I, Too, Sing America

3 Jul

As a member of Public Allies, reflecting on the meaning of service is a daily occurrence. Public Allies pushes service beyond band-aid approaches into the realm of inquiry that seeks to address the root causes of different social issues. As Allies, we also leave the experience different than what we were before. For me, service is more than giving to others, it is also how I expand my identity as an American and a global citizen. Each service opportunity opens a gateway for me and for those who am I serving with, to expand notions of responsibility and community.

In high school and college, service was how I came to identify as an American. Volunteering with various agencies afforded me the chance to interact with communities in a way that left indelible marks on my identity. Through service, I began to understand the interconnectedness of people across this country, and that I had a responsibility that went beyond my own needs.

A reading of the poem I, Too, Sing America by Langston Hughes, at a gathering at Eagle Rock School reminded me of these memories that form my current identity. As an African-American growing up in this country, many times I felt displaced. Service served as my bridge to connect me with others with similar struggles and hopes.

Below, you will find the full poem.

I, Too, Sing America.

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.

I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”

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.


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