Poetry Friday: Poetry of Social Justice

Poetry Friday is hosted by Catherine @ Reading to the Core

peace

More police shootings. More protests. More anguish and more rage.  This has become a sickeningly depressing occurrence in America these days, our new normal: a person of color is gunned down by a law enforcement officer, and protestors gather to decry what they know will happen…nothing, for justice will not be served.

So, this Poetry Friday, I turn to poetry and find two that speak, in powerful ways, to what I see playing out on my television.  First, this one by Langston Hughes – succinct and true: 

Justice by Langston Hughes
That Justice is a blind goddess
Is a thing to which we black are wise:
Her bandage hides two festering sores
That once perhaps were eyes.
And this, from Jacqueline Woodson, which speaks to the rage of people no longer willing to wait quietly long past their turn:
what everybody knows now  by Jacqueline Woodson
Even though the laws have changed
my grandmother still takes us
to the back of the bus when we go downtown
in the rain. It’s easier, my grandmother says,
than having white folks look at me like I’m dirt.
 
But we aren’t dirt. We are people
paying the same fare as other people.
When I say this to my grandmother,
she nods, says, Easier to stay where you belong.
I look around and see the ones
who walk straight to the back. See
the ones who take a seat up front, daring
anyone to make them move. And know
this is who I want to be. Not scared
like that. Brave
like that.
Still, my grandmother takes my hand downtown
pulls me right past the restaurants that have to let us sit
wherever we want now. No need in making trouble,
she says. You all go back to New York City but
I have to live here.
 
We walk straight past Woolworth’s
without even looking in the windows
because the one time my grandmother went inside
they made her wait and wait. Acted like
I wasn’t even there. It’s hard not to see the moment—
my grandmother in her Sunday clothes, a hat
with a flower pinned to it
neatly on her head, her patent-leather purse,
perfectly clasped
between her gloved hands—waiting quietly
long past her turn.
Jacqueline Woodson, “what everybody knows now” from Brown Girl Dreaming.
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10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Poetry of Social Justice

  1. Thank you for your sensitive and deeply caring contribution today. Difficult thoughts to share, articulated by two writers very adept at getting to the heart of the matter. These are sad times.

  2. It’s hard to understand how this still is the way it is. You’ve chosen hard words for all of us to remember, Tara. (FYI-link on PF is not correct).

  3. Thank you for sharing these poems after such a heart-wrenching week. News I can turn off when it gets to be too much; affected family members can’t. BROWN GIRL DREAMING – such a beautifully written, important book. I was struck at how close in age I am to Jacqueline Woodson, how close the locations in it were to some of my own childhood trips, and yet how different our growing-up experiences were.

  4. We need to write more poems. We need to speak out as white teachers against this prejudice. This post is a gripping reminder of the things our complacency has done. No more!

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