second daughters second day on earth Brown gIrl dreaming

second daughter’s second day on earth

My birth certificate says: Female Negro

Mother: Mary Anne Irby, 22, Negro

Father: Jack Austin Woodson, 25, Negro

In Birmingham, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr.

is planning a march on Washington, where

John F. Kennedy is president.

In Harlem, Malcolm X is standing on a soapbox

talking about a revolution.

Outside the window of University Hospital,

snow is slowly falling. So much already

covers this vast Ohio ground.

In Montgomery, only seven years have passed

since Rosa Parks refused

to give up

her seat on a city bus.

I am born brown-skinned, black-haired

and wide-eyed.

I am born Negro here and Colored there

and somewhere else,

the Freedom Singers have linked arms,

their protests rising into song:

Deep in my heart, I do believe

that we shall overcome someday.

and somewhere else, James Baldwin

is writing about injustice, each novel,

each essay, changing the world.

I do not yet know who I’ll be

what I’ll say

how I’ll say it . . .

Not even three years have passed since a brown girl

named Ruby Bridges

walked into an all-white school.

Armed guards surrounded her while hundreds

of white people spat and called her names.

She was six years old.

I do not know if I’ll be strong like Ruby.

I do not know what the world will look like

when I am finally able to walk, speak, write . . .

Another Buckeye!

the nurse says to my mother.

Already, I am being named for this place.

Ohio. The Buckeye State.

My fingers curl into fists, automatically

This is the way, my mother said,

of every baby’s hand.

I do not know if these hands will become

Malcolm’s—raised and fisted

or Martin’s—open and asking

or James’s—curled around a pen.

I do not know if these hands will be


or Ruby’s

gently gloved

and fiercely folded

calmly in a lap,

on a desk,

around a book,


To change the world

P. 3-5

I do not yet know if these hands will become...

Malcolm's, raised and fisted- the poem is referencing Malcolm's urge to fight. He would keep fighting for their rights, no matter what.

Martin's, open and asking- The poem is referencing Martin's lack of violence and use of words to fight for civil rights. He was open and asking towards the public, asking for their rights to be acknowledged.

James's curled around a pen- Jacqueline writes about how James Baldwin wrote to defend protect and acknowledge their rights.


or Ruby's gently gloved and fiercely folded calmly in a lap, on a desk, around a book, ready- Jacqueline writes about how ruby and rosa fought quietly. They did not act rashly, they simply did what could not be punished, slowly but surely, pushing, for their rights.

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