Arts & Culture

Distinguished visiting professor receives Langston Hughes Society Award

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When Brenda Marie Osbey, distinguished visiting professor of Africana Studies, received the Langston Hughes Society Award last Thursday, “it was one of the few times I can think of in my life that I was actually speechless,” she said.

LHS is a national association commemorating Hughes as the first African-American to devote his career to writing, according to its website. Osbey received the award last Thursday at the Society’s annual luncheon, for which she was the featured speaker.

Though Osbey said she had difficulty finding information on the criteria and selection process for the award, her plaque stated that the award is given “in recognition for a distinguished career in support of black arts.”

Osbey is a critically acclaimed poet and essayist whose work has been published in numerous journals and anthologies. She served as Louisiana poet laureate from 2005 to 2007.

After receiving the award, Osbey read a selection of her poems and shared a brief anecdote about her mother, whose voracious poetry reading contributed to Osbey’s appreciation for Hughes, she said in her remarks.

“When (my mother) came home from shopping and downtown errands one day in the spring of 1967 and announced quite simply — packages still in arms — ‘Langston Hughes is dead,’ it became a still, quiet day,” Osbey said in the speech.

The award comes as an “affirmation of (my) life’s work,” Osbey said, adding that writers often receive little outside encouragement to continue their craft.

It was also “humbling,” she said — both because of the award’s prestigious namesake and because she feels “flattered to be associated” with its past recipients, among whom she cited Michael Harper, professor of English and former Rhode Island poet laureate.

Osbey said the award “comes at an important juncture in my career as a writer and teacher of poetry,” adding that she aims to help her students “read poetry across the boundaries of language, culture and geography.”

“Perhaps no one embodies and typifies this more than Hughes himself,” she said.