"Harlem: A Dream Deferred", by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?
What do you do when you don't succeed? When you mess up bad?

Does it dry up
Do you give up and stop hoping, striving, struggling--
like a raisin in the sun
which may be sweet, too, but isn't your original bang-wham idea.
Or fester like a sore—
Do you suffer to the point of having a nervous breakdown--
And then run?
and go to work with a sawed-off shot-gun to shoot 'em all up?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
How long have you been thinking you were a loser?
Or crust and sugar over—
Long enough for your hope to have become "passé", undoable, dashed--
Like a syrupy sweet?
Nice idea--real brainwave--but you wouldn't or couldn't do it.

Maybe it just sags
Is failure to reach this aspiration dragging you down
like a heavy load.
Like a weighted body is dragged to the lake floor?

Or does it explode?
Put those pills back in their bottle, right now!

by Langston Hughes
with Rethabile Masilo's comments

Langston Hughes, the jazz poet. That's what I call him. Or the blues poet, if you will. The man could make you laugh or weep, which usually amounts to the same thing anyway.


The calm,
Cool face of the river
Asked me for a kiss.

Sometimes he used longer speech to talk to us. I find him best when he's brief. If you asked me what I thought of Langston's poetry, I'd have to say,

It's Nutshell-in-your-face delivery.

That's how I feel about it. I do read longer poetry, and I enjoy it immensely. I like Robert Frost and Walt Whitman, for example. Marvellous "raconteurs" that use the cadences of their mountain valley speech. You hear real people talking, when Frost and Whitman talk. But what they say, while important, is less urgent.

Langston Hughes is urgent. And our man had a penchant for dreams. He believed in them, and told us to go on and dream. But perhaps not to go to the post-office where we worked with an Uzi sub-machine gun if and when those dreams peter out.


To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me--
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

How many of us do dream today? I mean, truly dream. What is dreaming, anyway? It's when the odds and more are all stacked up against you and you go ahead and want to accomplish something nonetheless. Dreaming is something that occurs while we are asleep, and it is usually something unattainable that we dream about. You may dream you're taking the taxi and going to work, that's not the dream. The dream is the sexy woman/man who shares the taxi with you and invites you upstairs to her/his pad with a wow! wink, just before your spouse elbows you and tells you to stop snoring. Dreaming is not when

your two brothers have gone to Yale, your three sisters and a cousin to Harvard, the six of them have nice jobs, living in upper-class neighbourhoods, your parents are diplomats ]

and you wanna go to Princeton, your dream is to make it. That's no dream. Dreaming would be if you decided to go live in the inner-city, learn to rap, and become the best damn rapper in the world. That would be dreaming.

Who has already spoken to us about dreams and dreaming before? C'mon? Martin, of course. Dr. Martin Luther King. He had one. A biggie it was, too. Gonna take more time to make it come true.

Who said: There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.? Some say Robert Kennedy, others say John Kennedy. One of the Kennedy brothers, at least. Do you know of any other famous dreamers?

Here's another one: The government of the Kingdom of Lesotho. The government of Lesotho says,

By 2020, Lesotho shall be a stable, democratic, united, prosperous nation
at peace with itself and its neighbours. It shall have a healthy and
well-developed human resource base. Its economy will be strong, its
environment well managed, and its technology well established.

Great! Grrrreat! That's a dream, a nice dream at that, the stuff sweet dreams are made of. What does it take to see to it that a dream comes true? It takes guts and balls of steel. Especially in a country that has been mishandled and mismanaged for a long time. Today we have a legitimate, elected government in power. So what do we, Basotho and friends of Lesotho, need to do to help our government make this worthy dream come true?

We must

1. Make noise! I'll call this "political pot-banging". It is our duty to make as much noise as possible and to raise hell on the government's stoep. If we don't, who will? E-mail is a great tool. Get your regional representative's e-mail and send them an e-note everytime you don't have electricity or clean drinking water. Maybe, just maybe these people are not aware of the extent of the problem. You don't have them now and you've never had them? Send e-mail everyday or go see the village chief everyday. Ask for things that you should normally be getting, depending on where you live (accessibility), for example. If you live on the top of a mountain with two other families, wouldn't it be more logical for you to move to a nearby village than for the government to erect a pipeline just for you? What? They don't have e-mail? Write them a letter, or send them a fax, or call them, or better yet, go see them!

2. Be model citizens. That means a lot of things. It means we must, ONE, vote; TWO, support local businesses; THREE, not waste (recycle, damn it--and give your leftovers and hand-me-downs to those who need them); FOUR, plant trees; FIVE, not uproot trees planted by others because you don't like their political party; SIX, be a nation--yes be a nation, which we're not. We're each individually proud of our country, but together we remain several groups. Catholics and Protestants, or BCP and LCD, or LCD and BNP. It's amazing how divisible 2.5 million people can be. We really discredit that old adage, "United we stand, divided we fall." We've coined instead, "Divided we stand, united we fall". Which in all honesty is a lot of bunkum, in a country of 2.5 million with one, single language and one and the same culture/customs and one, great unifying founder of the nation, Ntate Moshoeshoe the First and one skin colour (brown) and one major religion (Christianity).

3. Plug the brain drain. Too many of us live outside Lesotho, which is normal, after so many years of a trigger-happy government. But hey, the killings are over, and that house you've bought or built in South-Africa is not doing much to help the government make the dream come true. Come home as soon as possible. What's saddest is that it's the more educated ones that go away. One, just one of you well-off folks who have decided to live out of Lesotho could
--hire Sesotho help and thus feed Basotho family,
--have given the job of building your mansion to a Lesotho company (I know one in Qoaling, if you're interested),
--be more active in the affairs of Lesotho. You are educated. Lesotho needs your brain,
--set the example for others to head on home. Talk to them if needs be,
--do what you know is right for the country as a whole. That's one of you. I know there are quite a lot in South Africa and England.

4. Help those who are worse off than you. Help those who are worse off than you. Help those who are worse off than you!

These are some of the things we need to do to get the Lesotho government to make that dream come true. I'm sure you can think of at least ten others. If you do, hit the comments link below to share them with all of us, or stick them in this form for me to publish them here and there for all to see.

And to the Lesotho government I say:

Do it. You must. You have no choice. May God and Lesotho's heroes, some of whom fell prematurely along the way, help you to carry it out. It will only be right because it is all that any real government strives to achieve, and it is the standard against which Basotho have been gauging you, as a government, from the day they voted you into office. Imagine Ntate Moshoeshoe the First, or one of our heroes, wagging a finger at you and saying, "What are you waiting for?" ]