It’s fitting that this blog post of one of my writing influences came out in February – aka Black History Month. It’s no question that I was influenced by great black poets and authors in my young life. I have my teachers and the Virgin Islands school system to thank for that.
Year: Sometime in the 90s
Place: Lockhart Elementary School
School, Classroom Recitals
I remember having to memorize poems to recite in class for a grade. I even looked through my old awards and certificates and found one where I had read poetry by Jack Prelutsky at one of the school’s functions. Yes, I know he’s white. No, I do not remember the name of that poem.
Focus people focus. I’m getting to the black author.
One poem that I would never forget that we had to recite was by Langston Hughes called Mother to Son. From the title alone that I felt dictated my life and that of others around me, to the message that the mother is delivering to her son. It gives me chills when I read this poem and remember a time when we had to say it and memorize it for class.
I don’t know the words quite like I used to, but I do remember these two lines: “And sometimes goin’ in the dark, where there ain’t been no light.” Like seriously my neck starts twitching and head curves around to say that part with conviction.
I enjoyed most of the books and poems that we had to read during the school-year and even those that we had to read during the summertime. (If you missed what a summer assignment is – check out Pit Stop on the Post Dictionary).
Intentional Teachers or Genius Curriculum?
Sometimes I wonder if our teachers were being truly intentional in the things that they had us read or if they were doing it simply because they were following a curriculum. What I do know for sure is that, in my younger days if I ever felt like giving up, I’d remember that life for me and most everyone around me, ain’t never been no crystal stair.
I had to work hard to stay in school and graduate. I had to push myself to learn those different poems or the countless words that allowed me to win the spelling bee in 3rd grade. I had to focus on my homework everyday, whether it meant while I was on the bus going to the destination that I would sleep for the night or getting it done early in the morning before I walked to school.
Did it all pay off in the end? YES.
Do I thank my teachers for all that they’ve done while I was in school? YES.
Do I imagine that life would be any easier if we did walk on crystal stairs? NO.
Does it give me the drive to push through in this life. HELL YEAH
The life of a black child in the islands isn’t any much easier than a black child growing up in any other part of the world. I am glad for my foundation and being able to be influenced by those around me as well as those we escaped with through their writings and stories.
Like, I said in my other post about the women that came before me, I am a better author and writer because of those that came before me.
Here is one of my favorites, an oldie but a goodie that I wouldn’t mind reciting today…………………
Mother to Son by Langston Hughes
“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor—
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light
So, boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps ‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now— For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.”
Is there a poem you remember having to memorize in school to recite for a grade? Which one was your favorite? Can you still repeat it verbatim today? Let me know in the comments.