Just as I believe there should be a moratorium on the "I Have A Dream" speech being remembered as the only aspect of Martin Luther King, Jr., I believe that maybe the concept of Black History Month needs to be revisited and/or extended to remembrances and celebrations throughout the year, because the shortest month of the year is not fit to cover all the achievements that are worth honoring, let alone all the other months of the year, because those achievements are beyond numerous. But I may be alone in that assessment--who knows?
Be that as it may and until that happens, I hope to devote the next several entries this month to the celebration of Black History. First off, I would like to point you all to my entry of February 20, 2006. It sums up some thoughts that I had/have on the subject and after rereading them, they still hold up. Secondly, I would like to suggest(recommend?!) as a way to celebrate, going out and renting the movie, "Killer Of Sheep", by Charles Burnett. It's a film that was originally produced in 1977, but without any considerable distribution, until last year, where it received practically a second life after being released in select theaters across the country and as part of a special-edition dvd box set and was considered by several critics, including Time magazine, as one of the best films of the year. It currently is one of the films listed in the archives of the Library of Congress. It's one of the most realistic portrayals of a black family ever filmed--in a lot of ways, it reminded me of growing up on the south side of Chicago during that same period, even though it takes place in south Los Angeles. The film is like a montage of beautiful black and white photographs come to life and some of those images are very stunning, poetic and poignant. Talk about black history.
Thirdly, speaking again of black history, I think that on this eve of Super Tuesday, we are on the verge of making history, not just in terms of black, but possibly as a nation, by potentially electing a black man as president of this country. I submit to you that my support is for Barack Obama and for reasons that go beyond the fact that he is black, though I do honestly take that into account. For the first time in a long time, we have someone who inspires us as a country to move forward, to exemplify progress, and put a new face on this country's leadership that we have never seen in the history of this presidency. Not to mention the inspiration that this gives to scores of young children who will be able to see that anything is possible and that attaining one of the highest positions in the world is not a pipe dream. I finish this thought with a quote from the L.A. Times' recent endorsement of Obama--"In the language of metaphor, (Hillary)Clinton is an essay, solid and reasoned; Obama is a poem, lyric and filled with possibility".
Fourthly, and in closing, I will be posting one of several poems in each entry this month that celebrate some of my heroes, people who inspire me to dream and aspire to greater aspects of humanity and to make my own history. People like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and the subject of today's poem, which I wrote 8 years ago, Langston Hughes. I hope that this, along with the other poems to come, will inspire you as well, to make your own history, no matter who you are, for we are all in this together. 'Nuff said.
The Negro Speaks Of Langston Hughes
I've known the blues;
the eternal tom-tom of joy and laughter;
pain swallowed in a smile.
I know, because of Langston;
His words drunk deep into my soul,
like fine cherry wine;
words which flow down like waters
into the wellspring of my being;
flow like the blood that courses
through my veins.
I've known jazz;
the sound of the "A" train racing to Harlem;
the heartbreak of Lady Day;
the za-ba-doo-bop of Satchmo.
I've known blackness,
because of Langston,
of what happens to a dream deferred;
of cotton fields and the Mississippi;
of spirituals and folksongs;
of beauty and ugliness.
I know of poetry,
becuase of Langston;
for you can't be black and a poet,
and not give the man his due.
when the Negro speaks of Langston,
He speaks of America;
of black folks
and white folks;
and even the brown, yellow,
and red folks;
when the Negro speaks of Langston,
He speaks of himself.
© 2000 Joseph Powell