Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Sunday, July 12, 2009
In the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes, the poet creates an image of decay. At the height of the New Negro Renaissance, Harlem became the home for a new wave of thought and creativity. Despite the overwhelming popularity given to the small neighborhood in New York City, Hughes records the eventual decline and departure of the intellectual leaders from the Mecca of the greatest cultural change of the twentieth century. "Harlem" foretells of the despair that most residents of the neighborhood will go through, as their dream of equality and prosperity is "deferred".
The poet begins the poem with a question that could easily pass for a philosophical discussion at the dinner table: "What happens to a dream deferred?" (406, 1). The word deferred stands out to the reader in considering what really happened to the dream. By stating that the dream had been deferred, the author allows for the dream to return. Deferring a dream is not the same as destroying it. Most often the reader will associate military service or college when thinking about deferment. This suggests to the reader that the author's dream is being deferred for a higher cause. Whether the dream is put on hold for war—a battle for equality, or for the education of the Black residents—a time to learn and then return ready to share the knowledge with their neighbors and family, eventually that dream will return to claim all the glory it was intended to receive.
The poet continues the writing by starting to list some possible outcomes for the deferred dream. "Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and then run?" (406, 2-5). Using the imagery of a raisin in the sun creates the feeling of something small reacting to a large amount of heat. This represents the great oppression the residents and Black leaders were facing at the time from the popular majority parties. The rhyme of these two lines is ABA. By linking the sentences together to allow the reader to feel the heat and pain felt by members of his community, the author takes the reader on a journey into the feelings and disappointment of the Harlem residents.
Continuing on with his theme of a dream deferred, the speaker then compares the dream to food: "Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a sugary sweet?" (406, 6-8). The author's use of meat and sugar signify to the reader the importance of this great dream. Meat feeds and builds the body with a lasting protein while a syrupy sweet is a treat best saved for after meals—a simple dessert. Is this dream the nourishment needed to endure the trials ahead, or does the dream more closely resemble the sweet joys of art; providing pleasure but no lasting energy for life? The words chosen by the speaker create the images of a large feast prepared to celebrate the victory of war, but with no one attending, the food sours and remaining inedible to anyone who shows up late.
The author switches from the imagery of food to a much more pressing comparison: "Maybe it just sags like a heavy load." (406, 9-10). This image relates to the buildings of a once thriving neighborhood. The Apollo Theater for example fell close to ruin after the movement that defined much of Harlem ended. Not only are the buildings aging, but the people too; poverty, crime, and neglect have crippled a large number of Harlem residents. Those wishing to leave the rough neighborhood are often required to work harder and longer than their peers living across town.
The most chilling lines of this poem have been saved by the author for the end. Realizing that people will only be kept down for so long, and that the dream that had been deferred will soon return giving life and hope to the dreamers, the poet leaves the reader with a sense of the power and fight left inside: "Or does it explode?" (406, 11). Will there be an explosion? Will it come from the inside or the outside? The author does not tell when and where, just a simple question perhaps left as a warning serves as a cautionary conclusion to a poignant poem.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Perhaps I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but I was not amused at this little joke. In a class teaching the importance of different classes, races, sexes, genders and ethnicity, this man decided to poke fun at someone who has defied many odds and become a global activist. I am not going to say that I am a great Oprah fan, but I will stand up to defend her dignity.
I have spoken with a few people at work; some agree with me, and some think that I am blowing this out of proportion. What I want to know is, where can jokes like this be made? Is the classroom the forum to laugh at the "others" in society? I sent the following note to my teacher (who is not the dean) about this joke.
"On a side note I would like to point out that the joke made by “Professor” Allen is inappropriate not only for this course but for any educator endeavoring to teach lessons of equality and dignity. By claiming, in a humorous way, that Oprah possesses half the wealth of African Americans, he demeans both women and Blacks. Why is he concerned with the amount of money that she has made? Is it because she is a woman? Is he bothered that a Black person could earn more money than he? Where was the joke about Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates? While I am a great fan of humor, I find it unprofessional for him to abuse his position of an educator to make light of anyone’s personal achievements."
I may have just woke on the wrong side of the bed, but it has been several days and I still feel the same way.
What do you think?
Sunday, July 05, 2009
O Yes? Do they come on horses
with rifles, and say,
Ese gringo, gimmee your job?
And do you, gringo, take off your ring,
drop your wallet into a blanket
spread over the ground, and walk away?
I hear Mexicans are taking your jobs away.
Do they sneak into town at night,
and as you’re walking home with a whore,
do they mug you, a knife at your throat,
saying, I want your job?
Even on TV, an asthmatic leader
crawls turtle heavy, leaning on an assistant,
and from a nest of wrinkles on his face,
a tongue paddles through flashing waves
of lightbulbs, of cameramen, rasping
“They’re taking our jobs away.”
Well, I’ve gone about trying to find them,
asking just where the hell are these fighters.
The rifles I hear sound in the night
are white farmers shooting blacks and browns
whose ribs I see jutting out
and starving children,
I see the poor marching for a little work,
I see small white farmers selling out
to clean-suited farmers living in New York,
who’ve never been on a farm,
don’t know the look of a hoof or the smell
of a woman’s body bending all day long in fields.
I see this, and I hear only a few people
got all the money in this world, the rest
count their pennies to buy bread and butter.
Below that cool green sea of money,
millions and millions of people fight to live,
search for pearls in the darkest depths
of their dreams, hold their breath for years
trying to cross poverty to just having something.
The children are dead already. We are killing them,
that is what America should be saying;
on TV, in the streets, in offices, should be saying,
“We aren’t giving the children a chance to live.”
Mexicans are taking our jobs, they say instead.
What they really say is, let them die,
and the children too.
–Jimmy Santiago Baca, 1977