I'm hurt inside, but that don't help my case
Cause I can't hide what is on my face
How will it end? Ain't got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue?
MOMA has thoughtfully provided a cushioned bench where you can sit and take in the musical selections. Other songs include Fats Waller performing "African Ripples," Bessie Smith with "Gimme a Pigfoot" and Joshua White with "Jim Crow Train." For the complete Great Migration playlist, click here.
SAY GRACE by Rita Dove
Got a pan
Got a bucket for the scraps
Got a nail to hang our things on
An empty sack
Dear Lord bless our little bit
Dear Lord who made us
And the world
Now can we raise our heads
The website includes audio links to the poets reading their works, which adds yet another dimension. To read more of the Migration Series Poetry Suite, click here.
If you want to really delve into the subject of the Great Migration, the "Perspectives" tab of the website contains video interviews with artists, historians, curators and filmmakers about the themes developed in Lawrence's work. I listened to an interview with Chef Marcus Samuelsson who, among other things, owns the Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. Samuelsson talked about migrants bringing food with them on their journey north because they were prohibited from eating in the dining cars and the ways the migrants' eating habits had to change when they moved to an urban environment. (I was interested in his comment that Southern traditions are making a resurgence today with the farm-to-table movement.) He also relayed the tradition of "rent parties." If someone was having difficulty paying his rent, he might invite people over for some food and entertainment. In exchange, the guests would pitch in money for that month's rent. Food was then, as it is now, a cornerstone of community.
While it's well worth making a trip to MOMA to see this exhibit, the Museum has made it possible for everyone to contemplate Lawrence's Migration Series and its context in American history. And for people like me who have seen the show, the website provides an opportunity to deepen the experience. Kudos to the Museum for taking advantage of today's technology in this way.
"One Way Ticket" runs through September 7th.