Friday, April 5, 2013

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis

The front cover will stop you. The title force you to open it. On the first pages of the book, just after the title page, these words are written:

The poor and dispossessed take up the drums
For civil rights--freedoms to think and speak,
Petition, pray, and vote. When thunder comes,
The civil righteous are finished being meek. 
Why Sylvia Mendez bet against long odds, 
How Harvey Milk turned hatred on its head,
Why Helen Zia railed against tin gods,

How Freedom Summer's soldiers faced the dread
Are tales of thunder that I hope to tell 
From my thin bag of verse for you to hear
In miniature, like ringing a small bell,
And know a million bells can drown out fear.
For history was mute witness when such crimes
Discolored and discredited our times.

You read the poems then, in order, out of order, the images (created by five different illustrators) calling to you, the strength singing from the pages, the truths laying there for you and me to lift into our hands, our hearts, our minds, to continue the change these people and others like them started. Read it out loud for ears and softly for inner ears; just read it to a bunch of folks. When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders. As Black Elk said in his famous speech turned into a poem, "maybe we are who we have been waiting for."

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