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?

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes asked the question…but he didn’t answer it. The answer was left to our speculation.

But 69 years from its publication one thing is certain: when a dream is deferred the people get screwed.

It’s interesting to think of dreams in these times of searching for the mattering of Black Life. After so many years of the dream deferred, did it dry up? Or fester? Has it gone bad? Or did it harden? Or worse, do we just drag it behind us…holding on to it because we have to?

I know we’ve seen it explode. In recent years that explosion has raged, and the fire this time still burns.

Will the fire be quenched before the dream is completely burned to ash? Has it become ash already, and blown away like dust in the wind?

My wife recently started asking our toddler to relay her dreams. “What did you dream about” forms part of their morning conversation. We want her to remember her dreams. Because once we get accustomed of forgetting our dreams, do we even know that we dream?

I mean, I know science says everyone dreams. And I don’t doubt the truth of that. But if a tree crashing in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

If a dream occurs in our subconscious and our conscious doesn’t take note of it, does it even occur?

And, if we don’t remember our dreams what benefit are they to our conscious story? To our reality?

I know that for a while, I stopped trying to remember my dreams. Having memorable dreams seems like something in the distant past, I had just given up on remembering my dreams. As Langston Hughes poses, my dreams just sagged like a heavy load.

In recent months, I’ve intentionally tried clearing my mind before bed so that I can have more lucid dreams that are memorable in consciousness and thereby effective for my reality. But for a while the truth that I had a dream was useless. It was just a fact of life that lacked efficacy.

The Dream of Black America has been deferred since 1619

And while we “still have a Dream,” do we still remember it? Why would we?

As Dr. King said, “it’s a Dream deeply rooted in the American Dream.” And when we look at the America that exists more than 50 years after Brother King espoused that Dream, who is really expecting that dream to ever become reality?

We’ll say we still believe in that dream. We’ll claim we still hope in that dream…that we still want it to come true. But when you look at how we engage the world around us, as a people – a Black people, we have to question what we believe about this dream.

Joseph had a dream…

His dream got him into a lot of trouble. And it wasn’t #GoodTrouble. His dream didn’t entail struggle for the sake of a social cause. He wasn’t putting himself forward for abuse at his master’s hand because he was trying to improve his lot in life. He was simply living his life believing his dreams.

And every time he relayed his dreams, he was betrayed by those who heard his dreams. His dreams were too polarizing for those who meant to uphold the status quo. Their response to his dreams was to deface his humanity…to disregard his existence.

Those who heard Joseph’s dreams did their best to make him feel like his life did not matter

His dream was deferred. But that little light of his was destined to shine and so he kept it alive. He let his light shine in the face of those who were blinded by his light, even if it meant further defacement of his identity in the Lord.

That’s hella hard…

When a dream is deferred long enough the temptation is to disbelieve the dream. We might hold onto the memory of having a dream as a type of novelty. Yet, when everything consistently reminds you that your dreams are ridiculous it is had to stand firm and walk worthy. So, I understand why We the Black People might satisfy ourselves with having a dream that is of little to no effect to our reality.

But, keeping that dream alive is the critical component to the mattering of Black Life – for ourselves first, then for all others. It was the critical piece that allowed Joseph to continue in faithfulness to the Way of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob despite his experience of bondage and human degradation.

The One who gave Joseph his dream, was the only One who could determine his mattering. The One who made the promise, through the vision, was the only One who could either fulfill or withhold the promise. The One who defined Joseph’s identity for him was the only One who could determine his identity in the imago Dei.

And so, although his brothers tried to deface his identity…although his enslavers tried to deface his identity: his identity remained in tact and unsullied.

Joseph knew who he was. It did not matter what others thought of him. And, what others thought of him did nothing to what he thought of himself. God – the only Supreme Being – had defined who he was, and Joseph didn’t allow the abuse and judgments of lesser beings change his self-image or affect his self-worth.

And all of this helped him to be the servant of the Lord when he became ruler over Egypt with power over all who had ever wronged him.

I think there’s a lot we Black Americans can and should learn from Joseph. I started preaching on it this past Sunday. You can catch the start of this journey with Joseph here:

We’ll continue exploring the Black Experience in light of the History of Joseph this coming Sunday at 9:30 am EST.

I would LOVE to have you join live. We have a Q&A session afterwards, so whatever comes up for you – and between us – can be addressed. Here’s the link:

Click it…subscribe to my YouTube Channel and click to get a reminder.

No matter what “they” say of us…no matter what “they” think: we are the Children of Jah. Brothers and sisters of Christ. Protected by the Holy Spirit. Let us gather and remember. #BlessedLove


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