Everyday Folks: America Can Be

LANGSTON HUGHES PHOTO source: poets.org

PHOTO source: poets.org

By Clare Bender

“America will be” summarizes Tracy Letts’ hope for America in his play Superior Donuts. The bittersweet words are borrowed from Langston Hughes’ thought-provoking poem “Let America Be America Again” which reminds us that not all of us are treated equally. With longing, his poem holds out the promise that one day America will truly be “the dream the dreamers dreamed.”

Hughes notes those who are the targets of oppression. He writes, “I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil./I am the worker sold to the machine./I am the Negro, servant to you all./I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—’’.  Hughes’ use of the first person strengthens his point that all people, regardless of race, gender, or social standing are, in one way or another, chained down by limits placed on them by society and culture. We often see others at a skin-deep level, rather than recognizing them as there truly are: a person with fears, dreams, and longings. The “worker” and “servant” are much more than just their occupation – they hold aspirations and hopes for a good future.

People have an innate desire to be loved, understood, and accepted. Hughes’ poem acknowledges the various people who have played a part in building America. Many immigrants came to America yearning for a better life, but unfortunately reality does not consider one’s hopes and dreams. The workers who built America were not the rich, but rather the poor and oppressed, who longed and dreamed of that better life. Furthermore, Hughes declares, “O, let America be America again—/ The land that never has been yet—/And yet must be—the land where every man is free.”

Superior Donuts gives the audience the opportunity to step into the mindset of everyday folks who have endured the offensiveness of prejudice and its wearisome effect on their daily lives and interactions. It fleshes out, in a sometimes humorous sometimes heartrending way, a cross-generational and cross-racial friendship centered around a dilapidated old donut shop.

This show is sure to both challenge and enlighten the audience and hopefully spur us on to continue to work together for the America that can be.

Hughes, Langston. “Let America Be America Again.” Poets.org. 1994, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/let-america-be-america-again. Accessed 10 January 2018.

Click below to read Langston Hughes' full poem: