January 25, 2008

I have a dream...

Langston Hughes and Walt Whitman are outstanding poets. However, at the time they published their first series of poems many people did not care for their style of poetry or subject matter. Whitman was accused of focusing too much on the body. Hughes was accused of focusing too much of his attention on lower class african-americans. Whitman dealt with being poor. Hughes was discriminated against. Both of them wrote during times when the country was in heavy strife: Civil War and segregation. But no matter what they wrote about it, what they said, what pain they felt, they maintained one important concept:

Their Voice.

They wrote about what they wanted. And wrote how they wanted. They found their place in poetic history. They fought for what they believed in through their words. They were strong in their voice. And each with their own style. While Whitman was not afraid to write at length, Hughes chose his words like a linguistic connoisseur. They used repetition. A powerful poetic technique. Used to emphasize, and remind.

Dr. King too used repetition.

At a time when many people dreamed of a different world, and others wanted their world to stay the same. At a time when folks wanted to be equal while others thought equality existed because they had their rights and others didn't. At a time when the country was divided again, not on a battlefield, not in the subtle hurt of segregation, but in the minds of those who wanted an even playing field vs. those who wanted distance. Dr. King stood firm and used his voice.

In addition to the power of his words and the timelessness of his message, I noticed something while looking over his speech...he references a future while making a selfless sacrifice for the present.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

He wanted the world to be accessible for his kids...for the future.

Langston and Walt wanted the same. They wanted accessibility. To moods and emotions and thoughts and dreams that many thought were inaccessible. So they wrote. They wrote themselves into their voices. Wrote thier passion. Wrote their fears. Wrote their hopes. And through writing they triumphed. Just as Dr. King, decades later, did the same.

I thank all of them for standing up, standing out, and voicing their passion to the world. I cannot claim their ability but in honor of them I wrote the following:

To Dr. King, Langston, and Walt

As a child I dreamed myself into existence

away from the cutting words of classmates

away from their glaring eyes on my scared face.

As a child I wrote myself into existence

in simple stories about roses and daises

in simple reflection to laugh and learn.

As a child I spoke myself into existence

stood in front of my enemy and forgave

stood in front of friends and opened doors.

And before you today, on King’s day,

I honor Langston’s language of living

I honor Walt’s writing of wonderment.

I am me, I am that child who speaks,

writes, and dreams, I be not afraid

to be the first but hope that I am not the last.