Thursday, February 01, 2007

No crystal stair

Today (because I'm up way too late) is the first day of Black History Month. This has become one of my favorite months--well, okay, it's always been one of my favorite months because it's my birthday month--but, really, it's become one of my favorite months because for the last six years or so, this is the month Miss Lillian comes to devotions and leads us in singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," also known as the Negro National Anthem, written by poet James Weldon Johnson with music by his brother. Read the words here and listen to a funky arrangement here.

Another famous black poet was Langston Hughes, whose birthday is today. Hughes was a child of divorce, his father having abandoned the family, and was raised mainly by his grandmother. This was in the first decade of the 1900s, not a time when we think of divorce even being around, though of course it was. Hughes eventually reconnected with both his mother and father, but his relationship with his father particularly troubled him. And I'm reminded, reading of his mother's long absence from his life, of Hughes' famous poem, "Mother to Son:"

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now—
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

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