By Bret Maney |
On April 5, a student jumpstarted our conversation about Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, the classic 1959 play about African American dreams and the desegregationist struggle in Chicago, with a rousing, impromptu performance of his poem “Where Do We Go from Here?” Everyone in the class was stunned, and the poem’s searching question formed the thread of the discussion that followed. After class, I asked the poet, New Yorker Hilford Hurst, to tell me a little more about the conditions which inspired his poem. This is what he had to say:
In 2008 America elected its first black President, Barack Obama. Racial tensions were running high within my then college at Syracuse University. But this racial tension didn’t only divide individual races; it also divided the African American community within the university. The strife was remarkably similar to the division in the ’60s between followers of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. In an effort to show my fellow African Americans that “united we stand,” I wrote the poem “Where Do We Go from Here?”
You can watch Hilford perform “Where Do We Go from Here” on YouTube:
A final word about the play that sparked Hilford’s performance, A Raisin in the Sun: we studied it in ENG 308: American Literature in conjunction with its 2015-16 revival at the Harlem Repertory Theater. Several motivated students attended the play, and two of them published theatrical reviews of the production. You can read their assessments here and here.
Hilford Augustus Hurst, who makes music under the name August-Hill, was born in Brooklyn and raised in Harlem. He currently owns and operates two businesses and is an aspiring artist. Through his music he has had the opportunity to meet successful people and find out what sets them apart. The one thing they all had in common was the ability to face their fears. Now, at 26, with a business degree and two businesses, and a Lehman College English degree on the way, he finds himself only doing things he is afraid to do. “Live long and prosper.”
Bret Maney teaches American literature at Lehman College.