February 1st not only marks the start of another Black History Month, it is also what would have been beloved Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes's 115th birthday. Langston Hughes remains one of the most celebrated poets in the world and his work has long been taught in classrooms from elementary school to universities. Hughes worked during a time of great innovation and creativity in the Black community, but also one of great upheaval. Hughes wrote a lot about the experience of the American Black man and woman, particularly about what it meant to have personal dreams paired with the desire for equality and freedom.
In our country today, it sadly sometimes feels as if not much has changed. In 2017 Black men and women are still fighting for the rights to fulfill their dreams and to live with equal rights, respect and safety. We can't think of a better time to revisit some of Hughes's most famous poems, not only to celebrate the profound beauty of their words, but to confront how relevant they still are today. It would not be surprising to read any one of these works and be told that they had been written by a young new poet. That is a testament to their universal resonance, but also of how far we’ve still got to go toward making the true American Dream available to all.