“I Have But One Passion…

 

to enlighten those who have been kept in the dark, in the name of humanity…”

-Emile Zola

As a young woman, I devoured the books by French novelist, Emile Zola…they were soap operas; they took on the plight of the poor, the disenfranchised, women, anti-semitism… Today, in 1898, “In France, Emile Zola is imprisoned for writing his “J’accuse” letter accusing government of anti-Semitism & wrongly jailing Alfred Dreyfushistoryorb.com Currently, there is a new movie out starring Jessica Lange based on Zola’s novel, Therese Raquin, titled, In Secret.  Zola fled to England and was not jailed and all charges against Dreyfus were found to be false.

Today, the brilliant educator, professor, activist, philosopher, W.E.B. Du Bois was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts in 1868. If you haven’t read his full length biography by David Lewis (just to name one), do so. Du Bois lived a very full life filled with many accomplishments.

Our Day Will Come,”  a beautiful song sung by Ruby and the Romantics entered the charts today in 1963 when I was 10 years old. Oh how I loved to sing that song and Ruby’s voice?   Silky smooth!!!!

Our Day Will Come means so many different things to so many different people. To Zola it meant the end of anti-semitism; to W.E.B. Du Bois, it meant equality among all people; to Ruby and the Romantics, it meant maybe one day getting the royalties they deserved from their huge hit.

 

 

 

W.E.B. Du Bois On My Mind

“…the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line”W.E.B. Du Bois

For the last few days, I have been mulling over the above quote in my mind which was in the first paragraph of  “The Forethought” at the beginning of his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk.

I was probably introduced to Du Bois by my mom who had gone back to college when I was about 6years old. It took her 10 years of night school to obtain her B.A., so as she grew, studied and read, so did I! I went onto learn a lot about Du Bois as I read his books and biographies about him. He has never left my mind. I know someone who just moved to Ghana and is teaching there. I told him, when he gets a chance, to please visit the W.E.B. Du Bois Museum in Accra, Ghana and send me a postcard. Du Bois died in Ghana in 1965.

“I’ll keep on wishing

We must always keep dreaming

Of a world

With equality and justice”-Tracy Chapman

“My poetry, I think, has become the way of my giving out what music is within me”-Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen, a favorite poet of mine whom I introduced many students to, was born today in 1903, wow, 110 years ago! His poetry still rings true. My first poem that I learned was “Incident,” and because of sensitivity, I am going to just put “N” for a word that he, Countee Cullen, an African American poet used in 1934. Countee Cullen was part of the fascinating period in our history called The Harlem Renaissance on which I’ve read just about every book published. Great writers, artists, poets, dancers, mlusicians, thinkers, such as: Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, W.E.B. Du Bois, Jean Toomer, James Weldon Johnson and more. If you’ve never read these writers, you should. “The Harlem Renaissance was the name given to the cultural, social, and artistic explosion that took place in Harlem between the end of World War I and the middle of the 1930s. During this period Harlem was a cultural center, drawing black writers, artists, musicians, photographers, poets, and scholars. Many had come from the South, fleeing its oppressive caste system in order to find a place where they could freely express their talents.” (pbs.org)

Incident by Countee Cullen:

Once riding in old Baltimore,

Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,

I saw a Baltimorean

Keep looking straight at me.

 

Now I was eight and very small,

And he was no whit bigger,

And so I smiled, but he poked out

His tongue, and called me, ‘N_____.’

 

I saw the whole of Baltimore

From May until December;

Of all the things that happened there

That’s all that I remember.

Saturday’s Child by Countee Cullen

Some are teethed on a silver spoon,

With the stars strung for a rattle;

I cut my teeth as the black racoon—

For implements of battle.

Some are swaddled in silk and down,

And heralded by a star;

They swathed my limbs in a sackcloth gown

On a night that was black as tar.

For some, godfather and goddame

The opulent fairies be;

Dame Poverty gave me my name,

And Pain godfathered me.

For I was born on Saturday—

“Bad time for planting a seed,”

Was all my father had to say,

And, “One mouth more to feed.”

Death cut the strings that gave me life,

And handed me to Sorrow,

The only kind of middle wife

My folks could beg or borrow.