USA and Canada

Articles, poems and other items about Canada and the United States of America.

Black culture and resistance: the Harlem Renaissance

Augusta Savage

One hundred years ago, an arts movement was forming in a mainly-black district of New York City. Later known as the Harlem Renaissance, it was primarily cultural but also inescapably political. Literature, poetry, jazz, theatre, sculpture and more articulated the lives and demands of African-Americans no longer willing to be grateful that they were no longer enslaved.

O black and unknown bards of long ago.
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?

How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel’s lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long.
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?

James Weldon Johnson

Uproot, Depart

Riots in Minneapolis following police murder of George Floyd

"When the looting starts,
the shooting starts."

But when did the executing start?
When did the racist recruiting start?

And when will the prosecuting start?

That will be when the suits will start
elocuting and refuting parts,
disputing and diluting parts

Computing charts
and polluting hearts

One And All

All Lives Matter

When my team lost to a goal in the last five minutes of the match from a free kick that should never have been given and got relegated and my face went down with them, you didn't tell me that all football clubs matter.

Bearing Down

George Floyd memorial

The white
power cap
on the top
of the head
of the cop
with his knee
on the neck
of the man
on the floor
by the pass-
enger door

Who said please
I can't breathe
and who called
for his mum
stopped responding
went numb
but still
bore the knee
and the weight
and the hate
of the cop
who still
wouldn't stop

Da Capa al Coda

Riots in Minneapolis following police murder of George Floyd

They held a peaceful protest
People didn't notice
Nothing changed

Then they rioted and burned
The world watched and learned,
views exchanged

The respectable people said
Their cause is just,
but why must they riot?

Why don't they hold
a peaceful protest?

Stonewall Was a Riot

It wasn't the Stonewall focus group
or the Stonewall business case
It wasn't the Stonewall let's-present-
our-most-acceptable-face

Long years of asking nicely had not
got us anywhere
Our rulers did not hear us when
we whispered: it's not fair

So when re-writers try to say
we won by being quiet
Remind them of our history -
that Stonewall was a riot

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