To say that this week has been a tough one for Democrats is an understatement. The President is acquitted, turns his State of the Union address into a campaign ad for his “Comeback Tour”, gives an avowed racist the Medal of Honor, and sees an uptick in his approval rating. Meanwhile, in a effort to flex their brand new tech-savvy muscles, the Dems rely on an untested app which screws up the Iowa caucus and throws the official start of finding a Democratic nominee to face Trump into complete disarray. “Who won Iowa?” has been completely overshadowed by “WFT, Iowa?”
Anyhoo, these are tough days, and in tough days you have to turn to inspirational poetry. (We at GCP do, anyway.) Poets remind us that we have seen worse, and we have endured and succeeded in darker days. We are a hopeful people, and poets remind us of what a inspirational and wonderful thing that can be.
So today’s Thoughtful Thursday offers poems of hope from some of our most celebrated poets. We start with “Still I Rise” from Maya Angelou (1928-2014), in which she details the many ways in which we triumph over adversity. Then, we offer “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), a song of hope and determination that we will “march on until victory is won”. And finally, “Dirt”, a poem from Kwame Dawes (1962-), a Ghanian who was raised in Jamaica and is now the Chancellor’s Professor of English at the University of Nebraska. Here Dawes speaks of what we are willing to endure in our hopeful quest to own part of the land that we have worked so hard to build.
Inspirational words that remind us of our resilience. Sorely needed. Share them with your children. Enjoy.
And Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Lift Every Voice and Sing
Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered.
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.
James Weldon Johnson
I got one part of it. Sell them watermelons and get me another part. Get Bernice to sell that piano and I’ll have the third part.
We who gave, owned nothing,
learned the value of dirt, how
a man or a woman can stand
among the unruly growth,
look far into its limits,
a place of stone and entanglements,
and suddenly understand
the meaning of a name, a deed,
a currency of personhood.
Here, where we have labored
for another man’s gain, if it is fine
to own dirt and stone, it is
fine to have a plot where
a body may be planted to rot.
We who have built only
that which others have owned
learn the ritual of trees,
the rites of fruit picked
and eaten, the pleasures
of ownership. We who
have fled with sword
at our backs know the things
they have stolen from us, and we
will walk naked and filthy
into the open field knowing
only that this piece of dirt,
this expanse of nothing,
is the earnest of our faith
in the idea of tomorrow.
We will sell our bones
for a piece of dirt,
we will build new tribes
and plant new seeds
and bury our bones in our dirt.