Tuesday, July 31, 2007


"I Am More Than Just a Black Woman"

A very thoughtful essay by a young Washingtonian appeared in Sunday's Washington Post. Amanda Fernandez, a Duke Ellington High School graduate, was the winner of the national Poetry Out Loud contest, a poetry recitation competition for high school students, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.

Fernandez chose "Dulce et Decorum Est" by Wilfred Owen, "Ma Rainey" by Sterling Brown, and "Unknown Girl in the Maternity Ward," by Anne Sexton as her entries. The first is one of the most famous poems in the English language about the horrors of war. In the third, a young woman talks to the newborn she is about to give up for adoption. But all the reporting of Fernandez's win focussed on the second poem, the "black poem," written in dialect by DC's first Poet Laureate. It's a powerful poem that speaks of the way music can be a salve and an inspiration, can speak to and for a people. The song echoes of the devastation Katrina wrought on Black communities in the South.

But "Ma Rainey" was only one of three poems Fernandez recited. The Sexton poem in fact was the final and winning poem. Fernandez rightly asks:

Why weren't [the media] interested in my political views about young men and women dying in war, as expressed in the first poem? Why didn't they see me as a woman -- not a black woman, but a woman -- as reflected in the third poem about the tough choices that women face?

You can read the whole smart piece here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/27/AR2007072701687.html

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