Saturday, April 07, 2007

color blind

Yesterday I read my younger daughter a book of poetry by Langston Hughes.

Rachel sat on my lap, lost in the cadence of "The Weary Blues," warmed by "Aunt Sue's Stories" and deepening as I read "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." This little girl, who has trouble sitting through a Bible story, dived headfirst into the Harlem Renaissance and let the current carry her far downstream. When her mother came home, Rachel couldn't wait to tell her about  the book of story poems we had read.

I never cared for poetry until I discovered Emily Dickinson, well into college, but her discovery -- at the age of 4 -- isn't what touched me most.

No, what I loved most is the way Rachel saw her life in the art that accompanied Hughes' poems. She saw a black woman in a headscarf, telling stories to a child cuddled in her arms, and she felt the connection immediately.

"Look, daddy. It's mommy holding me!" She saw the family that stood next to "My People" and knew at once that they were her people as well -- her father, her mother, her sister, and herself, all painted in black.

To Rachel, the color made no difference, nor did she seem to see that it should or even could. And I thought to myself, "Maybe there's hope for us yet."

Copyright © 2007 by David Learn. Used with permission.

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