July 04, 2006

Pose-Outs - A new model of self-expression for July 4th

POSE-OUTS by Langston Hughes
"Sit-ins and such, picketings and such, for civil rights has been so common," said Simple, "that they no longer attracts attention. A lot of demonstrations nowadays do not even get in the papers any more. There has been too many, so I thought up something new."
"What? I asked.
"Pose-ins," said Simple, "or pose-outs."
"What do you mean 'pose-outs'?"
"Statues is often naked, are they not?" said Simple.
"Well, by pose-outs," said Simple, "I mean Negroes undressing down to their bare skin and posing naked as statues for freedom's sake. Twenty million Negroes taking off every stitch-stepping out of pants, dress, and drawers in public places and posing in the nude until civil rights have come to pass."
"You are demented," I declared.
"No, said Simple, "Nothing would attract as much attention to segregation, integration, and ratiocination than if every Negro in this American country would just stand naked until Jim Crow goes."
"Fantastic!" I said. "Mad! Completely absurd!"
"Yes," said Simple, "at a certain time on a certain day let even those Negroes that be in Congress-Dawson, Diggs, Powell-like that first Adam in the Garden-rise naked to answer roll call. Ordinary people, if at work in factories, foundries, offices, or homes, will establish a nude-in. If on the streets, a nude-out. Black waiters at the Union League Club, a nude-in. Colored boys pushing racks in the streets of the garment district, a nude-out. Black cooks could pose in white kitchens naked. Maids could pose dusting the parlor with nothing on but a dust cap. Pullman porters on the trains in the raw. Redcaps at stations bare except for badge numbers. Ralph Bunche at the United Nations, naked as a bird. At home, a nude-in. On the street, a nude-out. Until all Negroes get our rights, we pose. You know that statue 'The Thinker'?"
"By Rodin," I said.
"Setting on a stone with nothing on in God's world-'The Thinker'-with his chin in his hand, just setting lost in thought. Imagine James Farmer demonstrating for CORE at City Hall, posing at high noon naked, making like 'The Thinker,' chin in hand! Also on the same day at the same time Roy Wilkins upholding the NAACP, buck-naked between them two lions on the steps of the New York Public Library, with nothing on but his nose glasses. At the back of the library, on the terrace facing Bryant Park, Borough President Constance Baker Motley just as she came in this world, whilst at 50th and Broadway where the theatres is, Miss Lena Horne, bare as Venus. Down the way a piece, in front of the Metropolitan Opera, Leontyne Price in all her glory on a podium, not a stitch to her name. The traffic tie-up on Broadway would be terrific. We would not need a stall-in. Nude-outs would be enough. In Central Park, Willie Mays, on Sugar Hill, Jackie Robinson. And uptown in Harlem at 125th and Lenox, I would place on a pedestal Miss Pearl Bailey."
"Except by nature," said Simple. "With Negroes posing like statues all over town, traffic would jam. On Wall Street tickers would stop running. In Washington at sight of Adam Powell in his birthday suit, filibusters would cease to be. In Atlanta, Rev. Martin Luther King, with not even a wrist watch on, would preach his Sunday-morning sermon. In New York colored subway conductors would report for duty in the all-together. Every waitress in Chock Full O'Nuts would look like Eve before the Fall. In Harlem, Black Muslims would turn to Black Nudists. And at the Apollo, Jackie Mabley would break up the show. Oh, if every Negro in America, big and small, great and not so great, would just take his clothes off and keep them off for the sake of civil rights, America would be forced to scrutinize our cause."
"How shocking!" I said.
"Which is what we would mean it to be," declared Simple. "A nude shock-out to America into clothing us in the garments of equality, not the rags of segregation. And when Negroes got dressed again, we could vote in Mississippi."
"That would be when hell freezes over," I said. "Besides, by that time, the Legion of Decency would have all of you in jail for indecent exposure."
"Not me," said Simple, "because I would be in Harlem. The colored cops in Harlem would be naked too, so how would I know, without his uniform, that he were a cop?"
"Considering all the dangers involved, would you be the first to volunteer for a nude-out?" I asked.
"That honor I would leave to YOU."

JIMI HENDRIX: Band of Gypsys


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