Happy Tenth Anniversary, Busboys and Poets!

Greetings Everyone, I was on my way to be with you tonight, but did not want to risk being trapped, in mid journey, with my partner and small dog, by Hurricane Joaquin.  Andy (Shallal) tells me the danger seems past, and I am happy for all of you who made it.  You are very lucky.

Greetings especially to my brother Andy and sister Marjan, and to Laela, and to Angela, and to Edwidge, and to Ethelbert. And to everyone here who faces this extremely challenging world with courage.

While I could not be with you tonight, I can still offer the best that I have to give:  a new poem to grace this auspicious occasion.  I wrote it this morning.

 BUSBOYS AND POETS IS A SACRED PLACE

© 2015 by Alice Walker

Busboys and Poets
Is a sacred place:

It is a place I can imagine
On the Underground Railroad
Of the intellect.

A place of ancestors
Hovering over a warming fire
In the slave labor camps
That stretched from Maryland
To Texas;
A dream place,
Though they could not really
Imagine it,
Just as they could not imagine
Us tonight
Seated here, or standing here,
Festively dressed,
Safe and warm
From the storm.

This is a place
Where one can dream of rivers,
Yes,
And Zora can show off her new
Choctaw dance
But it is also a place
Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois
Might have had a coffee
And ended the assumed implacable
Hostility
Between them
That has harmed us
To this day.

Ida B. Wells might have
Strolled through the door
Eager for a muffin or a croissant
And helped them with that.

Busboys and Poets:
Yes, Langston, and before him, Phyllis Wheatley
And Paul Lawrence Dunbar:
How they would have loved
To hang out here.

How happy it would have made
Denmark Vesey
And Nat Turner,
To have a place to plot.

A huddle over shrimp and grits between John Brown,  Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Fannie Lou Hamer, David Walker, and Harriet Tubman, would cause hardly a stir here.

And how the sisters and aunts
And mothers-
Gang-raped on the plantations
Not for years but for centuries,
Whose feet ached from
Standing up to clean white people’s
Filthy floors-
Would have loved a moment
Here-
Just to sit
And have someone gently
Offer lemonade
And adjust the blinds for a bit of shade.

This is a sacred place.

You don’t have to look hard
To see brother Malcolm and Betty
Whispering sweet nothings in a secluded booth
Or Coretta and Martin
Holding hands
Behind some plants
Or see Coretta
Remove the shoes that pinched
Her toes on the March on Washington.

I was at that march,
Sitting high in a tree.
It was a day I won’t forget
Because I thought it meant I would
Never visit such a cruel city again,
Where black people had to go out
Into the street to demonstrate
Their humanity
While the rest of America
denied how hard it had tried
To steal it from them.

No, I was not visionary enough
To imagine
A Busboys and Poets
Or that it would be created by an Iraqi –American
And an Iranian- American.  America’s enemies in the minds
Of the most deeply disturbed.

But this sacred place is created also by the rest of us.
By you, sitting right now, or standing
Right now,
In this place
Where, miraculously, all of us fit.
The ones who stood for us
And are still standing
Within us.
The ones who wrote the poems,
Praised the rivers,
Enjoyed the oysters of life,
Fought the interminal battles
For our liberty and happiness
And who are with us tonight,
Here in this sacred place.

And will always be.

 

Of this I am certain:  Our ancestors rejoice when we have a good time with a clear mind.  They have paid dearly for every move on the dance floor that delights or brings us pleasure.  They rejoice when we eat well and sleep deeply in cuddled comfort.  Nothing good is too good for us. They have paid unspeakable dues for our existence.  We honor them by gathering to celebrate a particular talent they embellished during the long centuries of enslavement: the ability to express joy when we encounter our sisters and brothers and allies of all kinds, and drink in the healthy existence of each other.  There was a time not too long ago, within my own memory, when we smiled whenever we saw someone who looked like us.  Or within whose spirit we identified a likeness.  In honor of those who loved us without speaking our language or knowing us:  Let us bring this back.

 

Ache’

October 2, 2015

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