Langston Hughes is a writer of striking, seemingly simple poems.
His words are melodic; they have a musical rhythm. “I, too, sing America,” he writes at the beginning of his poem, “I, Too,” about an unnamed speaker who feels that his own country is ashamed of him. The speaker is relegated to eating in the kitchen, but, Hughes writes, “Tomorrow, / I’ll be at the table / When company comes.”
It’s a poem about protest, and the emotional and practical reasons protest becomes necessary. It’s also a poem about loving your country, but feeling as though you’re not truly a part of it.
It’s a poem that’s needed right now, which is why The New York Times dedicated an entire page to it in its print edition today.
Pamela Paul, Editor of The New York Times Book Review, tweeted that “I, Too” is a poem that, “everyone should read and reread.”
On Tuesday, police officers in Charlotte, North Carolina, shot and killed a black man named Keith Lamont Scott, who they claim refused to drop a handgun. His family says they were mistaken, that he was holding a book. For the past two nights, protests have ensued and grown violent.
On Thursday morning, Charlotte is in a state of emergency. So, too, is America.
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