Kwame Alexander Poet, Educator and Bestselling Author. Alexander’s latest book of poetry, “A Thousand Words on Race And Hope, Light For The World to See” is a small but powerful commentary on the historical and current racial struggles of Black people.
The foreword touches on Alexander’s early participation, as a 10-year-old, during the Civil Rights Movement as a student marching across the Brooklyn Bridge in November 1978 to protest the police killing of Arthur Miller, a local civic leader. The police were acquitted of the murder of Miller. As we compare and contrast Alexander’s early involvement in the fight for racial equality with our current struggles for the same right to live and breath as human beings, it does not go unnoticed that some 43 years later we are marching and protesting against the very same issues and concerns with very little progress.
The book is dedicated to “Kadir Nelson, Kevin Merida and Nikki Giovanni, soul-sharers, light-bearers, truth-tellers (this dedication is a strong nudge for readers to dive into these giants. Or perhaps become re-acquainted with them).”
The beauty of Black People is illustrated in this book by the never-ending striving for truth, justice and racial equality. Although the burden is heavy it’s one worth carrying. The many names that are spoken (some familiar and others unfamiliar) paint a clear picture of the weight of being Black in America. Normal everyday activities are highlighted as being outside of the circle of safety for Black Americans.
“we can’t drive a car
we can’t walk the street
we can’t ride a bike
we can’t run away”
The refrain of “we” is carried forward throughout the book. Bringing the reader into the drama of the story.
Alexander called these poems “my balm”. Reminiscent of the Gospel Song, “Balm in Gilead”. During times such as these we need our artists to reach out and protest injustice while still attempting to sooth our broken psyches.
Two powerful Black Women writers are quoted in the beginning of the book.
“This is precisely the time when artists go to work,
There is not time for despair, no place for self-pity,
no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak,
we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”
- Toni Morrison from a piece in The Nation.
Lastly, Audre Lorde, “Poetry lays the foundation for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before.”
Therein lies the Beauty.
Light for the World to See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope
Written by Kwame Alexander
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (November 17, 2020)
- ISBN-10 : 0358539412
- ISBN-13 : 978-0358539414
Nichelle M. Hayes MPA, MLS is currently the Vice-President Black Caucus of ALA (BCALA). She is a blogger at https://thetiesthatbind.blog/ where she discusses genealogy and keeping families connected. She’s a guest columnist for the Indianapolis Recorder. In her spare time she’s a genealogist and community leader. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The February 2021 GLLI theme, #BlackIsBeautiful, is curated by guest editor, Shauntee Burns-Simpson.
Shauntee Burns-Simpson (MLIS) currently serves as the 2020-2022 President of BCALA. She is the Associate Director of School Outreach for The New York Public Library. An ambassador for libraries and Youth Librarian, President Burns-Simpson enjoys connecting people to the public library and its resources. She works closely with at-risk teens and fosters a love of reading & learning with her innovative programs. In addition to leading BCALA, she chairs the American Library Association Office of Diversity, Literacy, & Outreach Services (ODLOS) Committee on Diversity.
One thought on “#BlackIsBeautiful: Light for the World to See: A Thousand Words on Race and Hope”
Kwame Alexander read an excerpt from the poem you mention, “American Bullet Points,” on NPR’s The Takeaway, Dec. 31, 2020: https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/takeaway/segments/making-sense-2020-through-poetry
It’s even more powerful when you hear his voice. Thank you for highlighting this important book.