The Diaspora

Langston Hughes x Solange Knowles

I, too

I, too, sing America.

 

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.

 

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

 

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

 

I, too, am America.

 

Langston Hughes, “I, Too” from Collected Poems. Copyright © 1994 by The Estate of Langston Hughes. Reprinted with the permission of Harold Ober Associates Incorporated.

Source: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (Vintage Books, 2004)

 

Black struggle has been beautifully expressed by Solange Knowles and Hughes, yet their work have a similarity that goes beyond the context of race. Langston Hughes poem I, too is a proud declaration of self and love for he’s country, ‘America’. The poem is personal as it is written in the first person with the multiple use of pronouns that give importance and dignity to the protagonist. The poem opens and closes with personal statement linking the protagonist to America. Is the poem a personal ode to America? But within the poem the narrator shares he’s poor experiences of America. The love and hate relationship that the narrator describes is similar to sibling feuds or an unconditional love affair. There is a clear paradox in the poem, the protagonist notes that he is different to America, yet he states that he is America.

Solange

Solange’s album A seat at the Table is a proud American story of love and alienation. Langston and Solange both use the pronoun ‘they’ when referring to America: their oppressors.

“They don’t understand
What it means to me
Where we chose to go
Where we’ve been to know”

 

Solange’s song ‘Don’t touch my hair’ celebrates and appreciates blackness. She praises her differences but doesn’t alienate herself, instead she forces herself to be accepted. Unlike Langston’s poem, Solange has used the pronoun ‘we’ which is plural.The song redefines America, turns the table, and naturalises her hair as American. Understanding the importance of Afro hair in the song, is somewhat an understanding  of America history and identity. Langston and Solange aim to enlighten the ignorant. They both excuse the ignorant for not being able to acknowledge black beauty. Solange and Langston pride themselves in being different but equally American. Both creatives use the message of self love to combat racial injustices.