I first read this in high school and committed it to memory alongside Joyce. I read it in a time when I first knew that Africa was starving and apartheid still lived. I read his poetry with a college friend, Tedros Kebede, who’s mother drug him across the desert and away from Ethiopia. Langston Hughes’ writing is no less relevant now.
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Langston Hughes was a Harlem Renaissance poet and writer. He wrote of his time, when black was beautiful, when Africa was throwing off the fetters of colonialism, when Jazz and Blues were creating American music, in the time of communism and segregation. He wrote of his time with poetry that sings like Ella Fitzgerald. He captured this moment of history for us to see through the eyes of a people, to live in his days, to know a history often overlooked.
I impress upon you writers out there not to forget the Langston Huges’, the Alice Walker’s, the Maya Angelou’s, the Marcus Garvey’s; without them you will not know America. The color of our skin may determine the paths of our lives and our histories, but our humanity has no color.
“The Negro Speaks of Rivers
I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human rivers
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset
I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
Red Rooster Harlem Corn Bread Recipe
Recipe courtesy Red Rooster Harlem
Makes 1 loaf, about 8 servings
1 cup flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon dried aleppo flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons olive oil
Honey butter, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, aleppo flakes, and salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, sour cream, buttermilk, and olive oil.
Pour the batter into 9 by 5-inch loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.
Bake in the oven for 22 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the edges are golden brown.
Serve warm with honey butter.