Black Poetry: won’t you celebrate with me by Lucille Clifton

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This isn’t something we can just ignore. If we don’t fight, we’ll never be equal.

by Lucille Clifton

won’t you celebrate with me

won’t you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.


Lucille Clifton, “won’t you celebrate with me” from Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton. Copyright © 1991 by Lucille Clifton.


Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton, the author of Blessing the Boats: New and Selected Poems 1988–2000 (BOA Editions, 2000), which won the National Book Award, was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 1999.

Date Published: 1991-01-01

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This was written thirty years ago. Are you still afraid to walk down a black neighborhood? Are you afraid of being surrounded by blacks? Should you fear when a black person walks up to you?

Having a darker complexion should not mean you are a terrorist. Being dark has no connection to being evil.

The reason I made Alex dark is for my half siblings, half siblings. Because I know how common this thought is among my family and friends. I was taught to see black skin as if the enemy. And my father was very clear about how dangerous blacks are.

I didn’t believe my father. I didn’t realize how bad life was for blacks. I didn’t understand racism at all until I had a real chance to listen in college. But I didn’t think they were evil or bad or the enemy. My half sib, half sibs were common in my life growing up. Their father existed. I never felt threatened by them. Never. Not once. I had a few blacks in school with me. I didn’t see them as any different from anyone else in the popular group. Yeah. Popular group. One was the captain of the football team. He took us to the championship. I saw him as skilled and capable.

I had no idea what they dealt with on a daily basis. The way society treats black is different than the way society treats my various disqualifications for “normal”. Generally, I won’t fear a cop shooting first and asking questions afterwards.

I had no idea my father’s perspective on blacks is the far more common one. Mine is radical. Equality is radical? That doesn’t make sense.

When I realized that, I started picking apart my own views and thoughts on the matter. I’m definitely not KKK level. Or Nazi level. Still, racism is what I was taught. It’s so much easier for me to fight sexism. I know that feeling. I know how society views me and how it makes me feel. But I’ll never fully grasp being black.

I’ll never be black.

But any chance I have for boosting, I have to take it. So should you. Equality is worth fighting for. Join the fight.

Research. Write. Show up. Help. Press. Fight.

And above all else


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