In the 2nd grade, I told my class I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. My teacher made me memorize this poem. I didn’t understand it but I was told I “had to know it” if I wanted to be in the arts. So I never forgot.
With time, I was told being a black woman in the arts meant I had to be better at quoting Shakespeare, knowing Frost, knowing Poe, understanding Greek theatre, and audition for all the classic plays in American literature that I could. Even though none of the characters described my features or spoke like me or ate the food that I ate or told my story.
Maybe when I stood in front of the class and said I wanted to be an actress my teacher knew… she just knew she’d better make me memorize this Langston Hughes poem and tell me sternly, “don’t forget this.” And I never forgot.
And through my (mis)education and living life in the arts, my dream indeed was deferred. But I remembered this poem, and fully understand it now.