The Harlem Renaissance developed as a result of the Harlem neighborhood in New York in the early 20th century. The region was growing as a black cultural mecca, and it led to a social and artistic explosion that lasted from the 1910s to mid-1930s (Herringshaw 12). Due to this explosion, the period is considered as a golden age in African American culture as it helped manifest its literature, music, art, and stage performance. The writers who wrote during the Harlem Renaissance were encouraging a change of mindset for their audiences.
Changes Written to Audiences of the Poems
Hughes in his poem, ‘I Too’ wants the black man to understand that he is an essential part of America. He says in his verse that since he is dark, his family sends him to eat in the kitchen when they get friends. Nevertheless, he is not angry at them, but instead, he laughs because he knows that when tomorrow comes nobody will dare tell him to go and eat in the kitchen. Hughes is appealing to his black colleagues who may be facing discrimination and asking them to avoid feeling sorry about it. In fact, other than laughing when he is sent to the kitchen he says “and eat well, and grow strong” (Lewis 258). Hughes is not saddened by the discrimination because his hope is in what the future will offer him.
In his poem ‘Southern Road,’ Sterling Brown wants the reader to revise the notion that the black man can fail to endure the harsh treatment from the white man. He says “white man tells me, damn Yo’ soul” (Lewis 227) to prove that the white man did not have any regard for him as a black person. However, he is convinced that he will still make it out of this situation as such he says “chain gang nevah-hunh, let me go” (Lewis 228). Brown is convincing his audience of the need to remain steadfast even when trouble hits because, with such a mindset, the end is to come out victorious.
Specific Actions Required
Hughes is explicitly asking his audience to be proud of being black. He wants them to know that they are a critical part of America and that is why he says “I, too, am America” (Lewis 258). He is simply trying to bring out the point that he doesn’t have any other place to call home other than America, and as such, he is confident that the people therein will learn how to appreciate that fact with time. In fact, people who discriminate against him will realize how beautiful he is and end up feeling ashamed that they would dare to discriminate against him. He says “tomorrow I’ll sit at the table. When company comes, nobody dares say to me “eat in the kitchen” (Lewis 258) Black people were being treated with a disgrace and being seen as people who should not interact with others, and that’s why he raises the issue about self-esteem which would make the individuals feel proud about being black.
Brown, on the other hand, is asking his audience to be courageous. He begins by saying “swing dat hammer-hunh, steady, Bo” (Lewis 228). When Brown was writing this poem, the black people in the United States were facing a lot of discrimination which appeared like a war they had to fight. Therefore, he is asking them to be determined to win the war by being steady. They should be committed if feel the need to win the war. He also says “ain’t no rush, bebby, long ways to go” (Lewis 228). This statement serves as a reminder to his audience that the war against discrimination is a long-term one, and they should not be in any hurry to despair until they win.
The poem by Brown is also specific on the issues that black people go through. He says that girls on the fifth street to signify that they are living in impoverished states and that the son is already gone. The son has already lost his way due to discrimination. He also says “wife’s in de ward, bebby, babe’s not bo’n” (Lewis 228). When he points out the specific issues that black families are facing, Brown is trying to emphasize the need for courage, determination and focus for the people to win the battle. The black people are suffering, and the only way to end their misery is by uniting together courageously against discrimination.
Connection of the Changes to Current Events
Same sex marriages were legalized in the United States in 2015 (Stack). Although a law was passed providing that there was no state in America with permission to ban same-sex marriages, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community still faces discrimination is some areas. For instance, some service providers deny them services on religious perspectives that view gay marriages as sin. Other individuals discriminate them at the workplace either by denying them job positions or emotional harassment. I feel that the poem by Hughes addresses the issues that these individuals go through in their daily lives.
The LGBT community is also part of America, and that is why the government passed a law allowing for same-sex marriages. However, some people feel that these people are a disgrace and they should not be allowed to mix up with other individuals. Therefore, just like in Hughes’ poem, they are asked to go and eat in the kitchen when company comes (Lewis 257). Nobody wants to be seen that they are associated with them. However, they are challenged by the poem to adopt an attitude similar to Hughes. When he was asked to go into the kitchen, he would laugh and ensure that he ate well to be strong. He was hopeful for a better future.
The poem also brings out the idea of self-confidence. Hughes says that he was convinced that he was beautiful, despite being black. Similarly, individuals from the LGBT community should know that their way of life is not shameful and that it’s just a means to embrace who they are. They are only living lives where they are true to themselves. They should be so proud of their personality that they confidently say that those who discriminate against them today will be ashamed of themselves in future when they look back at their deeds. In a similar sense, I feel that Hughes is speaking to every individual who reads his poem on the importance of being confident even with personal weaknesses. No one is perfect, and we only need to realize that it is useless to discriminate people because of our differences. We need to see the differences as beauty and be proud of our diversity.
Brown’s poem can also appeal to the issues faced by the LGBT community as a result of discrimination. The individuals in the community suffer from isolation, denial of services, unemployment, and emotional harassment. The problems may not be similar to the ones faced by the black people in Brown’s poem, but they may require a similar action. When Brown highlights the issues the black people face, he is trying to get all of them to understand the need for commitment, unity, and courage in fighting against discrimination. The LGBT community should also adopt a similar perspective and work towards fighting for their rights in solidarity.
In his poem, Brown has used some words from his local dialect. For instance, he says “po’los’ boy, bebby evahmo” (Lewis 229). The use of the local dialect emphasizes his strong opposition to discrimination and goes on to prove that he is courageous about being black. The confidence alluded by Brown inspires me on the need for deep self-conviction when we are engaged in battles for our rights. I feel that we can only convince other people about what we believe when we are courageous to bring it out. When Brown speaks in his local dialect, he proves that he is not pitiful about it. In a society where everyone is trying be like others, I feel that this is the right attitude to adopt where we are confident to remain true to ourselves.