In A Raisin in the Sun, Asagi's pet name for Beneathea is Alaiyo, which translates as "one for whom bread is not enough." Does this name fit Beneathea? How does the name apply to African Americans as a community in the United States at that time in history? Does it still apply to a segment of our society today?
To respond to the last part of the question, I think most people would say that spiritual yearning and socially progressive ideals are certainly still alive in our culture.
People of all age groups actively seek to discuss and enact social changes that are directly related to ideas of spiritual values, integrity and identity. This is true of African American artists like Tyler Perry as it is also true of artists at large in our culture.
Beneatha seems to have an itch she just cannot scratch, a hunger that cannot be fed, though she tries to meet it through a series of hobbies which do not fulfill her. African-Americans of that time were just beginning to get resentful about opportunities which could legally be theirs but in reality were not open to them. They, too, want more. In today's world, there are always people who feel as if they want--even deserve--more. Wanting is not a usually a problem for society, because it is that desire which spurs ambition, competition, and action. Feeling as if they are deserving, on the other hand, can lead to such detrimental things as dependency and violence. Beneatha's wanting is harmless to everyone but the Youngers, and even to them it is something more to laugh at than to hurt them.
Just to expand on #2, I certainly believe Bennie's African name fits her character. Just think about her choice in relationships - she clearly dislikes George Murchison in spite of his wealth and prosperity and his obvious interest in her. If "bread" was "enough" for her she would not be tempted by the very uncertain and potentially dangerous future offered by a marriage to Asagai. She is a character who constantly wants more of life and is willing to have big dreams in the hope of achieving big things.
This pet name certainly fits Beneatha. While bread is enough to sustain and sustain only, Beneatha wants more out of life than this. This is proven by her consistent search for her identity that the rest of her family teases her about but that Asagai understands about her.
At that time in history, this pet name would most likely have applied to many African Americans as they struggled to build a society in which they could nourish, not just sustain, their lives. Arguably, it could be a pet name for Walter Lee as well. Although they go about it in different ways, both brother and sister strive for more out of life than they've been given by society.
I'm sure it does still apply to a segment of our society today, and probably always will. There are always people who strive for more than what is typically expected of them. Hopefully this will cease to be an issue of racism, however.
Wow. Thank you. That clears a bit up for me. Im glad i stumbled onto this website with active posters.