The Ann Arbor (MI) Chapter of The Links, Inc.

 
We Speak Your Names




Adapted from We Speak Your Names, A Celebration, Pearl Cleage 2005
In honor of our chapter members and their legacy


Because we are free women,
born of free women,
who are born of free women,
back as far as time begins,
we celebrate your freedom.

Because we are wise women,
born of wise women,
who are born of wise women,
we celebrate your wisdom.

Because we are strong women,
born of strong women,
who are born of strong women,
we celebrate your strength.

Because we are magical women,
born of magical women,
who are born of magical women,
we celebrate your magic.

My sisters, we are gathered here to speak your names.
We are here because we are your daughters
as surely as if you had conceived us, nurtured us,
carried us in your wombs, and then sent us out
into the world to make our mark
and see what we see, and be what we be, but better,
truer, deeper
because of the shining example of your own
incandescent lives.

Gwendolyn Baker, Sadie Blackwell, Carolyn Boyd, Juanita Bradley, Betty Jean Childress, Ila Edwards, Virginia Ellis, Rose, Gibson, Christina Gilchrist, Mary Hamilton, Gloria Horne

We are here to speak your names
because we have enough sense to know
that we did not spring full blown from the
forehead of Zeus,
or arrive on the scene like Topsy, our sister once
removed, who somehow just growed.
We know that we are walking in footprints made
deep by the confident strides
of women who parted the air before them like the
 forces of nature that you are.

We are here to speak your names
because you taught us that the search is always for the truth
and that when people show us who they are, we
should believe them.

We are here because you taught us
that sisterspeak can continue to be our native tongue,
no matter how many languages we learn as we
move about as citizens of the world
and of the ever-evolving universe.

Willie Edwards*, Ann Lucas, Christella Moody, Christina Neal, Josephine Owens, Jennie Partee, Frances Vaughn, Rebecca Vaughn, Frances Watts*, Rosetta Wingo

We are here to speak your names
because of the way you made for us.
Because of the prayers you prayed for us.
We are the ones you conjured up, hoping we
would have strength enough,
and discipline enough, and talent enough, and
 nerve enough
to step into the light when it turned in our
direction, and just smile awhile.

We are the ones you hoped would make you proud
because all of our hard work
makes all of yours part of something better, truer,
deeper.
Something that lights the way ahead like a lamp
unto our feet,
as steady as the unforgettable beat of our collective
heart.

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

Letitia Byrd, Zerilda Palmer, Barbara Meadows, Hazel Turner, Virginia Bailey, Delores Anderson, Henri Parker

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

You could not have known that your collective example
Of the limitless possibilities that were open to us
Is what allowed us to look our mothers in the eye and say:
Mama, I want to be a doctor.
Mama, I want to be a lawyer, a leader
Or a world-changing force for good, loose in the world, and whirling

And even when she rolled her eyes and shook her head
And pronounced us more our father’s child than we had ever been hers,
She knew you had planted those ideas in our heads,
and she thanked you for letting us see
that we could be a part of something better, truer, deeper.

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

Thelma Brooks, Doris McLaurin, Lola Jones, Joetta Mial, Bella Parker, Laurita Thomas, Margaret Woodbury

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

And you made it look so easy.

You change the world around you with such fierce determination. Effortless style, and unshakeable grace
That we never suspected how hard it was to be out there in the real world,
Where sisterhood sometimes seems an abstract idea
And not the living, breathing thing we know and need and want it to be.

We have sometimes shivered at the edges of a very cold place,
Where people do not always see our beauty
Or understand the rhythm of our song.
At those moments, we whisper your names as a talisman and a touchstone,
So we will never forget who and what and why we are here.

And then, sometimes, in recognition of our superior skill, or our undeniable talent,
Or our absolute refusal to bend in the face of injustice,
Sometimes, we win the prize. The big one.
The one they will mention forever after when they call our names, or write our review, or compose our obituaries.

Sometimes, at the crucial, first one ever moment, we are invited to come to center court at Wimbledon, or up to the Oscar podium, or the Oval Office, or the Nobel ceremony,
Or the Broadway stage, and express our feelings
And the feelings of every African American woman watching
At a moment when all we really want to do is call your names.
All we really want to do is thank all of you for being with all of us,
Whenever and wherever we find ourselves,
Standing alone in the light.
At those moments, we remember those lessons you shared
By living your very public lives with such integrity And honor
That they became something better, truer, deeper.

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

Shirley Martin, Bettye McDonald, Vivian Hawkins, Nora Martin, Tracey White

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

Because we are free women,
born of free women,
who are born of free women,
back as far as time begins,
we celebrate your freedom.

Because we are wise women,
born of wise women,
who are born of wise women,
we celebrate your wisdom. Bonnie Davis, Cleo Caldwell, Stefani Carter, Marilyn Woolfolk

Because we are magical women,
born of magical women,
who are born of magical women,
we celebrate your magic.  

Anne Boyd, Jan Collins-Eaglin, Joyce Hunter, Sonya Jacobs

We celebrate your courage. Patricia Horne-McGee, Paula Allen-Meares, Patricia Manley
We celebrate your spirit.  Jill Anderson, Lori Blair, Mary Johnson
We celebrate your genius. Sandra Harris, Linda King, Dorian Moore, Lynn Wooten
We celebrate your loving kindness. Arlene Barnes, Gloria Edwards, Mary Gipson, Deborah Meadows
We celebrate your faith in yourselves, and in us.  Ana Van de Velde, Patricia Williams, Wendy Woods

We thank you for the dues you’ve paid,
And the prayers you’ve prayed.

We thank you for showing us how to fly by flying. Bonita Neighbors, Allison Ramsey, Margaret Scisney-Matlock

We thank you for these wings,
And we stand before you now, your living legacy,
The flesh and blood of our collective dreaming,
And we realize with a knowing deeper than the
Flow of human blood in human veins
That we are part of something better, truer, deeper.

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

Adapted from We Speak Your Names, A Celebration, Pearl Cleage 2005
 

 

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