Langston Hughes wrote "Harlem" in 1951. It addresses one of his most common themes - the limitations of the American Dream for African Americans.
The poem has eleven short lines in four stanzas, and all but one line are questions.
HARLEM ("WHAT HAPPENS TO A DREAM DEFERRED?")
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Hughes was intimately aware of the challenges he faced as a black man in America, and the tone of his work reflects his complicated experience: he can come across as sympathetic, engaged, hopeful, melancholy, or resigned. My infatuation with this piece is that it not only refers to racial nuances but also alludes to how we sometimes feel the same way about our personal ambitions; no matter what race we are.
When seasons change and what you thought would be in your life forever is now a distant memory, pessimistic thoughts start brewing in our subconscious questioning whether or not we were meant to be as remarkable as imagined. Will my success continuously be an uphill battle? Regardless of how impossible the dream starts out, I’ve found that our goals naturally have the ability to morph and mold around our personal growth and focus.
With our culture being drunk on the elixir of social media, often fame and recognition is the driving objective.
For others, the ability to light a spark of inspiration in the hearts of the audience is the fuel behind their movement. For some, the moments following that spark become the most prevalent in their life and eventually the focus of their passion on a daily basis.
I want to introduce you to a woman who wanted to take the joy dance gave her and plant that seed in others. She’s an immeasurable inspiration to me personally and continues to make an impact on our community that'll be felt for generations to come.
One day my agent emailed me about a new competition dance show looking for versatile choreographers. Excited to get the Dancing With the Stars experience, I went into the audition ready to give it all I had. After 4 hours of auditioning, learning 5 different styles of dance, partner work, and a grueling 3 day wait, I found out I was selected as an on-air dance partner on the first season of Oxygen’s hit weight loss show Dance Your A** Off. If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s how it went.
Each week contestants learned a different dance style from their choreographer/partner. Not only does the routine need to wow the judges technically, but the contestant is under added pressure to lose as much weight as possible per week. Their weekly total scores are comprised of the dance performance and number of pounds they lost. The idea of it all was really inspiring. I knew that this would be a transformational experience for my partner and I. Things moved pretty quickly once I signed the contract and the next thing I knew, I was getting mic’d up to meet my dance partner Sofia AKA PINKY.
The cameras are rolling and they have me enter the dance studio. When I walk in the room, I see this spicy Latina with a smile that could melt icebergs. She’s pretty short and, of course, overweight, but we both hit it off knowing that our mission was to be sure neither of us would leave the competition the same way we came in. Her head was all the way in the game. No matter how many times we went through a routine, she never complained. There were moments I caught her giving me the stank-eye or she’d put her hands on her knees to catch her breath, but in 2 minutes, we were back at it!
Week after week I watched Pinky’s transformation. She not only looked better (healthier) but also commanded a new powerful energy that radiated on the dance floor. Whenever the click count-in for our track played on show day, I knew Pinky was about to give that dance every ounce of her being!
L: Where did you grow up?
P: I grew up in Chicago until JR High then moved to Phoenix, Arizona. In 2003, I finally moved to L.A. I’d had the Hollywood itch for a while so I wanted to get it out of my system and just dance. I was lucky enough to land some music videos, commercials and dance shows right out the gate.
When I feel fear bubbling up inside of me, that’s my cue to go for it! “Courage is not the lack of fear. It is acting in spite of it”, said Mark Twain and that is what drives me to continue on my journey. I follow through with what my heart tells me, if not it will pester me until I do. I embrace all failures and accomplishments wholeheartedly keeping in mind that I am a student of life.
L: How long have you lived in North Hollywood?
P: I’ve lived in North Hollywood since 2005 and I absolutely love my neighborhood.
L: Who inspired you to dance?
P: Besides Janet Jackson and growing up in the 80s?! My inspiration definitely came from my parents, especially my mother. When she danced, she expressed confidence, passion, and happiness. So I feel this runs in my blood and I am grateful for that.
Growing up I watched my parents dance at special events especially on holidays. It’s the moment everyone waited for. Jorge and Sofia are about to hit the dance floor!! They always stuck out from the crowd, their connection and rhythm they had, made them one. So I have always watched them in awe.
L: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting the Magangas and for the last 8 years have been blessed to call them family. You can clearly see how much they appreciate you and the support you show each other. Needless to say, we’ve been through a lot but there’s nothing that made me happier than the day you got married!!!
P: Yeah. By far one of the best days of my life was marrying the man of my dreams. Our wedding day was the most incredible experience of my life! It felt like a fairy tale and until this day like a dream. One of my biggest supporters is now my best friend and Husband, Vinnie, who has been by my side for the last 8 years of my life. No matter what he’s supported all of my ventures and has always made me feel beautiful through all the transitions in my life. He is my true soul mate.
L: What was a pivotal moment in your life that dance has gotten you through?
P: It was definitely when I was on “Dance Your A** Off”. It was a grueling test of on my mind, body and soul. I had some really rough times on DYAO. I came in sick with the flu the first week, 2nd week; I was hit with a migraine, 3rd week my body and mind shut down. I was defeated over and over again but somehow kept on getting up. I was laser focused on getting to the end, knowing this was a marathon and not a sprint. This is when I learned that I had to fail to succeed; it was not about the destination but the journey of it all.
Pushing yourself to the limit physically while simultaneously having to dig deep and face my fears, insecurities, and passions all at the same time. That is where growth happened when I was out of my comfort zone. It was all left on that dance floor!
With DYAO far behind us, Pinky has stayed committed to inspiring other young women to achieve personal and professional greatness through the arts. It’s a departure from the magazines and weekly show tapings; seemingly a whole new life. And now that that chapter is done, it doesn’t mean the story is ending.
P: My passion for events, dance and travel came from being part of an amazing breaking crew called Furious Styles crew from Phoenix Arizona. My brother Edson "BBoy House" Magana is President and one of the founders of the crew and has been running a successful anniversary event for over 20 years for the community to keep at-risk youth off the streets. That is what fueled my passion for events. Growing up in the Hip Hop culture gave me the chance to travel the world, dance on stages and gain experiences that diversified me as a person. It also gave me strength and character. My parents helped make this happen and have always supported all of our adventures.
L: What are you looking forward to doing in this area in the next few years?
P: I look forward to creating more events and workshops in North Hollywood. My goal is to continue collaborating with other local businesses, schools, and creative art/dance communities to empower each other.
Langston Hughes asked some very thought provoking questions which made Harlem such a popular piece of work. In the scope of life, we tend to see our dreams in the distance, something we hope to attain. Without noticing, you could be directly in the path of your purpose and not even know it. Seeing Pinky go through some very personal self-discoveries on a national stage wasn’t easy, but to know that her dream to win DYAO motivated her to impart that same strength to other young women is wonderful to see.
Will your dreams sway in the wind until they catch a breeze and sail you into a new chapter of your life? Will you nurture and believe in that dream even when the winter’s cold brings inescapable tribulation? Will your dream slowly float into impossible or will it flourish to become more than you’d ever imagined?
That’s a question only you can answer … with time.
D R E A M B I G
Connect with Pinky @pinkysofia or firstname.lastname@example.org to get more info about upcoming events such as:
Us Girls "Art, Music and Dance" Summit
Sunday, July 16th, 2017
At The Secret Rose theatre
Dance performances "SHE Diggs Deeper"
Raffles Speaker panel "Creatives in Business"
Vendors Music Live Art