Thursday, September 01, 2005

"We need help down here!" + Hughes Poem

Though it's the first day of September and classes will begin in just a few weeks, my mind is far away from school; I cannot stop thinking of the unfolding tragedy in southern Louisiana, coastal Mississippi, and the other areas that suffered the brunt of Hurricane Katrina. The scenes from the New Orleans' Superdome, the Convention Center, its submerged and semi-submerged neighborhoods, and from the various cities and towns in Mississippi (where my grandfather was born) along the Gulf of Mexico and miles inland have filled me with sorrow, anger, frustration.

"We need help down here." Numerous survivors--refugees--of this catastrophe have repeatedly uttered this plea directly into the TV cameras. They need help down there. They need it NOW. Where is it? Why is it so slow in coming? Why weren't the numerous potential repercussions of this catastrophe taken into account and acted upon in advance? What is going to happen to all of these survivors later today, tomorrow, next week, four weeks, four months, a year down the road? Where will all they go? How will they manage? Will we as a nation forget about them once the next crisis arises? What about New Orleans and the Gulf Coast? Will we forget about them? What about the other issues we face as a society, the longstanding ones--race, class, gender, sexuality, economic inequality, and so on--that Hurricane Katrina's aftermath have brought into such stark relief--and more current ones, like the vacuum in political leadership that we've faced for the last five years. I keep returning to the images I've been watching repeatedly over the last few days: one point a large Convention Center crowd, wet, hungry, gathered outside and led by a fiery brotha with dreadlocks, chanted "We need help" in unison. I heard them, and have responded as I could, but did the people who really could assist them immediately hear their cries? Did and do they care? "It's about people," a woman said, her face reddened, her small infant limp in her arms. It's about people--our people. They need help. That's where my head is today.

Here's one of my favorite poems, by one of my favorite writers, Langston Hughes. It's applicable, I think, to the situation many of the people in New Orleans and surrounding areas find themselves right now:


Democracy will not come
Today, this year
Nor ever
Through compromise and fear.

I have as much right
As the other fellow has
To stand
On my two feet
And own the land.

I tire so of hearing people say,
Let things take their course.
Tomorrow is another day.

I do not need my freedom when I'm dead.
I cannot live on tomorrow's bread.

Is a strong seed
In a great need.

I live here, too.
I want freedom.
Just as you.
Copyright © Langston Hughes. All rights reserved.


  1. THANK YOU FOR THE LANGSTON POEM -- i have a new post directing this WHERE question toward our community, which is a huge issue!

  2. i love you.
    you rock.
    allow me to carry your sandals.

  3. Cane, I really appreciate your continuing our blog-alog. Larry, man, your posts often blow me away--you rock! And since you got angel's wings, you don't need my sandals--LOL