Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Margaret Walker: Stolen Moments

I want to write

I want to write

I want to write the songs of my people.
I want to hear them singing melodies in the dark.
I want to catch the last floating strains from their sob-torn

Throats.

I want to frame their dreams into words; their souls into

Notes.

I want to catch their sunshine laughter in a bowl;
Fling dark hands to a darker sky
And fill them full of stars
Then crush and mix such lights till they become
A mirrored pool of brilliance in the dawn.
By: Margaret Abigail Walker Alexander (1915-1998)

It was a beautiful spring day in 1989 on the campus of Savannah State College in Savannah, Georgia. I was an enthusiastic 22-year-old freshman. My major was English with a minor in parties and freshman girls (Yeah, I was something else back then). I was strolling the yard one fine day in April when I noticed a small crowd gathering outside of the Fine Arts Building. The program had just started and the host of the event introduced a poet and a novelist by the name of Margaret Walker. Now, I had never heard of Ms. Walker and pondered over why she was never mentioned in any of my English classes in High School? She stepped up to podium and greeted the small and eager crowd who reciprocated with smiles and applause. I smiled and clapped as well before knowing exactly who she was and what she had accomplished.

Ms. Walker began to speak and she told us all about her journey as a woman, a mother, and a writer. She spoke with grace and a beautiful smile that remained as she told her story. She also told us how she began to write at an early age and sparked the interest of a young poet named Langston Hughes. Hughes became her mentor and encouraged the young writer to continue her relationship with the pen. I was in awe of her accomplishments and especially her role as a Black woman in literature. She paved the way for so many and I had never even heard of her.

The program was soon over and the host thanked the crowd and informed us that Ms. Wa
lker will be signing copies of her novel, Jubilee immediately after the program. I had to say hello! I quickly got a copy of the book and stood in line to get it signed. The line was moving quickly. As I got closer, I noticed that Ms. Walker had a little system: She would smile, greet, reach for the book, ask your name, sign the book and say “thank you.” Now it was my turn! Ms. Walker smiled, said hello and reached for my book. I extended my right hand to shake hers. Her smile grew wider and I said, “I really enjoyed hearing you speak today Ms. Walker. It would be a pleasure to shake your hand.” She shook my hand and said, “Thank you, what is your name son?” I told her my name and she signed my book. She gave me my book and I said, “Thank you, Ms. Walker.” She smiled and replied with, “you’re welcome.” I’ll never forget that moment. Ms. Walker would go on to live for another 9 years, but that moment will remain with me forever. Thank you Ms. Walker.

Photo Source: newsreel.org

28 comments:

tryphina said...

Wow, that's very calm, but tense Stephen. Sounds like Ms Walker left footprints in the sand of your heart. Now it is up to you to build your castle around that foundation!!

Fantastic post!! the sky is the limit!!!

Stephen Bess said...

Tryphina-
It's funny how that moment has been in my mind for over 15 years and I just decided to write about it. You are correct. I need to build those castles. More than one. Thanks!

NML said...

What a lovely moving post. I'll admit that I had no idea who she was before reading this post but I must endeavor to find out more. Happy holidays and thanks for stopping by my blog :-)

Stephen Bess said...

NML-
Hello. Oh yes, that was a funny post that you wrote about your family. I'm glad that you were able to get something from this post. She was a great woman and paved the way for more great women. She was also good freinds with one of my favorite writers, Richard Wright. Have a happy and safe new year!

JenellyBean said...

Hey brother Stephen.
Haven't been around in a while and wanted to say hey.
I'll take the time to catch up on all this new stuff you got here soon.

:-D

Bougie Black Boy said...

...and this is why we all love yoru blog. You always inform us of the great writers and musicians, etc. . .

Stephen Bess said...

JenellyBean-
Hello there sister! I hope that your holiday was enjoyable. Great to see your signature on my blog.

SEJ-
Thanks bro! Margaret Walker just crossed my mind yesterday for some reason and I had to talk about her. I'm glad that you enjoyed it. By the way, my brother told me that he saw your review and he said that it was one of the best that he has read. I told him that you are a cool brother and unapologetically honest about yours. He appreciates that. Thanks again!

Bougie Black Boy said...

always willing to test my writing skills at reviews. Much love.
If he's not taken yet, (since you are) We'll hook him and Sumeeta up. She needs a creative black man.

Stephen Bess said...

I hear that! You look out for your Sumeeta don't you. I know that she appreciates it.
Thomas is currently involved with this vision of loveliness covered with Godiva. :)

Bougie Black Boy said...

Very well put!

Georgiapeach said...

She sounds like an extremely interesting woman. I am mad I don't know about her. Although Jubilee sounds very familar. Wow, an English major. Oh goodness, I know you be talking about my grammatical errors. I have even had a few "English majors" and "Journalist" email about my grammar....lol. I WILL familiar my self with Mrs. Abigail and that ain't talk. I don't like to be out the loop when it comes to my African American women authors and poets.

Stephen Bess said...

GAPeach-
How does Ice-Cube state it: "...So Back off genius...I don't need you to correct my broken English." :)
No, I was never one to correct anyone (only my students when I'm in the classroom). I guess it's because I believe that Black English or African American Vernacular English (AAVE) is a legitimate language. I grew up speaking it and still do if I am around my folks. It comes natural. As for Ms. Abigail, you should check her out. She was a bad sista just like you.

Brother Jero (BJ) said...

Happy New Year.

"N" Search of Ecstasy said...

Hey there!

I agree, she does sound like an extremely interesting woman! It’s amazing how people can come into our lives and touch us in a way that we will ALWAYS remember and treasure. Sometimes, they don’t even it realize it ;-)

Wishing Very Happy Holidays to you!!!

Bougie Black Boy said...

Bess,
I'm about to cause a stir. Come see.

Sumeeta said...

Happy New Year!

That's a great story. It's funny how much people have an impact on us without us realizing it.

BTW, do you still own that book?

Stephen Bess said...

Happy New Year Sumeeta!
yes, I still own that book. It's a paper back and the pages have turned a little brown since, but it remains on my bookshelf. I need some of her will and determination for the new year. I think I'll pray for just that.

faith said...

I just want to tell you that if the book is getting too bad, you can have it restored. Just be sure to really look into the company that you have do it if you choose to do it. I have heard a couple of bad stories of people who have not researched the company they chose to restore their photo's and it is not good. But I have seen some that are simply amazing. You could hardly believe it was the same picture. (I know that they also do this with books and other writings. I am not sure on the cost, but just a thought!)

I want to wish you and your readers a safe and Happy New Years!

ProfessorGQ said...

I love the story man...you always come up with stories out of left field...good ones...I feel educated when you bring up history I have not known about.

Happy new year to you.

Ruben said...

Very well written post. I hope your New year will be great.

JenellyBean said...

HAPPY NEW YEAR BROHTER STEPHEN!!

Rose said...

When someone makes an impact on your heart-it's amazing how you remember it...great story...Have a happy New Year!

Tu s. Tin said...

Happy New Year!!!!

Sumeeta said...

Stephen, I hope that you had a wonderful New Year. Thanks for your kind thoughts. I will pray for strength to face the new year too.

Stephen Bess said...

Faith-
Thanks for that info and Happy New Year! I didn't know that you could get books restored. That is interesting. I'll have to check that out in the future.

ProfGQ-
Thank you very much. I guess that my life is out in left field because that's where I get my stories. Haa haa! :) Thanks for the compliment.

Ruben-
My New Year was and is fantastic! I hope that yours was the same.

JB-
A pleasure as all ways.

Rose-
Thank you. I hope that your New Year was enjoyable.

tu s tin-
Happy Happy! :)

Sumeeta-
Your thoughts and prayers are greatly appreciated! :)

baysuite said...

Stephen,
Man, you are getting popular. Might be time to look into getting a sitemeter; just a thought! You are always so good about giving individual replies, too. I'm convinced that keeps folks coming back. As for me, though, I think I'll stick with the emails. I get lost in a throng.

Peace and Blessings,
Bay

Stephen Bess said...

Haa haa! :) You?? "lost in the throng"...never.
Bay, you are more than welcome to reply that way. Yes, I try to reply to those that take the time to comment. I'm glad that they like my writings. I hope that this can carry over into a professional career.

Bie said...

Jubilee - This is a beautiful piece of literature taken from the history books, a fine testament to the life of those African-Americans’ sufferings in searched for freedom. The author uses dramatic images to express the triumph of the human spirit and the true glory of God through mankind. It's really enlightening.

Rhiannon Giddens- "Julie"

Rhiannon Giddens' music is based on a collective number of slave narratives. This is an absolutely beautiful way to preserve the his...