It’s no secret that New York’s Harlem neighborhood has been a historic center of black arts and culture for nearly 100 years. But, as the area continues to change and gentrify, Harlem’s artistic heritage, and the legacy of the African-American artists who once lived there, is at risk of being lost or forgotten.
The home of iconic poet and activist Langston Hughes is one of Harlem’s many landmarks. Hughes lived in the brownstone, on 20 E. 127th Street in East Harlem from 1948, until he passed away 1967. It’s currently at risk of being sold and possibly torn down; and writer and Harlem resident Renée Watson hopes to fight this. Watson launched the “I, Too, Arts Collective,” “a nonprofit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts.” The group’s first order of business is working to secure a permanent space to operate for artists to showcase their work.
Watson has launched a fundraising campaign in order to raise $150,000. The money raised would go towards renting the historic Langston Hughes home, and converting the apartment into an arts space.
“For the past ten years, I’ve walked past the brownstone where Langston Hughes lived and wondered why it was empty,” says Watson. “How could it be that his home wasn’t preserved as a space for poets, a space to honor his legacy? I’d pass the brownstone, shake my head, and say, ‘Someone should do something.’ I have stopped saying, ‘Someone should do something’ and decided that someone is me.”