Summer Syllabus (Part I)

In honor of Juneteenth, here are seven short essays and speeches by Black writers on Black resistance and one very poignant quote from the incomparable Alice Walker:

“The absence of models, in literature as in life, to say nothing of painting, is an occupational hazard for the artist, simply because models in art, in behavior, in growth of spirit and intellect–even if rejected–enrich and enlarge one’s view of existence.”

Happy Freedom Day!

“The Role of the Behavioral Scientist in the Civil Rights Movement” by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A profound judgment of today’s riots was expressed by Victor Hugo a century ago. He said, ‘If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness.’

 

“The Ballot or the Bullet” by Malcolm X

No, I’m not an American. I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So, I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver — no, not I. I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. And I see America through the eyes of the victim. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare.

 

“Black Power” by Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture)

In order to understand white supremacy we must dismiss the fallacious notion that white people can give anybody his freedom. A man is born free. You may enslave a man after he is born free, and that is in fact what this country does. It enslaves blacks after they’re born. The only thing white people can do is stop denying black people their freedom.

 

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” by Frederick Douglass

The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mineYou may rejoice, I must mourn. 

 

“The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism” by Audre Lorde 

If I speak to you in anger, at least I have spoken to you: I have not put a gun to your head and shot you down in the street; I have not looked at your bleeding sister’s body and asked, “What did she do to deserve it?”

 

“Mourning for Whiteness” by Toni Morrison

The sad plight of grown white men, crouching beneath their (better) selves, to slaughter the innocent during traffic stops, to push black women’s faces into the dirt, to handcuff black children. Only the frightened would do that. Right?

 

“A Report from Occupied Territory” by James Baldwin

The principle on which one had to operate was that the government which can force me to pay my taxes and force me to fight in its defense anywhere in the world does not have the authority to say that it cannot protect my right to vote or my right to earn a living or my right to live anywhere I choose. 

 

Published by Shamecca Harris

NYC-Based Creative Writer and Teaching Artist