Pool of Racism
By Grace duMaine
White kids can swim in any pool-
black kids, fingers hooked
on chain link fences look at them.
One day the black kids hear on the radio
it is okay to jump in,
breaking the colorline.
They don’t understand the word integration
but this appears to be a racial ambush
by whites who don’t want integration.
The black kids who for a few moments
splash about as if they are welcome.
The white kids don’t know to jump out,
but the white parents look down contemptuously
at the new arrivals.
The guards get them out,
Check their lockers for weapons
Call the police
Time enough for the mobs to swell
The children are marched thru the now angry crowd
that spits, curses and swings baseball bats
At the gate the police say, “you are on your own.”
dodging the bricks, stones, rocks and taunts
As they cross back over the colorline.
FairgroundPark 1949 in the Lou
or Valley Swim Club 2009 in Philly
City of brotherly love
I wonder what the white kids thought
About witnessing their parents taunts?
What lessons were taught?
Why no police protection….
And folks wonder about black anger….still!
I often think about Ruby Ridges
or the Central High School 7,
how much patience they had,
how much resolve.
Makes me wonder if kids of today
know the lessons that follow hard
upon such determination and
When the whirlpool of racism
tries to bring one under,
tries to drown one’s future
And we rise to the top,
We must think about
Who threw us those lifelines.
A teacher, parent or relative?
Who told us these kinds of stories?
Not to bore us
but to “school” us,
To give us strategies to thrive with pride
to keep us alive,
to assure us dignity.
To somehow take others’ venom
so that we may swallow it, digest it and
and by doing so, promise ourselves
to do better than than hate,
use it to motivate ourselves to reach
for the sunstreams bouncing off from atop the water
and to let ourselves float to the top
of this pool, still muddied with its racism,
happily splashing away the animosity
even as we occasionally belly flop in that pool.
To reach out with our now prune like fingertips
for the Jackie Robinsons, Althea Gibsons
Ida B Wells, and Ella Bakers and
the everyday shero and heroes
who we are now becoming.
(Inspired after hearing Jamala read “When Pools Reflect Race Relations” from her book, The Best of the Way I See It.)
October 6, 2011
Jamala Rogers, the veteran activist, organizer, writer and BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, has written a new book about the African-American experience. And if you care about black folks, human rights and social justice, perhaps you should take a look.
The book, The Best of “The Way I See It” and Other Political Writings (1989-2010), is a collection of the author’s commentaries from the Saint Louis American, BlackCommentator.com and other publications. Spanning over several decades to speak to the struggles of the black experience and examine the wrongs waged against the community. Rogers’ work is actually three books in one – part-storybook of the poor and oppressed, part-annotated history of black people in America, part-recipe book for addressing inequality and injustice.
The power of Jamala Rogers’ writing is its accessibility, and its clarity in articulating the challenges of everyday people. Her words make readers feel as if they are a part of the story, and motivate them to take action. Commentaries that she wrote in the 80s and 90s, having stood the test of time, are as relevant, timely and fresh as if she just wrote them yesterday.
“My intent is always to have a conversation with my readers – to inform, to inspire, and to move them to action. That’s whether it’s the waitress at the local restaurant or the professor at the university,” Rogers writes. “My writings are inspired and informed by the valiant struggles of peoples to their oppressive and exploitative conditions no matter where they are in the world. My goal is to expose the systems that reproduce those conditions and to provide possible strategies for our collective discussion and actions. I strive to show the inter-connectedness of the global economic system and how it affects [our] daily lives.”
What should strike the reader is the depth of the author’s knowledge on a variety of subjects – whether historical or current events – and the diversity of issues she tackles in this book. Perhaps it speaks partly to the universal and intractable nature of injustice. However, ultimately it tells far more about the skill and knowledge of the author.
The Best of “The Way I See It” is a journey acrossAmerica and the world. In one chapter, Jamala tells the story of the Tuskegee Experiment, when the U.S.government played with the lives of black men by allowing them to suffer for years and die from untreated Syphilis. Another chapter may discuss the controversial black boxer Jack Johnson, or the plight of the Palestinians, Haitians or Katrina victims, or coal miners, or a police brutality victim.
Another subject that permeates this collection of stories is Rogers’ beloved, and many times not so beloved, city of St. Louis. St. Louis, as the author reminds us, is the location of the Old Courthouse where the original Dred Scott took place and justice ultimately was denied. St. Louis is also a city where black children had to run for their lives while attempting to integrate a public swimming pool, as an armed white mob chased and spat at them. And like so many other cities, public hospitals that serve the poor are shuttered to make way for condominiums, bad police officers are acquitted, and wars are waged against popular, community-oriented black journalists.
“In the Lou, ours is an ongoing struggle to overcome intractable racism to create a safe and just place that protects the human rights of all,” Jamala Rogers writes ofSt. Louis in the book. “This is a city which has held several dishonorable titles, including Most Racially Segregated, Most Dangerous City, Least Kid-Friendly City, #1 in Racial Mortgage Rate Disparity, just to name a few. St. Louis racism is not just a figment of our imagination, it is our brutal reality.”
The Best of “The Way I See It” was an enjoyable read, opening my eyes on certain subjects and reaffirming what I already knew concerning others. Although I first expected a compilation of articles, what I discovered was a powerful account of the struggles facing the black community.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington Post, the Grio, The Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He also blogs atdavidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.
The way Jamala sees it by Kenya Vaughn, St. Louis American
Thursday, July 21, 2011
She challenged her friend Donald M. Suggs, publisher of The St. Louis American, to incorporate a woman’s perspective – not necessarily hers. This resulted in a platform for publicly sharing her opinions on politics, policy, social justice, injustice, racism, equal rights and activism that has spanned the better part of 20 years.
As she stood in front of guests recently at the Rowan Community Center, Rogers proved once again her power to get people engaged in the fight to make the world – St. Louis, in particular – a better place.