: More Than Just Books
Local libraries have evolved significantly over the years, transforming into dynamic community centers that offer a wide range of resources and services. Beyond the shelves of books lies a treasure trove of digital resources, educational programs, and cultural events designed to engage and enrich community members of all ages.

A Hub for Lifelong Learning
One of the most compelling aspects of local libraries is their commitment to fostering lifelong learning. Whether it’s through free access to books, e-books, online courses, or workshops, libraries provide invaluable resources for personal and professional development. For older adults, particularly, libraries offer programs tailored to their interests and needs, making learning accessible and enjoyable.

Cultural and Social Enrichment
Libraries serve as cultural hubs, hosting an array of events such as author readings, discussion groups, art exhibitions, and film screenings. These events not only enrich our cultural understanding but also provide opportunities for social interaction, helping to build a sense of community and belonging. Engaging with these offerings allows us to expand our horizons, encounter new ideas, and connect with fellow community members.

Access to Technology and Digital Literacy
In today’s digital age, libraries play a crucial role in bridging the digital divide. They offer free access to computers and the internet, along with classes on digital literacy, helping individuals navigate the complexities of the digital world. For many in our community, especially seniors who may feel left behind by rapid technological changes, this access is invaluable in staying connected and informed.

Volunteer and Engagement Opportunities
Libraries also offer numerous opportunities for community members to get involved, whether through volunteer programs, friends of the library groups, or advisory boards. Participating in these activities can be a rewarding way to give back, share your skills and experience, and further strengthen community ties.

Rediscovering Your Local Library
Rediscovering your local library is as simple as walking through its doors or visiting its website. Explore the catalog, inquire about upcoming events, or ask the librarians about resources and services available. You might be surprised at the wealth of opportunities waiting to be discovered.

As we advocate for the enriching practice of lifelong learning at Sage Collective, we recognize local libraries as our vital partners, providing gateways to new experiences, avenues for personal growth, and the joys of community engagement. Not familiar with your local library? It’s easy to find! Use this handy website — libraryfinder.org/ — to enter your address and get information on locations, hours, and reviews from others.

Library books on shelves
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03.20.24 | Arts & Culture

Photography as a Mindful Hobby: Capturing Moments with Intention

In the vibrant tapestry of hobbies that enrich our lives, photography emerges as a uniquely compelling practice, blending art, technology, and mindfulness. At Sage Collective, where we cherish activities that enhance our well-being and connect us to the world in meaningful ways, photography holds a special place. It’s a powerful tool for capturing the beauty of the present, and a medium for expressing our unique perspectives.

The Mindful Art of Photography

Photography, at its essence, is an act of observation and appreciation. It encourages us to slow down, to see the world through a lens of curiosity and wonder. Each time we frame a shot, we’re not just capturing a moment in time; we’re engaging deeply with our surroundings, noticing details we might otherwise overlook. This attentive observation is a disciplined practice, fostering a state of presence and awareness that can be both calming and exhilarating.

Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes

One of the most remarkable aspects of photography is its ability to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. Through the camera’s lens, mundane objects and everyday scenes can become subjects of beauty and intrigue. This shift in perspective encourages us to look at our world with fresh eyes, finding joy and interest in the familiar. It’s a reminder that beauty and wonder are all around us, waiting to be noticed and appreciated.

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Photo: Ralph, pixexid

Expressing Creativity and Emotion

Photography also offers a powerful outlet for creativity and emotional expression. Whether it’s capturing the nuanced play of light and shadow, the vibrant colors of a sunset, or the candid emotions of a street scene, photography allows us to convey feelings and stories without words. It’s a form of visual poetry, where each image reflects a piece of our inner world, our joys, sorrows, and everything in between.

Connecting with Others

Beyond its personal benefits, photography is a medium that fosters connection. Sharing our photographs can spark conversations, evoke empathy, and build bridges between diverse experiences and viewpoints. In community settings, photography projects can bring people together, creating shared experiences and mutual understanding. It’s a way to communicate deeply felt experiences in a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers.

Embarking on Your Photographic Journey

Starting with photography as a mindful hobby doesn’t require expensive equipment or technical expertise. It begins with a willingness to explore and observe. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Start Simple: Use whatever camera you have, even if it’s just your smartphone. The best camera is the one you have with you.
  • Pay Attention to Light: Notice how different lighting conditions affect your surroundings and experiment with capturing them.
  • Focus on Composition: Practice framing your shots, playing with angles and perspectives to find interesting compositions.
  • Be Present: Allow yourself to fully engage with the process, focusing on the act of taking the photograph as much as the outcome.

As we explore photography as a mindful hobby, we discover that it’s not just about the images we create but the heightened sense of presence and connection we experience. Photography invites us to celebrate the moment, to express ourselves creatively, and to share our view of the world with others. At Sage Collective, we encourage you to embrace photography as a pathway to mindfulness, a practice that enriches our lives and reminds us of the beauty in the everyday.

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Credit: Tyler Sakil on Unsplash
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03.06.24 | Community

Volunteering: The Art of Giving Back

In the heart of every community, there lies a powerful force of growth and transformation — volunteering. We touched on the subject of volunteering in a post on January 27, 2022, but today we’re returning to the subject to take a closer look. Because at Sage Collective, we recognize volunteering as an act of service and as an art form that enriches both the giver and the receiver. It’s a manifestation of our core belief in vibrant living, an embodiment of compassion, and a testament to the strength that lies in community.

The Essence of Volunteering

Volunteering is the selfless offering of time, energy, and skills to make a positive impact on the lives of others and the world around us. It’s a practice deeply rooted in the understanding that every individual has the power to effect change. In this giving, we find a profound connection to the wider community, creating ripples of kindness that can transform society.

Why Volunteer?

The benefits of volunteering extend far beyond the tangible outcomes of the tasks at hand. For older adults, especially, volunteering offers a myriad of rewards:

Community Connection: Volunteering places us in the heart of our communities, allowing us to forge new relationships and strengthen existing ones. It’s a pathway to understanding the diverse tapestry of experiences that shape our world.

Mental and Physical Well-being: Engaging in volunteer work has been shown to boost both mental and physical health. It can lower stress, combat depression, and provide a sense of purpose. Physically, staying active through volunteering can enhance mobility and overall health.

Lifelong Learning: The act of volunteering offers endless opportunities for learning and growth. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill, understanding a different perspective, or discovering more about a cause close to our hearts, every volunteering experience is a chance to expand our horizons.

Legacy Building: Volunteering allows us to leave a legacy of kindness, compassion, and active citizenship. It’s a way to pass on values of community service and social responsibility to future generations.

With so many avenues for volunteering, finding the right fit can be a journey in itself. Consider your passions, skills, and the causes you care about. Whether it’s mentoring the youth, participating in environmental clean-ups, or offering your expertise to non-profit organizations, there’s a niche for everyone.

The Art of Giving Back

Volunteering is indeed an art form — a delicate balance of giving and receiving, teaching and learning, speaking and listening. It’s about approaching each opportunity with an open heart and mind, ready to contribute but also to grow from the experience.

At Sage Collective, we encourage everyone to explore the art of volunteering. It’s a key component of vibrant living, offering a fulfilling way to engage with the world. As we give our time and talents, we receive immeasurable gifts in return: joy, fulfillment, and the knowledge that we’ve played a part in making the world a little brighter.

As we embrace the art of giving back, let’s remember that every act of volunteering, no matter how small, contributes to a larger tapestry of community and compassion. We invite you to join us in this journey of service, to explore the many ways you can contribute, and to experience the profound rewards that come from volunteering. Together, let’s continue to weave a vibrant tapestry of connectedness, one volunteer moment at a time.

Volunteering-and-the-art-of-giving-back
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02.08.24 | Arts & Culture

The Art of Storytelling: Langston Hughes

In our continuing series on “The Art of Storytelling,” we’ve journeyed through the narratives of luminaries who’ve masterfully woven the fabric of their experiences, cultures, and imaginations into storytelling. It’s an honor to now delve into the legacy of Langston Hughes, a pivotal figure whose poetic voice became a cornerstone of the Harlem Renaissance and a beacon for the African American experience.

Langston Hughes: A Storyteller’s Storyteller
Langston Hughes was a towering figure in American literature, known for his prolific output and for the depth and breadth of his influence. He rose in prominence during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance — the emergence of black intellectual, literary, and artistic life that took place in the 1920s across urban America, particularly in Harlem. He focused on lived experience as the basis for his unique storytelling, resulting in a vibrant tapestry of jazz rhythms, social commentary, and a profound exploration of the human condition. Hughes had the unique ability to distill complex emotions and societal truths into accessible poetry, stories, and plays, making him a true artisan of the narrative form.

Embracing the Human Experience
Hughes’s storytelling was deeply rooted in the African American experience, capturing its joys, sorrows, and resilient spirit. He celebrated black culture in his work, took a defiant stance against racial injustice, and shared a heartfelt portrayal of the everyday lives of black Americans. Through his famous jazz poetry, Hughes incorporated the rhythms and improvisations of jazz music, creating a dynamic and immersive narrative style that resonated with a wide audience.

The Power of Simplicity
Hughes used simple, yet profound language when he wrote, which became one of the hallmarks of his storytelling style. He believed that the power of clarity and accessibility would enable his stories and poems to speak directly to the heart. This simplicity was one of his greatest strengths, allowing him to convey deep emotions and complex societal critiques in a way that was both relatable and moving.

His approach to message, language, and cadence are powerfully rendered in the poem entitled, “I, Too,” which was published in Hughes’ first volume of poetry, The Weary Blues in 1926. To read this poem, and other examples of Hughes’ work, visit the Poetry Foundation.

Legacy and Inspiration
Langston Hughes’s legacy is a testament to the enduring power of storytelling to effect change, build community, and celebrate culture. His work continues to inspire new generations of storytellers, poets, and artists who see in Hughes a model for using narrative as a tool for social commentary, cultural affirmation, and personal expression.

For us at Sage Collective, Hughes’s storytelling is a reminder of the profound impact that stories can have on our understanding of ourselves and each other. His life and work encourage us to explore our own narratives, to find beauty in our experiences, and to share our stories with the world.

Inr Langston Hughes’ work, we are reminded of the transformative power of storytelling. His ability to capture the essence of the human spirit, to challenge societal norms, and to celebrate the richness of the African American experience is a beacon for all who believe in the power of words to shape our world.

Let us take inspiration from Hughes’s example, weaving our own stories with honesty, empathy, and a deep appreciation for the diverse tapestry of human life.

Langston Hughes by Jack Delano, 1942
Portrait of Langston Hughes by Jack Delano, 1942. Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Collections.
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01.31.24 | Arts & Culture

Celebrating African American Artistry: ASALH’s 2024 Black History Month Theme “African Americans and the Arts”

At Sage Collective, we share a deep appreciation for the cultural traditions that have shaped African American life. So, as we step into Black History Month this year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) has aptly chosen the theme “African Americans and the Arts.” This theme offers us a profound opportunity to delve into the rich tapestry of African American artistic contributions, encompassing an virtually-endless array of cultural expressions.

African American art, as highlighted by ASALH, is a vibrant fusion of African, Caribbean, and Black American experiences. This artistry is evident across various domains including visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, and culinary arts. Significantly, African American artists have consistently utilized their craft to preserve history, community memory, and empower themselves and others.

The journey of African American art has been shaped by various artistic and cultural movements like the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Renaissance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism. These movements, predominantly led by people of African descent, have not only shaped popular trends globally but have also set a standard in the artistic world.

Historically, Western intellectuals often overlooked or minimized African contributions to the arts. However, the resilience and continuity of Black art production remain evident, stretching from ancient Egypt across Africa and Europe to the New World. The sweetgrass baskets made by enslaved Africans in the Lowcountry, for example, demonstrate a 300-year tradition of visual artistry through craft.

 

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Photo of Marian Anderson, 1945. Gelatin silver print. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Estrellita Karsh in memory of Yousuf Karsh. © Estate of Yousuf Karsh.
 

Music has been a significant avenue of expression, with the spirituals born from the suffering of bondage marking America’s first contribution to this art form. Blues musicians like Robert Johnson, McKinley ‘Muddy Waters’ Morganfield, and Riley “BB” King laid the foundation for many evolving music genres. Literature also boasts significant contributions from African Americans, with works from poets like Phillis Wheatley and novelists such as David Walker and Maria Stewart.

The 1920s and 30s saw the rise of the Black Renaissance and New Negro Movement, bringing Black Arts to an international audience. Figures such as James Reese Europe, Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Lois Mailou Jones played pivotal roles in introducing Black culture and aesthetics to the world. This period recognized the contributions of Black artists in cities like Harlem, Los Angeles, Chicago, and New Orleans.

The 1960s’ Black Arts Movement continued this legacy, addressing issues like heritage pride and establishing platforms for Black artists through galleries, museum exhibitions, and publications. This era saw artists like Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, and Sonia Sanchez come to the forefront.

In 1973, hip-hop emerged in the Bronx as a new genre of music, defined by its five foundational elements. Artists like DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock used technology to create a style that has since been a critical voice in political, social, and cultural discourses.

 

 

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Photo of book cover, Mind of My Mind, by Octavia Butler. Originally published 1977. Credit: Wikipedia

Afrofuturism, a term coined about 30 years ago, represents cultural and artistic productions that envision a future for Black people free from oppression, blending Black history with science and technology. This movement includes artists like Sun Ra, Rashan Roland Kirk, Janelle Monáe, and Jimi Hendrix, writers like Octavia Butler, and films like Marvel’s Black Panther.

ASALH’s dedication of the 2024 theme to “African Americans and the Arts” invites us to celebrate the entirety of African American history in the arts. This commemoration not only honors the past and present contributions but also anticipates the continued impact and evolution of African American artistry in the 21st century and beyond.

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Credit: Carmen de Lavallade, Bruce Langhome, Alvin Ailey, and Brother John Sellers in Alvin Ailey’s Roots of the Blues. Photo by Jack Mitchell. ©Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation Inc. and Smithsonian Institution.
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