Category Archives: Toni Cade Bambara

Poets Are Leaders

I guess it’s funny that I feel more comfortable calling myself a leader than an artist. I came across this poem by Maya Angelou and realized that you can’t be a poet without being a leader.

A Conceit

Give me your hand

Make room for me
to lead and follow
you
beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have
the privacy of
touching words
and love of loss
of love.

For me
Give me your hand.

Perhaps it does take a bit of conceit to think your experiences, dreams and passions could be instructive to someone else. Of course, many of us may not intend to lead with our works. We create because something in us needs freedom and form. We know if we tried to contain it, we would implode. Still, our work takes people on a journey that they wouldn’t have taken or even known about if we had not used those words, colors or sounds. Obvious politics or not, art is leadership. It can take us to scary places within ourselves or drag us out into the sunshine.

Our personal creations are the evidence of our courage and unity. It is always a risk to write, but the fact that it may be received by someone on a similar journey makes it worthwhile.

Warrior poet Audre Lorde once said:

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

I was recently speaking with some friends about why we do not share certain creative pieces with people. I wish I had mentioned Audre Lorde then. She makes my voice move when it needs to and motivated me to share the piece below. This poem came about after I received a big career opportunity based on my performance, but still felt like a little girl scared to show her face.

Then

When I have nothing
to prove.

When I have nothing
to hide.

Then,
I will be free.

Toni Cade Bambara tells us,  “The job of the writer is to make the revolution irresistible.”  She also explains, “Revolution begins with the self, in the self.”

Which poets lead you? Where do they lead you? Do they make change irresistible?

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