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


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


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.

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