TOPICS > Arts

Howard Michael Henderson Reads for the Favorite Poem Project

January 21, 2002 at 12:00 AM EST

TRANSCRIPT

JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, a holiday reading from the favorite poem series, the project by then-poet laureate Robert Pinsky asking americans to read their favorite poem. Tonight’s reader is from Atlanta.

HOWARD MICHAEL HENDERSON: My name is Howard Michael Henderson. Most people call me Michael. I was born and raised here in Atlanta. And I try to consider myself to be somewhat of a renaissance man. There’s a lot of things that interest me in life and I try to do a little bit of it all, and try to give back as much as possible as I have received out of life. I went to Morehouse College during the ’60s and we were always taught to question, not just to accept things. One of the good things for me, I guess, is the fact that Martin Luther King was a graduate of Morehouse and it also gave us a sense of… We had something to fight for, to make a better life for our parents, for ourselves and for our children.

You have to understand, I was born in 1943, and so I remember drinking from the colored water fountains. I remember sitting on the back of the bus because of my color. I remember when the buses were crowded of having to get up and let a white person sit in my seat. One of the reasons for wanting to read Langston Hughes is because although the poem was written I guess about 50, 60 years ago, it just tells me as much as things have changed things still remain the same. I look now and see the current attacks on affirmative action. I look and see the young kids, and it just tells me we’re going around in circles.

Children are our future, and if you expose a kid, say, in the sense of “Merry-Go-Round,” for example, you say, “Well, there’s no room for a kid that’s black,” then we’re going to continue to have the hopelessness that we have here. And if we don’t save our children, we don’t save ourselves.

Merry-Go-Roundby 
Langston Hughes

COLORED CHILD AT CARNIVAL

Where is the Jim Crow section 
On this merry-go-round, 
Mister, cause I want to ride?
Down South where I come from 
White and colored 
Can’t sit side by side. 
Down South on the train 
There’s a Jim Crow car. 
On the bus we’re put in the back-
But there ain’t no back 
To a merry-go-round! 
Where’s the horse 
For a kid that’s black?