Category Archives: Poetry

Happy Birthday Langston Hughes!

Today is the first day of Glendale Community College’s Write 6X6 and the birthday of one my favorite poets, Langston Hughes. His words and social activism have always resonated with me. Every year, I typically pick one of Hughes’ poems and share it with others. This year my choice seems unusually relevant given the current state of affairs in our national politics. In spite of the worries I have about our country today, the words of a son of a school teacher, speak to me and remind me of the importance of my work in higher education and make me feel a little more optimistic.

Community Colleges, by providing an accessible pathway to education, are gateways for those who might otherwise not find equality or opportunity. The feeling of helping people from all walks of life working to make a better life has always made me proud of the work I do. I’m even more proud of all of the students who have persevered and accomplished great things.  They give me hope for our future.

Written in 1935 by American poet Langston Hughes.

Let America Be America Again

Let America be America again.

Let it be the dream it used to be.

Let it be the pioneer on the plain

Seeking a home where he himself is free.

 

(America never was America to me.)

 

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—

Let it be that great strong land of love

Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme

That any man be crushed by one above.

 

(It never was America to me.)

 

O, let my land be a land where Liberty

Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,

But opportunity is real, and life is free,

Equality is in the air we breathe.

 

(There’s never been equality for me,

Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

 

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?

And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

 

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,

I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.

I am the red man driven from the land,

I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—

And finding only the same old stupid plan

Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

 

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,

Tangled in that ancient endless chain

Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!

Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!

Of work the men! Of take the pay!

Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

 

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.

I am the worker sold to the machine.

I am the Negro, servant to you all.

I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—

Hungry yet today despite the dream.

Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,

The poorest worker bartered through the years.

 

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream

In the Old World while still a serf of kings,

Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,

That even yet its mighty daring sings

In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned

That’s made America the land it has become.

O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas

In search of what I meant to be my home—

For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,

And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,

And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came

To build a “homeland of the free.”

 

The free?

 

Who said the free?  Not me?

Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?

The millions shot down when we strike?

The millions who have nothing for our pay?

For all the dreams we’ve dreamed

And all the songs we’ve sung

And all the hopes we’ve held

And all the flags we’ve hung,

The millions who have nothing for our pay—

Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

 

O, let America be America again—

The land that never has been yet—

And yet must be—the land where every man is free.

The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—

Who made America,

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,

Must bring back our mighty dream again.

 

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—

The steel of freedom does not stain.

From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,

We must take back our land again,

America!

 

O, yes,

I say it plain,

America never was America to me,

And yet I swear this oath—

America will be!

 

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,

The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,

We, the people, must redeem

The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.

The mountains and the endless plain—

All, all the stretch of these great green states—

And make America again!

From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/let-america-be-america-again

 

Because being good matters

Students come here to shine

In them, our fires of knowledge burn bright

Dreams aglow and rising!

Years ago I made a transition into the work of academic advising. It was to be a short layover job of sorts before heading into teaching, but the teaching bug faded and never materialized for a variety of reasons. Advising as it turned out, suited me quite well. I found I loved the combination of helping students pursuing important educational and life goals as well as the constant research and learning advisors need to stay current in a realm of ever-changing academic and transfer information.

Advising when done right takes a breadth of skills and abilities many take lightly. You have to know or be able to quickly access volumes of information. Mistakes on your part cost students time and money. Regretfully, most advisement training is on-the-job learning from mistakes. I quickly learned that to be effective, you have to know a lot, ask frequently to verify when you don’t know something, and find help when needed to aid students in a more holistic manner when they need additional resources.

Most importantly, through advising, I was inspired every day by the stories students brought to my humble cubicle. The single mother with a terminal illness trying to make sure her daughter would be able to get an education and career prior to her death; DACA students looking for a good education in a STEM field with perfect GPA unable to get an Honor’s scholarship or any other for that matter; homeless students who made it through the semester without dropping out despite the barriers. I learned to listen to students and continue to do my best to help them while they are here at GCC. My reward is watching how often a little bit of extra effort on my part often makes the world of difference to a struggling student. And that, ladies and gents, is why I love advising and why I’m good at what I do. Because it matters.


Filed under: Arizona, Culture, GCC, Poetry Tagged: Write 6X6

Word of the Day Haiku

I’m late. I didn’t post the last two weeks because I got that upper-respiratory thing going around and it lingered with me.  Also, because the topic of professional growth is rather large in my life right now and not the easiest thing to write about.  So I’m going to write about something else that I’m doing to work on my vocabulary and poetry writing skills.

With the help of some good and very smart friends, I’ve been part of a Word of the Day group who write smart, usually science-based mini essays using new vocabulary words.  They are masters at weaving these into science and personal stories.  Me however, I’m not that good, nor do I have the time.  So I reply with Haiku.  Nothing fancy just trying to keep the meter and intent without breaking all the rules.  I will share a few of the better ones with you now.  Hope you enjoy them.

Fallacious summer
Too hot for February
But good for my cough

Calumniating
“Would be” leaders eat their own
Ad hominem meals

Sweet palladium
My true guardian angel
Science is my rock


Filed under: Arizona, GCC, Poetry Tagged: Arizona, Glendale Community College, Haiku, Poetry, Professional Growth, STEAM, vocabulary, Write 6X6