Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Look up and out and into your sister's eyes" (Brown anniversary)

For this Brown v. Board anniversary, Secretary Duncan's prose statement of the moral commitment is here and important, but I find myself wanting poetry.  I want words for the joy of sharing and building one community, embodied most of all in our common schools and the work we do there for all our children.  Maya Angelou's got what I need:
You, the Turk, the Swede, the German, the Scot ...
You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought
Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare
Praying for a dream.

Here, root yourselves beside me.

I am the Tree planted by the River,
Which will not be moved.

I, the Rock, I the River, I the Tree
I am yours--your Passages have been paid.

Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
For this bright morning dawning for you.

History, despite its wrenching pain,
Cannot be unlived, and if faced
With courage, need not be lived again.

Lift up your eyes upon
The day breaking for you.

Give birth again
To the dream
The full poem is here, ending with that perfect summary of the true delight of being/becoming an indivisible nation:
Here on the pulse of this new day
You may have the grace to look up and out
And into your sister's eyes, into
Your brother's face, your country
And say simply
Very simply
With hope
Good morning. 


  1. Susan, Thanks for reminding us that this is an excellent time in our history to recommit to the ideal of public school desegregation. Changing the law did not by itself accomplish this goal and thus, de facto segregation is still very much in evidence. Poetry is a wonderful way to mark this anniversary because it speaks to our hearts and souls and reminds us of our common humanity. And perhaps inspires us to continue the struggle...

  2. Lynda,

    Brown was indeed only one of the giant steps needed--and the walk is indeed unfinished.

    Desegregation strikes me as too weak a word. I want life organized as a potluck where different people bring different dishes to the table and feast on all the variety.

    Integration isn't quite right, either, because it could too easily sound like we want to end up just one flavor, rather than savor all of it.

    Secretary Duncan's words about equity and achievement also stuck me as quite right about part of it, but too cool, still missing the energy and pleasure of sharing a community.

    The way I wrote it last year was that "our common schools embody our delight in one another's company." Even that, of course, is one of those being/becoming things, part happening and part still needing us to struggle to make it happen.

  3. Susan,
    This was a lovely tribute - thank you! May we all unlive history and courageously ensure that it is not lived again!


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