March 2014, I had just celebrated my 38th birthday (shout out to my fellow Pisces folks and everyone who is trying to do quick maths right now) with a very modest family gathering at home.
I live in London, south east London — aka ‘dutty south.’ March can still be hella cold in these grimey, grey streets. I wasn’t up for venturing out to brave the icy temperature — nor the sea of strangers as their shadows and fragmented conversations echo and rush by. What I was up for, was getting reacquainted with sunshine and taking a break from the city I love to hate — and hate to love.
At that time, I hadn’t travelled anywhere for eight years. I was steady dreaming of the sun most nights. But as a single mother of two young kiddies, sunshine breaks had not been high on the agenda or spotted anywhere along the horizon for one with shallow pockets with holes in them.
Still, my antenna was up. My eyes were hungrily searching out the inevitable change of scenery, my hands were busy juggling pennies for a change of fortune — whilst stubborn determination seasoned my guts. I knew before long, I would be swapping grey skies with blue — for a place in the sun on my solo trip.
Googling around, I happened across a favourite poem. Harlem by Langston Hughes, I obliged in reading it again for what was possibly the thousandth time. I’ll type out the poem because technology confuses me — and I don’t trust my linking skills right now. Also, because I think it deserves to be read a million times over. *shrugs shoulders*
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore —
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over —
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
— (Harlem) Langston Hughes
There I was reading, lost and found in this poem — stealing a moment to defy gravity and drift up into space. Allowing myself to fall gently back to the ground — like a feather earthbound, I clicked another link. I read the shared snippets from the life of a young playwright called Lorraine Hansberry — who’s story I was familiar with. Lorraine Hansberry was the story behind the Nina Simone song To Be Young, Gifted and Black.
The first Black female playwright to have a play on Broadway back in 1959. Another blueprint of how to be young, gifted and Black. Every time I think of it, I feel pride, I feel love. That play was A Raisin in the Sun, which was partly inspired by a line in the poem Harlem. The brilliant Sidney Poitier, who I had adored since watching the film Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — starred in the play to deserved, critical acclaim.
Within the aforementioned link, I spotted an advert. Denzel Washington (my crush since I was perhaps — fourteen) was going to be starring in a revival of the play A Raisin in the Sun, in New York, on Broadway — until June 15th.
For me it was like six degrees of separation leading back to each other: my favourite poem, the classic play inspired by said poem, first performed on Broadway by the iconic Sidney Poitier, now being performed by this eras leading man — and my life long crush Denzel Washington, showing back where it began on Broadway, closing in my dream season of summer time.
The stars had aligned right before my eyes, showing me where to go. It was like a dream, but I had no plans to defer it.
I bought a ticket for the play, booked my flights and hotel — I was going to NYC in the summer to watch the play on its closing night.
Arriving in NYC that June, exiting the JFK airport — I remember how good the sun felt against my skin. ‘I’ve missed you’ I thought to myself.
I was staying in Times Square, about five minutes walking distance from Broadway. The play wasn’t until the next night, time to chill.
I wandered around the city that never sleeps, just taking it all in. Everything there was on such a large scale, the food portions, the buildings, the vibe. Even the sky seemed more limitless — and the stars magnified.
Headed towards the MOMA, I looked up and came across this huge red LOVE sculpture. Admittedly, I had no prior knowledge of this sculptures existence.
Wow, right there on the pavement. Imagine that, there I was fairly — newly single, still pissed off at love and brokenhearted. Yet, having flown halfway across the world, in search of something different — I found love all over again. The irony was not lost on me. A hopeless romantic til the end of time. Hence the pic at the top of this story, of me ‘in love.’
The next night, was showtime. I actually couldn’t believe I was about to sit and watch this classic play, with Denzel Washington gracing the stage. But, that is exactly what I did. Hovering above the stage was a banner or projection of some sort which read: ‘what happens to a dream deferred?’
Mr Washington entered the stage to raucous applause (mine included), himself and the entire cast gave a stirring performance. I couldn’t help but be mesmerised. There I was in NYC, on the plays closing night in the Summer, far from home — but feeling connected and loving life. It was beyond a dream.
As the cast took their final bows, I glanced back up as the curtain fell and read again — perhaps for the one thousand and first time ‘what happens to a dream deferred?’