African American poet, “Calling All Grand Mothers” by Alice Walker, Elder women as leaders, Grandmothers
Hard Times Require Furious Dancing by Alice Walker
Photo Credit: New World Library
My Poetry Corner September 2016 features the poem “Calling All Grand Mothers” from the poetry collection, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing, by Alice Walker, an African American poet, writer, and activist.
Renowned for her Pulitzer Prize winning 1982 novel, The Color Purple, Alice Walker started her literary writing career as a poet at the age of seven or eight in the racially segregated southeastern state of Georgia. Her first poetry collection (1968) drew from her experiences in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
The title of Walker’s poetry collection caught my attention. She notes in the Preface: “I share losses, health concerns, and other challenges common to the human condition, especially in these times of war, poverty, environmental devastation, and greed that are quite beyond the most creative imagination… I have learned to dance… for maintaining balance.”
We have hardened towards violence at home and endless wars overseas. We have hardened towards the plight of refugees fleeing our bombs. We have hardened towards the destruction of our ecosystems and extinction of thousands of other species.
Walker reminds us that we are One Earth / One People / One Love.
In “Watching You Hold Your Hatred,” Walker observes:
There is no / graceful / way / to / carry / hatred.
While / hidden / it is / everywhere.
Walker dedicates “Loving Humans” to Aung San Suu Kyi, the then Burmese opposition activist under house arrest:
Loving humans / makes us / want / to invite / ourselves to tea / with rancid / dictators
~ Dictators who may be scheming how to poison, stone, or waterboard us to death.
Although I’m not a grandmother and have never known my grandmothers, the poem that most resonated with me was “Calling All Grand Mothers.” Fortunate to share time and space with the young kids in the apartment complex where I live, I consider myself as possessing the Grand Mother / spirit / of respect for / life / & / protection of / the young…
The poet rallies all grandmothers across our planet to rise and lead:
We have to live / differently / or we / will die / in the same / old ways…
To lead humanity / to health, happiness / & sanity…
The life of / our species / depends / on it.
In an interview with The Atlantic in March 2012, Walker talked about the need for elder women to be in more leadership positions. She noted that the voice of the grandmother has been silenced deliberately. “Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom… Until women can lift their voices, take their rightful place, I don’t think we’re going to shift very much.”
To read the complete featured poem and learn more about Alice Walker and her work, go to my Poetry Corner September 2016.