Just Life

America.

from this morning’s walk to the lake

As a kid, I loved the 4th of July. potluck cookouts and sparklers. running through the grass in bare feet, and maybe the sprinkler if it was warm enough (many of my childhood memories are from the early 1970’s when we lived in Wyoming … y’all I think it snowed once on July 4th). Later, I loved making plans to watch the fireworks. One summer (early 1990’s), Marc & I took the girls for an overnight to a fancy hotel in town that had great views of the fireworks at Lenox Mall. Two years ago, we had a great time celebrating with Katie and her family (and if you clicked that link and noticed that the last photo looks a lot like the one above, you’d be right. I just now realized that the neighborhood association always hangs those banners on this weekend!)

and alongside all of that – probably starting in full force in 2016 – I started to feel uncomfortable about this holiday. For sure the fireworks are a non-starter around here these days (to begin with because small dog with heart issues … and also people who go to bed early … and this year because even though we have plenty of rain here, so many places don’t). It’s hard to celebrate a holiday about “independence” that wasn’t then – and for sure isn’t now – about independence for everyone. I’ve been thinking and reading about that and maybe I’ll have more to share in upcoming TGIF posts.

For today, I’m sharing a poem by Langston Hughes. If he could dream about equality, with hope and optimism, surely I can too.

America

Little dark baby,
Little Jew baby,
Little outcast,
America is seeking the stars,
America is seeking tomorrow.
You are America.
I am America
America – the dream,
America – the vision.
America – the star-seeking I.
Out of yesterday
The chains of slavery;
Out of yesterday,
The ghettos of Europe;
Out of yesterday,
The poverty and pain of the old, old world,
The building and struggle of this new one,
We come
You and I,
Seeking the stars.
You and I,
You of the blue eyes
And the blond hair,
I of the dark eyes
and the crinkly hair.
You and I
Offering hands
Being brothers,
Being one,
Being America.
You and I.
And I?
Who am I?
You know me:
I am Crispus Attucks at the Boston Tea Party;
Jimmy Jones in the ranks for the last black troops
marching for democracy.
I am Sojourner Truth preaching and praying
for the goodness of this wide, wide land;
Today’s black mother bearing tomorrow’s America.
Who am I?
You know me,
Dream of my dreams,
I am America.
I am America seeking the stars.
America —
Hoping, praying
Fighting, dreaming.
Knowing
There are stains
On the beauty of my democracy,
I want to be clean.
I want to grovel
No longer in the mire.
I want to reach always
After stars.
Who am I?
I am the ghetto child,
I am the dark baby,
I am you
And the blond tomorrow
And yet
I am my one sole self,
America seeking the stars.

Seeking the stars … xo, M.

13 Comments

  • Sarah

    I have had many of the same thoughts regarding this holiday in recent years, and it doesn’t feel right to be celebrating when there is still so much inequality in our country. It feel appropriate today to reread The Nickel Boys while we were driving home, a reminder that this country is experienced very differently by its citizens depending on the color of their skin.

    Thank you for sharing this wonderful poem!

  • Katie @ The Cozy Burrow

    Thank you for sharing this poem. It IS hard to celebrate this country knowing our past and present, but it’s hopeful to consider what our future has the potential to be.

    I hope the fireworks didn’t upset Holly and that you got to eat some good food – we all need sustenance while seeking the stars!

  • Kat

    We have not “celebrated” the 4th for a very long time so yes… I get your thoughts on this. That poem by Hughes is really gorgeous. That you for sharing it!

  • Cathy

    The Independence referred too was surely from Great Britain, the Monarchy and paying taxes to the British goverment?

  • Carole

    I loved the 4th of July as a kid, we always went to my aunt’s for a cook out and parade plus it was her birthday so there was lots of celebrating. As an adult, I haven’t been a fan but it was mostly because Dale always worked all day on the 4th with his band – usually 3 separate events – so I was pretty lonely. I’ll never complain about a day off from work, though! hahaha

  • Debbie

    I don’t celebrate the way we did when I was growing up. I did have the family over for a cookout, but we don’t go to the parade or the fireworks, and believe me, there were enough fireworks in my neighborhood to keep everyone up half the night!
    Thank you for sharing this very meaningful poem. I hope for a better future.

  • Vera

    When I was a kid I remember my parents putting out a large flag and also small ones along our sidewalk. We always had a cookout and sometimes went to a parade. none of us were ever really into fireworks (and I’m still not). Great poem Mary!

  • Carolyn

    So much conversation around this…grateful for your post. On the 4th, I was thinking about a friend in SoCal who is American of Filipino background. Her family has a 2-generation naval history, and they observe national holidays (esp. Memorial Day) with greater reverence than my white family of European descent ever has. This happens to be the same young friend whose 62-year-old mother was attacked from behind in a parking garage two days after the devastating spa shootings in ATL–and while being beaten, she was told to ‘go back to China.’ I was thinking about all of this while debating about whether or not to hang our flag… I decided to hang it in hope. (For the first time in years.) For the America I hope we will be. xo

  • kym

    Such a great poem, Mary. We hunker down in our basement family room for several nights on/around the 4th. JoJo is terribly disturbed by fireworks, and even with doggie-valium, a thundershirt, and a white noise machine, it’s a hard few days for her! (I hope we’re done now . . . )

  • Jane

    The personal fireworks in our community are insane. We did have a potluck with some friends, an annual tradition that didn’t happen last year. I have much the same feelings that you express but it’s not a popular opinion around here. The Hughes poem is lovely. Thank you.