TALK TO THE DADDY

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?"

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Black writers told us of black courage and strength long ago

Listen up. Today, the daddy is reflecting on President Obama's inaugural, the courageous Tuskeege Airmen who were there, the many older black women and men there to witness this great historical event. To many of them, it must surely mean the outcome of centuries of trials and tribulations and the daily humiliations to be treated with some semblance of respect and dignity...to be able to start the race of life on an equal playing field in the United States of America.

The daddy is thinking about history: how history is revealing the courage of these older generations of blacks who fought so bravely for our country and endured so much as civilians to survive, even thrive, in a world where they were not only denied equality but despised and humiliated under apartheid in the South and hypocritical discrimination and derision in the North-- "Up South," as Brother Malcolm (Malcolm X) used to call it.

But if truth be told, black historians and writers told us this story this story over and over again. But, as was consistent with the behavior of a racist-based society, many refused to hear of such great accomplishments under duress.
Nonetheless, the stories abound; and nowhere is this story told with more honesty, passion and power than in the poetry of Black America. Due to page constraints, the daddy will only give you two examples. But they are good ones.

In 1960's, poet Mari Evans spoke of the strength and resilience of black women when she wrote:

I am a Black Woman

I am a black woman
the music of my song
some sweet arpeggio of tears
is written in a minor key
and I
can be heard humming in the night
Can be heard
humming
in the night

I saw my mate leap screaming to the sea
and I/with these hands/cupped the lifebreath
from my issue in the canebrake
I lost Nat's swinging body in a rain of tears
and heard my son scream all the way from Anzio
for Peace he never knew....I
learned Da Nang and Pork Chop Hill
in anguish
Now my nostrils know the gas
and these trigger tire/d fingers
seek the softness in my warrior's beard

I am a black woman
tall as a cypress
strong
beyond all definition still
defying place
and time
and circumstance
assailed
impervious
indestructible
Look
on me and be
renewed

In 1931, poet Sterling Brown spoke of the internal strength needed to survive by black men when he wrote:

The strong men keep coming on.

They dragged you from homeland,
They chained you in coffles,2
They huddled you 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 made your women breeders,
They swelled your numbers with bastards. . . .
They taught you the religion they disgraced.

You sang:
Keep a-inchin’ along
Lak a po’ inch worm. . . .

You sang:

Bye and bye
I’m gonna lay down dis heaby load. . . .

You sang:
Walk togedder, chillen,
Dontcha git weary. . . .
The strong men keep a-comin’ on
The strong men git stronger.
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 hand and said-
Drive so much before sundown.


You sang:
Ain’t no hammah
In dis lan’,
Strikes lak mine, bebby,
Strikes lak mine.
They cooped you in their kitchens,
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;
Uncomfortable,
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 from you ⎯
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
The strong men gittin’ stronger.
Strong men. . . .
Stronger. . . .

Brown and Evans are only two of many African Americans who heralded and celebrated black people, black leaders and black culture in a country that viewed them as inferior and almost totally lacking in intelligence. But here's the daddy's point: To fully appreciate Obama's inaugural and what it means, perhaps we should step back and take a look at what we've gone through as a nation, what some of our people persevered to carve out a a life to grow and sustain themselves under harsh, oppressive condition. If we do, we'll read what black writers have been saying all along: that we are a great nation because we have strong, resilient people-- and none more than African Americans.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice, Daddy!

Big Man said...

I see I was on the same wavelength as you.

Have you ever read Halberstam's book? It's an interesting look at what the movement did to a lot of young people's lives.

It was interesting to see how many of them could never replicate the success they had in the movement in other areas of life. It must be a strange feeling to think that you're life peaked in some ways that young.

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

man it was nice to see them in the parade - at the FRONT

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MacDaddy said...

BigMan: I just posted on your blog saying it's funny how we've both posted about this. I think we really need to read or re-read black writers and other writers who have been speaking about this courage and strength over this older generation of blacks all along. I haven't read the particular book you mentioned in your book. But I have read other works by him. I've read historians like Leronne Bennett, John Henrik Clarke and John Jackson who are saying the same thing.

Yes, in terms of accomplishments, most of them peaked then: James Rustin, Andrew Young, Bevel, Sellers, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown (one of my heroes) and man more. And how sad is it that Andrew Young a lieutenant of Dr. King, is now doing commercials for Wal-mart, the worse corporation in history, a multi-national corporation that won't allow unions?

Torrance: Yes. And to see just one Tuskeege Airmen, I think, is amazing. 1942 is a long time, and they fought in a war.

Christopher said...

These are brilliant pieces.

Revvy Rev said...

Our ancestors gave us a true hope that pointed to a bright future without minimizing the struggles that we had to endure. They were no mere optimists, but realists. Though many of them did not see this day, it was their hope and faith that enabled us to witness the monumental events that we have just experienced.

MacDaddy said...

Christopher: Thank you.
Rev: Thanks for the insight. I feel that it is only because these folks fought bravely, worked hard and showed faith in me and the next generation that I'm here to day. I'm really walking on their shoulders.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Daddy, Your last paragraph is so damn solid and full of truth.
"we as a nation." Yes, we as a nation have made these realities. Mr. Obama isn't just a black leader or a black hero, is is a national hero and a national leader. He doesn't just belong to one group that others can look upon admiringly but removed, he belongs to me, you and every American who appreciates the struggle that almost everyone goes through in life and the struggle that everyone not born with a silver spoon in their mouth has to endure to go beyond where they came into the world.
Sorry all my friends of African descent, but you don't get to keep this one to yourselves!
Now aint that the pure essence of what MLK was talking about when he talked about all of us children playing together?
Did I miss your point?

MacDaddy said...

"Sorry all my friends of African descent, but you don't get to keep this one to yourselves!
Now aint that the pure essence of what MLK was talking about when he talked about all of us children playing together?"

Hey, Sagacious: I agree. President Obama belongs to all of us. But my other point is that it was the strength of African Americans, including Barack, to survive, work hard, believe in excellence and perseverance that heled the Obamas generation to survive and thrive today. We're so proud of him that we don't feel we need to hold him. Like Black music, it's our gift to the world. But we should never forget the strength of the people that gave us an Obama. Remember: Whily Hollywood mocked black people as maid and scarred little funny boys, these men were fighting wars for us in segregated units, representing us well in sports, creating the best of American music, creating new foods and discovering new ways to deal with diseases as doctors; and very few of the white media would even mention. And they did this all as representatives of a despised people. Despite this, they persevered to give us an Obama, a president for us all, a president who transcends one race or culture.