Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Progress is a Slow Train Coming

Today my Black child
draws oohs and aahs of
handsome, smart, polite.

Tomorrows away he will command baited breath,
thoughts of will he, quickened footsteps, sidelong

So I steady him with confidence,
hugs and handshakes. Gird
him with common sense, unquestionable
knowledge. Balance life's
inequities of vision with
stories of a heritage
supreme. And hope. But know,

Rude awakenings await this flesh and blood whose lot I
toil to better.

Progress is a Slow Traing Coming © 2005 Stefanie Worth – From “Conversational Silences”

My father has a habit of saying, “Time flies – whether you’re having fun or not.” Of course, as moments melt into years that pass faster and faster, I see just what he’s been trying to tell me all my life.

When I wrote the Progress poem, my oldest son was a toddler. Unquestionably the cutest and smartest toddler this side of heaven, many a day I would watch the news and look in his eyes with dread. “How long before this world snatches that sparkle?” I’d wonder.

Not quite as grown as he thinks he is, I can commend him for being serious, studious and an all-around upstanding young man. Nobody’s perfect, but he seems – from mom’s jaded vantage point anyway – to have turned out pretty darn well.

But I’ve reached the point in the poem where I take the part of my heart marked with his name and let him walk around in the world with it: No mom over his shoulder for on-the-spot advice, no nearby teacher for guidance – in other words, no safe-seeming adult at his side to shush the naysayers before they assume ill of my handsome black teenager and react verbally or physically in ways they shouldn’t.

Of course that worries the mess out of me.

Beyond the example of Jena, we had a local incident here in Michigan over the summer involving two young black men who were summarily rounded up in connection with a murder – then later released for lack of evidence. But the time they spent in lockup is not refundable, those scars are not erasable.

I had my son read the article that ran in the Michigan Front Page about the incident. Two teens with athletic aspirations and college plans, snatched from their day-to-day world – snap – just like that. His eyes widened. The similar ages, the incredible injustice, whatever it was, hit home. I hoped he could see how unfortunately easy it still is in this America to be mislabeled, railroaded because of that mislabeling and life-wrecked simply by being young, male and black.

So, like the poem says, I gird him with values and reality checks. I pray (a lot) for my boys and all those boys who live in our world village. And I vote.

Please don’t tell me you’re not registered. Or that you’re registered but you don’t take time to do your civic duty. Because if that’s the case DO NOT talk to me about the Jena 6, the nightly news, the latest Driving While Black case yada, yada, yada. I hope you didn’t bother to dress in black as protest and that you’re not forwarding protest emails. If you don’t vote, you are part of the problem.

You might disagree and, it’s a free country (because of those who vote), so that’s cool. But in the interest of doing everything in our power to rid the world of inequity, injustice, poverty and hatred, the majority numbers of “minorities” who do not vote are squandering their -- our collective -- power.


It comes in many forms. With elections ahead, it’s time to do our part to prove we're trying to move the train forward.

All aboard?