Wonderful Wednesday - Wise Words from Another - Clause McKay

Wonderful Wednesday - it is wonderful to stand tall and proud in the face of unfair opposition.

In this entry we are continuing the Wonderful Wednesday - Wonderful Words from Other series. Today I am going to share Claude McKay's "If We Must Die." As a young child, I remember wanting to be a black panther. I liked the idea of fighting against oppression and making the world a better place for my people. My career as a panther was cut short before it even began. I was not allowed off the front steps, I was not allowed to use the telephone and I was denied access to the postal service.

While I could not be a panther. I did enjoy reading the poets of the Harlem Renaissance and through the 1960s. One poem I read as a child that helped instill a sense of pride and admiration for the fight was Claude McKay's "If We Must Die."

If We Must Die 
By Claude McKay 
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If we must die, let it not be like hogs

Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,

While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
 
Making their mock at our accursèd lot.
 
If we must die, O let us nobly die,
 
So that our precious blood may not be shed
 
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
 
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
 
O kinsmen! we must meet the common foe!
 
Though far outnumbered let us show us brave,
 
And for their thousand blows deal one death-blow!
 
What though before us lies the open grave?
 
Like men we'll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
 
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back! 

****************************

 

I like the fight in this poem. McKay saw the danger in fighting against his enemies. He knew the enemy was cruel, unwavering, and large in number. Yet, he was still determined to fight. In McKay's vision, one fought against oppression and maintained a sense of dignity while doing so. The poem is a rallying cry to a people being oppressed and killed in a disgusting and cruel manner. McKay calls upon his people to fight and die with honor, like men. McKay called for his people to never quit, never surrender.

I have lived my life following a version of that philosophy. I am a fighter! When I set my mind toward something I achieve it. I never quit, I never surrender. There is a sense of fight in me that is strong and wonderful. I like this poem because it is about strength and power and dignity. It helped me grow up strong and determined.

The words we read from others have the power to influence us to do great and wonderful things. So, the question for you this Wonderful Wednesday is what piece of literature has influenced and encouraged you to stay strong and fight against strong and overwhelming odds?

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Tags: fight, struggle, survive

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