"It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have." ~ James Baldwin
"Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
P O Box 1752 Paris TX 75461 ~ 903.783.9232 ~ naacp6213@yahoo.com
Meets First Thursday of Each Month at 6:00 PM ~ 121 E Booth

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Margaret Walker

I want to write.
I want to write the songs of my people.
I want to hear them singing melodies
     in the dark.
I want to catch the last floating strains from
     their sob-torn throats.
I want to frame their dreams into words;
     their souls into notes.
I want to catch their sunshine laughter
     in a bowl;
fling dark hands to a darker sky
and fill them full of stars
then crush and mix such lights
til they become a mirrored pool
of brilliance in the dawn.

Margaret Walker was born on July 7, 1915 in Birmingham, Alabama. From early childhood she kept a journal, recording her poetry and the stories of her great-grandmother. When she was 16, and already in college, her parents -- both college professors -- joined the faculty of New Orleans College (now Dillard University). While there, she met Langston Hughes who encouraged her writing, suggesting she attend college in the North. She transferred to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, where she received a BA in English in 1935. Her graduate work was at the University of Iowa where she earned an MA in 1940 and a PhD in 1965.

Her work was first published in the NAACP's Crisis Magazine in 1934. She was a member of the Illinois WPA Writers' Project along with Saul Bellow, Studs Terkel, Arna Bontemps, Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks. In 1942 she won the Yale Younger Poets award for her first published collection of poetry, For My People. Her novel Jubilee, based on her great-grandmother's stories, was published in 1966.

She taught from 1949 to 1979 at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, where she founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life and Culture of Black People, which has been renamed in her honor. Nikki Giovanni called her "the most famous person no one ever heard of". She died November 30, 1998.

For My People

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.

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