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"What Happens to a Dream Deferred?"

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Reprinted from Wallwritings


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What happens to a dream deferred?

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The phrase comes from Langston Hughes' poem, Harlem, which inspired Lorraine Hansberry to write her drama, A Raisin in the Sun, the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway.

Her play was made into a 1961 movie which featured Sidney Poitier (above), as Walter Lee, the angry and ambitious son of a mother trying to give her family a safe and secure home.

Hughes' poem, Harlem, is short and prophetic:

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What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Langston Hughes' poem was an artistic cry of protest against racial injustice in the United States. He was addressing the increasing frustration and anger felt by African Americans whose dream of equality was continually being deferred.


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Langston Hughes (1902-1967) (above, left) was known to possess a "strong sense of racial pride." It was "through his poetry, novels, plays, essays, and children's books, [that] he promoted equality, condemned racism and injustice, and celebrated African American culture, humor, and spirituality."

Like all great art, Hughes' poem transcends the context of immediacy. "A dream deferred" applies wherever injustice exists.

Injustices, that is, such as Israel's oppressive military occupation of the Palestinian people, an occupation that began either in 1948 or 1967, however one wishes to measure the history of stolen land and stolen lives.

Religious institutions have been notoriously slow in responding to that occupation, preferring instead to concentrate narrowly on their own institutional house keeping and growth.

In so doing, these institutions have followed the same plan of deferral practiced by an early generation that tolerated and encouraged racial segregation in U.S. life.

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http://wallwritings.wordpress.com/

James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)
 

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