“AND AIN’T I A WOMAN” … A CELEBRATION OF BLACK HISTORY MONTH AND INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY 2019

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“I’m not going to die, I’m going home like a shooting star.” The Narrative of Sojourner Truth Sojourner Truth and Olive Gilbert



Ain’t I a Woman is posted here today in honor of Black History Month (February) and International Women’s Day (IWD), coming up on March 8.

One of the many guises in which poetry presents itself:  American actress Alfrie Woodard delivers New Yorker Sojourner Truth‘s spontaneous speech, Ain’t I a Woman. Sojourner gave this speech at the Women’s Convention in Akron, Ohio in May of 1851.

SOJOURNER TRUTH (1797-1883)

African-American Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Activist



Black History Month is an opportunity to remember and celebrate the people and events of the African Diaspora.

Two recommended sites to visit for this celebration:


Ten values that guide International Women’s Day are:

  • Justice
  • Dignity
  • Hope
  • Equality
  • Collaboration
  • Tenacity
  • Appreciation
  • Respect
  • Empathy
  • Forgiveness

The theme for 2019 is “better balance.”

Details HERE.


ABOUT

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Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”


The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

CELEBRATING AMERICAN SHE-POETS (7): Chirlane McCay, New York City’s First Lady

Chirlane McCray by Kelly Weill, NYU Local.com

Chirlane McCray by Kelly Weill, NYU Local.com

CHIRLANE McCAY is a writer and poet, a speechwriter and wife of New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio. She is also the mother of two children, Chiara and Dante.

According to her bio on de Blasio’s website,

“Chirlane began writing at a young age. In high school she discovered ways to use writing as a tool for activism. While studying at Wellesley College and the famed Radcliffe Publishing Course, Chirlane became a member of the Combahee River Collective, a pioneering black feminist collective, which inspired her to write groundbreaking prose and poetry.”

The poem below is the one – according to the man himself – that made de Blasio fall in love with her. It is from Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology].

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 10: Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio kisses his wife Chirlane McCray after voting in the New York City mayoral primary on September 10, 2013 (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY: Former public Advocate and then mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio kisses his wife, Chirlane, after voting in the mayoral primary on September 10, 2013 (Photogrpah by Spencer Platt via Getty Images)

I Used To Think

I used to think
I can’t be a poet
because a poem is being everything you can be
in one moment,
speaking with lightning protest
unveiling a fiery intellect
or letting the words drift feather-soft
into the ears of strangers
who will suddenly understand
my beautiful and tortured soul.
But, I’ve spent my life as a Black girl
a nappy-headed, no-haired,
fat-lipped,
big-bottomed Black girl
and the poem will surely come out wrong
like me.

And, I don’t want everyone looking at me.

If I could be a cream-colored lovely
with gypsy curls,
someone’s pecan dream and sweet sensation,
I’d be

poetry in motion
without saying a word
and wouldn’t have to make sense if I did.
If I were beautiful, I could be angry and cute
instead of an evil, pouting mammy bitch
a nigger woman, passed over
conquested and passed over,
a nigger woman
to do it to in the bushes.

My mother tells me
I used to run home crying
that I wanted to be light like my sisters.
She shook her head and told me
there was nothing wrong with my color.
She didn’t tell me I was pretty
(so my head wouldn’t swell up).

Black girls cannot afford to
have illusions of grandeur,
not ass-kicking, too-loud-laughing,
mean and loose Black girls.

And even though in Afrika
I was mistaken for someone’s fine sister or cousin
or neighbor down the way,
even though I swore
never again to walk with my head down,
ashamed,
never to care
that those people who celebrate
the popular brand of beauty
don’t see me,
it still matters.

Looking for a job, it matters.
Standing next to my lover
when someone light gets that
“she ain’t nothin come home with me” expression
it matters.

But it’s not so bad now.
I can laugh about it,
trade stories and write poems
about all those put-downs,
my rage and hiding.
I’m through waiting for minds to change,
the 60’s didn’t put me on a throne
and as many years as I’ve been
Black like ebony
Black like the night
I have seen in the mirror
and the eyes of my sisters
that pretty is the woman in darkness
who flowers with loving

– Chirlane McCray

BASEBALL SEASON TRADITION: James Earl Jones reading Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat”

Jack Roosevelt "Jackie" Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) second baseman who became the first African American to play in the major leagues in the modern era.

First an homage: Jack Roosevelt “Jackie” Robinson (January 31, 1919 – October 24, 1972) was an American Major League Baseball (MLB) second baseman who became the first African-American to play in the major leagues in the modern era. This Brooklyn she-poet is compelled to celebrate Jackie Robinson for Black History Month. He played for the Brooklyn Dogers from 1947-1954, my time and place.  PBS is featuring Ken Burns’ documentary on Jackie Robinson in mid-April.

Now on to James Earl Jones and the poem of the day!

Casey at the Bat was first published: June 3, 1888, San Francisco Examiner. A bio of Theyer, the author, is HERE and actor James Earl Jones’ bio is HERE.

Casey at the Bat: A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his
shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the
air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled
roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his
hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered
“Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles
strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

– Ernest Thayer

Photograph of Jackie Robinson is in the public domain.

She-Poet, Maya Angelou, Phenomenal Woman

American She-Poet Maya Angelou (1928-2014), Photo 2013, York College under CC BY-SA 2.0

Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

 

41kNzUbndlL._SX334_BO1,204,203,200_A reading by Maya Angelou yesterday on Poetry Please brought her front and center in my mind.  How could we celebrate Black History Month and not include Maya Angelou? So here she is, not a conventional beauty, but a Beauty and a Refuge … wise and sassy Phenomenal Woman

 

 

phenomenal |fəˈnämənəl|
adjective
1 very remarkable; extraordinary
2 perceptible by the senses or through immediate experience: the phenomenal world.

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

– Maya Angelou

© poem, excerpt from Maya Angelou, The Complete Poetry; photograph “Maya Angelou visits York College, February 4, 2013” by York College and shared under CC BY-SA 2.0 license.