Freedom Like Sunlight
These days a parent might have a child ask what
#blacklivesmatter is all about. It can be a difficult conversation.
I know adults who haven't decided where they stand. The truth is,
though, that black Americans have had to and continue to have to fight
for rights white people like me can take for granted. J. Patrick
Lewis' Freedom Like Sunlight: Praisesongs For Black Americans can be
a great way to start this important dialogue.
The poems are tributes to thirteen famous African Americans.
The poems are sparse and eloquent. Each uses not only words, but form
to clearly portray its subject.
Harriet Tubman made the dangerous escape from slavery to freedom
and then made numerous trips back to rescue loved ones. At one point
there was a $40,000 reward on her head. (Try to imagine what it would
amount to now).
"Said Lady Freedom's
Tea was sweeter
Than all the honey in a shut-up hive.
Said they were glad
At last to meet her,
Said nothing's as sweet as being alive."
In 1939 the Daughters of the American Revolution wouldn't allow
Marian Anderson, a virtuoso in opera and spirituals, to perform
Washington D.C.'s Constitution Hall. She sang, instead, at the
Lincoln Memorial, sponsored by Eleanor Roosevelt, who also resigned
from that organization. In 1963 Anderson was awarded the President's
Medal of Freedom.
She brushed the air...
And painted song."
John Thompson's illustrations are the perfect accompaniment to
the strong and spirited poems. As Harriet Tubman leads a woman and
two men through a night forest which might erupt at any moment with
slave catchers and dogs you can sense in her face alertness to every
nuance in the atmosphere. Opposite a poem on Rosa Parks there is an
empty bus done in shades of blue, green, and grey. An old time
typewriter, a cup of black coffee, and a cigarette sending up wisps of
smoke speak volumes on Langston Hughes' determination to speak his
truth to life.
This would be a most excellent book to donate to a public or
school library or a classroom collection.
On a personal note, as a mother, I am bothered when people try to
water down #black lives matter. I have a teen age son. I can't
imagine how I'd feel if I was knowing that he'd be more likely to be
shot, maybe by someone who is sworn to protect and serve, because of
his skin color. I'd be some angry that he would be more likely to be
suspended or expelled from school or end up shunted into the school to
jail pipeline. We can't be trivializing the lived experiences of
people who have to cope with that kind of undeserved peril that the
more privileged of us will never have to suffer through.
A great big shout goes out to mothers and sons around the world and
their love for each other.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod