Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wiser on Wednesday - If We Must Die - Claude McKay

CONTEXT - Hundreds of writers and artists lived in Harlem in the 1920s and 1930s and were part of a vibrant, creative community that found its voice in what came to be called the “Harlem Renaissance.” Alain Locke’s 1925 collection The New Negro—a compilation of literature by and essays about “New Negro” artists and black culture—became a “manifesto” of the movement. Some of black America’s foremost writers contributed stories and poems to the volume. The work of these artists drew upon the African-American experience and expressed a new pride in black racial identity and heritage. Several factors accounted for the birth of the movement and propelled it forward. By 1920 the once white ethnic neighborhood of Harlem in upper Manhattan overflowed with recent African-American migrants from the South and the Caribbean. Black soldiers returning from World War I shared a new sense of pride, militancy, and entitlement, as expressed in Claude McKay’s 1919 protest poem "If We Must Die."

"If We Must Die" - Claude McKay

If we must die, let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die, O let us nobly die
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
O kinsmen! We must meet the common foe!
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one death blow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!

Source: Claude McKay, “If We Must Die,” in Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wiser on Wednesday - November 18, 2009

The Bridge Poem - Donna Kate Rushin

I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for

Can talk to anybody
Without me

I explain my mother to my father
My father to my little sister
my brother to the white feminists
the white feminists to the Black church
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…

I’ve got to explain myself
To everybody

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.

I’m sick of filling in your gaps

Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed

Sick of being the crazy at your holiday

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
Find something else to make you
Find some other way to be political and

I will not be the bridge to your
Your manhood
Your humanness

I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long

I’m sick of mediating with your worst
On behalf of 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
My own weaknesses

I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
And then
I will be useful

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Just say "No"

This may be a revelation for many of us - particularly women - but "no" is a complete sentence. However, it is not considered to be by most of us. When we are asked to do something, go somewhere, etc. and our inner voice screams "NO" what we end up saying instead is "well if I didn't have to pick up the kids" or "if I wasn't doing ..." or "well no because..."

These responses and all those like them allow for the requester to interject a solution to the problem we are offering as a reason for our "no". In other words, if it wasn't for the reason, we'd be more than willing to say "yes". So then the persuading begins and generally no one really wins. We end up doing what we don't want to do and the other person gets an unwilling-angry-annoyed participant.

Clearly if we had just said "no" we wouldn't be in this situation. So why don't we just say "no"? There are a vast number of books, theories and opinions on why we don't, so I won't go into them here. Instead, I would like to offer --even if it has to be on a very small scale at first-- that we just say "no".

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I joined Diet to Go. I haven't told many people, primarily because I don't want any of the negative comments or faces I have experienced on previous attempts to get this weight off. Often I'm sure those who make the coments don't feel they are negative, deflating or unhelpful. "Hmmpf! I don't know why you are dieting, (exercising, controlling your intake) I'd kill to be your size!" Frankly, I've always believed that even if you move from a size two (which I have never been) to a size four (never been that either) you have still gained weight and you still can't get in your clothes and it is (or at least I imagine it is) still uncomfortable and worrisome! So this comment is -believe or not- at the very least negative and certainly not supportive or helpful.

Diet to Go is amazing! It is all freshly prepared -calorie controlled!- food that you pick up twice weekly and is on a five week rotation. Yes, that's right. Nothing is duplicated for FIVE weeks. Personally, when I was trying to figure out and control--portions-calories-fat-sugar-carbs--I often ate the same thing for days in a row. So a five week, calorie controlled rotation is heavenly.

It has been less than three weeks and yet I am amazed at the tension that has been released since joining - no more agonizing over what to eat... is it healthy? ... is there too much sugar-fat-carbs? I sometimes agonized so much that I ended up so hungry that I ate a hefty peanut butter and jelly sandwich AND whatever I was agonizing over!

I have lost TWO pounds in just about three weeks!! YAY!! Truthfully though I was initially disappointed - I felt I was doing so well, eating so right that the pounds should have "melted" off! Two pounds?! Why not five? Ten? I was being so good after all!

But then my rational side kicked in and I considered the two pound lost from a different perspective. I calculated that at the rate of two pounds a month, I'd be down 12-14 pounds by Spring. Not bad right? Certainly better than staying the same weight (ugh!) and definitely better than gaining (horror of horrors!). I considered these things also:

  • Ten pounds is a dress size up or down.

  • Ten pounds makes a difference in a diagnosis for diabetes (please no!)

  • Ten pounds will make me really proud and motivated.

  • There is no way to get to ten pounds lost without first achieving two pounds lost.
So clearly no more disappointment in slow progress, just pure delight in any progress at all. I am pleased and motivated. I am Woman. Hear me ROAR!*
* I am Woman - sung and written by Helen Reddy. It was first released by Capitol Records in late 1970 as an album track on Helen Reddy's first album. It was what they call a 'sleeper' in the music industry. In other words, it sat on the album doing nothing for 2 years and then as the women's liberation movement gathered momentum, Capitol Records released it as a single. The women's liberation movement then adopted it as their anthem and the rest is history. (courtesy of

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wiser on Wednesday - November 11, 2009

IF - Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head, when all about you
are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster A
nd treat these two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: `Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

I'm sure if Rudyard was alive today he'd include women in this! So let's forgive him his sexism just this once.
My dear SNL introduced me to this poem this year. It has become one of my favorites.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wiser on Wednesday - November 4, 2009

For when two beings who are not friends are near each other there is no meeting, and when friends are far apart there is no separation. ~ Simone Weil

This Wiser on Wednesday submission was suggested by my dear brother-friend Toby D. Sanders.