Saturday, Feb. 2 was the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet, essayist and activist Langston Hughes, a central figure in the Harlem Renaissance. As part of the Portland State University Black Cultural Affairs Board’s celebration of Black Heritage month, the Langston Hughes Workshop, a group that specializes in dramatized readings of Langston’s works gave a reading on Monday in the Multicultural Center.
Linda Kokololo (pitured at right), Gloria McMurtry (left), and Ali Muhammad read, among other poems, “I, Too, Sign America” and “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” both quoted below.
I, Too, Sing America
“I, too, sing America.
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.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed–
I, too, am America.”
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
“I’ve known rivers:
I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I’ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”