Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Rev. Lowery Rocks My Socks; Praisesong for the Day

I was a weepy mess during the inauguration, and applauded several times during Obama's speech. But I have to say my favorite moments of the day didn't come from Obama, but rather from Joseph Lowery and Elizabeth Alexander.

While I continue to understand and support (mostly) Obama's pragmatic downplaying of the racial significance of his victory, it was incredibly satisfying to have Lowery, in his benediction, remind us of the racial context of the day.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen. Say Amen'...

And I also absolutely loved Alexander's poem. Here's my favorite bit

Say it plain, that many have died for this day. Sing the names of the dead who brought us here, who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, picked the cotton and the lettuce, built brick by brick the glittering edifices they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle; praise song for the day. Praise song for every hand-lettered sign; The figuring it out at kitchen tables.

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp — praise song for walking forward in that light.

5 comments:

claire said...

I loved loved the poem. And I loved the music and the hat tip to the shakers (even if if it was a tribute to copeland). And I loved the focus on work and respopnsibility -- and the line about the clenched fist to the open hand.

jody said...

I love and respect you as a scholar, colleague, mother, and dear friend ... but that poem? I can understand how it could be moving.

I wanted someone to do a smart response to Claude McKay's "The White House."

Conseula said...

You didn't like the poem. You are kind of an elitist when it comes to poetry, though. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Mary-LUE said...

I am somewhat partial to Rev. Lowery's prayer. I think resonance is the best word to describe both the content and delivery... resonate.. resounded... remarkable.

Claudia said...

I also enjoyed Alexander's poem - but good or bad, so many people are talking about it! And thank goodness for Rev. Lowery who brought levity and "realness" to the moment. When he started with the lyrics of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" I just lost it...