As I perused my Facebook this evening I was reminded of a poet that I had not recalled in many years. I was originally introduced to this black dude’s poetry by a librarian in my youth.
I have been writing since I could put a pen to paper and I was 13 1/2 and in 8th grade when his name was shared with me. Now, Langston Hughes grew up during a time that was exceptionally troubled due to racism. I however, was a teenager in the 80’s, growing up on a military base. My roots are in Georgia and South Carolina, so of course I was aware of racism but my mother and father did not teach me racism. My best friend Tina that I will speak of, is a black chick (still friends today, despite the miles).
My first bout of “hit-home” racism came from within my own family. You see I went to my grand parents’ house in Georgia every summer as a kid and I stayed for 2 months or so. As I got older, I wanted to be home with my friends but the tradition and the break my parents must have enjoyed sort of forced the subject until I was hit in the head with a BIG BLACK HAMMER!!!
It was almost time for school to be out and I spoke to my grand parents on the phone about the impending visit. (Forgive me Tina for never telling you this…..) I asked my grand father if my friend Tina could come with me that particular summer. He asked, “Is that the little nig*** girl from next door?” – – – – – – – I was speechless for a moment. I heard the word more often than I needed to, but it had never been used in my direction. I think I answered him with a simple “yes sir”. As you can imagine with the direction of this story, he said she could not come. I don’t recall my exact words at that point because I was crying from hurt, shock, and confusion; but I did tell my grand father that I would not be coming that year. And I didn’t, nor did I ever return for a summer visit for the rest of my growing years.
I was very sad over that situation and when I returned to school after the weekend I spoke to the librarian whom I helped sometimes instead of going outside after lunch. (At that time I thought she was really old, but I bet you she was only upper 30’s.) In short she told me not to cry because what I did was strong and brave. She told me that I would have bigger and better memories with my friend that summer than I would in Georgia. After 8th grade I never saw her again, but she was right; Tina and I had a lot of fun that year (as we always did).
While things are far far better today than in Langston Hughes‘ day as far as equality goes, sadly the human race has a long way to go in the areas of diversity, acceptance, and open-mindedness. And while some folks say they are accepting or open-minded; their words and actions make a whole different point – as we know, hipocrites are born everyday.
I suppose seeing a Langston Hughes poem online today brought back that memory and reminded me that despite whatever I have been force fed in my life, whatever I have swallowed despite the taste; ultimately I have a pallet all my own and as my wisdom has grown I know that I’d rather be choked to death than to swallow other people’s distasteful non-sense. Perhaps that’s where part of my biker blood comes from; being different and being strong enough to stand up for different.
I share with you now my favorite Langston Hughes poem which I immediately thought of when his names surfaced today….
DREAMS by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.
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