Happy Birthday Langston Hughes!

Today is the first day of Glendale Community College’s Write 6X6 and the birthday of one my favorite poets, Langston Hughes. His words and social activism have always resonated with me. Every year, I typically pick one of Hughes’ poems and share it with others. This year my choice seems unusually relevant given the current state of affairs in our national politics. In spite of the worries I have about our country today, the words of a son of a school teacher, speak to me and remind me of the importance of my work in higher education and make me feel a little more optimistic.

Community Colleges, by providing an accessible pathway to education, are gateways for those who might otherwise not find equality or opportunity. The feeling of helping people from all walks of life working to make a better life has always made me proud of the work I do. I’m even more proud of all of the students who have persevered and accomplished great things.  They give me hope for our future.

Written in 1935 by American poet Langston Hughes.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

 

(America never was America to me.)

 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

 

(It never was America to me.)

 

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

 

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

 

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

 

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

 

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

 

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

 

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home—

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

 

The free?

 

Who said the free?  Not me?

Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay—

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

 

O, let America be America again—

The land that never has been yet—

And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

 

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

 

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

 

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/let-america-be-america-again

 

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Bring me all of your dreams

American poet and author Langston Hughes photographed circa 1945. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)


Bring me all of your dreams,


You dreamer,


Bring me all your

Heart melodies


That I may wrap them


In a blue cloud-cloth


Away from the too-rough fingers


Of the world.  

—Langston Hughes

Every February 1st it is my tradition to share a poem and post on the birthday of Langston Hughes. Today, I have good news from Harlem to share as well!  Author and executive director of I, Too Arts Collective, Renée Watson and others in the community has acquired a lease for the historic brownstone where the great poet lived.  As of today, it will serve as a center that offers community programs for emerging artists. A cause for celebration!

Langston Hughes’ Legacy Lives on in Harlem

http://www.biography.com/news/langston-hughes-harlem-home
Today, on Langston Hughes’ birthday, Renée Watson, author and executive director of I, Too, Arts Collective, writes about how the influential poet and activist inspired her to preserve his Harlem brownstone and transform it into a space for the community and emerging artists.
As a child reading the poems of Langston Hughes kept me “away from the too-rough fingers of the world.” In the lines and stanzas of his poems, my grandmother called out to me, my dark skin and crinkly hair was beautiful and the stories of my ancestors were honored. There was strength and resistance, grace and celebration, all there for the taking. I needed that as a child and I believe our young people need that now.

I want young people to have a space where they can process what is happening in our world and I believe poetry—and art in general—can be a place to process, question, and heal. That is what Langston’s poetry did, and continues to do, for me. It has helped me make sense of what is sometimes a chaotic, unjust world. It has inspired me to celebrate the small things, to remember where it is I come from.

This is one of the reasons I launched I, Too Arts Collective. I, Too Arts Collective is a non-profit organization committed to nurturing voices from underrepresented communities in the creative arts. We are dedicated to preserving the legacy of Langston Hughes and building on it by providing space for emerging writers to create. In July 2016, we launched the #LangstonsLegacy Campaign to lease the Harlem brownstone where he lived and created during the last 20 years of his life. Over 1500 people donated to help us secure funding for our first year of programming.

Our name is inspired by one of Langston’s poems where he declares, “I, too, am America,” and talks about taking his place at the table. It is a statement that declares, “I, too, deserve a space, a voice, to be seen.”

We hope participants in our programs feel like they have a seat at the artistic table. Our offerings will have opportunities for beginning, emerging, and professional writers and artists to be involved. We will offer poetry workshops and creative writing courses for youth and adults. The space will also host creative conversations for the community, where guest artists will share works-in-progress and engage with the audience through discussions.

Places hold stories and when we lose sacred places like churches, theaters, and the homes of literary legends, we lose pieces of our collective story. Opening I, Too Arts Collective at The Langson Hughes House in Harlem is about reclaiming space, a way to ensure that Harlem’s literary history—black literary history—will be preserved.

Renée Watson is an author and executive director of I, Too Arts Collective. In July 2016, Watson launched a campaign to lease the Harlem brownstone at 20 East 127th Street where Langston Hughes lived and created during the last 20 years of his life. In October 2016, I, Too, Arts Collective signed the lease for the historic brownstone that had been vacant for years and opened on February 1, 2017 to offer programs for the community and emerging artists.

Article from http://www.biography.com/

 

Happy Birthday Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is one of my favorite American poets.  For many years now, I do my best to keep his poetry alive and remembered every February 1st to honor the poet on his birthday, and to kick off Black History Month on a good tone for myself, and others.

On this rainy day in Glendale, Arizona, I offer you Hughes’ April Rain Song, and wish you all a Happy Langston Hughes Birthday.

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.