The focus of this work is to examine multi-ethnic literature and focus on treating humans like farm animals that can be manipulated for various purposes. Multi-Ethnic literature offers a glimpse into the lives of the various writers of this literature and into the lives of various ethnic groups and the way that they view life and society and their experiences. Examined in this study are various writers including Tupac Shakar, Dorothy West, Petry, and others.
A Rose Grows From Concrete
One might be surprised to learn that Tupac Shakar was the writer of many sensitive poems. Upon his death in 1996, Tupac's mother released a collection of poems entitled 'A Rose Grows From Concrete', which includes various love poems among the 72 poems in the collection. Tupac writes:
Things that make hearts break.
And people who dream with their eyes open
And souls who have given up hoping.
It is reported that the voice of Tupac in these love poems is "self-assured; his poetic vision insightful. The poems convey an optimism and vulnerability. The idealism in these poems is expressed in the recurring naturalistic imagery. In contrast to the bareness of the urban 'hood,' these poems are full of references to fresh air, green trees, dawn, nature, rivers, and flowers. It's obvious, also, that the poems were written to be read: their formal structure and ideographic features suggest a visual orientation. Note, too, that the poems are all written in Standard English, are completely devoid of swear words and slang expressions. Absent, too, is the passion and urgency we find in the raps." (Walters, 2008, p.1)
Tupac's poems could be viewed as a mode of escape for the artist from the reality of the social and economic world of Tupac whose mother was a drug addict and a life without his father lived in poverty. However, these poems also represent the desire of Tupac to express his own complexity and the contrast of the inner person to the outer life and reality that Tupac existed within. Tupac writes of his success despite the odds he faced in the following words:
Did u hear about the rose that grew from the crack in the concrete
Proving nature's laws wrong it learned 2 walk without having feet
Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams
It learned 2 breathe fresh air
Long live the rose that grew from the concrete
When no one else even cared. (Walters, 2008, p.1)
Tupac reflects in this poem on the possibilities that present when the human being strives against overwhelming odds. It is reported that the reasons for Tupac's success as a rapper include:
(1) The ability to articulate the experience of economic, social and racial oppression experienced in the inner city Black community with passion using the rhetoric he inherited from his education as the son and step son of former Black Panther militants.
(2) His talent for coupling political and revolutionary rhetoric with dramatic scenarios that connect with the actual and vicarious experiences of members of the hood. The effect was to communicate a sense of "realness."
(3) His use of the typical speech styles of the African-American community -- boasting, woofing, running it down, and tall tales.
(4) His ability to use AAVE grammar, rhythm, intonation and vocabulary to delivery his messages, making them sound real to urban Black youth. In this regard, Tupac's lyrics exhibited vernacular "lyrical fitness," a concept used by Morgan (2002) to explain the intrinsic standards of linguistic appropriateness recognized by in-group AAVE speakers and knowledgeable consumers of hip hop poetry.
(5) The perception that he was an authentic member of the Black underclass that he rapped about. His personal confrontations with the establishment certified his "realness." Thus, many of his fans saw him as a victim of "player haters" in the sense of that expression defined in Smitherman (1994), i.e. "envious people who criticize others' success" (Morgan 2001: 198).
(6) The complexity of his responses to the realities of life in the 'hood This made Tupac seem palpably real to his audience. (Walters, 2008, p.1)
Much is the same in regards to the poetry of Tupac as he speaks of the live experienced by the poverty class of African-Americans in larger U.S. cities in contemporary times. (Walters, 2008, p.1)
II. Black Female Writer -- Dorothy West
It is reported that in 1948 it appeared that Dorothy West "would become a household word when editors of the Ladies Home Journal contemplated serializing 'The Living is Easy' in the national women's magazine. However, the editorial board is reported to have changed its mind "because they feared that white-owned companies would pull advertising form the magazine if they featured a novel by a black woman." (Jones, 2012) Following her writing in 'The Living is Easy' West is reported to have started another novel which she entitled 'Where the Wild Grape Grows' however, the publisher Houghton Mifflin is reported to have refused to accept the novel for publication. (Jones, 2012) Apparently, the publishing company "feared the novel would have a limited audience "because it was about middle class blacks" (McDowell 1987: 278).
Perceptions of what constitutes "authentic" black literature among white editors and publishers and readers militated against her in the late 1940s; however, conceptions of black aesthetics among blacks in the 1960s militated against the completion and submission of The Wedding. As Dorothy West notes, "It coincided with the Black Revolution, when many blacks believed that middle-class blacks were Uncle Toms. I feared, then, what the reviewers would say." (Jones, 2012) The Black Power movement focused on liberating black people from "social, political and economic oppression, created a climate in which Dorothy West felt compelled to refrain from completing or actively pursuing a publisher for The Wedding. West's nearly half-a-century space between publication of The Living Is Easy (1948) and The Wedding (1995) signifies the complexities of African-American literature and the debate over which aesthetics -- folk, bourgeois, or proletarian -- should take preeminence at a given time." (Jones, 2012) West was perceived as a privileged middle-class Bostonian with the economic resources to own a summer home on Martha's Vineyard and her depiction of the black bourgeois class in her fiction presented obstacles to the publication, reception, and evaluation of The Living Is Easy and The Wedding. Her experiences with publishers echo those of Jessie Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston in the 1930s. The label bourgeois ascribed to West is incomplete, for she incorporates all aspects of the triangle in her work, which presents a variety of socioeconomic classes. Like her predecessors, Jessie Fauset and Zora Neale Hurston, West's work presents a multiplicity of voices and aesthetics. West truly functions as a closet revolutionary, for while on the surface her work and her life seem to reflect the black bourgeoisie, her novels, short stories, and essays reflect a proletarian stance." (Jones, 2012)
West experienced the challenges of being a black female writer in the early twentieth century and while black writers were all the rage, most magazine publishers hesitated to include more than just a few articles by black writers in each issue. West is reported to have explored the "color and caste system, criticizing interracial color and class prejudice and analyzing the harmful effects on the collective psyche of African-Americans." (Jones, 2012) West seeking new experiences traveled to the Soviet Union in 1932 in the company of 21 other African-Americans and author Langston Hughes. They went to the Soviet Union to produce a film called Black and White, which examined the race relations in the United States. It is reported, "Controversy surrounded the trip, including rumors that the Russians were trying to recruit African-Americans into the Communist party. The ill-fated film project folded for a number of reasons, including a Russian-authored script that failed to capture the realities of the African-American experience, and perhaps even pressure from an American who threatened to withdraw funding for a dam in Russia if the film were actually made. West claimed in an interview: "Understandably, Russia had to have the dam, and they chose the dam." (Jones, 2012)
In her essay "An Adventure in Moscow" (which appeared in the Vineyard Gazette in 1985), West meditates on her experiences in Russia. She was sympathetic to the plight of the Russians who canceled the movie project because they needed the skills of the engineer for their dam. Despite the fact that the film project collapsed, West and her compatriots like Hughes remained in Russia for a while. While in Russia, West stayed nearly a year longer. Of her experiences in Russia, West noted, "That was my most carefree year. Then my father died, and I became a responsible person. But I'm very grateful that I had that happy year. I think that's why I liked Russia so much. I was carefree there. When I came back, I had the responsibility of one thing and another" (Jones, 2012)