The poem featured here today was created by celebrated poet and activist Nikki Giovanni as part of the Smithsonian’s 2002 traveling exhibit, “In the Spirit of Martin: The Living Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,” the first major Smithsonian exhibition of visual arts dedicated to celebrating our American hero. “In the Spirit of Martin” included works by some of my favorite artists ever Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Romare Bearden, Faith Ringold, Charles Alson and Gordon Parks, to name a few. But it was Nikki’s poem that touched me most.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. Thank you for your strength, your intelligence, your courage, and especially your insistence that America live up to its promise to ALL its citizens. Your legacy endures and you are missed.

“In the Spirit of Martin,” by Nikki Giovanni

This is a sacred poemblood has been shed to consecrate it
wash your handsremove your shoesbow your head
III Have a Dream

That was a magical timeHi Ho Silver Away
Oh Cisco/Oh PanchoHere I Come To Save The Day
I want the World to see what they did to my boy
No No No I'm not going to moveIf we are Wrong
then the Constitution of the United States is Wrong
MontgomeryBirminghamSelmaFour little Girls
Constant ThreatsConstant HarassmentConstant Fear
SCLCRalph and MartinFather Knows Best
Leave It To BeaverED SULLIVANHow LongNot Long

But whatMr. Thoreau said to Mr. Emersonare you doing out?

This is a Letter from Birmingham City Jail
This is a eulogy for AlbanyThis is a water hose for Anniston
This is a Thank You to Diane Nash
This is a flag for James Farmer
This is a HowCanIMakeItWithoutYou to Ella Baker
This is for the red clay of Georgia that yielded black men of courage
black men of visionblack men of hope
bent over cottonor sweet potatoesor pool tables and
baseball diamondsplaying for a chance to live free and
breathe easy and have enough money to take care of
the folks they loveThis is Why We Can't Wait

That swirling Mississippi windthe Alabama pine
that Tennessee dust defiling the clothes the women washed
thosehotwindsthe lemonade couldn't cool
that let the women knowwe too must overcome
this is for Fannie Lou HamerJo Ann Robinson
Septima ClarkDaisy BatesAll the women who said
Baby Baby Baby I know you didn't mean to lose your job
I know you didn't mean to hit me
I know the Lord is going to make a way
I know I'm Leaning On The Everlasting Arms

How much pressuredoes the Earth exert on carbon
to make a diamondHow long does the soil push against the flesh
molding moldingmolding the moan that becomes a cry that
bursts forth crystallineunbreakablepricelessincomparable Martin
I Made My Vow To The Lord That I Never Would Turn Back
How much pressure do the sins of the world press
against the heart of a man who becomes the voice of his people
He should have had a tattoo, you knowFreedom Now
or something like thatshould have braided his hair
carried his pool cue in a mahogany case
wafted that wonderful laugh over a plate of skillet fried chicken
drop biscuitsdandelion greens on the side

This is a sacred poemopen your armsturn your palms up
feel the Spirit of Greatnessand be redeemed

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One Comment

  1. Teresha@Marlie and Me

    ooooooooooo…I got chills! Thanks for the reminder to stop and reflect on this day of remembrance.

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