‘History has its eyes on us’

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

I was excited to hear Amanda Gorman deliver her inaugural poem‘The Hill We Climb’ on January 20, 2021. “History has its eyes on us,” indeed. You can read and hear it here.

How did she come to give this address? From the Library of Congress site on that notable day: She had performed an original poem, “In This Place (An American Lyric),” at U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith‘s 2017 inaugural ceremony… “It was this very performance that led First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to select Gorman as inaugural poet.

“Dr. Biden ‘stumbled upon’ a video of Amanda’s performance, which ultimately led to a Zoom call between Dr. Biden and Gorman in which the latter was asked to serve as inaugural poet. During the meeting, Dr. Biden complimented the yellow dress Gorman wore at Smith’s inaugural ceremony, which inspired her to wear a yellow dress at President Biden’s inauguration…”

“Educators have also been quick to seize on a unique opportunity to introduce poetry in a relatable way to their students. Lesson plans for  ‘The Hill We Climb’ are already available through PBS and The New York Times.”

When a Florida school barred its use for younger children, it disappointed me, but Amanda Gorman felt “gutted.”

The poem “was challenged by the parent of two students at Bob Graham Education Center in Miami Lakes, along with several books.”

The poet wrote:  “’Robbing children of the chance to find their voices in literature is a violation of their right to free thought and free speech.’

“Gorman, who at 17 became the country’s National Youth Poet Laureate, said she wrote the poem… so ‘all young people could see themselves in a historical moment,’ and that she’s received countless letters and videos from children who were inspired to write their own poems.”

What’s the issue?

I don’t know what parts of the poem were considered too sophisticated for younger kids. We Are Teachers made several points. The complaint “shows at best a concerning level of reading comprehension, at worst an acceptance of casual racism.” Oprah Winfrey wrote the foreward, not the book.  

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished

Kids are a lot smarter than some grownups understand. Maybe it’s:

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,

we must first put our differences aside

We lay down our arms

so we can reach out our arms

to one another

How bad can the words be to a generation of kids growing up with active-shooter drills in school?

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs

of such a terrifying hour

but within it we found the power

to author a new chapter

To offer hope and laughter to ourselves

So while once we asked,

how could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?

Now we assert

How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?

We will not march back to what was

but move to what shall be

A country that is bruised but whole,

benevolent but bold,

fierce and free

We will not be turned around

or interrupted by intimidation

because we know our inaction and inertia

will be the inheritance of the next generation

Our blunders become their burdens

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might,

and might with right,

then love becomes our legacy

Love is what we need

If we must die by Claude McKay

claude mckayIf we must die is a poem by Claude McKay, written in 1919, in response to the Red Summer.

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 accursèd 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!

Start of Harlem Renaissance

As this article noted, “In the summer of 1919, race riots spread throughout the United States, spurred by the end of World War I. Returning soldiers of all races were looking for employment and tension rose as the number of applicants far exceeded the number of jobs available. The press mixed these racial issues with the concurrent First Red Scare, and soon the conditions were ripe for violence.

“At the time the riots occurred, poet Claude McKay was working as a waiter on a Pennsylvania Railroad dining car. Through his travels on the railroad, he was able to see the violence spread from city to city, constantly aware that he and his fellow black railroad men might be the white mob’s next targets. As McKay himself has written: ‘But its [WWI] end was a signal for the outbreak of little wars between labor and capital and, like a plague breaking out in sore places, between colored folk and white… It was during those days that the sonnet If We Must Die exploded out of me.”

Putting this in a broader context: “The 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… The work of these artists drew upon the African-American experience and expressed a new pride in black racial identity and heritage.”

August Rambling: Punctuation, Crowdfunding

As someone who has funded a dozen Kickstarter projects, I recognize the insight.

Listen to the KunstlerCast podcast #212: Health & Technology Update. James Howard Kunstler gives listeners an update on his recent health issues, and discusses the importance of advocating for oneself when dealing with medical professionals, rather than taking their word for it.

Keyboard Waffles. (But if they were REAL nerds, they would have spelled nerd’s correctly!)

My favorite new blog: Grammarly, from which the accompanying graphic was purloined. I’m also fond of this description about an English professor who wanted students to punctuate this sentence: A woman without her man is nothing.
The men wrote: A woman, without her man, is nothing.
The women wrote: A woman: without her, man is nothing.

26 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors.

That’s Progressive, Charlie Brown: On Schulz, LGBT Issues and Integrity.

Arthur links to The Lion and the Mouse II: This Time, It’s Personal,, an interesting essay about “Christian bashing” and LGBT acceptance.

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: George Takei.

Paul Rapp, in writing about Pussy Riot and Julian Assange, notes: “Newspapers used to be the vanguard, the line of defense against any incursions to the freedom of speech. Or at least they pretended to be. They printed stuff they weren’t supposed to, they challenged authority and corporate power, they called out politicians who lied. Newspapers had our back. No more.”

SO BUTTONS: SO MIGHTY a true story by Jonathan Baylis, with art by Fred Hembeck, about Jack Kirby, John Romita, and Thor.

Muppet Thor.

Kevin Marshall believes That botched painting of Jesus Christ is art in its purest form. And maybe it is; it’s generated its own Tumblr page, Beast-Jesus Restoration Society.

Fractured fairy tales.

Saturday morning nostalgia of the 1970s

Someone I know sent me this edition of the comic strip One Big Happy Family. Actually, I have a MUCH better percentage.

Here’s an article about crowdfunding. Even though the topic is Role Playing Games, and I’m not a participant in that world, I thought the discussion about why people do or do not choose to fund a project is right on. As someone who has funded a dozen Kickstarter projects, I recognize the insight.

Saying ‘please’ in restaurants – US v UK, with a link to Lynneguist’s TEDx talk .

A Date With a Countess.

Mary Ann Cotton, Britain’s first recognised serial killer.

I woke up on August 20 to discover that actor William Windom, singer Scott McKenzie and director Tony Scott had all died; my wife had no idea who any of them were, the problem of having a child bride. Here’s Mark Evanier on Windom, though he doesn’t mention either The Farmer’s Daughter or Murder, She Wrote; and Dustbury on McKenzie, who performed one of the most famous songs about San Francisco. The Wife actually has seen some Tony Scott pics, including Unstoppable with Denzel Washington; my favorite of his films is Crimson Tide, also with Denzel. At least she knew who Phyllis Diller was. Thom Wade on Scott and Diller. Also, SamuraiFrog on Muppeteer Jerry Nelson, and more on Joe Kubert by Steve Bissette.

Dinosaur poems, including one by Carl Sandburg.

Status of the Shark Infographic.

Binghamton addresses urban farming, a story featuring friends of mine.

The Doors Sing “Reading Rainbow” Theme (Jimmy Fallon as Jim Morrison).

Take that, Nazi scum! How Moses became ‘Superman’ and other exciting tales from the annals of comic books, a Jewish-American art form.


“Smalbany” is not a pejorative term to me – which was printed in the paper in toto
Nicknames for Albany: “Allah Born” and “The 518″
Let me see your reading list – sorry, not available
Chuck Schumer should can the Yenta/Michael Scott schtick

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