Inspiring short readings (poems?) about freedom and hope
April 8, 2009 8:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for inspiring short readings (poems? selections from essays?) loosely organized around the themes of freedom from oppression. Bonus points if they're fun to read and hear, building to a nice crescendo.

For Seder, some friends have asked each of us to prepare a short reading. It can be about anything related to freedom, or hope, and I'd like it if there were progressive political connotations.

I've been looking at poems by Rita Dove, June Jordan, and Martin Espada, all of which are amazing, but might not be perfect read-out-loud material. I'm looking for something that isn't just artful, but engages the listener. Perhaps something closer to the spoken word tradition might work?

Espada's poem "For the Jim Crow Mexican Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts Where My Cousin Esteban Was Forbidden to Wait Tables Because He Wears Dreadlocks" is closest to what I'm looking for -- but I think a friend wants to steal it, so I'd like to consider something else.

Besides, can you really have enough inspiring reading material? I think not. Please hit me with any recommendations that you would appreciate hearing in this context. Thanks in advance!
posted by jeffmshaw to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
See if you can find a copy of "American Indian Education: Counternarratives in Racism, Struggle, and the Law" by Matthew Fletcher. I've heard it read in various settings and always thought the stories were engaging. Some of theme might strike the chord you're looking for. It's not on Amazon, but check a university if you're close to one.
posted by motsque at 9:07 AM on April 8, 2009

I bet you could find something in Against Forgetting - an anthology edited by Carolyn Forché. Highly recommended in any case.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:12 AM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks! As it turns out, a preview of "American Indian Education" is on Google Books. (No such luck for "Against Forgetting." I will check it out.

Also, for anyone else checking this thread and wondering what other examples I'd cite, the top poem from Rita Dove is a good one.
posted by jeffmshaw at 9:26 AM on April 8, 2009

What about something from Martin Luther King, Jr.? The man had amazing oratory skills, and obviously inspired many to respond to injustice. I particularly like this portion of his Letter from a Birgmingham Jail:

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere in this country.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:32 AM on April 8, 2009

How about Langston Hughes? I like "I, Too, Sing America" and "Theme for English B."
posted by ihavepromisestokeep at 10:01 AM on April 8, 2009

With a little cherry-picking, you could pull some great stuff out of Vox Clamantis in Deserto by Ed Abbey.
It is a book of short blurbs, many with the topic of freedom from oppression, that could be easily reordered into a narrative that is meaningful to you.
Usually pretty irreverent and funny as well.
posted by Seamus at 11:48 AM on April 8, 2009

Try June Jordan's "Poem About My Rights" and "Kissing God Goodbye"among many of her other works.

Seconding Forche's Against Forgetting as well: an excellent anthology.
posted by cuetip at 12:50 PM on April 8, 2009

The Masque of Anarchy still stirs my blood:
Rise, like lions after slumber, in invanquishable number.
Shake your chains to Earth like dew, which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few.
Or another take on freedom:
Sound System
Static pulse inside of music bringing us escape.
Its always temporary, changing nothing in its wake...
Just a second where we're leaving all this shit behind
Just a second but its leaving just this much in mind:
To resist despair, that second makes you see
To resist despair, because you can't change everything
To resist despair, in this world is what it is to be free
posted by Methylviolet at 1:17 PM on April 8, 2009

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