Langston Hughes has a poem entitled ‘I Too.’ It’s based on Walt Whitman’s classic ‘I Hear America Singing.’ For some reason, I saw the poem today while sifting through my Langston books. It got me wondering, and with all we have endured this year in 2021, just how would America sing? For sure, she would sing of being sick. Omicron has me exhausted. I’m tired and would like to really see the end of the tunnel with this pandemic. I also realize we have a long way to go if we continue along this path of not vaccinating the world. Don’t get me started on those including children under 5 that are not vaccinated. I fear for my kids under 5. Then there are the violence, a 14 year old killed while shopping with her mother, or kids killed at school for doing what they are supposed to be doing, going to school. Then there is poverty. My family and I spent Christmas eve taking care of homeless people in Saint Louis and let’s just say I am overwhelmed. Why can’t we get to the bottom of homelessness or poverty in general? I share all this to say that if Walt or Langston were to write their poem today, for sure, they would both be on track with where we are as a country, but also we would be sicker, more violent, and definitely poor. Hence my take below.

By Langston Hughes

We too sing America. We are your new generation. A sick, violent, and poor generation singing as we await 2022. We sing of a pandemic, which turned the world upside two years ago, and continues along its path. The healthcare worker sings of burnout and exhaustion. The parents sing of juggling multiple stressors at work and home. The teenager sings of being in a constant state of flux, as they cope with the pandemic. The children sing of a childhood gone in disarray as the pandemic surges on. While the elders sing of isolation as they continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. As if that’s not enough, we too live in an America where violence is more common than a Sunday rest. Your children, sing of the violence they see in their schools with classmates choosing bullets rather than books. Your communities sing too of violence on their streets, with protesters insisting that Black Lives Matter and they do. Your Congress sings of violence too, with an angry mob that would rather desecrate its halls that choose your democracy. While those we elect sing in words that would rather tear us down than build up we the people by the people. As if that’s still not enough, we live in America where one-third of your children are poor. Your families sing of not getting enough to eat with food insecurities and not getting enough to drink with water insecurities. Your poor households sing of bearing the brunt of rising prices. Your public sings of lacking systems, health, education, governments, that continue to fail to put them first. While your citizens sing of not having homes for your children. Besides, nothing seems to be transforming all we still know about America. That this too is a land that still fails to take a stand for all forms of racism, for immigrants, for rural life, for your children, who continue to sing of being sick, continue to be weary of the rampant state of violence, continue to remain poor, despite being born on fruited plains.

I pray 2022 has us singing a different note.

How do we heal when lives are cut too soon?Remain calm when lives seem forever doomed? When do we start to usher healing, insist on its presence, demand its existence? Is it when we plead for our lives? Is it when we say we are afraid or when you remind us that we should be? Is it when we wear uniforms or drive cars with visible forms? Is it when we serve our countries or expect our countries to serve us? Will that ever happen? To hear the tears in his voice, the fears through the noise. To hear another mother plead for a son gone to soon is becoming insane in a country where guns are used too soon. So when will all this end so healing can begin.

I yearn for the days, we mend. Days our ways bend towards justice and our dignity towards freedom. Humanity demands that we stay hopeful for such a day when you and I do not have to be hyper vigilant as we gather once more for yet another vigil for a life gone to soon. When will healing arise in this place, in this space, for a people committed to ways that are more than just what is. I ask because I’m tired. Drained, emotionally, worn out. All this never ending pain, always seems to end in vain. If it’s not the needless deaths from a pandemic that we could have controlled, then it’s the endless deaths from a violent pandemic we fail to control. What about our children? How do we protect them from all this and at the same time remind them that they are our better days, our brighter future, even though we expect them to keep their guard up and remain vigilant.

I don’t have any answers but I want healing so deep that it can only be love. Love for you, love for me, love for humanity that sees a human in things, like when a child holds a toy, or some teens blast their music or like when our hands are held up or we cry and say that we can’t breathe. This love is the necessary air we all need from the weight of this continuous racial violence which continues to suffocate though we breathe. There is a Black ant crawling on my floor. It’s see the shadow from my hand and darts away as fast as it can to the nearest space for safety. I imagine lives like this ant. Nothing can protect you when hands are raised up high to destroy you. You who belong to a people, a place, a space, a community.

You are also worth fighting for, no matter what they say or do to diminish your worth. You are more than deserving of every breath that is in service of your humanity. You are a life force worth celebrating whether they see it or not and every encounter does not deserve to end in a count that should never be. No encounter should include another life gone too soon. No gaze of us, whether when we seem aimless, should end as if we are nameless. We are not. Is this healing possible? They may think we chant aimlessly. But even their aim is lessened when we chant even louder that Black Lives Matter. It’s a simple three letter word that reverberates this need for healing. Something that we demand for today, tomorrow and so long as we have breathe. Healing is the justice we seek to keep for a world that refuses to just see. This one is for Daunte. Give him justice.