Tag Archives: Black Lives Matter

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

When the news was announced that Jacqueline Woodson was awarded the MacArthur Genius grant, I had just finished reading her gorgeous memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming. I had recently seen her in conversation with another writer I admire, and so I could hear her voice and image the writer as I read the memoir. I can’t wait to read more of Woodson’s work.

Brown Girl Dreaming is a beautiful and generous glimpse into a young writer’s emergence, where family and sense of place both act as characters in the story. I hope you will read it. Two poems that really stood out to me:

On p. 80:

miss bell and the marchers

They look like regular people
visiting our neighbor Miss Bell,
foil-covered dishes held out in front of them
as they arrive
some in pairs,
some alone,
some just little kids
holding their mothers’ hands.

If you didn’t know, you’d think it was just
an evening gathering. Maybe church people
heading into Miss Bell’s house to talk
about God. But when Miss Bell pulls her blinds
closed, the people fill their dinner places with food,
their glasses with sweet tea and gather
to talk about marching.

And even though Miss Bell works for a white lady
who said I will fire you in a minute if I ever see you
on that line!
Miss Bell knows that marching isn’t the only thing
she can do,
knows that people fighting need full bellies to think
and safe places to gather.
She knows the white lady isn’t the only one
who’s watching, listening, waiting,
to end this fight. So she keeps the marchers’
glasses filled, adds more corn bread
and potato salad to their places,
stands in the kitchen ready to slice
lemon pound cake into generous pieces.

And in the morning, just before she pulls
her uniform from the closet, she prays,
God, please give me and those people marching
another day.

Amen.

And this beautifully embodied gift on p. 217:

writing #1

It’s easier to make up stories
than it is to write them down. When I speak,
the words come pouring out of me. The story
wakes up and walks all over the room. Sits in a chair,
crosses one leg over the other, says,
Let me introduce myself. Then just starts going on and on.
But as I bend over my composition notebook,
only my name
comes quickly. Each letter, neatly printed
between the pale blue lines. Then white
space and air and me wondering, How do I
spell introduce?
Trying again and again
until there is nothing but pink
bits of eraser and a hole now
where a story should be.

Open letter to the Yellow Springs Village Council

June 12, 2020

Dear Yellow Springs Village Council,

I am writing in support of declaring racism a public health crisis. It is a health crisis everywhere. Naming is important.

YS is a white-heavy town. We like to think of ourselves as part of the solution. But are we really part of the solution, yet? Even (maybe especially) in “progressive” places like this, (we) white people need to do real work–toil–not just giving lip service–to dismantle racism and white supremacy. Kindness is not enough. I know we humans are all at different stages in the process (internally and externally) of the walk toward true equality, and I think that calling racism a health crisis is a reasonable early step.

And: it’s just a start.

We have years of work to do, in our bodies and in our communities. Listen well. Listen well. White people need to listen before talking, and do what we can. Every day we can do more. Do what we can, inside and outside ourselves.

I hope this will be the real start of real change. I am committed to doing what I can. I hope the YS leadership will, too.

I encourage you to read this important book: My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (read more and order it here: https://www.resmaa.com/books/). Resmaa Menakem writes about the trauma that racism inflicts upon bodies, specifically Black, white, and police bodies. We Americans (yes, even in YS) all carry racial trauma in our bodies, and until we work through and resolve that terrible condition, we won’t have real, lasting change, in YS or anywhere.

What a beautiful opportunity we have right now.

It’s going to be the most worthwhile work we can do in our lifetimes.

Please let’s not go halfway.

Respectfully,

Rebecca Kuder

 

Open letter to Joe Biden (Don’t go halfway)

I just sent the following to Joe Biden via his campaign website (https://go.joebiden.com/page/s/contact-us).

June 9, 2020

Dear Vice President Biden,

The U.S. stands at a moment of opportunity to make real and lasting change. We must work to dismantle systemic racism and white supremacy. You feel it, the momentum. I can tell that you feel it as I watch you speaking. As a white person of great privilege, as you journey toward the election and beyond, please make sure that you are listening carefully and thoroughly to people of color. Make sure that your circle of close advisors includes people of color, specifically Black Americans. Listen well. Listen well. Do what you can. Do what you can inside yourself, and outside yourself.

You stand to bring humanity back into the White House. I hope you will.

Please read this really, really important book: My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem (read more and order it here: https://www.resmaa.com/books/). Resmaa Menakem writes about the trauma that racism inflicts upon bodies, specifically Black, white, and police bodies. We Americans all carry racial trauma in our bodies, and until we work through and resolve that terrible condition, we won’t have real, lasting change.

What a beautiful opportunity we have right now.

Please don’t go halfway.

Respectfully,

Rebecca Kuder

(“how to care for the injured body”) From Claudia Rankine, Citizen

citizen

I’ve long been meaning to post about the award-winning and beautiful lyric, Citizen, by Claudia Rankine.

I read it several years ago, and listened to the audiobook again a couple months ago as I drove back and forth to Dayton where I’m teaching. The living inside these pages (or on the discs, if you are old school like me, and listen to the CD) makes me know I have only just started to understand what it is to be living, in this country, at this time, as a person of color. And despite what I would like to believe about myself, I have only begun to understand. There are many ways of beginning to understand. This book is one of them. I recommend you read or listen, no matter what color your skin.

Something that resonates for me is a passage from “Some years there exists a wanting to escape…” on page 143. (Here’s a part, stripped of context, because the nature of this book is that it’s a lyric & a whole cloth, but this is haunting me today, for which I’m grateful, and I wanted to share it. You can read more of this passage at the Poetry Foundation.)

(And please read the book, too.)

How to care for the injured body,

the kind of body that can’t hold
the content it is living?

And where is the safest place when that place
must be someplace other than in the body?