She looks like an archetypal grandmother. Her hair–gray. Her voice–strong without being abrasive. Her smile–warm. Welcoming.
But like many women in their sixties and seventies–she didn’t survive that long without learning to navigate the lay of the land. Or pull a shift in this nation’s many abattoirs, and come out spotless, nary a drop of blood marring her apron or her spirit. She is a wonder–how does she do what she do, avoids what she doesn’t.
“Baby, you want something to drink.”
“Yes, mam. I wants more and more of you, and then some.”
“Honey be careful what you ask for.”
Why? Cause like all the women who are the backbone of us, she is also wicked dangerous. Had to be to survive America. She may seem innocent when you spy her portrait displayed before you, but be ye not fooled, she is a veteran of many a war, the seemingly endless battles in this new home of the formerly enslaved.
She was one of the survivors. We celebrate her–she is one of the many thousands gone–gone on to glory.
Her name is Lucille Clifton (born: June 27, 1936 — died: February 13, 2010). She is a poet. You can look her up. You can order her books online. Most of all you can be encouraged by her poetic work–encouraged to carry on.
Like she invites us in one of her signature poems, “Won’t You Celebrate With Me”: be proud and embrace life but don’t be a pushover or blind to social realities. Rejoice in our ability to overcome the vicissitudes of our earthly existence. Be not afraid. Sing. Sing out loud. And, yes, celebrate: They have tried to kill us and failed!