Langston Hughes gave voice to the frustration and rage of a generation of
African Americans in the Harlem Renaissance. This is perhaps his best-known poem, and many know it as “A Dream Deferred,” but its actual title is “Harlem,” which pretty much speaks for itself.
The question it asks has never been more relevant than today in Oakland, where unemployment in the heavily African American neighborhood of West Oakland is up to 44% and in East Oakland, which is largely Latino and African American, it’s as high as 35%. At least nine young African Americans have been killed by police in Oakland in the last five years.
A translation of some of Hughes’ poetry into Arabic was published by a Lebanese publisher in 2011. We posted this English and Arabic version in Oakland and Berkeley to provoke contemplation of all the dreams deferred and denied by our government’s wars on Arabic speaking people, from Iraq to New York to our own streets. Arabic speakers are increasingly criminalized and suspect, and as anti-Islamic sentiment gains legitimacy Arabs and Muslims area increasingly targeted for violence.