Archive for the ‘on the left’ Category

Poetry of the Dream

Today, on the occasion of the dedication of the Martin Luther King memorial “the Stone of Hope”, CNN ran the whole of the “I Have a Dream Speech”. We all know the dramatically rousing climax from which the speech gets its name, the part which was extemporised. The way in which he repeats, I have a dream. Like “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

But the rest of the speech is replete with metaphor and driving, muscular poetry. Martin Luther King evoked nature and its processes -mountains, valleys, winds- the forces that batter and buffer to tell the story of the challenge but also of the topography of the hopeful future. He spoke of the desolate valley of segregation, the whirlwinds of revolt, storms of persecution and the winds of police brutality. And then resolutely of the “sunlit path of racial justice” and the “oasis of freedom and justice”.

The wonder of the speech is its timelessness, and the depressing aspect is how relevant it remains in its descriptive and aspirational details. Thinking now of the Occupy Wall Street movement, how unchecked and unaccountable capitalist accumulation (particularly that not connected to the production of useful things, like financial speculation) is predicated on economic inequalities, on the marginalization of the many, King’s speech is remarkably prescient.

Listen to how he refers to those who “live on lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity”, of his refusal to believe “that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity”, of his demand for “the riches of freedom and the security of justice”.

It is from this speech those phrases now part of the lexicon of struggle come, like the audacity of hope, the fierce urgency of now,  meeting physical force with soul force, rejection of the tranquilising drug of gradualism and finally the name of the monument, the stone of hope.

In contrast, Al Sharpton today, no slouch himself in matters oratory, reflecting on the current fight for social justice roared “It is not about Obama. It is about Yo Mama”. And that works too. As poetry and invocation.

Langston Hughes wrote much on the dream for racial equality. Think of A Dream Deferred. Here is another one:

Dream Variations:

To fling my arms wide
In some place of the sun,
To whirl and to dance
Till the white day is done.

Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes on gently,
Dark like me–
That is my dream!

To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun,
Whirl!  Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening . . .
A tall, slim tree . . .
Night coming tenderly

Black like me.



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Here is an animated explanation of the crises of capitalism by David Harvey available on youtube. To be this clever!!!!

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