Poem of the Week, by Langston Hughes

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

Here in my neighborhood, in the wake of another shooting of a Black man, choppers circle nightly, protests happen nightly, and stores and restaurants keep their window plywood boards on standby.

Tension runs high. I scan the streets for cars and trucks with out of state plates driving erratically, zipping the wrong way down my one-way street, the way they did a year ago, when under cover of darkness men searched through our gardens for incendiaries planted earlier.

There’s plenty of racism to go around in Minnesota and there are also nationwide white supremacy groups happy to help the movement. I loved Langston Hughes’s poems as a child and I love them still. Last night I walked past a SWAT car filled with police officers at the end of my block and thought of this poem.


I, too, sing America
     – Langston Hughes

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
when company comes,
but I laugh,
and eat well,
and grow strong.

I’ll be at the table
when company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

Besides, they’ll see how beautiful
I am
and be ashamed–

I, too, am America.

For more information about Langston Hughes, please click here.


Poem of the Week, by Langston Hughes

My poems podcast, Words by Wintercan be found here.

My family is multiracial so these latest murders, of eight Asian Americans in Atlanta by yet another white guy with a Hitler haircut, feel more personal to me, more terrifying, right? Wrong. The idea that it’s on Asian Americans and their families to speak out against hatred is as exhausting as being the lone woman in a roomful of men trying to explain to them what sexism is. It is not my responsibility or my family’s responsibility to take a stand against these hate crimes, it’s everyone’s responsibility.

You know that phrase you still see here and there, If you see something, say something? Flip it around and use it for good. Fellow white people, I ask you to practice putting it to use in your own life. When you hear someone (including someone you love) make a “joke” or a remark with racist overtones, practice saying “Oh, I’m not comfortable with that.”

Do it in a way that works for you and your personality. I usually smile-grimace and squinch up my shoulders and say “oh yikes, no no no.” In my experience, this is surprisingly effective. It works for anti-gay and anti-women “jokes” too. Check out this perfect tiny tutorial by the wonderful Linda Sue Park for more tips. Remember that baby steps are still steps.

Freedom, by Langston Hughes

Freedom will not come
today, this year
            nor ever
through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
as the other fellow has
            to stand
on my two feet
and own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.
I do not need my freedom when I’m dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow’s bread.
            is a strong seed
            in a great need.
            I live here, too.
            I want my freedom
            just as you.  

For more information on Langston Hughes, please click here.

Words by Winter: my new podcast