Select one of the following essay topics as your subject, and write a reflection paper of approximately 500 words.

Submit your paper to the Unit 2 Reflection Paper drop box by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, October 13.

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Topic 1. Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, Quotations from Dr. Bledsoe:

“The only ones I even pretend to please are big white folk, and even those I control more than they control me. This is a power set-up, son, and I’m at the controls” (p. 140).

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“These white folks have newspapers, magazines, radios, spokesmen to get their ideas across. If they want to tell the world a lie, they can tell it so well that it becomes the truth; and if I tell them that you’re lying, they’ll tell the world even if you prove you’re telling the truth. Because it’s the kind of lie they want to hear…” (p. 141).

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“I don’t even insist that it was worth it, but now I’m here and I mean to stay — after you win the game, you take the prize and you keep it, protect it; there’s nothing else to do” (p. 141).

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Consider the words of Ellison’s fictional character, Dr. Hebert Bledsoe, president of the historically Black college attended by the protagonist. Select one or more of the quotations (above), and address one or more of the following questions: Is there such a thing as world wisdom, or street smarts? Does Bledsoe possess an insight into the workings of the world that has allowed him to succeed? How accurate do you think his view of the world is? How cynical is it? What implications are there with respect to the power of the media? Are Bledsoe’s views still relevant in today’s world?

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Topic 2. Langston Hughes, “The Weary Blues”:

Biographer Arnold Rampersad provides a succinct and insightful summary of Langston Hughes’ style of poetry, stating:

“By 1926, when he published his first volume of verse, The Weary Blues, he already had fused into his poetry its key technical commitment: the music of black Americans as the prime source and expression of their cultural truths.  In these blues and jazz poems, Hughes wrote a fundamentally new kind of verse—one that told of the joys and sorrows, the trials and triumphs, or ordinary black folk, in the language of their speech and composed out of a genuine love of these people.”

Consider the namesake poem of Hughes’ collection, “The Weary Blues” (see Lesson 4, page “Selected Poems”), and compare it with one of the jazz blues tunes we have listened to over the last three weeks. Select one of the following:

Sidney Bechet’s “Blue Horizon” (Discussion Board #1 Recordings);
Louis Armstrong, “West End Blues” (Discussion Board #1 Recordings);
Duke Ellington, “Ko-Ko” (Lesson 5 Supplementary Recordings);
Billie Holiday, singing “Fine and Mellow” (Lesson 6);
Count Basie, “Sent For You Yesterday” (Discussion Board #2 Recordings)
In Langston Hughes’ poem, consider the speaker’s description of “the weary blues” and his description of the performer who is singing and playing. How does the poem compare with the piece you have selected? Is there a specific performer in your selected recording who is the center of attention and can be compared to the poem’s subject? What are some of the similarities between them? What are some of the differences? How does the poem shed light on the music? How does the music shed light on the poem?

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Topic 3, Audre Lorde, “I Am Your Sister”:

Consider the following excerpts from Audre Lorde’s address, “I Am Your Sister”:

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“When you read the words of Langston Hughes you are reading the words of a Black Gay man. When you read the words of Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Angelina Weld Grimke, poets of the Harlem Renaissance, you are reading the words of Black Lesbians. When you listen to the life-affirming voices of Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey, you are hearing Black Lesbian women. When you see the plays and read the words of Lorraine Hansberry, you are reading the words of a woman who loved women deeply” (p. 61).

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“Just as racist stereotypes are the problem of white people who believe them, so also are homophobic stereotypes the problem of heterosexuals who believe them. In other words, those stereotypes are yours to solve, not mine, and they are a terrible and wasteful barrier to our working together” (p. 62).

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“I am a Black Lesbian, and I am your sister” (p. 63).

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Drawing upon these and other words of Audre Lorde’s, explore the relevance of her perspective to jazz, to African American culture, and to the broader American culture.  Consider one or more of the following questions: Is the male dominance of jazz a manifestation of a larger male dominance within American society?  Does the relative rarity of women in jazz make them more deserving of attention?  How does sexual orientation influence and affect identity, social behaviors, art?  How do Audre Lorde’s words influence and affect your view of our culture?

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