Lucille Clifton was one of the most influential poets in the world, yet she had a simple goal in life – she wanted to help Black people. She’d experienced the pain of oppression, but she knew a secret that she always used to keep a positive self-image.
Clifton knew that words and poetry could heal the body and soul. Through a kidney transplant and even numerous bouts with cancer, writing poetry had allowed her to survive. Poetry allowed her to nurture and teach her own children. But there was something more.
Through slavery, Jim Crow, countless acts of white violence, and institutional racism, our people were still here. Music, words, and even silence inspired her. Clifton drew her strength from Black resilience. One thing was clear to her.
Our people can survive anything, including racism and oppression!
Clifton’s writing tackled motherhood, illness, death, racism, sexism, poverty, abuse, juvenile crime, and other hardships, and her understanding of how these issues shaped the beauty of Blackness inspired all of her work, including her children’s books. She wrote through the lives of her children and even the death of her husband.
Clifton’s positive self-image and pride in our people allowed her to give voice to our experiences and our power. We must always remember that we can celebrate and uplift ourselves, even in the face of incredible challenges!