Our topic: African American poetry, art, history, and culture.
Our goal: learn about the lived experiences of People of Color, particularly those who identify as Black in the United States. Perhaps some of you will go on to create work of poetry or art to enter in the Poetry and Art Contest or to share at the Poetry Slam during MLK Week at RSU this January!
Who can participate: anyone and everyone! Open to RSU students and to the public.
How long do I have to finish this exercise: A new entry will be posted each week, but you are welcome to join in and add your responses to any entry any time before March 1, 2016.
We begin with a well-known figure, Maya Angelou, and her poem 1978 "Still I Rise."
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
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.
To complement this poem are this video of Angelou reading the work...
...this photograph of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1972), linked to information about how she was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom...
...and this poster from Chisholm's campaign for President:
So, with those items in mind, we invite you to please consider these questions and share your thoughts in the comments below:
1. What wording does Angelou repeat in "Still I Rise"? What is the effect of the repetition on you as a reader?
2. What questions does Angelou ask in "Still I Rise"? How would you answer her questions? Who does she seem to be responding to?
3. Why does she compare herself to dust, air, to the owner of oil wells and gold mines and diamonds, to an ocean and to daybreak?
4. What connections might we make between Angelou's poem (its content and style) and Chisholm's poster's content and style?
Let us know what you think!