Sunday, 22 March 2015

SAWBONNA: CLAYTON GRAY, LANGSTON HUGHES, and JENNIFER JORDAN

In this week's blog, I am sharing Langston Hughes' poem, Let America Be America Again. This astounding poem was read to me over the phone this week. It was read by my friend, Clayton Gray. Clayton is one of those individuals, like Jennifer Jordan, another friend, whose voice is vital, necessary, steeped in authenticity and Wisdom. Clay will be a lawyer.  Jennifer will be a minister. Both dig into the heart and the soul of the intellect. Both challenge themselves and others in remarkable ways. And when Clay read this poem to me, as I celebrated his acceptance into law school, as we spoke about Sawbonna,  justice as a lived and living experience, underscoring its siblingry with Restorative Justice: Respect. Responsibility. Relationship. And Wonder, he did not know that I had just finished reading the poem, Word Danced, about Sophia's choice, Wisdom's choice, to birth over and over and over again, which Jennifer had given to me. Words matter. Poetry matters. Sawbonna matters. Justice wherein all manner of voice is embraced in Circles and Crucibles of safety, where vulnerability is offered room, matters. Clayton Gray, Langston Hughes, and Jennifer Jordan breathe Sawbonna. One authentic and reflective step at a time.

SUGGESTION FOR READING: Replace "America" with Canada. Replace America with the name of any country, corporation, school, or system. Intermingle she and he. In these ways of reading  this exquisite poem the essence will speak Sawbonna's whisper, and poignant and necessary cry.
~~~

Let America Be America Again
Langston Hughes

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

5 comments:

  1. this is powerful and sadly true about America and Canada and elsewhere on most of the planet
    thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. true and hope-FULL, elisabeth. we are each invited to live the very changes we want and know we need, one small and authentic step at a time.
      sawbonna,
      margot/ravenspeaks

      Delete
  2. I stand with you...for Canada, of course...which has also gone off track in so many ways...love this line: "the steel of freedom does not stain..."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With the train derailment in Wetaskiwin today your words are rather prescient, Brenda; and indeed, that is a powerful and poignant line.

      Delete
  3. Wetaskiwin means, The city name comes from the Cree word wītaskīwin-ispatinaw, meaning "the hills where peace was made".

    ReplyDelete