Langston Hughes





In Explanation of Our Times

The folks with no titles in front of their names
all over the world
are raring up and talking back
to the folks called Mister.

You say you thought everybody was called Mister?

No, son, not everybody.
In Dixie, often they won’t call Negroes Mister.
In China before what happened
They had no intention of calling coolies Mister.
Dixie to Singapore, Cape Town to Hong Kong
the Misters won’t call lots of other folks Mister.
They call them, Hey George!
Here, Sallie!
Listen, Coolie!
Hurry up, Boy!
And things like that.

George Sallie Coolie Boy gets tired sometimes.
So all over the world today
folks with not even Mister in front of their names
are raring up and talking back
to those called Mister.
From Harlem past Hong Kong talking back.

Shut up, says Gerald L.K. Smith.
Shut up, says the Governor of South Carolina.
Shut up, says the Governor of Singapore.
Shut up, says Strydom.

Hell no shut up! say the people
with no titles in front of their names.
Hell no! It’s time to talk back now!
History says it’s time,
And the radio, too, foggy with propaganda
that says a mouthful
and don’t mean half it says—
but is true anyhow:
LIBERTY!
FREEDOM!
DEMOCRACY!
True anyhow no matter how many
Liars use those words.

The people with no titles in front of their names
hear these words and shout them back
at the Misters, Lords, Generals, Viceroys,
Governors of South Carolina, Gerald L. K. Strydoms.

Shut up, people!
Shut up! Shut up!
Shut up, George!
Shut up, Sallie!
Shut up, Coolie!
Shut up, Indian!
Shut up, Boy!

George Sallie Coolie Indian Boy
black brown yellow bent down working
earning riches for the whole world
with no title in front of name
just man woman tired says:

No shut up!
Hell no shut up!

So naturally there’s trouble
in these our times
because of people with no titles
in front of their names.


spoken = Rotimi Agbabiaka