Monday, January 19, 2015

THE MAN FROM ATLANTA

The Man From Atlanta
 by G.L. Wallace 
(reprinted with the permission of Carol Wallace-Conner)

When the man from Atlanta passed through the portals of
Ebenezer Baptist Church, into the harsh blinding
light of America's racist reality,

Rosa Parks took his hand;

And there a people made a stand that set a whole nation
into motion from the streets of Montgomery, Alabama;
They did a slow dance together; it was hard in the 

beginning because they had forgotten the steps and
had trouble learning the tune;

But they danced and they danced, and they were winning soon,
and there evolved a whole new Black wave of dancing and
singing that had been lost in the centuries of chains

weighing on the feet of bondmen;

Hope took over from fear and let a new people appear, proud
and determined, they turned a nation around, to look in
the mirror of itself, and relisten to the pseudo-sick-sweet

words of liberty and death, uttered with faltering breath;

When the dancer's feet slowed with fatigued-progress, they
asked, "How long?" and the man from Atlanta said, "Not long,
no lie can live forever;" When they thought they heard

him wrong and they asked again, "How long?"

"Not long, even a nation shall still reap what it sows; the moral
arm of the universe reaches out but it still bends
towards justice;"  justice, way down yonder in the land

of cotton, where the very word had been forgotten and

An age old regime of disenfranchisement lay preserved in
Mississippi mud; the dancers came to Mississippi on
winds of change so profound, that they brought the

governor's mansion crumbling to the ground;

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York state;
let freedom ring from the snow capped Rockies of Colorado;
let freedom ring from Pennsylvania's Alleghenies and

Look Out Mountain in Tennessee;

And a great gathering there will be when Black and white,
Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, shall join
hands and sing in the words of that old spiritual from

the past: Free at last, free at last;
thank God a'mighty I'm free at last;

Oh to be a dancer and sing all sorts of songs! at Selma Bridge,
Ain't Nobody Gonne Turn Me Around; by the dogs of Birmingham,
We Shall Not Be moved; in Washington D.C.,

We shall Over Come;  "Are you tired sister?" marching along 
beside me, seventy years old and Black;
She says, "My feets is tired, but my soul is rested."

Oh, to be a dancer and sing all sorts of songs; when I must
meet the most common denominator of us all, to dance my
final dance and sing my final song, don't say too many

words over me, please don't talk too long

Of plastic prizes, and planetary awards and degrees of education;
for I've been to the mountain top, and I've seen the promised
land; so when you speak of me after I'm gone try to make

them understand -- that I loved somebody;

That I could study war no more, but will beat my swords into
plowshares and spears into pruning hooks; if they ask the
meaning of my life, and you must give an answer, say that

I labored in the vineyards of the Lord as a singer and a dancer;

For an assassin's bullet in Memphis can not kill a dancer;
an assassin's bullet will never pierce the armor of his
soul; an assassin's bullet will never touch the spirit of

the dancer moving in our hearts, cleft as the rock of ages
to hold him;

Has anybody here seen my old friend Martin? I been kind of
missin' him lately; can you tell me where he's gone?
Birmingham, Chicago, Jackson, New York, Memphis;

he freed a lot of people, but the good they die young;

When the man from Atlanta stepped from the hallow sanctuary
of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a troubled world grasped his
hand; he sang with them, danced with them, prayed with them,

freed some folks, LOVED SOMEBODY,
then we just looked around and he was gone. 




*Not to be reprinted or distributed without the permission of the copyright holder, Carol Wallace-Conner.

18 comments:

  1. What a wonderful tribute to Martin Luther King Jr, on his special day! It's such a tragedy that he died so young. It's great that Selma is up for awards, which will hopefully encourage more young people to learn more about this heroic man.

    Julie

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  2. This is powerful stuff.
    In spite of a black president the fight seems by no means over, at least not from where I’m standing, watching from the other side of the globe.

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  3. Hi, Janie Junebug!

    This piece gives us a lot to think about. The inspiring words of hope spoken and written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a profound influence on me in my youth and are still shaping my thoughts, words and deeds today. It troubles me to realize that, decades after Dr. King's voice was silenced by an assassin's bullet, racial strife remains a major problem in America.

    When I saw "Ain't Nobody Gonne Turn Me Around' in this poem, it reminded of the Magnificent Men, the blue-eyed soul band that became a phenomenon in my part of the country during the 60s. Through their music, these young men, all of them white, helped bridge the gap between white people and black people and ease racial tension during that turbulent decade. The "Mag Men" recorded a fine version of "Nobody Can Turn Me Around" and I uploaded it on my YouTube channel:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jd80qgorr7k

    In the 60s, black youth and white youth were united in their excitement over the Magnificent Men, the first all white group to headline at Harlem's Apollo Theater and dedicated proponents of the American Civil Rights Movement. I'm not tuned in to much of today's music, but I hope there are up-and-coming artists, groups and bands that will take up the mantle and help spread Dr. King's message from sea to shining sea.

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  4. Beautiful. I always envy the poets who can capture such large ideas and emotions in an economy of words. 2014 was the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Movement and sadly, the work isn't done. It's gotten better for sure, but progress needs to continue to march ever forward.

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  5. Hey, JJ! I hope you haven't found any more lizards staying warm in your home. I've been reading your recent posts, and they are always interesting because I never know what you'll write about. This MLK poem is wonderful. I have never read it before. If I were still teaching I would have shared it with my students. My students were always intrigued with MLK and the Civil Rights Movement, and for some of them as third graders, it was their first introduction to the darker side of the story ~ the hoses, the police dogs. the bombings. Have a great week!

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  6. A really beautiful tribute to an incredible human being.

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  7. This is a perfect post for today - I was not aware of this piece prior to reading it here. Well done, Janie-poo.

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  8. This was beautiful. And here we are, still singing this message and dancing to this day. Have a happy MLK Day.

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  9. A wonderful tribute that all should read especially in schools

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  10. The best post evoking the true meaning of this holiday that I've read today.

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  11. A very moving tribute.(smile) I'm happy you could share it, Janie. Thank you.

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  12. Thanks for sharing. I looked up the poet, and could not find anything about G.L.

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  13. Beautiful. Today is a very important day. It's about more than just the one man. It's about the idea that together, we can be better than we have ever been before. We can overcome our own troubled history. Together.

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  14. Beautifully touching tribute. Thanks, Janie!! :)

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  15. There was a lot of history around me as I grew up. Alabama has come a long way, but the journey is not over.
    A piece of America died in Memphis with Dr. King.

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  16. I liked this it was bloody awesome, just saying

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