April 5, 2011
Something I’ve been wanting to say for a long time… ever since I saw a Confederate flag flying at the same height as an American flag in a redneck’s front yard – in upstate New York. Amy
Black History… Month?
Here’s the mystery:
Why only one month for Black history?
Relegated to February, one month
to cover an entire race that rose from
being imprisoned on slave ships, dragged ashore in shackles
to making indelible marks on all of American society
Who suffered their families broken first by
slave owners and later by well-intentioned
but fatally flawed Welfare, driving dads away
Whose call and response field songs, codes for escape
shaped a new tradition of gospel in churches
Who created jazz in all its magnificent manifestations
Who literally built the White House (ironically named)
Who built the South and suffered under the Confederate flag
Whose voices and actions loom large in the tapestry of our nation
The witness of Sojourner Truth (“Ain’t I a woman?”)
The poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, Rita Dove, Maya Angelou
The voices of Billie, Bessie, Ma Rainey, Leontyne Price, Marian Anderson
The brass of Louis, the class of Duke
The shy brilliance of Strayhorn, the in-your-face of Miles
The Harlem Renaissance, producing unfathomable beauty and power
The perseverance of the Negro Leagues
The courage of Jackie Robinson, the sleekness of Jesse Owens
The contemporary finesse of Venus, Serena, Tai Babilonia, and yes, Tiger
Courage under fire.
The energy of Crispus Attucks, fighting British troops
The Buffalo Soldiers, the Tuskegee Airmen
There was never a war fought by America
that didn’t include Black troops
Philosophy and social justice.
The words of Frederick O. Douglass
The wisdom of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The burden shouldered by Coretta after his burial
The grassroots activism of Rosa Parks (no, she didn’t just decide
she was tired – it was a planned act of nonviolent protest)
The battered, brutalized child Emmett Till whose death
shone a light on lynchings all over the South
Listen, can you hear it? “Southern trees bear a strange fruit…”
Our ancestors, for we all came from that continent, regardless of
how far our tribes were scattered around the globe
reduced to one month, when Sylvia’s Beans go on sale at the market
and kids hear about George Washington Carver and peanut butter
and a few lines about Rosa, Martin, and how “Lincoln freed the slaves”
A little blurb about Bill Cosby on TV, Louis Armstrong singing “Hello, Dolly”
And that’s that
Black history is OUR history.
From slavery to freed citizens
From abolitionists to suffragettes
The struggle, oppression
and one triumphant moment on an election day
(Indonesian, my ass)
The music, the invention, the philosophy, the art, the daring
One month? Really?
© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil
Posted by Sharp Little Pencil in Free Verse, History, Jazz Tags: Free Verse, Heroes, History, Jazz, Message, Poem A Day, Prejudice