Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Strong Men

"The sincere, sensitive artist, willing to go beneath the cliche's of popular belief to get at an underlying reality, will be wary of confining a race's entire characters to a half-dozen narrow grooves."
--Sterling A. Brown

In Part I, the daddy spoke about poetry as truth. In Part II, he spoke of black poetry as an attempt to not only speak the truth but to communicate truth in such a way that we will be more likely to remember it. But some readers e-mailed the daddy and asked him what poems he feels people we should not forget. In the next few posts, the daddy will provide examples of poetry that we would do well to remember, beginning with Sterling Brown.

Sterling Brown was born in 1901. The last of six children of Reverand Sterling Nelson and Adelaid Allen Brown, Brown grew up on the campus of Howard University, in Washington D.C., where his father taught.

He was a poet, essayist and a scholar, but Brown viewed himself primarily as a teacher. He taught at Howard University, Lincoln University, Fisk University, and the University of Minnesota, among others.

The poem "Strong Men" captures the irrepressible and indomitable spirit of African Americans in the face of apartheid in the southern part of the United States. Through his use of black dialect, Brown conveys with great authenticity the unconquerable and sustaining resilience of the working man, the black “Everyman” in the face of white humiliation and other indignities.

Another fascinating aspect of the poem is Brown’s ability to fuse literature and music with the black people’s struggle for justice, respect, equality of opportunity and dignity.

Strong Men

They dragged you from homeland,
They chained you in coffles,
They huddled you in spoon-fashion in filthy hatches,
They sold you to give a few gentlemen ease.
They broke you in like oxen,
They scourged you,
They branded you,
They branded you,
They made your women breeders,
They swelled your numbers with bastards,
They taught you the religion they disgraced.
They point with pride to the roads you built for them,
They ride in comfort over the rails you laid for them.
They put hammers in your hands
and said-drive so much before sundown.

They cooped you in their kitchen,
They penned you in their factories,
They gave you the jobs that they were too good for,
They tried to guarantee happiness to themselves by
Shunting dirt and misery to you.
You sang me an'muh baby gonna shine, shine
Me an'muh baby gonna shine.
The STRONG MEN keep a-comin' on
The STRONG MEN git STRONGER.........

They bought off some of your leaders
You stumbled,
as blind men will.......
They coaxed you , unwontedly soft voiced.......
You followed a way.
Then laughed as usual.
They heard the laugh and wondered;
Unadmitting a deeper terror.....
The STRONG MEN keep a-comin' on gittin STRONGER.......

What from the slums
Where they have hemmed you,
What, from the tiny huts
They could not keep you from-
What reaches them
Making them ill at ease, fearful?
Today they shout prohibition at you
"thou shalt not this"
"thou shalt not that"
"reserved for whites only"
You laugh.

One thing they cannot prohibit
The STRONG MEN coming on


sdg1844 said...

Brilliant! I love this poem. said...

You give me fever, daddy!!

Anonymous said...

I thought everyone had forgotten him. He was great.