105 Ways to Give a Book

Poetry Friday: Okay

The Comment Challenge that Lee and I came up with has gone better than I could have hoped. I’m so excited to see bloggers engaging in conversation with each other, discovering new blogs, and — dare I say it — making new friends. If you haven’t joined us from the beginning, don’t feel that it’s too late to become part of the energy. Sign up here.

Next week I won’t be able to keep focus on the Comment Challenge so much because I’ll be participating in the Winter Blog Blast Tour, as organized by Chasing Ray. Next week, I’ll have an interview with Lisa Papademetriou, along with a review of her new book, Drop. On Friday, I’ll have an informal-style interview on writing and books and life with Sara Lewis Holmes and Caroline Hickey. On Wednesday, I’ll post an interview with Mitali Perkins focusing on her First Daughter books, particularly of interest now that the White House is indeed home to brown girls.

Was my choice of words in that last sentence jarring? It was intentional. First, because Mitali’s blog and writing challenge us to think about how we see and describe race. And I love her for it. Second, because it relates to the poem I’ve been thinking about since before the election that I will share today. It was written by James Berry in response to a letter from a girl named Josie who was picked on for her color and asked the poet, “How do you like being brown?”
Okay, Brown Girl, Okay

Josie, Josie, I am okay
being brown. I remember
every day dusk and dawn get born
from the loving of night and light
who work together, like married.

And they would like to say to you:
Be at school on and on, brown Josie
like thousands and thousands and thousands
of children, who are brown and white
and black and pale-lemon color.
All the time, brown girl Josie is okay.
You can read and listen to the rest of the poem at NPR, from when they reviewed the book Poetry Speaks to Children. Let me suggest that the book would make a wonderful holiday gift, especially if paired with a letter promising to read it together.

I’ve been thinking about this poem for the last two weeks, really since I wrote my Blog the Vote post, with its focus on embracing this next cultural shift in America. I know that our race problems aren’t solved, but with our new president-elect and his campaign’s goal of inclusion, I want us all to feel... okay.

Poetry Friday is hosted today by Yat-Yee Chong.

17 comments:

Corey said...

My four year old said to me right before the election, "Mommy, if Obama wins, he'll be the first dark President!"

Tricia said...

Thanks for this poem.

On a lingering political note - I was very concerned yesterday when I heard this piece on NPR.

Religious Right Weighs Next Political Steps

It sounds like there are many people out there who didn't like the inclusiveness of Obama's speech on election night. While many of us want to embrace that diversity that this nation represents, there are many, I fear, who will be standing in the way.

Kelly Fineman said...

I so love that poem. And I love the recording that came with Poetry Speaks to Children.

taralazar said...

Thank you for letting me know about Poetry Speaks to Children. I will check it out.

BTW, I have seen my blog readership double since participating in the challenge. I feel like I need to post something interesting every day, though, and that's a different challenge!

Sarah Rettger said...

That is a beautiful poem, MR. It takes a "Yes, Virginia"-type answer to a whole other level.

EM said...

Amen, sister.

jama said...

Liked the poem -- and Poetry Speaks to Children is great -- I gave it for Christmas last year :).

Terry said...

My daughter loves Poetry Speaks to Children, and the new title, too. How ironic that you chose this poem today. Last night I was reading about former Redskins QB Doug Williams and the infamous pre-Superbowl question: "How long have you been a black quarterback?" So I've been thinking about the future (hoping for better) all day.

Shelly Burns said...

Thanks for this poem! Again, love the comment challenge.

mama reads! said...

Poetry is wonderful. I do hope our President-elect can bridge many of the racial gaps we have in this country. My prayer is they get better not worse i.e. the NPR piece.

Charlotte said...

I was just thinking (again) today of how wonderful it will be to see Obama's face so often, so everywhere...and it's nice for me, as well, that I agree with his positions on many issues!

Thanks for the great poem!

jone said...

I love the book Poetry Speaks to Children. And this poem is a perfect fit for today.

TadMack said...

Grow, and grow brightly, brown girl. What a lovely poem - be okay with who you are, and shine.

I especially love the "pale lemon color." I really would like to see someone that shade.

holly cupala said...

Lovely poem. We are a brown and white family - my husband is Indian, and we have a brown-white daughter. Brown is beautiful to me.

Mary Lee said...

My students filled out a voter registration form before our fourth grade mock election. We talked about how to fill in the blank for "race." When I explained mixed race, R. proudly, loudly, and enthusiastically said, "That's what I am, like Obama!" S, an Indian girl, wrote "brown" as her race. Both made me smile.

Cloudscome said...

Thanks for sharing that poem. And thanks for all the encouragement in the comment challenge. I am so glad to be counted as part of it all!

Nina said...

This poem is one of my favorites on the Poetry Speaks to Children CD. I can hear it now in my mind. I'm glad one of your commenters mentioned the new book Hip Hop Speaks to Children. I'm off to order it from the library.

We are thrilled about the election outcome.