Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Greta (Walk with Me)

Lately, I am constantly shocked and moved by things I see and hear.

Sometimes it’s an email encouragement that a volunteer writes to another volunteer when life gets tough – even though they may live in two different countries and have never physically met and their ages happen to be forty years apart. Sometimes it’s a sentence that one senior would say to me after class, about how visibly happy another senior has become – when the senior telling me this is herself a million times happier than the first time she showed up to class.

Last week, it was what Greta shared about her grandson.

Greta has been coming to our class for almost a year now, and mostly she likes to listen to her friends’ stories. But last week, she opened up more than I had ever heard her open up before. She told us that the mission of our project – to connect generations through storytelling and writing – got her to start a conversation with her grandson at home. The two don’t usually talk about their interests or anything like that. The conversation was simple. She told him she is in a writing class, and asked if he writes too. He said he did. She was surprised. He went on to print out 2 poems out for her.

“Walk with Me” is one of them. It is an intense poem about civil rights and black history. Lester is 23 years old.

After reading it out loud for us in class – enunciating every word and raising her voice every time the phrase “Walk with Me” returns – Greta said, with tears streaming down her face, “This is very deep to me. I hope I did honor to it in the manner with which I read it.”

A grandson pours his feelings towards culture and history into a poem. The poem travels as a physical print from his hand to his grandmother’s, then as a verbal reading from his grandmother’s lips to her peers’ ears, then as typed text from a copy editor’s fingers into my email inbox then here via this blog onto your computer screen. The title just so happens to say, Walk with me.

All of that is so shockingly moving to me.

Greta Adams
My Grandson Lester Buffaloe/ Walk with Me

Come on let’s take a walk real quick.
Walk with me
Walk with me through the hot days and cold nights
Through the tough storms and bright lights
Let’s go back before I was born
Way back where my ancestors had to fight for their rights
Even before, walk with me where my ancestors were captured
from the motherland of Africa.
By devils that pulled them on the ships where they were living
unhealthy like animals bunched together.
For many nights, many days, and many months they were traveling
through the middle passage through every weather.
Walk with me through the Underground Railroad.
Walk with me to the wars of the world.
Where Hitler killed the innocent mothers, fathers, boys, and girls
Walk with me to the white bathrooms and black bathrooms.
And water fountains. And many more.
Walk with me to the lynching of black people.
Denzel said the white people weaken your mind
and strengthen your body so you can be inferior.
Walk with me with the great debaters to seek for rights to be equal
Walk with me; come on you can make it
Walk with me while I walk with Malcolm X
“By any means necessary”
And Martin Luther King Jr. “non violent, non violent”
Walk with me to sit on the back of the bus with Rosa Parks.
Walk with me to the sixteenth street Baptist church bombing
where four little girls were killed
and twenty people were injured.
Walk with me through the Watts riots and the riots
where blacks got sprayed with water hoses,
attacked by dogs, and beaten by cops.
Speaking of beating by cops, let’s walk a little faster to the future.
To the Rodney King beating that led to the 1992 Los Angeles Riots
and to the Sean Bell murder before his wedding.
Walk with me, to the neighborhoods
that’s infested with liquor stores
and crime on every block.
Walk with me to see the project where I have never been.
Walk with me through to see the crack heads and prostitutes.
Walk with me to talk to the kids who don’t have a mom or dad
because of bad choices.
Walk with me to find a solution to why money
is more important than the person.
Convenient stores where people walk in
to buy Cigarettes and leave with death
got a pound of marijuana from his friend that the government
technically gave to him
How do you think crack and heroin
got on the streets (government?)
I like how they want to decrease the population by putting Aids on
the streets and overpricing condoms
where some people can’t even  afford them.
And hard working students that just graduated from college
can’t get a job but yet they’re getting letters quick for loans
that they have to pay back right away.
Walk with me to the future, the end of the world.
Walk with me through the hot days and cold nights
through the tough storm and bright lights.
Walk with me to find what’s right.
It’s over for our journey but I’m going to keep walking,
Will you?