Harvesting: A Raisin in the Sun

Inspiration for this writing is a reflection. October, years ago, my father died (age 52) from black lung cancer, after working half of his life in a steel mill. Coincidentally, I just finished re-reading the novel, A Raisin in the Sun, produced as a play, which I saw several times. One of my fondest memories was taking my nephew (Woodrow, named in honor of my father) and his classmate to Ashland, Oregon, to see the theater production of A Raisin in the Sun.

Playwright and writer, Lorraine Vivian Hansberry wrote A Raisin in the Sun.

Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (May 19, 1930 – January 12, 1965) was a playwright and writer who died at the age of 34 of pancreatic cancer. She was the first African-American female author to have a play debuted on Broadway in 1959. Her work, A Raisin in the Sun, highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago, as they attempt to improve their financial circumstances with an insurance payout following the death of the father. The title of the play was taken from the poem Harlem by Langston Hughes: “What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?” At the age of 29, Lorraine won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award—named the best play in 1959, making her the first African-American dramatist, the fifth woman, and the youngest playwright to do so.

Like Walter Lee Younger, the main play’s character, my father also had significant dreams. Dad wanted to own his home:  The American Dream. We rented for a long time, often not getting a lease because of our skin color or moving because the white landlord refused the property’s repairs. Even in an Ohio town, segregation and discrimination were subtle enough to whisper, “You’re not wanted.” As time passed and laws relaxed Dad’s perseverance was able to obtain a mortgage with Home Savings and Loan based on his honorable army discharge papers, a letter of character, a detailed work-history reference from his white boss, and Dad’s promissory handshake—never to default on his obligation (which he didn’t, by working two jobs and my mother working one job—our home WAS our home). The seller of the house my father bought, I found out years later, was a white man, who chose not to live in a neighborhood that was increasingly “becoming homes to Colored People, who thought they deserved what White People had built up.”

Today of loud protests, one theme is discrimination, walking with eyes wide open. Those who know its history, have many memories.

As a writer, I’m influenced by many aspects:  photographs, movies, music, books, my parents, my friends, places I’ve lived/visited, the news, and social media. I started this blogging journey five years ago—much has changed about me as a writer, a person, and what my thoughts reflect. More than often, it’s now Mom and Dad’s encouragement and willpower guiding my fingers. Dad died at an early age, as did Lorraine Hansberry, whose own family,and the one in A Raisin in the Sun, ironically dealt with Chicago housing discrimination—What we learn as children surely opens our eyes.

                   If all I have is words of truth, let them be the ones that carry me to my grave.

Author, Cheryl's, mom and dad

A photo of my mom and dad.

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Donna Pizzi
3 years ago

Wow, Cheryl! I thought that photo of your mom and dad was you as a young girl! Thank you so much for this wonderful post. I saw Raisin in the Sun on Broadway, but only once. The Negro Ensemble Company was home to some of my favorite actors in the 1960s-70s. Philip’s brother has written a piece about discrimination against African-Americans coming home from WWII and not being able to buy homes that I will share with you. I am so sorry for your father’s early death but so proud of all he and your mother instilled in you to become the extraordinary person and writer that you are. God Bless his soul. And yours!

Phillip Lott
Phillip Lott
3 years ago

Good story Cheryl!

3 years ago

What a blessing that his dream became a reality!! …and I know they’re both looking down at you with big smiles. I know I’m smiling, too because of your writing abilities and success!! I’m honored to be your friend!… and you look JUST like your mom, girl!! I thought that was you, too…

3 years ago

Yes, prejudice and discrimination is the enemy.

Valerie D’Anjou
Valerie D’Anjou
3 years ago

Your perspective is so on point of how things have not changed very much over the decades. But I will always have FAITH that we will never be on this journey alone. Each day we are given another chance to touch someone’s life. Thank you for your gift of writing. I’m so proud of you and I know our parents are smiling in heaven.