Friday, February 29, 2008

A Raisin in the Sun -- P. Diddy & The Hansberry family

Here it is February 29th and I have only now gotten around to a post recognizing Black History month.    I have been encouraging folks to read a book AT LEAST once a year around black history.  A book about the civil rights era, a biography of Fredrick Douglas, or perhaps Dr. King or some other place to start.  

Another great option would be reading or watching "A Raisin in the Sun".   This story has close to home implications for me as the story actually took place between where I live and where I work. 

The neighborhood I live in is called Woodlawn.  In the 40's it was an all white neighborhood.   At this time the community was at the south end of the rapidly expanding and horrendously overcrowded black south side (called the Black Belt or Bronzeville).  The neighboring white neighborhoods made what were called "restrictive housing covenants" to cooperatively agree to keep blacks out of the neighborhood.  

The Hansberry family bought a place at 6140 South Rhodes.  (Our building is on the corner of 61st street and Eberhart -- one block West of Rhodes).   They faced incredible
 neighborhood persecution (terrorism, racism, zealoutry, bigotry. .. whatever you want to call it it was extreme!).  Thier daughter Lorraine Hansberry wrote a play to tell the story of the families expeience mainly leading up to the decision to move in and the play (A Raisin in the Sun) became the first Black written play on Broadway.  

Ultimately the Hansberry's fought in court (Hansberry vs. Lee) and went all the way to the supreme court, winning a victory against these racist housing covenants. 

This past Monday night a made-for-TV movie aired staring Phylicia Rashad and Sean (Diddy) Combs.  I thought the performances were extremely compelling and mid way through the show I read aloud to my wife the poem by Langston Hughes called "A Dream Deferred" from which the title comes.  Given the intensity of injustice and hardship permeating the the Black American experience, the Hughes poem drips with a rich texture that rings true.  Combs and the movie also captured this truth in rich imagery -- heartbreakingly so.  
Here is the poem. 

 A Dream Deferred, by Langston Hughes.

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?


Mike Belgrove said...

As explained by Juan Perez over on Highbrid Nation, Raisin in the Sun is doing big things. It is a made for television movie that they are promoting with a major release budget for DVD. For those, like myself, who missed it the first time around you can now see Diddy giving and Oscar worthy performance...well not really, lol.

hammerdad said...


Thanks for the heads up on that release. I do think it was great. . .