Gwendolyn Brooks

Haki R. Madhubuti

Joanne V. Gabbin

Preferred Citation:

Friday Keynote Speeches Part 2, 9/30/1994 (FF022). Transcribed and edited by Evan Sizemore, 2021-2022, part of the Mellon-funded AudiAnnotate Audiovisual Extensible Workflow Project. Based on video recordings made by WVPT to document the first Furious Flower Poetry Center decennial meeting, September 29-October 1, 1994. Part of the Furious Flower Poetry Center Conference Records, 1970-2015, UA 0018, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University Libraries, Harrisonburg, Virginia, media file FF031. Collection finding aid:

Browser Directions:

Audio and video playback is activated by the timestamped annotation section you click in. Search field will find any word or phrase in the Transcription, Speaker or Environment annotation layers. Annotation layers can be ordered by Time (default), Annotation contents or Annotation layer labels by selecting the up/down arrows on the right. Speaker and Transcription layers are matching color-coded to facilitate reading.

Time Annotation Layer
0:11 - 0:12 [Laughter] Environment
1:45 - 1:49 [Laughter] Environment
2:51 - 2:52 [Page Turns] Environment
4:32 - 4:34 [Pages turning] Environment
5:29 - 5:30 [Laughter] Environment
6:05 - 6:07 [Laughter] Environment
7:10 - 7:12 [Laughter] Environment
7:43 - 7:45 [Laughter] Environment
7:50 - 7:52 [Laughter] Environment
8:11 - 8:17 [Applause] Environment
9:02 - 9:08 [Applause] Environment
10:03 - 10:09 [Applause] Environment
11:04 - 11:05 [Cough] Environment
11:29 - 11:30 [Laughter] Environment
11:38 - 11:44 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
12:00 - 12:06 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
12:18 - 12:20 [Laughter] Environment
14:22 - 14:24 [Laughter] Environment
14:29 - 14:40 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
14:59 - 15:00 [Laughter] Environment
15:32 - 15:33 [Laughter] Environment
15:33 [Cough] Environment
18:50 - 18:54 [Laughter] Environment
19:18 - 19:22 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
20:00 - 20:22 [Laughter] Environment
20:20 - 20:27 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
21:42 - 21:52 [Applause] Environment
22:01 - 22:02 [Laughter] Environment
22:07 - 22:12 [Laughter] Environment
22:18 - 22:22 [Laughter] Environment
22:48 - 22:51 [Laughter] Environment
23:05 - 23:06 [Laughter] Environment
24:32 - 24:38 [Applause] Environment
24:46 - 24:48 [Laughter] Environment
24:54 - 24:58 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
25:32 - 25:33 [Page Turn] Environment
25:34 - 25:42 [Applause] Environment
30:03 - 30:11 [Applause] Environment
32:31 - 32:35 [Applause] Environment
33:28 - 33:37 [Applause] Environment
35:16 - 35:18 [Laughter] Environment
35:55 - 36:10 [Laughter and Applause] Environment
36:13 - 36:15 [Laughter] Environment
41:03 - 41:04 [Laughter] Environment
41:29 - 41:38 [Applause] Environment
41:39 - 41:40 [Page Turns] Environment
42:01 - 42:02 [Cough] Environment
45:13 - 45:16 [Applause] Environment
45:33 - 46:23 [Applause and Cheers] Environment
45:57 - 46:08 [Audience Chants Brooks' Name] Environment
51:00 - 51:19 [Applause] Environment
52:26 - 52:27 [Dr. Gabbin holds up conference booklet] Environment
52:32 - 52:34 [Dr. Gabbin presents money] Environment
53:01 - 53:02 [Laughter] Environment
53:33 - 53:42 [Applause] Environment
53:45 - 53:46 [Laughter] Environment
54:04 - 54:07 [Laughter] Environment
54:20 - 50:45 [Laughter and Clapping] Environment
54:47 - 54:50 [Laughter] Environment
54:53 - 55:01 [Applause] Environment
0:01 - 0:23 --I wonder how many others have regarded this connection? And no, James Baldwin did not start the fire. He foretold it's coming. He was a pre-reporter. He was a prophet, his friends Transcription
0:23 - 0:31 enjoy calling him Jimmy. (Remember that he was alive when I wrote this). And that is easy to understand. Transcription
0:32 - 0:55 The man is love personified. He has a sweet, softly loving, endearing smile. He has a voice that can range from eerie, effortless menace -- menace educational and creative -- to this low, cradling, Transcription
0:55 - 0:59 insinuating, and involving love. Transcription
0:59 - 1:20 This love is at once both father and son to a massive concern. A concern for his own people, surely. But for the cleansing the extension of all the world's categories, no less surely, since he knows Transcription
1:20 - 1:29 surely that the fortunes of these over here affect inevitably, the fortunes of those over there. Transcription
1:30 - 1:54 Essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, new French Legion of Honor medalist (and he was at that time), human being, being human! And I said James Baldwin, and the crowd went wild! Angela Jackson is an Transcription
1:54 - 2:02 experimenter. She respects many people, but she long ago decided not to sound like them. Transcription
2:03 - 2:22 So she ended up sounding like Angela Jackson. So many little twists and turns in her work. Rarely are you prepared for them. So many satisfying perceptions of actuals, we recognize remember, or are Transcription
2:22 - 2:43 now ready to learn. Such impudent portraits of people. People she paints or invents. Such combos of colloquial and obscure, bound to confound and delight. And I say: well, here is something different Transcription
2:43 - 2:45 for your dinner. Transcription
2:45 - 3:04 I hope there are some award givers in the audience here. You remember these names. Michael Harper believes that delight is possible for the reader, as well as the creator of poetry. Believes that the Transcription
3:04 - 3:21 reader, when permitted, participates in the act of creation, extending often this wonder of making within the limits, of course, of individual experience and fantasy. Transcription
3:22 - 3:43 Well, Michael Harper is right there to cooperate with this need of the reader. Further, in much of his poetry, he has defied the Orthodox, the alien, the prescribed, the timid, and the dim. His work Transcription
3:43 - 3:60 with language is various and respectful. Here is the author of the classic A Mother Speaks: The Algiers Motel Incident, Detroit, and of other shapely and persuasive excellences. Transcription
3:60 - 4:18 And he did read that poem yesterday. I was just sitting there, daring him to omit it, as he often does. Because I think that's my favorite among the poems that he has written. And I'm so glad that I Transcription
4:18 - 4:30 didn't have to shout up from the audience for Rita to read The Island Women of Paris, which among all of her many rich poems is my favorite. Thank you. Transcription
4:32 - 4:57 Now let's see now. I have -- I had six Chicano poets: Sandra Cisneros, Luis Omar Salinas, Alberto Ríos, and Lorna Dee Cervantes. But I'm not going to read those notes. I wanted to, but we don't have Transcription
4:57 - 4:59 that much time. Transcription
4:60 - 5:17 Because I do want you to hear some of my poetry. There are people here, I'm sure, who have never heard a single one of my poems. Before I come to Haki and Sonia, I can't resist reading this little Transcription
5:17 - 5:23 squib that introduced Louis Simpson. Do many of you know Louis Simpson? Transcription
5:25 - 5:40 I started out by saying: Something wicked, this way comes. Here comes Louis Simpson -- He was sitting there getting redder and redder as he listened to this -- Here comes Louis Simpson, communicator Transcription
5:40 - 6:02 of intricate darkness of feeling and instinct. So says Donald Hall. Firey defender of Gary Snyder, accused universally. Certain circles cite him as coldly capable of exhaustive wickedness. Transcription
6:04 - 6:23 Not I, I didn't say so. For almost two decades, he has been soundly spanked for opining that if blacks write only about Blackness, they are inadequate. That they are, in fact, non-poets. Transcription
6:25 - 6:42 You decide for yourselves whether or not that's wicked. But I myself found out how dangerous Simpson the savior can be. I remember with delight that years ago, at Stony Brook, I was having a lovely Transcription
6:42 - 7:04 peaceful lunch with this poet and teacher, in a cheerfully sunny room, when I made the quotes, "mistake", end quotes, of saying that there were no Grrrreat (capital G and lots of Rs), Grrrreat poets, Transcription
7:05 - 7:08 living and writing today. Transcription
7:08 - 7:29 That was some years ago. What we -- that we know of, that is, because of course there is always some unknown genius, toiling at the top of a tenement, about to burst full-bodied and beautiful and Transcription
7:29 - 7:40 persuasive upon the populace. "No great poets? Gary Snyder!", screamed Louis. Transcription
7:41 - 8:02 He turned red -- he can do that -- and lifting himself to hellish height in his chair, bit my head off. And I said in parentheses, that is why I have no head. Oh well. Wicked or not, Lewis Simpson, Transcription
8:02 - 8:16 poet of careful subjectivity, poet of luminous requiring lyricism, is here tonight. (And I wave to you). Transcription
8:19 - 8:38 Haki Madhubuti and Sonia Sanchez, they came together. The introducing is longer tonight because I have a double introduction, and one that seeks to put some things in place. Both these poets at times Transcription
8:38 - 8:40 have been called racists. Transcription
8:41 - 8:59 I define racism as prejudice with oppression. That is, you are permitted to detest green eyes. That's all right. That's personal. What you are not permitted to do is kill every green eyed Transcription
8:59 - 9:11 individual you encounter. That's not all right. That's oppression. These two people are not killers. Transcription
9:11 - 9:28 They are lovers of humanity: of what is human. They are interpreters and protectors of Blackness. They are subscribers to what is beautiful in the world. They will offer you representative Black Transcription
9:28 - 9:38 poetry. My saying that does not assault our mutual understanding that there are respectable Black uniquities. Transcription
9:39 - 9:57 However, today many Black poets are flopping off in worrisome directions. Many of them do not know what to do or be. Many of them want above all things not to be Black. Black people who want above all Transcription
9:57 - 10:09 things not to be Black are the most pitiable and comical people in the world. Transcription
10:09 - 10:29 The poets among such fight Blackness with every punch and pout in their power. Such people are very busy imitating the new moderns: those manufacturers of chopped-up journalism, dazed and dopey. Transcription
10:30 - 10:47 Such people have been fondled and adopted by non-spunky white poets and critics who of course have no interest in preserving and in firming the bolts, the binders of Blackness. They would like Transcription
10:47 - 10:50 Blackness to disappear altogether. Transcription
10:52 - 11:07 Insert: "Oh, dear!" I know history may repeat itself. Do you know -- well you'll be able to tell just when this was written, and I told you in 1985. Transcription
11:08 - 11:30 Do you know that precious past election story about Jesse Jackson? He was crossing a large body of water in a small boat with the Pope. It was windy. Suddenly the Pope's little cap flew off his head. Transcription
11:32 - 11:51 Then Jesse Jackson stepped out of the boat, walked across the water -- I can tell some of you know this story -- retrieved the cap, walked back, clapped the cap on the Pope's head. Transcription
11:52 - 12:17 Next morning, the newspaper streamers proclaimed: Jesse Jackson can't swim. Well ultimately, in all my non-grandeur, I may see captions announcing "When Brooks calls all white critics non-spunky". Transcription
12:20 - 12:40 However, Sonia Sanchez is an explorer. I have always thought of her as one of that quintet of Black people: herself, Mari Evans, Don L. Lee, who became Haki, Etheridge Knight, and Nikki Giovanni who Transcription
12:40 - 12:41 is here in this audience. Transcription
12:43 - 13:06 Who -- and she's going to read next -- who admired the impudent spirit of Baraka, and who themselves began, in '66 and '67, to turn Black poetry around. I do not mean that these people suddenly Transcription
13:06 - 13:15 spurted up in those years. They were all writing voluminously when I met them, and they were publishing too. Transcription
13:15 - 13:34 Dudley Randall, poet and founder of Broadside Press, courageously published, platformed them all. In the late '60s, the quintet tried to do something fresh: defining Black poetry as poetry written by Transcription
13:34 - 13:40 blacks, about blacks, to blacks. I am not accountable for any changes. Transcription
13:42 - 14:13 In the late '60s that word "to" has been wickedly translated often into "for". Any poetry... is for any readers or listeners willing to investigate it. I believe all factions should be willing to Transcription
14:13 - 14:15 investigate Black poetry. Transcription
14:15 - 14:38 Black people, I think will be around forever. Anyone is likely to meet them suddenly. Border, boardroom, boulevard, bistro, back-alley, bar. And it behooveth the anyone to know what makes the brie Transcription
14:38 - 14:44 tick. Transcription
14:44 - 15:02 Sonia and Haki have remained loyal to their early recreated essence. They like the word "Consistent". Sonia can be mischievous. She called me up a while ago -- remember this was in '85 -- and said, Transcription
15:02 - 15:10 Gwen, I want your permission to use the form you used in the Anniad. In Annie Allen. Transcription
15:10 - 15:28 I told her, in no way does Sonia Sanchez need my permission to do anything she wants to do. But Sonia, that is not my form. It's European. And that was mischievous because in those days, anything Transcription
15:28 - 15:36 European was absolutely anathema. Transcription
15:36 - 15:55 The language of Sonia Sanchez is --skipped something. Even poets, these two are least likely to flop back into the '40s. The language of Sonia Sanchez is her own best introduction. Of course, one of Transcription
15:55 - 16:08 her serious and inclusive avowals is this: If you're going out to say something, your house must be in order, because there is so much disorder outside. Transcription
16:08 - 16:26 You will experience in her product lyricism and steel. You will be aware of Sonia Sanchez as committed poet, energized woman, necessary black. Incidentally, the prize that I mentioned has already been Transcription
16:26 - 16:32 given to both Mari Evans and Sonia in a preceding year. Transcription
16:32 - 16:56 About Haki, pioneer. Haki respects Sonia and she respects him, as artist and as family. Those who love and those who loathe Haki agree that he has remained actively loyal to the richness of his faith Transcription
16:56 - 16:59 in and love for Black people. Transcription
16:60 - 17:18 He spanks them now and then, but only as a benevolent father would spank them aching in his awareness of how much there is to hurt them in themselves and outside themselves. Aching in his wish that Transcription
17:18 - 17:40 they maintain integrity, and a decent family loyalty. He has influenced thousands of poets: Black poets, Hispanic poets, and strangely, you may feel, Caucasian poets, who sensed a vibrance, a vigor in Transcription
17:40 - 17:45 his dealings with language which they came to admire. Transcription
17:45 - 18:03 Haki has said, "What writers write about tells to what extent they are involved with the real world. Writers should be questioners of the world and doers within the world. Question everything, and Transcription
18:03 - 18:23 don't be satisfied with the quick surface answers. Bad writing, containing the most revolutionary idea, is first and last bad writing. The ability to develop a style that is clear, original, and Transcription
18:23 - 18:29 communicative is what separates writers from non-writers", end quote. Transcription
18:30 - 18:52 Haki had, 10 years ago, a famous list of Black clichés he wanted to see in Black poetry not again. I think he would endorse that list today. Warrior, ebony, whitey, Queen of the Nile, right on -- you Transcription
18:52 - 19:10 know, I never hear that anymore -- African warrior, pig, pride, soul, universe, Cosmas, nigger, genocide, vibrations, Black is Beautiful, revolution, respect, change. Transcription
19:10 - 19:35 And then I had such fun in ending that, "Here is Haki Madhubuti, pssst... African Warrior". Well okay. those are people, insufficiently sung. Who should be sung. And I leave the audience to do Transcription
19:35 - 19:36 something about that. Transcription
19:37 - 19:47 Now I'm going to read you some poems, but before I do that, I want to ask Joanne how much time I have, because I'm sure we're out of kilter here. Transcription
19:50 - 19:50 You're fine. Transcription
19:50 - 19:52 Tell me how many minutes I have. Transcription
19:52 - 19:53 Fifteen. Transcription
19:53 - 19:55 I don't think I'm gonna have that, it'll spill. Transcription
19:55 - 19:55 Alright. Alright. Transcription
19:56 - 19:59 Fifteen? 15 minutes? Transcription
19:59 - 19:59 Yes. Transcription
19:59 - 19:60 Okay! Transcription
20:03 - 20:04 As long as you want! Transcription
20:04 - 20:14 Well no, you've got another program. You've got some more poets to listen to. But thank you. I'm going to start with a... Transcription
20:17 - 20:17 I can [inaudible]. Transcription
20:17 - 20:18 I'm sorry? Transcription
20:28 - 20:30 We'll give up our time for you, Gwen. Go ahead! Transcription
20:30 - 20:41 Well I won't go much -- but yeah, that if any. Thank you though. I'm going to begin by reading a few poems to you, from Children Coming Home. That's my latest book. Came out Transcription
20:41 - 20:60 in '91. And it contains -- incidentally, I promised several audiences that I was going to bring out Collected Poems sometime in 1995. But I'm not. Transcription
20:60 - 21:16 I'm going to wait until I'm 80 to bring out a Collected Poems, hoping I shall have written some masterpieces within those years. But I'm going to bring out Report from Part Two, which Transcription
21:16 - 21:37 will contain reports from part two, and also poetry and some essays. And, what else, and it's guaranteed -- I am guaranteeing myself that it will come out on August 15th. Because August 15th will be Transcription
21:37 - 21:44 the 50th anniversary of my first publication. A Street in Bronzeville came out in '45. Transcription
21:44 - 22:07 Well that sounds good, but you know, that's no compliment to me. I mean, whether you like it or not, whether you do anything or not, time passes. And one of these days little Rita is going to be Transcription
22:07 - 22:21 stumbling up these stairs -- having hoped that when she came into the auditorium she would find stairs with banisters. Transcription
22:24 - 22:43 Well I was going to tell you these are intuitions, meditations, passions, whimsies, terrors, excited pride, affirmations, rejections, and warm love. Children of the inner city. I hate that phrase. I Transcription
22:43 - 22:47 hope you do too. It sounds so demoting: "the inner city". Transcription
22:48 - 23:05 Not all of these kids come home to cookies and cocoa, some come to crack cocaine. The first poem is called the -- I'm not gonna read them all, and not a one leaves its page you'll be happy to know. Transcription
23:06 - 23:21 The first one is called the Coora flower, C-o-o-r-a, and it introduces to you Tinsel Marie, who is a hip little sister. No stranger to irony. Transcription
23:21 - 23:45 "Today I learned the coora flower/ grows high in the mountains of Itty-go-luba Bésa./ Province Meechee./ Pop. 39.// Now I am coming home./ This, at least, is Real, and what I know.// It was Transcription
23:45 - 24:05 restful, learning nothing necessary./ School is tiny vacation. At least you can sleep./ At least you can think of love or feeling your boyfriend against you/ (which is not free from grief.)//" Transcription
24:05 - 24:29 "But now it's Real Business./ I am Coming Home.// My mother will be screaming in an almost dirty dress./ The crack is Gone. So a Man will be in the house.// I must watch myself./ I must not dare to Transcription
24:29 - 24:31 sleep." Transcription
24:31 - 24:55 Richardine inhabits this poem: "White girls are peculiar people./ They cannot keep their hands out of their hair./ Also/ they are always shaking it away from their eyes/ When it is not in their eyes./ Transcription
24:57 - 25:02 Sometimes when it is braided they forget --/" Transcription
25:02 - 25:26 "And shake and shake/ and smooth what is nothing/ away from their shameless eyes.// I laugh.// My hair is short./ It is close to my head./ It is almost a crown of dots./ My head is clean and free./ I Transcription
25:26 - 25:44 do not shake my head to make/ my brains like a crazy dust." Transcription
25:44 - 26:06 Religion features Ulysses. This is an interesting little family. "At home, we pray every morning, we/ get down on our knees in a circle,/ holding hands, holding Love,/ And we sing Hallelujah.// Transcription
26:07 - 26:23 Then we go into the World.// Daddy speeds to break bread with his Girl Friend./ Mommy's a Boss. and a lesbian./ (She too has a nice Girl Friend.)//" Transcription
26:23 - 26:45 "My brothers and sisters and I come to school./ We bring knives pistols bottles, little boxes, and cans.// We talk to the man who's cool at the playground gate./ Nobody Sees us, nobody stops our Transcription
26:45 - 27:09 sin.// Our teachers feed us geography./ We spit it out in a hurry.// Now we are coming home.// At home we pray every evening, we/ get down on our knees in a circle,/ holding hands, holding Love./ And Transcription
27:10 - 27:47 we sing Hallelujiah." Transcription
27:23 - 27:43 Would you people get tired of clapping forever? You don't have to. Merle, M-e-r-l-e, inhabits a poem called Uncle Seagram. Many of you know that there are at least many Black families, I don't Transcription
27:43 - 27:58 know about others, who name their children after whiskies. And you've met Calvert and you've met Johnnie Walker. And this man's mother named him Seagram. Transcription
27:55 - 28:19 "My uncle likes me too much.// I am five and a half years old, and in kindergarten./ In kindergarten everything is clean.// My uncle is six feet tall with seven bumps on his chin./ My uncle is six Transcription
28:19 - 28:42 feet tall and he stumbles./ Stumbles because of his Wonderful Medicine/ packed in his pocket at all times.// Family is ma and pa and my uncle,/ three brothers, three sisters, and me.// Every night in Transcription
28:42 - 28:52 my house we play checkers and dominoes./ My uncle sits close./ There aren't any shoes or socks on his feet./" Transcription
28:53 - 29:16 "Under the table, a big toe tickles my ankle./ Under the oil cloth his thin knee beats into mine./ And mashes. And mashes.// When we look at TV/ my uncle picks me to sit on his lap./ As I sit, Transcription
29:16 - 29:30 he gets hard in the middle./ I squirm, but he keeps me, and kisses my ear.// I am not even a girl.//" Transcription
29:31 - 29:53 "Once, when I went to the bathroom,/ my uncle noticed, came in, shut the door,/ put his long white tongue in my ear,/ and whispered 'We're Best Friends and Family,/ and we know how to keep Secrets.'/ Transcription
29:54 - 30:02 My uncle likes me too much. I am worried./ I do not like my uncle anymore." Transcription
30:04 - 30:30 Those of you... If there are any white mothers in here of Black children you know this poem does not refer to you. The poem featuring Fleur, F-l-e-u-r. And it's called: Our White Mother Says We Are Transcription
30:30 - 30:53 Black But Not Very. "My brother and I are Nice People./ We are Black, but we have creamy skin./ We have hair that is naturally curly./ We wear jackets and shoes that cost lots of money./ Our lunch Transcription
30:53 - 30:56 box was hammered in Holland./" Transcription
30:56 - 31:15 "We live in the biggest house on our street/ and will move Very Soon to a Special Neighborhood./ But even in this house we have shelves and shelves,/ we have cases and cases of books with fine Transcription
31:15 - 31:27 bindings./ And sometimes we even read them. Our father/ speaks six languages, our mother speaks three./" Transcription
31:28 - 31:47 "Each of us takes at least two showers a day.// We simply cannot abide smelly children/ or children with dull hurt eyes.// My brother and I will grow up to be/ doctors or lawyers or Supreme Court Transcription
31:47 - 31:56 Justices/ or perfume distributors or Wall Street wizards./ Or the ones who discover the answer-to-cancer.//" Transcription
31:56 - 32:16 "My brother and I do not have many friends, it is true.// But at Home we'll wait for High Tea./ Little scones with cinnamon butter,/ salmon croquettes with flakes of green pepper,/ little cucumber Transcription
32:17 - 32:32 sandwiches, cashews,/ sugar in cubes with our English Breakfast Tea./ Candied ginger./ And Orange juice if we want it." Transcription
32:32 - 32:55 Puzzlement. Diego. Diego has been in school, and it's Black pride day, and little Black children are running all around hollering: I'm Black and I'm proud! "I, partly Nigerian./ I, partly Transcription
32:58 - 33:24 Puerto Rican.// I have a Nigerian father,/ A Puerto Rican mother./ I am packed in a skin that is tan.// I, too, have a heart on fire./ I too want to be Proud./ I, too, want to be Something and Proud./ Transcription
33:25 - 33:33 I want to shout "I'M A TAN!" Transcription
33:37 - 33:50 Well, the last selection from this book is Kojo's poem. And I want you to know I meet lots and lots of Kojos all over the country and I am so proud to be able to report that to you. This poem is Transcription
33:50 - 34:11 called I am a Black. "According to my Teachers,/ I am now an African-American.// They call me out of my name.// BLACK is an open umbrella./ I am Black and A Black forever.//" Transcription
34:11 - 34:32 "I am one of The Blacks.// We are Here, we are There./ We occur in Brazil, in Nigeria, Ghana,/ In Botswana, Tanzania, in Kenya,/ In Russia, Australia, in Haiti. Soweto,/ In Grenada, in Cuba, in Transcription
34:32 - 34:46 Panama, Libya,/ in England and Italy, France.// We are graces in any places./ I am Black and A Black/ forever.//" Transcription
34:47 - 35:07 "I am other than Hyphenation.// I say, proudly, MY PEOPLE!/ I say, proudly, OUR PEOPLE!// Our People do not disdain to eat yams or melons or grits/ Or to put peanut butter in stew.//" Transcription
35:07 - 35:22 -- And I'd like to interrupt myself here and say, as I've said many times, if you haven't tried that, try it, because it's absolutely delicious -- "I am Kojo. In West Africa Kojo/ Means Unconquerable. Transcription
35:23 - 35:43 My parents/ named me the seventh day from my birth/ in Black spirit, Black faith, Black communion./ I am Kojo. I am A Black./ And I Capitalize my name.// Do not call me out of my name." Transcription
35:44 - 35:58 I know I'm not gonna make any converts. And I know that African American sounds soft and sweet, and inoffensive: African American, as opposed to Black! Transcription
36:11 - 36:33 Well at least you're tolerating me. I'm going to read to you a poem that begins my book Winnie and of course Winnie is Winnie Mandela. The opening poem: "Winnie Mandela, she/ the non-fiction Transcription
36:33 - 36:52 statement, the flight into resolving/ fiction,/ vivid over the landscape, a sumptuous sun/ for our warming, ointment at the gap of our wounding,/ sometimes/ would like to be a little girl again.// Transcription
36:53 - 36:58 Skipping down a country road, singing.//" Transcription
36:58 - 37:15 "Or a young woman, flirting,/ No cares beyond curl-braids and paint/ and effecting no change, no swerve, no jangle.// But Winnie Mandela, she,/ the She of our vision, the Code,/ the articulate Transcription
37:15 - 37:25 rehearsal, the founding mother, shall/ direct our choir of makers and wide music.// Transcription
37:25 - 37:42 "Think of plants and beautiful weeds in the Wilderness./ They can't do a thing about it (they are told)/ when trash is dumped at their roots./ Have no doubt they're indignant and daunted./ It is not Transcription
37:42 - 38:01 what they wanted.// Winnie Mandela, she/ is there to be vivid: there/ to assemble, to conduct the old magic,/ the frightened beauty, that trapped wild loveliness, the/ crippled reach,/ interrupted Transcription
38:01 - 38:04 order, the stalled clarity.//" Transcription
38:05 - 38:26 "Listen, my Sisters, Brothers, all ye/ that dance on the brink of Blackness,/ never falling in:// Your vision your Code your Winnie is woman grown.// I Nelson the Mandela tell you so." [[00:38:24 | 00:38:25 | Laughter] Transcription
38:27 - 38:45 I meant to tell you when I started reading it, that there was a surprise at the end. This was Nelson talking all the time, and isn't that just like a man to say "I, Nelson, the Mandela, tell you so." Transcription
38:45 - 39:02 Of course that was written before he was released from prison. I have here Winnie considering herself poet. And those of you who have seen her documentaries or seen her interviewed on TV, I think will Transcription
39:02 - 39:07 agree that this woman was definitely an essential poet. Transcription
39:08 - 39:26 So I make her say, "Yet I know/ that I am Poet!/ I pass you my Poem.// A poem doesn't do everything for you./ You are supposed to go on with your thinking./ You are supposed to enrich/ the Transcription
39:26 - 39:39 other person's poem with your extensions,/ your uniquely personal understandings,/ thus making the poem serve you.//" Transcription
39:39 - 39:58 "I pass you my Poem! — to tell you/ we are all vulnerable —/ the midget, the Mighty,/ the richest, the poor./ Men, women, children, and trees./ I am vulnerable./ Hector Peterson was vulnerable.// My Transcription
39:58 - 40:08 poem is life, and not finished./ It shall never be finished./ My Poem is life, and can grow.//" Transcription
40:09 - 40:26 "Wherever life can grow, it will./ It will sprout out,/ and do the best it can./ I give you what I have./ You don't get all your questions answered in this world./ How many answers shall be found in Transcription
40:26 - 40:43 the developing world of my Poem?/ I don't know. Nevertheless, I put my Poem,/ which is my life, into your hands, where it will do the best it can.//" Transcription
40:44 - 41:04 "I am not a tight-faced Poet.// I am tired of little tight-faced poets sitting down to/ shape perfect unimportant pieces./ Poems that cough lightly — catch back a sneeze./ This is the time for Big Transcription
41:04 - 41:19 Poems,/ roaring up out of sleaze,/ poems from ice, from vomit, and from tainted blood./ This is the time for a stiff or viscous poems./ Big, and Big" Transcription
41:20 - 41:28 But of course you know, a little Haiku -- three lines, five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables -- can be a big poem. Transcription
41:28 - 41:54 Thank you. I'm gonna try to get this out to you. And Old Black Woman, Homeless and Indistinct. Now I know that if you haven't seen any homeless in the raw, you have certainly seen them on TV. Transcription
41:54 - 42:13 Sometimes I go to little towns, and I don't see any homeless at all. There's no problem seeing them in New York, and Chicago, and Philadelphia. As soon as you hit the town, you see them. But when I go Transcription
42:13 - 42:24 to these scrubbed little towns, I say where are your homeless? Where do you keep them? Because I know they're there. Transcription
42:24 - 42:45 "Your every day is a pilgrimage, a blue hubbub, your days are collected bacchanals of fear and self troubling. And your nights, your nights when you put you down an alley or cardboard or viaduct. Your Transcription
42:45 - 42:50 lovers are rats, finding your secret places." Transcription
42:50 - 43:11 "When you rise at another morning, you hit the street, your incessant enemy. See? Here you are in the so-busy world. You walk, you walk you pass the people, no, the people pass you. Here's a rich girl Transcription
43:11 - 43:24 marching briskly to her charms. She is suede and scarf and belting and perfume. She sees you not she sees you very well." Transcription
43:24 - 43:44 "At five in the afternoon Miss Rich-girl will go home to brooms and vacuum cleaners and carpeting, two cats, two marble-top tables, two telephones. Shiny green peppers, flowers in impudent vases, Transcription
43:45 - 43:58 visitors. Before all that there's luncheon to be known. Lasagna, lobster salad, sandwiches. All day there's coffee to be loved." Transcription
43:58 - 44:20 "There are luxuries of minor dissatisfaction. Luxuries of plan. That's her story. You're going to vanish. Not necessarily nicely. Fairly soon. Although essentially dignity itself, a death is not Transcription
44:20 - 44:25 necessarily tidy, modest, or discreet." Transcription
44:26 - 44:49 "When they find you, your legs may not be tidy, nor aligned. Your mouth may be all crooked or destroyed. Black old woman, homeless, indistinct. Your last and least adventure is review. Folks used to Transcription
44:49 - 45:08 celebrate your birthday. Folks used to say she's such a pretty little thing. Folks used to say she draws such handsome horses, cows, and houses. Folks used to say that child is going far." Transcription
45:08 - 45:33 We Real Cool: The Pool Players. Seven at the Golden Shovel. "We real cool. We/ Left school. We// Lurk late. We/ Strike straight. We// Sing sin. We/ Thin gin. We// Jazz June. We/ Die soon." I'll Transcription
45:33 - 45:37 meet you somewhere down the road and I'll say something about that. Transcription
45:37 - 46:06 Thank you. I think I'm gonna stop. Thank you. Thank you, thank you very much. Thank you. Transcription
46:33 - 46:50 Gwendolyn Brooks has not only been a fixture over the last 50 years in our literature. She represents strong tradition and, well certainly for men like myself, an example. Transcription
46:54 - 47:06 In Chicago State about four years ago we established the Gwendolyn Brooks Center for Black Literature and Creative Writing. And in that center is the chair, the Gwendolyn Brooks Chair Transcription
47:06 - 47:22 for Black Literature and Creative Writing. And Miss Brooks holds the chair. And each year, we have a major conference at Chicago State, which will take place this year, October 21st and 22nd, which is Transcription
47:22 - 47:30 "The Influence of African Black Literature and Culture on the Diaspora". And that is the conference in which Joanne Gabbin will receive her prize. Transcription
47:34 - 47:48 Gwen has been so close to me and my work, that as I was sitting listening to her this afternoon, I realized I've written about six poems and most certainly in the last five books there has been a poem Transcription
47:48 - 47:49 about Gwendolyn Brooks. Transcription
47:50 - 48:04 In the latest book, which will be published, actually, October the 10th -- it's been out now for a couple of months, is Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption: Blacks Seeking a Culture of Transcription
48:04 - 48:09 Enlightened Empowerment was held up until I finished this piece on Gwendolyn Brooks. Transcription
48:11 - 48:32 And the title of the piece is simply: "Gwendolyn Brooks: Distinctive and Proud at 77". "how do we greet significant people among us,/ what is the area code that glues them to us,/ who likes the sun Transcription
48:32 - 48:49 burning in their hearts,/ where stands their truth in these days of MTV/ and ethnic cleansing,/ what language is the language of Blacks?// she has a map in her." Transcription
48:50 - 49:09 "she always returns home. we are not/ open prairie, we are rural concrete written out of history. she/ reminds us of what we can become, not political correctness/ or social commentators and not Transcription
49:09 - 49:10 excuse makers for Big people./" Transcription
49:12 - 49:29 "always a credit-giver for ideas originated in the quiet of her/ many contemplations. a big thinker is she. sleeps with paper/ and dictionary by her bed, sleeps with children in her head./ her first Transcription
49:29 - 49:44 and second drafts are pen on paper. her husband/ thinks he underestimates her. she thinks we all have possibili-/ ties. nothing is simplified or simply given." Transcription
49:46 - 50:03 "she wears her love/ in her language. if you do not listen, you will miss her secrets./ we do not occupy the margins of her heart, we are the blood,/ soul, Black richness, spirit, and water-source Transcription
50:03 - 50:05 pumping the/ music she speaks." Transcription
50:06 - 50:25 "uncluttered by people-worship, she lives/ always on the edge of significant discovery. her instruction is/ 'rise to the occasion,' her religion is 'kindness,' her work/ is sharing and making words Transcription
50:25 - 50:31 matter. She gives to the people/ everybody takes from./" Transcription
50:32 - 50:55 "she is grounded-seeker, cultured-boned./ she is Black sunset and at 77 she is no amateur./ rooted willingly and firmly in dark soil, she is last of the great/ oaks./ name her poet./ as it does us, Transcription
50:56 - 50:59 her language needs to blanket the Earth." Transcription
51:28 - 51:40 Haki, thank you, brother, for that wonderful tribute to Gwen. To our mother Gwen. And I know you aren't going to be with us tonight. Are you leaving? Transcription
51:41 - 51:42 I'm going to leave shortly. Transcription
51:42 - 51:56 Shortly, okay. Well, you won't be present but this tribute will will be remembered tonight when we have a special tribute to Gwen and other poets that we are honoring tonight at the Transcription
51:56 - 51:60 banquet, and I hope that many of you will be there. Transcription
52:01 - 52:30 In the spirit of your admonishment, Gwen, that we do something about honoring our own and encouraging our own, it occurred to me that I had $160 that I collected from selling these and from selling a Transcription
52:30 - 52:34 few posters that I had left over. Transcription
52:34 - 52:56 So, this is the beginning of it Gwen. And I want to use this $160 tomorrow to encourage our young poets in the form of prize, of poetry prizes that we will have in a poetry slam that will take place Transcription
52:56 - 53:03 at 12:30. And this will be the Gwendolyn Brooks poetry slam. Transcription
53:04 - 53:19 And I know that many people are going off to have lunch at that hour and have lunch on your own and that's great. But if any of you want to join us in Grafton-Stovall at 12:30 for this poetry slam, Transcription
53:19 - 53:32 it'll give our young poets and our young critics and young scholars an opportunity to talk to one another and also an opportunity to read. We have not had an opportunity for them to read! I think Transcription
53:32 - 53:43 that's a good idea. Transcription
53:44 - 53:58 I'll tell you, too -- well no, I won't tell you that. I'm glad I collected this money, I thought about -- aren't these beautiful? I thought about just giving these away. And my husband said, you know, Transcription
53:59 - 54:02 "You paid for these. Why don't you sell a few to make some money?" Transcription
54:02 - 54:19 And that man is a voice always of reason. And I wouldnt've had this money! I don't know whether he's in here, and Gwen gave him a wonderful tribute. Alexander, are you here? He is not here. But I will Transcription
54:19 - 54:32 give him a tribute tonight. Because let me tell you -- Oh! Transcription
54:32 - 55:02 You folks in here are too aware of double entendre! Honestly! It'll be alright. We're going to take a 10 minute break, and then we're going to go immediately into the next poetry reading. Transcription
0:01 - 0:23 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
19:50 - 19:50 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
19:50 - 19:52 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
19:52 - 19:53 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
19:53 - 19:55 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
19:55 - 19:55 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
19:56 - 19:59 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
19:59 - 19:59 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
19:59 - 19:60 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
20:03 - 20:04 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:04 - 20:14 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
20:17 - 20:17 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
20:17 - 20:18 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
20:28 - 20:30 Speaker Unknown Speaker
20:30 - 20:41 Gwendolyn Brooks Speaker
46:33 - 46:50 Unknown Speaker Speaker
46:54 - 47:06 Haki R. Madhubuti Speaker
51:28 - 51:40 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker
51:41 - 51:42 Haki R. Madhubuti Speaker
51:42 - 51:56 Joanne V. Gabbin Speaker

FF022_Friday Keynote Speeches Part 2, 9/30/1994 at JMU Libraries.

IIIF manifest: