All Articles All Articles

DennisLoo.com

Alice Walker's "Gather" Poem

Gather
©2014 by Alice Walker
for  Carl Dix and Cornel West

Editor's note: Alice Walker - on her own initiative - penned this poem in honor of Carl Dix and Cornel West, calling forth others to join in this October's Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation. It's a powerful and eloquent statement from one of America's greatest treasures.


It is still hard to believe
that millions of us saw Eric Garner die.
He died with what looked like a half dozen
heavily clad
policemen
standing on his body, twisting and crushing
him
especially his head
and neck.
He was a big man, too.  They must have felt
like clumsy midgets
as they dragged him down.

 

Watching the video,
I was reminded of the first lynching
I, quite unintentionally, learned about:
it happened in my tiny lumber mill
town before the cows were brought in
and young white girls
on ornate floats
became dairy queens.
A big man too,
whom my parents knew,
he was attacked also by a mob
of white men (in white robes and hoods)
and battered to death
by their two by fours.

I must have been a toddler
overhearing my parents talk
and mystified by pieces of something
called “two by fours.”

Later, building a house,
i would encounter the weight,
the heaviness, of this varying length
of wood, and begin to understand.

What is the hatred
of the big black man
or the small black man
or the medium sized
black man
the brown man
or the red man
in all his sizes
that drives the white lynch mob
mentality?


I always thought it was envy:
of the sheer courage to survive
and ceaselessly resist conformity
enough to sing and dance
or orate, or say in so many outlandish
ways:
You’re not the boss
of me!
Think how many black men
said that: “Cracker,* you’re not the boss
of me;” 
even enslaved.  Think of how
the legal lynch mob
so long ago
tore Nat Turner’s body
in quarters
skinned him 

and made “money purses”
from his “hide.”

Who are these beings?

Now we are beginning to ask 
the crucial question.

[for the rest of the poem, go to Alice Walker's website here.]