Tag Archives: Let America Be America Again

Monday Morning Moment – Poet Langston Hughes on Life and America

Photo Credit: The Wisdom Daily

American poet Langston Hughes was born in 1902. His life as a black man in such a time as this gave voice to that of many in America. Especially blacks, but to others as well who also found themselves marginalized by the powerful and influential of their day. He died much too young at 65.

I discovered his poetry in 2020…very late to the party or revolution.

Raised by a loving, Godly mom, I was taught to be color-blind regarding races of people. It turns out that didn’t prove to be healing to black friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street. Blacks whose lives had been deeply and darkly affected by a racism I simply had not learned or experienced. How could that be? Yet, it is true.

[My mom had a pure heart; I’m sure of this. She wanted to believe that there was only one race, the human race. She grew up poor, worked hard all her life, mostly making minimum wage, held her family together, and kept her faith. Much like the black women who lived in that distant, unknown part of town. She just didn’t know what was happening in government and the private sector that divided us…and diminished some. All of us, by degrees.]

Racism is wrong and must be exposed and wrestled down. I don’t believe that what has happened in the US over 2020 will move us in that direction.  I could be wrong. For sure.

Still…I’m so thankful for people who, despite the wrongs done to them or around them, have flourished. Like the rising tide, raising all boats in its wake. My desire is to recognize and support those who resist street-level thuggery and use platforms that don’t divide but draw us all in.

Langston Hughes is an example of that sort of person. [Now, he died during a pivotal time in the Civil Rights Movement, a year before Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed. Had he lived longer, I don’t know how his thinking or poetry would have changed.]

I’d like to let just a few of Langston Hughes’ words speak for him:

“Looks like what drives me crazy
Don’t have no effect on you–
But I’m gonna keep on at it
Till it drives you crazy, too.”
“I swear to the Lord,I still can’t see,Why Democracy means,Everybody but me. ”

“I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.”
Langston Hughes

On this day, commemorating Hughes’ birthday, a friend of mine posted on Facebook the two following poems (one by Walt Whitman followed by a poem of response by Langston Hughes):

I Hear America Singing – Walt Whitman – 1819-1892

*I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”*

I, Too – Langston Hughes – 1902-1967

“I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.

Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–

I, too, am America.”*

Hughes wrote about America and life as a black person in America. Especially as it related to freedom of expression:

“This is the mountain standing in the way of any true Negro art in America — this urge within the race toward whiteness, the desire to pour racial individuality into the mold of American standardization, and to be as little Negro and as much American as possible...Then there are the low-down folks, the so-called common element, and they are the majority — may the Lord be praised!…These common people are not afraid of spirituals, as for a long time their more intellectual brethren were, and jazz is their child. They furnish a wealth of colorful, distinctive material for any artist because they still hold their own individuality in the face of American standardization. And perhaps these common people will give to the world its truly great Negro artist, the one who is not afraid to be himself.” – Langston Hughes, The Weary Blues

Here, on the first day of Black History Month, in a more somber America 2021, I salute the great poet Langston Hughes. May we learn from him and from each other.

[May we also beware of those who “seem to be influential” in our culture today – those who would divide and diminish us – when we have the capacity and capability to help each other flourish…all of us. – This warning coming of all places from my reading in the Bible this early snowy morning, Galatians 2.]

I’d like to close with just an excerpt of the powerful Hughes poem “Let America Be America Again” (recited in full in the YouTube video above):

“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! “

I Dream a World – Langston Hughes

*Poets – Lesson plan, which features poems by Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Elizabeth Alexander

10 of Langston Hughes’ Most Popular Poems – Rachel Chang

The Bold Wisdom Within Langston Hughes’ Poems – Ellen Levitt

Black Lives Mattered to Langston Hughes – Robin Bates

5 Friday Faves – Music that Soothes the Heart, God-shaped Racial Reconciliation, Brothers, Hospitality, and the Colors of Summer

Friday Faves! Here are mine for this week:

1) Music that Soothes the Heart – I don’t know how Nathan does it time after time. He takes that one classical guitar of his and he renders video game, TV, and movie themes into sounds so soulful you feel the healing just listening. I don’t even know the two video games The Last of Us (Part 1 and Part 2) or the anime TV series Naruto. These themes below, arranged and performed by Beyond the Guitar, are hauntingly beautiful. Thousands of folks have already viewed his YouTube videos, and their comments get me every time. More and more I see there’s something more to video games (and to anime)…in the stories and music, there is such a heart connection. It’s fascinating. The music, too…wow!

Did you also catch that Nathan is doing a podcast these days? I’m the mom and yet learn so much about him and his work through these (all adult children should consider doing this sort of thing, even if it’s just for their parents’ enjoyment).

2) God-shaped Racial Reconciliation – Just this week, I came across this video on Twitter. Watched the whole thing, with cold chills. I’m not going to give it all away, but you will be spellbound for the 40 minutes of story-telling of how Will Ford and Matt Lockett met and how their stories have connected for generations.

They tell of how God used a dream during sleep in each of their lives that set up a situation for them to meet. They also speak of Dr. King’s Dream Speech and how it was not only “poetic…but prophetic”.

Dream Stream Company – Will Ford and Matt Lockett

The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America – Will Ford and Matt Lockett

3) Brothers – I never had sisters and always wanted one. Fortunately, with three brothers, I have two sisters-in-law who have given me that sweet experience of sisters for life. [Another amazing sister-in-law thanks to my husband’s brother].

Now, back to my brothers. There are three.

One died too young, and we miss him. Our older brother, Robert, died of a “shredded aorta”. The surgeon who operated for hours to save his life told our family they were able to repair the aorta but couldn’t get him off bypass. He was just too tired.

Life was hard on my brother, Robert, twice divorced and struggling with health issues that diminished him. He coped by blaming the hard on others. His siblings took some of the brunt of it…his children and parents also. However, we learned especially from our mom’s example that loving him mattered. Two friends of mine, in separate conversations, gave me excellent advice: “Hurt people hurt people… deflect the attacks and lean in anyway.” I learned what the buttons were that Robert pushed for me and “deactivated” them. I wanted our relationship to survive. Somehow, when I didn’t react to his put-downs or temper outbursts, he just stopped trying to engage in that way. What if I had walked away and given up on him, on us. Thankfully, we had time…not as much as we would have liked, but time…to be close, to laugh over memories, to share the daily small victories, to long together for better days, to make plans for those days. I learned so much from him on dealing with challenge and not giving up. One day I will tell him.

My two “little brothers”, Dwane and Wade, have benefited from what we learned from our older brother. We three have always had strong opinions like our big brother, but less argumentative and more gentle. Now that our parents are gone, we hold together. I can’t imagine any disagreement ever separating us from each other. We are family and I am so thankful for them.

How about you?

Sometimes we lose a parent (or both) through divorce or death. We are with our siblings for most all of our lives. They help shape us for life.

My extended family lives states away. No travel yet for me but it’s coming. In the meantime, so thankful for phone calls with these brothers of mine. And social media, right? Thankful for every connection.

Let’s celebrate our families while we have them. None are perfect. Some are exceptionally difficult. We have much to learn – from our original families – to live well in our own next families…and to love well, even through the hard.

4) Hospitality – What’s wrong with this picture? No people.

This room is the least used in our house during this season of COVID-19. Before this Spring, our living room was hopping with friend visits, mid-week small groups from church, work friends, neighbors, and our children and grandchildren. Those visits have mostly moved outside with the social distancing mandates.

I miss our usual hospitality. Now it requires more creativity and less people. The noise of hospitality is missing, as well as the bounty of it. At the start of COVID-19 restrictions, I was all about writing cards, doing drive-by visits, making videos of reading picture books and posting them to Google Drive for our grandchildren, reconstructing how we celebrate birthdays and holidays.

Four months in, I put away my card box. No more books on Google Drive. It feels like we’re heading into a longer “hunker down” than we imagined. For now, I’m taking a breather…but not for too long.Photo Credit: Pinterest, Source Unknown

As my husband is watching a NFL game from 2019 on TV (Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs), I’m hoping we’re in half-time on this whole COVID thing. Great game, if you didn’t see it (and if you’re a Titans fan!).

Hospitality in the usual is missing for some of us (social distancing being at-risk) and we miss it. So thankful for you out there who have taken hospitality to a whole new normal and haven’t missed a beat. I’m getting ready to join you!

5) Colors of Summer – No words necessary. Enjoy the colors:

Hope your weekend is filled with sweet times and near loved ones (even if it has to be six feet apart).

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 Bonuses:

Photo Credit: World Health Organization, Facebook

Matthew McConaughey Discusses racism and ‘White Allergies’ in Interview with Former Longhorns Star Emmanuel Acho – R. J. Marquez

Let America Be America Again – Langston Hughes

I’m a Black Millennial – Here are three ways we can improve race relations

How to Achieve Your Goals By Creating an Enemy – Nir Eyal

Camping ResurgenceThe 18 New Rules of Camping

Elaboration on Why Monuments Should Come Down – Rayshawn Graves

Atlanta is the city of my birth. This was a fascinating infographic. I’d love to find one for our current home, Richmond, Virginia.Photo Credit: Twitter, Everything Georgia, Entymology Nerd