From The Best Loved Poems of the American People selected by Hazel Felleman
In celebration of National Poetry month, I went back to the oldest book from my childhood library. My mother shared her love of poetry with me at an early age. Her most prized book was a collection of poetry published in 1936, as soon as I was able she began to teach me how to memorize and recite poems from this book; The Best Loved Poems of the American People. “Don’t Quit” is the one I recited for my second grade talent show. It was the “big kid” version of the Little Engine That Could to me back then. After college when real life struggles entered my world my mom would hand write the verse on a card and put it in the mail for me.
Poetry has been an emotional refuge for me and many others, no matter what the emotion or mood you can find a poem that fits, a poem that can speak for you when you can’t find the words. As I looked for a poem that reflected where we are in our country and be used as a resource of hope for the classroom, I found “Talking Gets Us There” by Amanda Gorman.
“It’s normal to notice what makes us different because what makes us different is what makes each of us so special.”
There’s beauty in every type of face and in every type of freckle. From the curl of your hair to the color of your skin, no one is exactly the same, not even twins.
But across time and place, people have been treated unfairly just because of their race. So heroes get into good trouble. They have to struggle for a long while, but when they win, it’s worth every mile.
People of color still experience racism today. So, it’s up to all of us to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ To speak out with all our hearts, and that starts at home, starts with asking questions about race when we’re taught about it.
Together, I know we can tackle racism. But first, we have to talk about it.”
As the struggles continue in our personal lives and in the lives of our students, I call on us all to share the gift of poetry with our students. Give them the tools to communicate their feelings and what’s going on in their world. Show them that others feel similarly and they are not isolated. And for all of us to know that others feel it too and you are not alone.
I invite you to have a deep sigh, take rest, but don’t you quit.