Have you heard about Fire?
Not the real thing as in flames or burning or combustion.
But a quarterly literary magazine set up by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Wallace Thurman, Aaron Douglas, Richard Bruce Nugent, Gwendolyn Bennett and John P. Davis, to do one thing one only (in my opinion): to express the truth within oneself.
It’s is a vivid portrait of life as a black artist at a time when being a writer or an artist was not fashionable both literally and figuratively.
They had a credo first set forth by Langston Hughes and it notes the following: ‘We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual-dark skinned self without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly, too…If colored people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how. And we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.’
I had to quote this one word for word to illustrate the fire within all of us. ‘Few are indeed destined to succeed so brilliantly at that which they set about to do,’ the magazine notes. I agree.
Fire didn’t succeed. But it lives on years later and for new generations for artist because it’s vision remains true even today.
Art should always be in service of humankind. Health too. We do so not for health sake, but for our own sake, for people sake, and the sake of the whole human race.
We are like a Phoenix, those of us in public health, grappling these days about the public’s health, and like Langston Hughes once noted, one day we will rise from the fire to which we have consigned ourselves too.
And like a burning flame, we will light the path forward for public health to truly become the public’s health.
Welcome to an unconventional and adventurous journey I have decided to embark on with public health. The destination is unknown. But I look forward to becoming the light within.