“Tuskegee” by Leslie Pinckney Hill (1880 – 1960)


Wherefore this busy labor without rest?
Is it an idle dream to which we cling,
Here where a thousand dusky toilers sing
Unto the world their hope? “Build we our best.
By hand and thought,” they cry, “although unblessed.”
So the great engines throb, and anvils ring,
And so the thought is wedded to the thing;
But what shall be the end, and what the test?
Dear God, we dare not answer, we can see
Not many steps ahead, but this we know—
If all our toilsome building is in vain,
Availing not to set our manhood free,
If envious hate roots out the seed we sow,
The South will wear eternally a stain.

“Verses to My Heart’s-Sister” by Henrietta Cordelia Ray (1849 – 1916)


Verses To My Heart’s-Sister

We’ve traveled long together,
O sister of my heart,
Since first as little children
All buoyant, we did start
Upon Life’s checkered pathway,
Nor dreamed of aught save joy;
But ah! To-day can tell us
Naught is without alloy.

Rememb’rest thou the gambols
Of those sweet, early days,
When siren Fancy showed us
Our dreams through golden haze?
Ah, well thou dost remember
The mirth we then did share,
The sports, the tasks, the music,
The all-embracing prayer.

Somehow my own sweet sister,
Our heart-strings early twined;
Some rare bond of affection
Of tastes and aims combined;
Made us, e’en in our Springtime,
Soul-sisters fond and leal;
And how that love has strengthened
The years can well reveal.

We’ve seen our loved ones vanish
Far from our yearning gaze,
Into the peace of Heaven.
O those sad, saddest days,
When we two clung together,
So lonely and forlorn,
With our crushed hearts all quiv’ring,
All bruised, and scarred and torn.

So nearer clung we, sister,
And loved each other more;
The tendrils of our natures
Twined closer than before.
We could speak to no other
Of those sweet, holy things,
So tender yet so nameless,
Which sorrow often brings.

The troubles that have thickened
Around our daily path,
We’ve borne together, sister,
And oft when courage hath
Grown feeble, and the future
Was dark with naught of cheer,
Could one have faced the conflict
Without the other near?

And sister, dear Heart’s-Sister,
When all the mystery
Of this strange life is ended
In Immortality,
We’ll love each other dearly
As now we do, and more;
For sacred things in Heaven
Grow richer than before.

And shall not those sweet loved ones
Missed here so long! so long!
Join with us in the music
Of an all-perfect song?
We feel a gladder cadence
Will thrill their rapt’rous strain,
When we are with them, sister,
All, ne’er to part again!

So now as here we linger,
May ours be happy days!
O generous-hearted sister,
In all Life’s winding ways
May we have joy together!
And this I fondly pray, —
God bless thee, dear Heart’s-Sister’.
Forever and for aye!

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou


 

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

“The Bean Eaters” by Gwendolyn Brooks



Listen to “The Bean Eaters” below:


The Bean Eaters” by GWENDOLYN BROOKS

Read by Teyuna T. Darris

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.

Dinner is a casual affair.

Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,

Tin flatware.

Two who are Mostly Good.

Two who have lived their day,

But keep on putting on their clothes

And putting things away.

And remembering …

Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,

As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.

Gwendolyn Brooks, “The Bean Eaters” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1963 by Gwendolyn Brooks.

“The Gift to Sing” by James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938)


Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

“After the Winter” by Claude McKay (1889–1948)


Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
     And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
     Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,

“Ships That Pass In The Night” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;

I look far out into the pregnant night,

Where I can hear a solemn booming gun

And catch the gleaming of a random light,

That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul’s deep hurt are glassing;

For I would hail and check that ship of ships.

I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,

My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,

And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,

O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!

Is there no hope for me? Is there no way

That I may sight and check that speeding bark

Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?