A PART OF ME, AS I AM A PART OF YOU

 

Here is a poem by Langston Hughes (1902-1967) that speaks so clearly it needs no commentary other than to say that the “Bessie” mentioned among favorite music was the noted blues singer Bessie Smith (1894-1937).

 

THEME FOR ENGLISH B

The instructor said,

Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.

I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem,
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:

It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York, too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.

This is my page for English B.

 

Particularly significant now are his words,

Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
That’s American.

Yes, that’s American, and we should never forget it for a moment.

 

David

4 thoughts on “A PART OF ME, AS I AM A PART OF YOU

  1. lmarshal

    Thanks for the the Langston Hughes poem. He’s been a favorite of mine for decades.
    Here is one of my favorite poems by Mr. Hughes, and though the situation has improved, we still have so far to go.

    Merry-Go-Round

    Where is the Jim Crow section
    On this merry-go-round,
    Mister, cause I want to ride?
    Down South where I come from
    White and colored
    Can’t sit side by side.
    Down South on the train
    There’s a Jim Crow car.
    On the bus we’re put in the back–
    But there ain’t no back
    To a merry-go-round!
    Where’s the horse
    For a kid that’s black?

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.