Light for the world to see

Kwame Alexander

Book - 2020

"From NPR correspondent and New York Times bestselling author, Kwame Alexander, comes a powerful and provocative collection of poems that cut to the heart of the entrenched racism and oppression in America and eloquently explores ongoing events. A book in the tradition of James Baldwin's "A Report from Occupied Territory," Light for the World to See is a rap session on race. A lyrical response to the struggles of Black lives in our world . . . to America's crisis of conscience . . . to the centuries of loss, endless resilience, and unstoppable hope. Includes an introduction by the author and a bold, graphically designed interior."--Amazon.

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Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 2020.
Main Author
Kwame Alexander (author)
Item Description
"A thousand words on race on race and hope"--Cover.
American bullet points, Take a knee, and The undefeated were originally performed for ESPN's
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : illustrations ; 18 cm
  • American bullet points
  • Take a knee
  • The undefeated.
Review by Booklist Review

The widely acclaimed author of nearly three dozen books for children, Alexander turns his poetic attention to three milestones in recent U.S. history: the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, the kneeling protests of Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem before NFL games, and the election of Barack Obama. Alexander works through these events in reverse chronological order, committing one long poem apiece to each of the three turning points. The poems are defined as much by their direct language and stark imagery ("we can't hold a gun / we can't stop that whip / we can't wear this skin") as by the highly stylized typography: much of the text appears on yellow banners against black backgrounds, mimicking police tape at crime scenes. Other pages include broken chains in grayscale and the American flag with its stars replaced by X's. One of the most powerful passages occurs when Alexander lists the names of Black individuals murdered by police and white vigilantes and stirs his readers to action. A brave intervention by a talented writer of conviction.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

In his essay "A Report from Occupied Territory," James Baldwin writes: "People are destroyed very easily. Where is the civilization and where, indeed, is the morality which can afford to destroy so many?" In his taut, lyrical book, Alexander (Booked) writes from that "occupied territory," a world in which "we can't see our home/ we can't breathe our air." Alexander explores and brings to life a world where so much exists in the negative: "we can't be ourselves/ we can't be at home/ we can't be alone," never shying away from the use of a collective "we" in his report of racial experience in America. There is sorrow here, as well as critique that develops toward hope. Channeling Gwendolyn Brooks, Alexander writes: "This is for the unbelievable./ The We Real Cool ones." Throughout, he enters and calls upon a chorus of voices from past and present, pushing toward a future of liberation and equality. This serves as an apt and timely reminder of the ongoing inequities in America, as well as of the power of collective hope. (Nov.)

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Review by School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up--This slim volume collects three previously published poems about racial injustice in the U.S. In a foreword, Alexander calls it a "rally in verse." Each poem is starkly presented, with large font set against a simple yet clever gray scale design with pops of pale yellow. The first poem, "American Bullet Points," opens with the title repeated against white and yellow strips, crisscrossed to evoke caution tape at a crime scene. Then, like a bulleted list, this poem relays things Black Americans cannot do without fear of violence. The poem undulates in a consistent, metrical rhythm and juxtaposes racist assumptions with their deadly consequences: "we can't be unarmed / we can't shoot ourselves." The next poem, "Take a Knee," opens with a design that suggests an upside-down American flag with mass graves for stars. The poem also references slain Americans--"take Tamir / take Trayvon"--while delivering a steady, unwavering, and insistent beat. The final poem, "The Undefeated" (the collaboration with Kadir Nelson that, in picture book form, won the 2020 Caldecott and received a 2020 Newbery Honor), ends the collection on a hopeful note, invoking all the ways Black Americans have, throughout history, overcome incredible challenges. VERDICT This collection poignantly captures the pain, rage, injustice, and resistance that mark this moment in American history. A solid purchase for all teen collections.--Erica Ruscio, Ventress Memorial Lib., Marshfield, MA

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Foreword Freedom Now In Brooklyn, New York, on the morning of November 7, 1978, as I got ready for school, my father, the principal, informed me that the entire student body would be marching over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan to protest the police killing of Arthur Miller, a Crown Heights Black civic leader. My first reaction was fear.       I cried as my classmates and I shakily marched across the Hudson River, along narrow streets lined with supporters and policemen. Even though this was not my first racial justice-themed school "field trip," it was my first march across a bridge, and I did not want to suffer the same fate John Lewis and his fellow civil rights demonstrators did on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965--attacked and bloodied by police officers. In my ten-year-old mind I was certain that if police officers who were sworn to serve and protect human beings could murder a civic leader--and be acquitted of all charges--then surely they wouldn't think twice about siccing their police dogs on us, or fire-hosing us, or worse, somehow managing to open up the bridge. While we were on it.       Among the marchers and protestors on that cloudy day were Jitu Weusi, founder of Uhuru Sasa Shule ("Freedom Now School" in Swahili), the progressive school I attended; Anna Quindlen, New York Times reporter; Sonia Sanchez, poet; and members of the congregation of the House of the Lord Church, whose pastor, Herbert Daughtry, was the protest's organizer and leader.       As the march entered Lower Manhattan and capstoned into a spirited rally, the reverend shouted atop a car, "We have not been satisfied that police are going to stop killing our children," and then he began to lead us in song . . . in a psalm of resistance: "We're fired up, we can't take no more. We're fired up, we can't take no more." As the chants grew louder, the rhythm stronger, a spiritual momentum gained, and I found myself joining the chorus of activists shouting triumphantly. The moment was contagious, akin to being in church and not realizing you're on your feet, clapping, making a joyful noise like everybody else . . . until you are. My angst cooled. I raised my huge placard with Miller's face on it and found my footing. I couldn't articulate what was happening at the time, but somehow, in that moment, I found comfort in my voice, in those around me who were lifting theirs. But it wasn't just comfort that the words and sounds brought me, it was also a kind of muscularity. A power to face the world and demand that it see me. The power to speak up about what mattered. Black lives.       Recently, as I've struggled to find my own meaningful way of parting these waters of racial injustice that threaten to drown us today, that have haunted us for centuries, I keep returning to the words we chanted that day. And wondering, are they strong enough to carry this weight?       This book is me attempting to answer that question. Me lifting my voice, using my words to say something . . . about racism, about Black triumph, about solidarity. About police brutality and its devastating impact on Black America, on America. This book is a sort of wading into the water, a roll of thunder, a call to action. A rally in verse.       Audre Lorde wrote, "Poetry lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before." We find ourselves in a world like never before. And, yet, we've always been here. In this moment, as we grapple with the fear, the uncertainty, the awakening, I turn to poetry, a small but powerful emotional geography that has the ability to reach inside of us, map our humanity, anchor us on solid ground, heal, and lift our souls to the heights of joy.       These three poems have been my balms. They are my chants, my psalms, my songs of protest. My hope for us is built on nothing less. We all want to be a part of the change that's happening in the world. So, yes, we are fired up, because we can't take no more. And we are coming for our freedom. Now. Kwame Alexander London, England July 2020 Excerpted from Light for the World to See by Alexander Kwame All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.