✨✍🏾Today’s Poet, Haki R. Madhubuti✍🏾✨

Born Donald Luther Lee in Little Rock, Arkansas, the poet adopted the Swahili name Haki R. Madhubuti after traveling to Africa in 1974. As he shared in a 2006 interview, he sensed that “a new African name would help me in arriving at a final definition of self.” Haki means “justice” and Madhubuti means “precise, accurate, and dependable.”

Madhubuti received an MFA from the University of Iowa and served in the army from 1960 to 1963. A member of the Black Arts Movement, Madhubuti has published more than 20 books of poetry, nonfiction, and critical essays, and his work has been widely anthologized. Influenced by Gwendolyn Brooks, Madhubuti writes experimental, free-verse, politically charged poetry with a staccato rhythm. Over the span of his career, his poetry has shifted its focus from the personal to the political. Early work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) informs his activist poetics. Said Madhubuti in a 2006 interview, “If an artist, or any person, actually understands the condition of the Black world, it will be a dereliction of duty to not write about that world and expose the injustices that exist in it—injustices imposed upon the weak by white, Black and other cultures.”

His collections of poetry include Don’t Cry, Scream (1969) and Groundwork: Selected Poems of Haki R. Madhubuti / Don L. Lee (1996). He has also published Dynamite Voices I: Black Poets of the 1960s (1971) and Black Men: Obsolete, Single, Dangerous? (1990), and edited Million Man March/Day of Absence: A Commemorative Anthology (1996).

Recognizing the lack of resources and forums for black writers, Madhubuti has founded and led numerous institutions and organizations dedicated to serving that need. In 1967, Johari Amini, Carolyn Rodgers, and Madhubuti founded Third World Press, with the mission of “provid[ing] quality literature that primarily focuses on issues, themes, and critique related to an African American public.” Madhubuti co-founded the quarterly Black Books Bulletin with Larry Neal, the Institute of Positive Education (1969), the New Concept School (1972), the Betty Shabazz International Charter School (Chicago, 1998), the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, and the National Black Writers Retreat.

Madhubuti has won an American Book Award, the Kuumba Workshop Black Liberation Award, the Broadside Press Outstanding Poet’s Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (in both 1969 and 1982) and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/haki-madhubuti

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For the Consideration of Poets

BY HAKI R. MADHUBUTI

where is the poetry of resistance,

                     the poetry of honorable defiance

unafraid of lies from career politicians and business men,

not respectful of journalist who write

official speak void of educated thought

without double search or sub surface questions

that war talk demands?

where is the poetry of doubt and suspicion

not in the service of the state, bishops and priests,

not in the service of beautiful people and late night promises,

not in the service of influence, incompetence and academic

         clown talk?

Haki Madhubuti, “For the Consideration of Poets” from Run Toward Fear © 2004 by Haki R. Madhubuti. Used by permission of Third World Press, Chicago, IL.

Source: Run Toward Fear (Third World Press, 2004)


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Gwendolyn Brooks

BY HAKI R. MADHUBUTI

she doesn’t wear

costume jewelry

& she knew that walt disney

was/is making a fortune off

false-eyelashes and that time magazine is the

authority on the knee/grow.

her makeup is total-real.

a negro english instructor called her:

       “a fine negro poet.”

a whi-te critic said:

       “she’s a credit to the negro race.”

somebody else called her;

       “a pure negro writer.”

johnnie mae, who’s a senior in high school said:

       “she and Langston are the only negro poets we’ve

       read in school and i understand her.”

pee wee used to carry one of her poems around in his

    back pocket;

       the one about being cool. that was befo pee wee

       was cooled by a cop’s warning shot.

into the sixties

a word was born . . . . . . . . BLACK

& with black came poets

& from the poet’s ball points came:

black doubleblack purpleblack blueblack beenblack was

black daybeforeyesterday blackerthan ultrablack super

black blackblack yellowblack niggerblack blackwhi-te-

       man

blackthanyoueverbes ¼ black unblack coldblack clear

black my momma’s blackerthanyourmomma pimpleblack

       fall

black so black we can’t even see you black on black in

black by black technically black mantanblack winter

black coolblack 360degreesblack coalblack midnight

black black when it’s convenient rustyblack moonblack

black starblack summerblack electronblack spaceman

black shoeshineblack jimshoeblack underwearblack ugly

black auntjimammablack, uncleben’srice black

       williebest

black blackisbeautifulblack i justdiscoveredblack negro

black unsubstanceblack.

and everywhere the

lady “negro poet”

appeared the poets were there.

they listened & questioned

& went home feeling uncomfortable/unsound & so-

       untogether

they read/re-read/wrote & rewrote

& came back the next time to tell the

lady “negro poet”

how beautiful she was/is & how she helped them

& she came back with:

       how necessary they were and how they’ve helped her.

the poets walked & as space filled the vacuum between

       them & the

lady “negro poet”

u could hear one of the blackpoets say:

       “bro, they been calling that sister by the wrong name.”

Haki Madhubuti, “Gwendolyn Brooks” from Don’t Cry, Scream © 1969 by Haki R. Madhubuti. Used by permission of Third World Press, Chicago, IL.

Source: Don’t Cry Scream (Third World Press, 1969)

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Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power

BY HAKI R. MADHUBUTI

Who has the moral high ground?

Fifteen blocks from the whitehouse

on small corners in northwest, d.c.

boys disguised as me rip each other’s hearts out

with weapons made in china. they fight for territory.

across the planet in a land where civilization was born

the boys of d.c. know nothing about their distant relatives

in Rwanda. they have never heard of the hutu or tutsi people.

their eyes draw blanks at the mention of kigali, byumba

or butare. all they know are the streets of d.c., and do not

cry at funerals anymore. numbers and frequency have a way

of making murder commonplace and not news

unless it spreads outside of our house, block, territory.

modern massacres are intraethnic. bosnia, sri lanka, burundi,

nagorno-karabakh, iraq, laos, angola, liberia, and rwanda are

small foreign names on a map made in europe. when bodies

by the tens of thousands float down a river turning the water

the color of blood, as a quarter of a million people flee barefoot

into tanzania and zaire, somehow we notice. we do not smile,

we have no more tears. we hold our thoughts. In deeply

muted silence looking south and thinking that today

nelson mandela seems much larger

than he is.

Haki Madhubuti, “Rwanda: Where Tears Have No Power” from Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems © 1969 by Haki R. Madhubuti. Used by permission of Third World Press, Chicago, IL.

Source: Heartlove: Wedding and Love Poems (Third World Press, 1998)

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Gwendolyn Brooks: America in the Wintertime

BY HAKI R. MADHUBUTI

in this moment of orangutans, wolves, and scavengers,

of high heat redesigning the north & south poles

and the wanderings of new tribes in limousines,

with the confirmations of liars, thieves, and get-over artists,

in the wilderness of pennsylvania avenue,

standing rock, misspelled executive orders

on yellow paper with crooked signatures.

where are the kind language makers among us?

at a time of extreme climate damage,

deciphering fake news, alternative truths, and me-ism

you saw the twenty-first century and left us

not on your own accord or permission.

you have fought and fought most of the twentieth century

creating an army of poets who learned

and loved language and stories

of complicated rivers, seas, and oceans.

where is the kind green nourishment of kale and wheatgrass?

you thought, wrote, and lived poetry,

knew that terror is also language based

on denial, first-ism, and rich cowards.

you were honey and yes to us,

never ran from Black as in bones, Africa,

blood and questioning yesterdays and tomorrows.

we never saw you dance but you had rhythm,

you were a warrior before the war,

creating earth language, uncommon signs and melodies,

and did not sing the songs of career slaves.

keenly aware of tubman, douglass, wells-barnett, du bois,

and the oversized consciousness and commitment of never-quit people

religiously taking note of the bloodlust enemies of kindness

we hear your last words:

     america

     if you see me as your enemy

     you have no

     friends.

Source: Poetry (June 2017)


https://youtu.be/gfWxsCPmjnI

https://youtu.be/Ss1ZwA9Zx9U

https://youtu.be/B46_Sx2TdnQ

https://aalbc.com/authors/author.php?author_name=Haki+Madhubuti

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✨✍🏾Today’s Poet, Margaret Walker✍🏾✨

Poet and novelist Margaret Walker was born on July 7, 1915, in Birmingham, Alabama, to the Reverend Sigismund C. Walker and Marion Dozier Walker. The family moved to New Orleans when Walker was a young child. A Methodist minister who had been born near Buff Bay, Jamaica, Walker’s father was a scholar who bequeathed to his daughter his love of literature—the classics, the Bible, Benedict de Spinoza, Arthur Schopenhauer, the English classics, and poetry. Similarly, Walker’s musician mother played ragtime and read poetry to her, choosing among such varied authors and works as Paul Laurence Dunbar, John Greenleaf Whittier‘s “Snowbound,” the Bible, and Shakespeare. At age eleven Walker began reading the poetry of Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen. Elvira Ware Dozier, her maternal grandmother, who lived with her family, told Walker stories, including the story of her own mother, a former slave in Georgia. Before she finished college at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in the early 1930s, Walker had heard James Weldon Johnson read from God’s Trombones (1927), listened to Marian Anderson and Roland Hayes sing in New Orleans, and, in 1932, heard Hughes read his poetry in a lecture recital at New Orleans University, where her parents then taught. She met Hughes in 1932, and he encouraged her to continue writing poetry. Her first poem was published in Crisis in 1934.

Not even ten years later, Walker’s first collection of poetry, For My People (1942) won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. Walker was the first Black woman to ever receive the prestigious award. Her first novel, Jubilee (1966), is regarded as “the first truly historical black American novel,” according to Washington Post contributor Crispin Y. Campbell. It was also the first work by a black writer to speak out for the liberation of the black woman. The cornerstones of a literature that affirms the African folk roots of black American life, these two books have also been called visionary for looking toward a new cultural unity for black Americans that will be built on that foundation.

The title For My People denotes the subject matter of “poems in which the body and spirit of a great group of people are revealed with vigor and undeviating integrity,” wrote Louis Untermeyer in the Yale Review. Here, in long ballads, Walker draws sympathetic portraits of characters such as the New Orleans sorceress Molly Means; Kissie Lee, a tough young woman who dies “with her boots on switching blades”; and Poppa Chicken, an urban drug dealer and pimp. Other ballads give a new dignity to John Henry, killed by a ten-pound hammer, and Stagolee, who kills a white officer but eludes a lynch mob. In an essay for Black Women Writers (1950-1980): A Critical Evaluation, Eugenia Collier noted, “Using … the language of the grass-roots people, Walker spins yarns of folk heroes and heroines: those who, faced with the terrible obstacles which haunt Black people’s very existence, not only survive but prevail—with style.” Soon after it appeared, the book of ballads, sonnets, and free verse found a surprisingly large number of readers, requiring publishers to authorize three printings to satisfy popular demand.

“If the test of a great poem is the universality of statement, then ‘For My People‘ is a great poem,” remarked Barksdale. The critic explained in Donald B. Gibson’s Modern Black Poets: A Collection of Critical Essays that the poem was written when “world-wide pain, sorrow, and affliction were tangibly evident, and few could isolate the Black man’s dilemma from humanity’s dilemma during the depression years or during the war years.” Thus, the power of resilience presented in the poem is a hope Walker holds out not only to black people, but to all people, to “all the Adams and Eves.” As she once remarked, “Writers should not write exclusively for black or white audiences, but most inclusively. After all, it is the business of all writers to write about the human condition, and all humanity must be involved in both the writing and in the reading.”

Jubilee, a historical novel, is the second book on which Walker’s literary reputation rests. It is the story of a slave family during and after the Civil War, and it took her thirty years to write. During these years, she married a disabled veteran, raised four children, taught full time at Jackson State College in Mississippi, and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. The lengthy gestation, she believes, partly accounts for the book’s quality. As she told Claudia Tate in Black Women Writers at Work, “Living with the book over a long period of time was agonizing. Despite all of that, Jubilee is the product of a mature person,” one whose own difficult pregnancies and economic struggles could lend authenticity to the lives of her characters. “There’s a difference between writing about something and living through it,” she said in the interview; “I did both.”

The story of Jubilee’s main characters Vyry and Randall Ware was an important part of Walker’s life even before she began to write it down. As she explains in How I Wrote “Jubilee,” she first heard about the “slavery time” in bedtime stories told by her maternal grandmother. When old enough to recognize the value of her family history, Walker took initiative, “prodding” her grandmother for more details, and promising to set down on paper the story that had taken shape in her mind. Later on, she completed extensive research on every aspect of the black experience touching the Civil War, from obscure birth records to information on the history of tin cans. “Most of my life I have been involved with writing this story about my great-grandmother, and even if Jubilee were never considered an artistic or commercial success I would still be happy just to have finished it,” she claims. Critical studies of the book have emphasized the importance of its themes and its position as the prototype for novels that present black history from a black perspective. Roger Whitlow claimed in Black American Literature: A Critical History, “It serves especially well as a response to white ‘nostalgia’ fiction about the antebellum and Reconstruction South.”

Soon after Jubilee was published in 1966, Walker was given a fellowship award from Houghton Mifflin. Much of Walker’s responsiveness to the black experience, communicated through the realism of her work, can be attributed to her growing up in a southern home environment that emphasized the rich heritage of black culture. Walker was also part of a vibrant intellectual milieu in Chicago. As a senior at Northwestern in 1934, Walker began a fruitful association with the Works Progress Administration (WPA). She lived on Chicago’s North Side and worked as a volunteer on the WPA recreation project. The project directors assigned her to associate with so-called delinquent girls, mainly shoplifters and prostitutes, in order to determine if Walker’s different background and training might have a positive influence on them. She became so fascinated by an Italian-black neighborhood that she eventually chose it as the setting and title for a novel that she began writing (but never published), Goose Island. On Friday, March 13, 1936, Walker received notice to report to the WPA Writer’s Project in Chicago as a full-time employee. Classified as a junior writer—her salary was eighty-five dollars a month—her work assignment was the Illinois Guide Book. Other writers on the project were Nelson Algren, Jacob Scher, James Phelan, Sam Ross, Katherine Dunham, Willard Motley, Frank Yerby, Fenton Johnson, and Richard Wright. In 1937 the WPA office allowed her to come into the downtown quarters only twice weekly so that she might remain at home working on her novel.

Perhaps her most rewarding interaction with a writer at the project was Walker’s friendship with Wright, a liaison that, while it lasted, proved practical and beneficial to both fledgling writers. Before she joined the project, Walker had met Wright in Chicago in February, 1936, when he had presided at the writer’s section of the first National Negro Congress. Walker had attended solely to meet Hughes again, to show him the poetry she had written since their first meeting four years earlier. Hughes refused to take her only copy of the poems, but he introduced her to Wright and insisted that he include Walker if a writer’s group organized. Wright then introduced her to Arna Bontemps and Sterling A. Brown, also writers with the WPA.

Although Wright left Chicago for New York at the end of May, neither his friendship with Walker nor their literary interdependence ended immediately. Walker provided him, in fact, with important help on Native Son (1940), mailing him—as he requested—newspaper clippings about Robert Nixon, a young black man accused of rape in Chicago, and assisting Wright in locating a vacant lot to use as the Dalton house address when Wright returned to Chicago briefly the next year. Furthermore, Walker was instrumental in acquiring for him a copy of the brief of Nixon’s case from attorney Ulysses S. Keyes, the first black lawyer hired for the case. Together, Wright and Walker visited Cook County jail, where Nixon was incarcerated, and the library, where on her library card they checked out a book on Clarence Darrow and two books on the Loeb-Leopold case, from which, in part, Wright modeled Bigger’s defense when he completed his novel in the spring of 1939.

Walker began teaching in the 1940s. She taught at North Carolina’s Livingstone College in 1941 and West Virginia State College in 1942. In 1943 she married Firnist James Alexander. In that year, too, she began to read her poetry publicly when she was invited by Arthur P. Davis to read “For My People” at Richmond’s Virginia Union University, where he was then teaching. After the birth of the first of her four children in 1944, Walker returned to teach at Livingstone for a year. She also resumed the research on her Civil War novel in the 1940s. She began with a trip to the Schomburg Center in 1942. In 1944 she received a Rosenwald fellowship to further her research. In 1948 Walker was unemployed, living in High Point, North Carolina, and working on the novel. By then she clearly envisioned the development of Jubilee as a folk novel and prepared an outline of incidents and chapter headings, the latter which were supplied by the stories of her grandmother. In 1949 Walker moved to Jackson, Mississippi, and began her long teaching career at Jackson State College (now Jackson State University).

The fictional history of Walker’s great-grandmother, here called Vyry, Jubilee is divided into three sections: the antebellum years in Georgia on John Dutton’s plantation, the Civil War years, and the Reconstruction era. Against a panoramic view of history Walker focuses the plot specifically on Vyry’s life as she grows from a little girl to adulthood. In the first section Vyry, the slave, matures, marries and separates from Randall Ware, attempts to escape from slavery with her two children, and is flogged. The second section emphasizes the destruction of war and the upheaval for slaveowner and slaves, while the last section focuses on Vyry as a displaced former slave, searching for a home.

Walker said her research was done “to undergird the oral tradition,” and Jubilee is primarily known for its realistic depiction of the daily life and folklore of the black slave community. Although there are also quotes from Whittier and the English romantic poets, she emphasizes the importance of the folk structure of her novel by prefacing each of the fifty-eight chapters with proverbial folk sayings or lines excerpted from spirituals. The narrative is laced with verses of songs sung by Vyry, her guardian, or other slaves. A portion from a sermon is included. The rhymes of slave children are also a part of the narrative. A conjuring episode is told involving the overseer Grimes, suggesting how some folk beliefs were used for protection. Vyry provides a catalogue of herbs and discusses their medicinal and culinary purposes.

Walker’s How I Wrote “Jubilee” (1972) a history of the novel’s development from her grandmother’s oral history, is an indirect response to those critics who compared Jubilee with books like Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936) and who accused Walker of sustaining the southern myth from the Black perspective. Guy Davenport, for example, commented in National Review that “the novel from end to end is about a place and a people who never existed.” For him Walker had merely recalled all the elements of the southern myth, writing a lot of “tushery that comes out of books, out of Yerby and Margaret Mitchell.” He further found “something deeply ironic in a Negro’s underwriting the made-up South of the romances, agreeing to every convention of the trade.”  Walker answered such detractors by citing the references and historical documents she perused over several years in order to gird her oral story with historical fact.

Walker’s volume of poetry Prophets for a New Day was published in 1970. She called Prophets for a New Day her civil rights poems, and only two poems in the volume, “Elegy” and “Ballad of the Hoppy Toad,” are not about the civil rights movement. Walker begins the volume with two poems in which the speakers are young children; one eight-year-old demonstrator eagerly waits to be arrested with her group in the fight for equality, and a second one is already jailed and wants no bail. Her point is that these young girls are just as much prophets for a new day as were Nat Turner, Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and John Brown. In “The Ballad of the Free” Walker establishes a biblical allusion and association as an integral part of the fight to end racism: “The serpent is loosed and the hour is come / The last shall be first and the first shall be none / The serpent is loosed and the hour is come.”

The title poem, “Prophets for a New Day,” and the seven poems that follow it invite obvious comparisons between the biblical prophets and the black leaders who denounced racial injustice and prophesied change during the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. For example, several prophets are linked to specific southern cities marked by racial turmoil: in “Jeremiah,” the first poem of the series, Jeremiah “is now a man whose names is Benjamin / Brooding over a city called Atlanta / Preaching the doom of a curse upon the land.” Among the poems, other prophets mentioned include “Isaiah,” “Amos,” and “Micah,” a poem subtitled “To the memory of Medgar Evers of Mississippi.”

In For My People Walker urged that activity replace complacency, but in Prophets for a New Day she applauds the new day of freedom for black people, focusing on the events, sites, and people of the struggle. Among the poems that recognize southern cities associated with racial turbulence are “Oxford Is a Legend,” “Birmingham,” “Jackson, Mississippi,” and “Sit-Ins.” Of these, the latter two, claim reviewers, are the most accomplished pieces. “Sit-Ins” is a recognition of “those first bright young to fling their … names across pages / Of new Southern history / With courage and faith, convictions, and intelligence.” Walker went on to publish collections that foregrounded her commitment to Black struggle and liberation: October Journey (1973) and, most telling of her status within the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 70s, A Poetic Equation: Conversations between Nikki Giovanni and Margaret Walker (1974).

Walker’s collected poetry, This Is My Century (1989), and her final volumes of essays, How I Wrote Jubilee and Other Essays on Life and Literature (1990) and On Being Female, Black, and Free (1997), cemented her place in American letters. Tomeika Ashford described Walker as “one of the foremost transcribers of African American heritage. Indeed, she enjoyed a long and fruitful career—one that spanned almost an entire century. As a result, she became a historian for a race. Through her work, she ‘[sang] a song for [her] people,’ capturing their symbolic quest for liberation. When asked how she viewed her work, she responded, ‘The body of my work . . . springs from my interest in a historical point of view that is central to the development of black people as we approach the twenty-first century.’”

Walker’s many honors and awards included six honorary degrees, fellowships from the Rosenwald Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She was awarded the Living Legacy Award by the Carter administration, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the College Language Association, and the Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts. On October 17, 1998, Margaret Walker was inducted into the African American Literary Hall of Fame.

For My People

BY MARGARET WALKER

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs

     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues

     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an

     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an

     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the

    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,

    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending

    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching

    dragging along never gaining never reaping never

    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama

    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor

    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking

    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and

    Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn

    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the

    people who and the places where and the days when, in

    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we

    were black and poor and small and different and nobody

    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to

    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and

    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to

    marry their playmates and bear children and then die

    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox

    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New

    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy

    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other

    people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and

    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time

     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when

     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled

     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures

     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in

     the dark of churches and schools and clubs

     and societies, associations and councils and committees and

     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and

     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,

     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by

     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way

    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,

    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,

    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a

    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second

    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people

    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of

    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing

    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs

    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now

    rise and take control.

Margaret Walker, “For My People” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.

Source: This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989)

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For Malcolm X

BY MARGARET WALKER

All you violated ones with gentle hearts;

You violent dreamers whose cries shout heartbreak;

Whose voices echo clamors of our cool capers,

And whose black faces have hollowed pits for eyes.

All you gambling sons and hooked children and bowery bums

Hating white devils and black bourgeoisie,

Thumbing your noses at your burning red suns,

Gather round this coffin and mourn your dying swan.

Snow-white moslem head-dress around a dead black face!

Beautiful were your sand-papering words against our skins!

Our blood and water pour from your flowing wounds.

You have cut open our breasts and dug scalpels in our brains.

When and Where will another come to take your holy place?

Old man mumbling in his dotage, crying child, unborn?

Margaret Walker, “For Malcolm X” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.

Source: This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989)

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For My People

BY MARGARET WALKER

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs

     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues

     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an

     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an

     unseen power;

For my people lending their strength to the years, to the

    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,

    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending

    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching

    dragging along never gaining never reaping never

    knowing and never understanding;

For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama

    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor

    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking

    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and

    Miss Choomby and company;

For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn

    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the

    people who and the places where and the days when, in

    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we

    were black and poor and small and different and nobody

    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;

For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to

    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and

    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to

    marry their playmates and bear children and then die

    of consumption and anemia and lynching;

For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox

    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New

    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy

    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other

    people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and

    land and money and something—something all our own;

For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time

     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when

     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled

     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures

     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;

For my people blundering and groping and floundering in

     the dark of churches and schools and clubs

     and societies, associations and councils and committees and

     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and

     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,

     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by

     false prophet and holy believer;

For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way

    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,

    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,

    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;

Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a

    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second

    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people

    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of

    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing

    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs

    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now

    rise and take control.

Margaret Walker, “For My People” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.

Source: This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989)

Video/Audio:

https://youtu.be/zyuieAOQwwg

✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/issue/70635/march-1939

✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨

✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨

Sorrow Home

BY MARGARET WALKER

My roots are deep in southern life; deeper than John Brown or Nat Turner or Robert Lee. I was sired and weaned in a tropic world. The palm tree and banana leaf, mango and coconut, breadfruit and rubber trees know me.

Warm skies and gulf blue streams are in my blood. I belong with the smell of fresh pine, with the trail of coon, and the spring growth of wild onion.

I am no hothouse bulb to be reared in steam-heated flats with the music of El and subway in my ears, walled in by steel and wood and brick far from the sky.

I want the cotton fields, tabacco and the cane. I want to walk along with sacks of seed to drop in fallow ground. Restless music is in my heart and I am eager to be gone.

O Southland, sorrow home, melody beating in my bone and blood! How long will the Klan of hate, the hounds and the chain gangs keep me from my own?

Margaret Walker, “Sorrow Home” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.

Source: This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989)

✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨✍🏾✨

Childhood

BY MARGARET WALKER

When I was a child I knew red miners

dressed raggedly and wearing carbide lamps.

I saw them come down red hills to their camps

dyed with red dust from old Ishkooda mines.

Night after night I met them on the roads,

or on the streets in town I caught their glance;

the swing of dinner buckets in their hands,

and grumbling undermining all their words.

I also lived in low cotton country

where moonlight hovered over ripe haystacks,

or stumps of trees, and croppers’ rotting shacks

with famine, terror, flood, and plague near by;

where sentiment and hatred still held sway

and only bitter land was washed away.

Margaret Walker, “Childhood” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker.  Reprinted by permission of  University of Georgia Press.

Source: This is My Century: New and Collected Poems (University of Georgia Press, 1989)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/margaret-walker

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https://youtu.be/K_8MhDZ_uG8

✨✍🏾Today’s Poet ~ Lucille Clifton✍🏾✨ #FebruaryIsBlackHistoryMonth

 

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/lucille-clifton

 

A prolific and widely respected poet, Lucille Clifton’s work emphasizes endurance and strength through adversity, focusing particularly on African-American experience and family life. Awarding the prestigious Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize to Clifton in 2007, the judges remarked that “One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems—it is a moral quality that some poets have and some don’t.” In addition to the Ruth Lilly prize, Clifton was the first author to have two books of poetry chosen as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir, 1969-1980 (1987) and Next: New Poems (1987). Her collection Two-Headed Woman (1980) was also a Pulitzer nominee and won the Juniper Prize from the University of Massachusetts. She served as the state of Maryland’s poet laureate from 1974 until 1985 and won the prestigious National Book Award for Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 (2000). In addition to her numerous poetry collections, she wrote many children’s books. Clifton was a Distinguished Professor of Humanities at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Clifton is noted for saying much with few words. In a Christian Century review of Clifton’s work, Peggy Rosenthal commented, “The first thing that strikes us about Lucille Clifton’s poetry is what is missing: capitalization, punctuation, long and plentiful lines. We see a poetry so pared down that its spaces take on substance, become a shaping presence as much as the words themselves” In an American Poetry Review article about Clifton’s work, Robin Becker commented on Clifton’s lean style: “Clifton’s poetics of understatement—no capitalization, few strong stresses per line, many poems totaling fewer than twenty lines, the sharp rhetorical question—includes the essential only.”

Clifton’s first volume of poetry, Good Times (1969), was cited by the New York Times as one of the ten best books of the year. The poems, inspired by Clifton’s family of six young children, show the beginnings of Clifton’s spare, unadorned style and center around the facts of African-American urban life. Clifton’s second volume of poetry, Good News about the Earth: New Poems (1972), was written in the midst of the political and social upheavals of the late 1960s and 70s, and its poems reflect those changes, including a middle sequence that pays homage to black political leaders. Writing in Poetry, Ralph J. Mills, Jr., said that Clifton’s poetic scope transcends the black experience “to embrace the entire world, human and non-human, in the deep affirmation she makes in the teeth of negative evidence.” However, An Ordinary Woman (1974), Clifton’s third collection of poems, largely abandoned the examination of racial issues that had marked her previous books, looking instead at the writer’s roles as woman and poet. Helen Vendler declared in the New York Times Book Review that Clifton “recalls for us those bare places we have all waited as ‘ordinary women,’ with no choices but yes or no, no art, no grace, no words, no reprieve.” Generations: A Memoir (1976) is an “eloquent eulogy of [Clifton’s] parents,” Reynolds Price wrote in the New York Times Book Review, adding that, “as with most elegists, her purpose is perpetuation and celebration, not judgment…There is no sustained chronological narrative. Instead, clusters of brief anecdotes gather round two poles, the deaths of father and mother.” The book was later collected in Good Woman: Poems and a Memoir: 1969-1980, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize along with Next: New Poems (1987).

The book that followed Clifton’s dual Pulitzer nomination, Quilting: Poems 1987-1990 (1991)also won widespread critical acclaim Using a quilt as a poetic metaphor for life, each poem is a story, bound together through history and figuratively sewn with the thread of experience. Each section of the book is divided by a conventional quilt design name—”Eight-pointed Star” and “Tree of Life”—which provides a framework for Clifton’s poetic quilt. Clifton’s main focus is on women’s history; however, according to Robert Mitchell in American Book Review, her poetry has a far broader range: “Her heroes include nameless slaves buried on old plantations, Hector Peterson (the first child killed in the Soweto riot), Fannie Lou Hamer (founder of the Mississippi Peace and Freedom Party), Nelson and Winnie Mandela, W. E. B. DuBois, Huey P. Newton, and many other people who gave their lives to [free] black people from slavery and prejudice.”

Enthusiasts of Quilting included critic Bruce Bennett in the New York Times Book Review, who praised Clifton as a “passionate, mercurial writer, by turns angry, prophetic, compassionate, shrewd, sensuous, vulnerable and funny…The movement and effect of the whole book communicate the sense of a journey through which the poet achieves an understanding of something new.” Clifton’s 1993 poetry collection, The Book of Light,contains poems on subjects ranging from bigotry and intolerance, epitomized by a poem about controversial U.S. Senator Jesse Helms; destruction, including a poem about the tragic bombing by police of a MOVE compound in Philadelphia in 1985; religion, characterized by a sequence of poems featuring a dialogue between God and the devil; and mythology, rendered by poems about figures such as Atlas and Superman. “If this poet’s art has deepened since … Good Times, it’s in an increased capacity for quiet delicacy and fresh generalization,” remarked Poetry contributor Calvin Bedient, declaring that when Clifton writes without “anger and sentimentality, she writes at her remarkable best.” Lockett concluded that the collection is “a gift of joy, a truly illuminated manuscript by a writer whose powers have been visited by grace.”

Both The Terrible Stories (1996) and Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems, 1988-2000 (2000) shed light upon women’s survival skills in the face of ill health, family upheaval, and historic tragedy. Blessing the Boats is a compilation of four Clifton books, plus new poems, which, Becker noted in her review for American Poetry Review, “shows readers how the poet’s themes and formal structures develop over time.” Among the pieces collected in these volumes are several about the author’s breast cancer, but she also deals with juvenile violence, child abuse, biblical characters, dreams, the legacy of slavery, and a shaman-like empathy with animals as varied as foxes, squirrels, and crabs. She also speaks in a number of voices, as noted by Becker, including “angel, Eve, Lazarus, Leda, Lot’s Wife, Lucifer, among others … as she probes the narratives that undergird western civilization and forges new ones.”

Publishers Weekly reviewer concluded that the collection “distills a distinctive American voice, one that pulls no punches in taking on the best and worst of life.” The volume was awarded the National Book Award. Renee Olson reported on the award for Booklist that “Clifton was cited for evoking ‘the struggle, beauty, and passion of one woman’s life with such clarity and power that her vision becomes a representative, communal, and unforgettable.'” In Mercy (2004), Clifton’s twelfth book of poetry, the poet writes about the relationship between mothers and daughters, terrorism, prejudice, and personal faith. Clifton’s next book, Voices (2008), includes short verses personifying objects, as well as poems on more familiar terrain. Reviewing the book for the Baltimore Sun, Diane Scharper commented on the impetus of Clifton’s title: “Each section explores the ways the poet relates to voices: from those spoken by inanimate objects to those remembered to those “overheard” in the titles of pictures. Serving as a medium, the poet speaks not only for those things that have no voice but also for the feelings associated with them.”

Lucille Clifton was also a highly-regarded author for children. Her books for children were designed to help them understand their world and facilitate an understanding of black heritage specifically, which in turn fosters an important link with the past. In books like All Us Come Cross the Water (1973), Clifton created the context to raise awareness of African-American history and heritage. Her most famous creation, though, was Everett Anderson, an African-American boy living in a big city. Clifton went on to publish eight Everett Anderson titles, including Everett Anderson’s Goodbye (1984), which won the Coretta Scott King Award. Connecting Clifton’s work as a children’s author to her poetry, Jocelyn K. Moody in the Oxford Companion to African American Literature wrote: “Like her poetry, Clifton’s short fiction extols the human capacity for love, rejuvenation, and transcendence over weakness and malevolence even as it exposes the myth of the American dream.”

Speaking to Michael S. Glaser during an interview for the Antioch Review, Clifton reflected that she continues to write, because “writing is a way of continuing to hope … perhaps for me, it is a way of remembering I am not alone.” How would Clifton like to be remembered? “I would like to be seen as a woman whose roots go back to Africa, who tried to honor being human. My inclination is to try to help.”

[Updated 2010]

 

 

 

✨✍🏾W.E.B Du Bois✍🏾✨ #FebruaryIsBlackHistoryMonth

Who Was W.E.B. Du Bois?

Scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois was born on February 23, 1868, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. from Harvard University. 

Du Bois wrote extensively and was the best known spokesperson for African-American rights during the first half of the 20th century. He co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois died in Ghana in 1963.

https://www.biography.com/.amp/people/web-du-bois-9279924

https://youtu.be/bhzPycsmnh4

https://youtu.be/kKXglS90qn4

https://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poets/detail/w-e-b-du-bois

https://youtu.be/ld0wNaU8pHs

✨🎥Ossis Davis & Ruby Dee🎥✨#FebruaryIsBlackHistoryMonth

 

 

“Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis” 1963🎥

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ossie_Davis

Ossie Davis

Actor, Civil Rights Activist, Director, Playwright (1917-2005)

Ossie Davis was an American actor, writer, and director best known for his screen roles and for his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Who Was Ossie Davis?

Ossie Davis was born on December 18, 1917, in Cogdell, Georgia. After serving in World War II, Davis embarked on an acting career that would span decades. He starred on Broadway and television and in films. He also wrote and directed. Davis and his wife, actress Ruby Dee, were prominently involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Davis died on February 4, 2005, in Miami, Florida.

Early Life

Raiford Chatman Davis was born in Cogdell, Georgia, on December 18, 1917. The name “Ossie” was bestowed accidentally when a county clerk misheard his mother’s pronunciation of the initials “R.C.”

Ossie enrolled at Howard University but dropped out in 1939 to pursue an acting career in New York City. He left New York to serve in World War II, returning in 1946.

Career

Davis modeled his career on the example of Sidney Poitier—an actor who was able to push past the stereotypical roles most frequently offered to African Americans. Like Poitier, Davis sought to bring dignity to the characters he played, including those with menial jobs or from poor backgrounds.

His early jobs on Broadway paved the way for a long career in television and film. While never achieving the commercial success of Poitier, Davis starred in respected films including The Cardinal and Do the Right Thing over the course of five decades. He also worked on television programs such as Evening Shade and The L Word.

In addition to acting, Davis wrote and directed plays and films. Along with Melvin Van Peebles and Gordon Parks, Davis as one of the notable African American directors of his generation, directing films including Cotton Comes to Harlem.

Personal Life

Davis married actress Ruby Dee in 1948. The couple spent most of their married lives in New Rochelle, New York, where they raised a family.

Both Davis and Dee were civil rights activists, maintaining close relationships with Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, and Martin Luther King Jr., among others. Davis delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Malcolm X and participated in a tribute to King at a New York service for the slain leader.

Honors

In 1989, Davis and Dee were inducted into the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. In 1995, they received the National Medal of Arts—the nation’s highest honor conferred to an artist on behalf of the country. They were honored by the Kennedy Center in 2004.

Death

Davis was found dead in Miami, Florida, on February 4, 2005. The cause of death was natural and may have been related to Davis’s recurring heart problems.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Dee

Fri, 10.27.1922

Ruby Dee, actress, and activist

Ruby Dee, 1957

Ruby Dee was born on this date in 1922. She was an African American actress and activist.

Born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, her father, Marshall Edward Wallace, was a porter and waiter on the Pennsylvania Railroad; her mother, Emma Wallace, was a schoolteacher. She grew up in Harlem, New York, and was a 1945 graduate of Hunter College.

Dee was the first black woman to appear in major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival, in Stratford, CT. She made several appearances on Broadway before getting national recognition for her role in the 1950 film, “The Jackie Robinson Story.” Her acting career has crossed all major forms of media over a span of eight decades, including films such as “A Raisin in the Sun” opposite Sidney Poitier (1961), “Uptight” (1968), “Buck and the Preacher” (1972), “Roots” (1978), “Do The Right Thing” (1989), and “The Delany Sisters: The First Hundred Years” (1999). She married actor Ossie Davis and they had one son, Guy Davis, born in 1952.

During the 1960s, Dee appeared in such politically charged films such as “Gone Are the Days” and “The Incident,” which paved the way for many young African American filmmakers and actors. She has been nominated for seven Emmy Awards, winning once for her role in 1990s Decoration Day. Dee and her late husband, actor Ossie Davis, were well-known civil rights activists.

She is a member of such organizations as CORE, the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). She and her husband were personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving Malcolm X’s eulogy at his 1965 funeral.

Dee was a member of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and a survivor of breast cancer for more than 30 years. Ruby Dee died on June 12, 2014.

Reference:

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

Academy Foundation

8949 Wilshire Boulevard

Beverly Hills, California 90211

Phone: 310-247-3000

https://aaregistry.org/story/ruby-dee-actress-and-activist/

 

“The Perfect Match”

 

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/arts/ossie-davis-ruby-dee-archives-schomburg.amp.html

 

“Ossie Davis Discusses His Wife”

 

 

“Ruby Dee Wasn’t Interested In Ossie At First”

 

https://www.ebony.com/news/ruby-dee-ossie-davis-daughters/?amp

 

https://www.harlemworldmagazine.com/harlems-fabulous-ruby-dee-1922-2014/

 

 

https://www.ajc.com/lifestyles/ruby-dee-actress-known-for-talent-activism-marriage-ossie-davis/9hqgpMwxDw2owLU7xd8lXO/amp.html

 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/ruby-dee-actress-and-activist-who-fought-for-civil-rights-and-broke-through-racial-barriers-on-9535853.html?amp

 

 

 

https://newpittsburghcourieronline.com/2017/12/25/actor-activist-and-father-ossie-davis-remembered/