Each One, Pull One
Waves of resistance are rippling through the world.
People from all walks of life are standing up for what they believe in, both in the public eye and the privacy of home. Yet how do we discern what it is that we are resisting? What guides our movement towards change and towards justice? Do the means we use align with our beliefs?
We offer you this poem as a tool to explore these questions and more:
Each One, Pull One
by Alice Walker
(Thinking of Lorraine Hansberry)
We must say it all, and as clearly
Trying to bury us.
As we can.
For, even before we are dead,
Were we black? Were we women? Were we gay?
Were we the wrong shade of black? Were we yellow?
Did we, God forbid, love the wrong person, country?
Or politics? Were we Agnes Smedley or John Brown?
But, most of all, did we write exactly what we saw,
As clearly as we could? Were we unsophisticated
Enough to cry and scream?
Well, then, they will fill our eyes,
Our ears, our noses and our mouths
With the mud
They will chew up
Our fingers in the night.
They will pick
Their teeth with our pens.
They will sabotage
Both our children
And our art.
We do not believe what they say.
We do not love their efficiency.
Or their power plants.
We do not love their factories.
Or their smog.
We do not love their television programs.
Or their radioactive leaks.
We find their papers boring.
We do not worship their cars.
We do not worship their blondes.
We do not worship their penises.
We do not think much
Of their Renaissance
We are indifferent to England.
We have grave doubts about their brains.
In short, we who write, paint, sculpt, dance
Share the intelligence and thus the fate
Of all our people
In this land.
We are not different from them,
Neither above nor below,
Outside nor inside.
We are the same.
And we do not worship them.
We do not worship them.
We do not worship their movies.
We do not worship their songs.
We do not think their newscasts
Cast the news.
We do not admire their president.
We know why the White House is white.
We do not find their children irresistible;
We do not agree they should inherit the earth.
But lately you have begun to help them
You who said: King was just a womanizer;
Malcom, just a thug; Sojourner, folksy; Hansberry,
A traitor (or whore, depending); Fannie Lou Hamer, merely spunky;
Zora Hurston, Nella Larsen, Toomer: reactionary, brainwashed, spoiled by whitefolks, minor; Agnes Smedley, a spy.
Look, I, temporarily on the rim
Of the grave,
Have grasped my mother's hand
My father's leg.
There is the hand of Robeson
Zora's arm and hair
Your grandfather's lifted chin
And lynched woman's elbow
What you've tried to forget
Of your grandmother's frown.
Each one, pull one back into the sun
We who have stood over
So many graves
Know that no matter what they do
All of us must live