Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Claude McKay

"The Negro's Tragedy" (1945)
"Look Within" (1945)

On the first:
Brook - to put up with
Ken - mental perception
thorn-crowned - Jesus crucified

No one understands all that an African-American suffers, unless he or she is one, and they hope that we will recognize our injustice and hatred, repent and start acting like family.

On the second:
Fascism - a system of government characterized by rigid one-party dictatorship, forcible suppression of opposition, private economic enterprise under centralized governmental control, belligerent nationalism, racism, and militarism, etc.: first instituted in Italy in 1922.

Mote - from the Old English or Dutch 'mot', sawdust: a speck of dust, tiny particle

James Weldon Johnson

"O Black and Unknown Bards" (1908)
"The White Witch" (1922)

This man seemed like he had an interesting life. He lived in Florida, Georgia, and New York, and was once an Ambassador to Venezuela.

His first poem reminded me of Eliot's "Journey of the Magi" and the idea of having eyes in your heart.

On the second poem:
Antaeus - Greek Mythology - warrior that was invincible as long as he was touching his mother, the earth.

Johnson seems to be writing from a solidly Christian viewpoint. Knowing this you can read "The White Witch" in at least two ways, either as poem chronicling the oppression of blacks by whites or in a Biblical sense, as an older man warning a younger man against the lure of adultery. If you grab a Bible and turn over to Proverbs, you will see many ideas expressed as portraits of men and women. Wisdom is likened to a lady seeking to guide and help. Foolishness is likened to a lady diverting people from their work and leading them to forms of theft. And Adultery is likened to a lady who calls after men. One nice note is that Proverbs ends with a picture of an honorable man and an honorable woman. (And I might venture to say that her character is hot).

Zora Neale Hurston

"Sweat" (1926)

Random Thought:
I really don't have a lot for the men of their village. They know about Delia's husband Sykes sleeping around and don't do anything about it. They talk about "learnin' him," but them don't go ahead and do it. The least they could have done was refuse him business when he was spending his money on the other woman.

On the Story:
I don't really get the ending, "that eye that must, could not, fail to see the tubs. He could see the lamp.' Was Delia thinking that Sykes would imagine she put the snake in there and didn't warn him? Or did Delia not want Sykes to know that she was there and could help him?

Another line troubled me, "a surge of pity too strong to support bore her away..." Pity, nowadays, has two senses: one looks on another's situation or misfortune and empathizes, wishing to help; the second looks on another and despises them, refusing to help. I WANT to feel that Delia would pity with empathy and help that rascal (I use this in the most insulting sense of the word I know), and in the end, Sykes would be so overcome by her love that he would repent and love her too. However, it seems that Delia feels otherwise. She lets the river water--probably the 'Jurden water' she sang about and in her mind judgment--rise up and take him. His judgment may be just, but it comes at a terrible price for Delia too, as she must abide with final hatred rather than compassion.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Richard Wright

"The Ethics of Living Jim Crow" 1937

Levels of Discourse: 1) Theory, 2) Drama, 3) Kitchen Table
Purpose in Writing: Prescriptive vs. Descriptive
Symbols: Black Cinders, Broken Milk Bottles
Affecting Justice and Community

I began reading this essay, and my first reaction was shock. I saw these kids throwing cinders and thought, wow, that's evil. Then, I saw another group of kids throwing broken glass and thought, wow, that's also evil. There is a sad irony to the groups' choices of weapons: cinders are the remnants of a fire--something able to bring warmth and comfort and industry; and the broken bottles are said to have once contained milk--something known for its nutrition and life-sustaining properties.

I wonder what it would be like to be in each group and to try to bring change from within each group. Dr. Adrian Rogers, in reference to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, once said you can't stop an idea with a bullet; you stop one idea with a better idea. And part of what proves the quality of your idea is your willingness to suffer for it. It is relatively easy to die for what you believe, but it is significantly harder to live and suffer for what you believe--to take verbal jabs, thick coldness, disregard, even physical abuse. But Oh! what a testimony it produces and a change it can bring:

Jesus on the cross--mocked, maligned; now resurrected, reigning, and bringing life
The United States--without a voice, taxed and taxed; suffered, faught, and gained independence
Gandhi and the people of India--subjugated and suffering; gaining their self-rule
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and African-Americans--segregated, demeaned, fire-hosed; gaining their Civil Rights.