During April I'm participating in the A to Z blogging challenge.
Each day, sans Sunday, offers an opportunity to write about a
letter of the alphabet with the goal of writing 26 posts.
April is also National Poetry Month.
My stepmother and I were on a public bus in Joplin, Missouri. The bus had some benches that butted up against its side, and that's where we sat. Toward the back of the bus I saw a young African American boy.
At the time--mid 1960s--I had not seen many black people, and the youth sat closer to me than I'd been to a black person. I wanted to look at him. I knew staring was wrong, was rude. I didn't want to be rude, so I tried to steal glimpses of the boy, but my mother saw and scolded me.
Curiosity drove my desire to look, to see this boy who was close to my age. I wanted to know him, to speak to him. Not out of fear but out of a desire to make a new friend.
During my childhood I had no idea that I'd grow up wanting to know as many people from other places and races as I could meet. I wanted to hear about their lives, and through getting to know them, I desired to visit their countries.
Consequently, the culture of xenophobia permeating our world makes no sense to me. I simply have no capacity to understand it.
The ugly head of xenophobia emerged full-throttle with the announcement that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the twenty dollar bill.
|Image via Google search and labeled for reuse.|
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world...I freed thousands of slaves, and could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.
Those who traffic in xenophobia, who hate based on skin color and nationality, live imprisoned in their own minds. Yet they don't know they live in cognitive slavery. I see them staring across the aisle of the bus, but their stare is that of fear.
In my mind, I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line, but I can't seem to get there no-how. I can't seem to get over that line.
In the title for this post, I ask: "What will it take to shake off the shackles of xenophobia? It takes us having a dream. It takes us recognizing and rejecting what binds and limits us. It take us holding out our arms toward each other, moving across the aisle, and shaking off the shackles of xenophobia.
Still I Rise by Maya Angelou
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
Bur 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 failing 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 ay 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
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.