Shapeshifter Poems- Lucille Clifton

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the legend is whispered
in the women’s tent
how the moon when she rises
full
follows some men into themselves
and changes them there
the season is short
but dreadful shapeshifters
they wear strange hands
they walk through the houses
at night their daughters
do not know them

2

who is there to protect her
from the hands of the father
not the windows which see and
say nothing not the moon
that awful eye not the woman
she will become with her
scarred tongue who who who the owl
laments into the evening who
will protect her this prettylittlegirl

3

if the little girl lies
still enough
shut enough
hard enough
shapeshifter may not
walk tonight
the full moon may not
find him here
the hair on him
bristling
rising
up

4

the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow the one
she cannot tell the one
there is no one to hear this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

The Bridge Poem- Donna Kate Rushin

The Bridge Poem- Donna Kate Rushin (1981)
I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Nobody
Can talk to anybody
Without me Right?
I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the Ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…
Then
I’ve got the explain myself
To everybody
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.
Forget it
I’m sick of it
I’m sick of filling in your gaps
Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people
Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip
I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
Your manhood
Your human-ness
I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long
I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf you your better selves
I am sick
Of having to remind you
To breathe
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self
Forget it
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die
The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
Mediate
My own weaknesses
I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful
-from This Bridge Called My Back
edited by: Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Let America Be America Again- Langston Hughes

Read in memory of Trayvon Martin on what would have been his 22nd birthday

Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
America!

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!
From The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Copyright © 1994 the Estate of Langston Hughes. Used with permission.

Thank you to the over 25 people who came to our African-American Poetry Read In yesterday! we read and heard works from a variety of black poets who we will feature each day this week so that we all can reveal and reflect in the power of poetry.

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Marilyn Turner reading the below poem 

“Snapping Beans” by Lisa Parker
I snapped beans into the silver bowl
that sat on the splintering slats
of the porchswing between my grandma and me.
I was home for the weekend,
from school, from the North,
Grandma hummed “What A Friend We Have In Jesus”
as the sun rose, pushing its pink spikes
through the slant of cornstalks,
through the fly-eyed mesh of the screen.
We didn’t speak until the sun overcame
the feathered tips of the cornfield
and Grandma stopped humming. I could feel
the soft gray of her stare
against the side of my face
when she asked, How’s school a-goin?
I wanted to tell her about my classes,
the revelations by book and lecture
as real as any shout of faith,
potent as a swig of strychnine.
She reached the leather of her hand
over the bowl and cupped
my quivering chin;
the slick smooth of her palm held my face
the way she held cherry tomatoes under the spigot,
careful not to drop them,
and I wanted to tell her
about the nights I cried into the familiar
heartsick panels of the quilt she made me,
wishing myself home on the evening star.
I wanted to tell her
the evening star was a planet,
that my friends wore noserings and wrote poetry
about sex, about alcoholism, about Buddha.
I wanted to tell her
how my stomach burned acidic holes
at the thought of speaking in class,
speaking in an accent, speaking out of turn,
how I was tearing, splitting myself apart
with the slow-simmering guilt of being happy
despite it all.
I said, School’s fine.
We snapped beans into the silver bowl between us
and when a hickory leaf, still summer green,
skidded onto the porchfront,
Grandma said,
It’s funny how things blow loose like that.

WHY focus on #blackpoets?

Because writer’s of color are underrepresented, below is an analysis done by Roxane Gay.

“The numbers are grim. Nearly 90% of the books reviewed by The New York Times are written by white writers. That is not even remotely reflective of the racial makeup of this country, where 72% of the population, according to the 2010 census, is white. We know that far more than 81 books were published by writers of color in 2011. You don’t really need other datasets to see this rather glaring imbalance.”

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Videos of Our Speakers & Newspaper Links

WOW! We were incredible blessed to have over 500 people join us in East Haddam for our Women’s Vigil.  It is powerful to move from our isolated, modern lives to join together in community and show that both at the local and national level that we have power.

By Request we’ve uploaded the two videos we have of our speakers (If you’d like to be a videographer for our next event please let us know).

Colleen Shaddox, Speaks to the Needs for Rights of Children

Sandy Broadus, Speaks to the Deep Need for Intersectionality in our Activism

To see a video of Kate O’Boyle speaking check out the beautiful video at the bottom of this article by The Day

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News Coverage

Thank you to our local East Haddam News for covering the event- we will make the link available when it is online

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Thank you to Ann Gamble at the Shoreline Times

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Thank you to Kathleen Schassler and the Middletown Press

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Thank you to WFSB for covering the event

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Thank you to the below News Organizations for spreading word about the event beforehand

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EVENT: African-American Poetry Read-In

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Together We Rise- Building Bridges for Justice will hold an African American Poetry Read-in to celebrate Black History Month as part of the National African American Read-In sponsored by the Black Caucus of the National Council of Teachers of English.  For more information about this annual event and the Black Caucus NCTE click here 

TO REGISTER CLICK HERE 

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Edwina and Marilynn planning for the event

The read-in will be co-hosted by Marilynn S Turner and Edwina Trentham. Turner is a third generation native of Colchester, Connecticut. She is a Professor of English at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut. She is currently working on a memoir based on the southern roots of her family and is also the founder of the Asnuntuck Community College One-Book program.

Trentham, a poet who started the Fourth Friday Poetry Open Mic at Two Wrasslin’ Cats, is a Professor Emerita of English at Asnuntuck Community College, where she founded the poetry journal, Freshwater, and was involved with organizing the college’s annual African American Read-Ins celebrating Black History Month.

The East Haddam Read-In will focus on African American poetry, so participants are encouraged to bring their favorite poems by African American poets to read, or read from the selection of works by African American poets that will be available at the Read-In, or just come and support this important event by listening to some fine poetry. The reading is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

TO REGISTER CLICK HERE

MEET OUR SPEAKERS!

We’re blessed to have three incredible woman who will be sharing words that will inform, intrigue, and inspire us.

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Sandy Broadus- Sandy first became an activist during her days as a student at Dartmouth College. She went on to graduate from Boston University School of Law in 1992 and began practicing law at the Georgetown University Law Center Criminal Justice Clinic. In 2004, Sandy became the first African-American woman partner at the Hartford office of Day, Berry & Howard (now Day Pitney), the largest and oldest law firm in CT. She has also been honored numerous times by the Tri-State Diversity Council and The Connecticut Law Tribune, and was recognized as a Connecticut Super Lawyer and also by the Hartford Business Journal as one of its “Forty under 40.”

Sandy has often appeared on CNN as a legal commentator and is a frequent public speaker and mentor, especially to attorneys of color and women. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Bar Foundation, and is also a Connecticut Bar Foundation James W. Cooper Fellow.

She is also a Member of the Board of Trustees of The Country School in Madison, CT, where her 12 year-old son and 8 year-old boy and girl twins are enrolled. Sandy is also a former Board member for the Urban League of Greater Hartford.

Colleen Shaddox- East Haddam resident Colleen Shaddox is a writer and activist. She has lead communications in campaigns around the country to remove children from adult prisons, to end shackling in juvenile courts and to free mentally ill prisoners from solitary confinement. She has written for National Public Radio, The New York Times, The Washington Post and many other outlets. Her essays and short fiction are frequently anthologized. She is currently writing a book on poverty in America.

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Kate O’Boyle- Kate O’Boyle graduated from Marywood University with a BS in Health and Physical Education followed by an MS in Counselor Education from the University of Scranton. After a career in school administration, Kate’s last role was for Norwich Public Schools was Building Principal at Kelly Middle School, with the responsibility of creating a safe, caring, respectful, and fair environment. The recipient of a Heart Transplant in 2014, Kate’s journey has been one filled with major changes to both her personal and professional life.

Giving up her career as a school administrator was difficult but she was determined to find different ways to utilize her talents. With this in mind, she found ways to serve others by: establishing a non-profit, Sensations Charitable Foundation, Inc. whose mission is to create, conduct and support services for children with disabilities and health conditions; being a member of the Early Childhood Council in East Haddam; serving as President of East Haddam Scholarship, Inc.; Executive Board Member of East Haddam Youth and Family Services; and serving as member and Past President of the East Haddam Rotary Club. As a human being, a woman, an educator, a member of the LGBTQ community, and now, social activist, she is proud to stand up and represent Together We Rise, CT.

Kate resides in East Haddam with her wife Charlene Riling

HELP US MAKE THIS HAPPEN!

We’ve got lots of incredible volunteers working behind the scenes to make our Women’s Vigil on Lower CT River Valley, CT Sister Event of Women’s March on Washington a SUCCESS! But events like this cost $$$, can you do your bit to chip in $5/$10/??? to help cover costs such as event insurance, a police officer, etc

https://www.youcaring.com/WomensVigilEastHaddam

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EVENT: Women’s Vigil on Lower CT River Valley, CT Sister March

the-oneswho-are-crazy-enough-tothink-theycan-changethe-worldare-the-oneswho-doOn January 21, 2017 we will unite in East Haddam, CT as a sister event of the Women’s March on Washington. To officially register for the event click here 

All people, regardless of gender are welcome to join us.  We will be holding a standing VIGIL (with limited seats available for those who are not able to stand for the duration of an hour) not a MARCH (in order to increase accesiblity for people with differing abilities, small children and/or limited mobility).  If you are in need of any special accommodations please email us at togetherwerisect@gmail.com and we will do our best to make arrangements for you.

The VIGIL will be near a sign that says, “Dear Muslims, Immigrants, Women, Disabled, LGBTQ+ folks and People of Color. We love you- boldly & proudly. We will endure. -Shaun King”. You are welcome to bring your own signs and banners.

We request that all participants park at the Rotary Skating Pond or the Upper Parking lot of Town Tavern  and walk (approx 30 sec to the site of the vigil).  For those with limited mobility there will be parking reserved in the parking lot of Two Wrasslin’ Cats (the site of the vigil)

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The vigil is held in the parking lot of a Two Wrasslin’ Cats Coffee shop, so people with children, senior citizens, etc will be able to go inside and warm up during the event.

Please  support our local businesses and get lunch, a snack or a drink at Two Wrasslin Cats, The Town Tavern & Restaurant.

If you have any questions/concerns/suggestions please feel free to email us at togetherwerisect@gmail.com