I am on a #2 train, heading uptown. The train is delayed in the station. An announcement: “A train in front of this one is having problems closing its doors.” So we wait. Recently, there was a fare hike. It seems like the days and weeks leading up to the fare hike, and the days and weeks after the fare hikes, that train service under the Metropolitan Transportation Authority worsens.
Sitting and waiting on the delayed train, I take a break from reading Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.” On the dust jacket in red lettering is a pronouncement from Toni Morrison: “This is required reading.”
I just finished reading the first part, which starts with a poem from Sonia Sanchez, about martyrdom and death.
Coates writes about the Dream, a dream that died, but somehow lives on. In my opinion, the Dream died with the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (This past January I read some of my poetry at an MLK Dinner at St. Marks-In-the-Bowery. Afterwards, the pastor was giving out buttons. I took one with a picture of Dr. King that bears the legend: “Fulfill the dream.” The button is pinned to the black messenger bag on my lap as I sit and wait on the #2 train thinking about the Dream, how despite its assassination in 1968 somehow lives on.)
I rarely remember my dreams, maybe because I have seen so many dreams die various deaths. And I know that Dr. King not only talked about the Dream, but also the Nightmare. A child of the ‘60s, the Decisive Decade, as Samuel Yette called it, was one where dreams died young. My earliest memories revolve around Dr. King’s assassination, that is, the adults’ response to his killing. In fact, my life, and much of the life of America, can be divided into two periods, Before Martin, and After Martin.
The train is moving after far too many pre-recorded announcements thanking us for our patience. At least the train was in the station, not the tunnel, giving strap hangers the option to get off the train.
I reopen “Between the World and Me.” Coates begin the second part with a poem by Amiri Baraka, which I think speaks to Black peoples’ long winter of discontent in America – “when what we want is sun.”
To be continued…