Check out this spoken word poem by an extremely talented artist who spoke out and was heard.
I’m staring at these letters
Like rearranging them into words
Is supposed to make it better.
I’m listening to this music like it can heal this sick.
My fingertips run across this keyboard
As if they are running from the Lord.
If Jonah didn’t already try it.
It’s impossibility, I wouldn’t buy it.
Look at how far we’ve come
And you still can’t trust
In the direction of love,
Or correction from above.
I pray for you in the morning and when the moon greets the sky,
But you slack and hold back
From the one person who ever gave two damns about you,
Preventing pain from flooding through,
One on each side of your heart, I got the bottom and the top. I’m doing my part.
I never thought I would sacrifice
So much for a person who made me at least once think twice.
You should be thankful.
I tried to stay humble like the grateful
Old wise man whose head is grey full.
Every strand Represents some grand
Trial or tribulation. And though it was sad then,
It made him who he is today.
So even if I did ever hurt you in any way,
My only purpose would be to make you stronger
‘Cause my only concern
Was to fit in that definition of you.
So when they say your last name,
I can to be mentioned too.
Why write at a time when communication is primarily through email, text and social media why sit down in front of a keyboard and pound out page after page of properly spelled, grammatically correct full sentences? Why spend hours churning out material that can be chatted about in a few brief moments, or, even better, tweeted about in a couple of seconds? The need for well written literature still exists in spite of our new age, fast-paced way of communicating.
The first reason would be a personal one. There is a huge mental and spiritual benefit to spending time alone in front of a blank computer screen. Taking time to truly think about how you feel about a subject aids in personal growth and development in a way even therapy can’t. The therapy is in the words that flow from your fingertips. Forcing yourself to express your thoughts thoroughly and accurately helps you identify what is going on in your own heart and mind. True growth and progress can only come when the issues of concern are clearly defined. A quick tweet on the same subject would come and go, lasting only a brief moment, never being allowed to flourish fully.
Another reason writing is so crucial is the opportunity it provides to engage with others. There’s no better way to engage with so many people than writing. Thoughts can be expressed clearly and will last forever. The written word can be passed along the generations, continually provoking thought and engaging all who care to be engaged enough to read what has been written!
Writing is one of the best ways to capture history. Time stands still within the pages of a book. Events are forever captured and eagerly wait to be shared with the world. The details that can be given cannot be measured! The camera can capture one brief moment from one brief angle. The written word can capture even those things that are unseen. Words can capture emotions, feelings and thoughts!
We have moved into a fast-paced world. We use as few words or ‘characters’ as possible to express ourselves. Yet there is still so much to be gained from the written word. Let’s flash back to a day where couples wrote love letters in their most sincere cursive. A time when people sat on porch swings and read, a time when stories were like treasures for the dinner tables and warm fire places.
Let’s go back.
I believe in the power of words. Every word can be defined. However, the denotation of a word is incapable of expressing a thought or feeling alone. Whether a word is written neatly across a page, whispered into the air, or screamed, it carries with it a sensation. Like everything else, words are complicated. There are multiple words to fit one meaning, and one meaning can belong to multiple words. It is important to remember, though, that words must not be thrown around, rearranged, recycled, or substituted without careful thinking. While a word may hold the correct meaning in a sentence, it may not be the best word to express a certain emotion. Choosing the wrong word can kill an entire sentence, or worse, a whole conversation.
Let’s say a teenage boy plays basketball and is aspiring to play at the college level. A recruiter calls him and asks him to describe his attraction to basketball. The boy replies, “I like it.” The recruiter will probably think twice about persuading the head coach to take a second look at the boy. What the boy should say is, “I am extremely passionate about basketball.” His diction should be selective and precise. A person can like something without putting forth any effort. As a result, the recruiter is left with the wrong impression and the teenage boy is left with only his potential and lack of communication skills.
Words are crucial in relationships. Whether it is an argument or reciting wedding vows, words have the strength to make or break a heart. The word “love” is misused an unacceptable amount of times in our world today. It is abused because people do not understand its entire meaning, including myself. What all does it entail? Can love be isolated from other emotions or does it encompass feelings like care, trust, faith, priority, consideration, etc.? I can say I love absolutely anything. I love my friends, but I lie to them. If I do not feel up to hanging out with them I create excuses. Sometimes I fail to listen to their stories about their boyfriends, families, or college. Most times, I tune them out because I am consumed in my own thoughts. Selfish, I know, but it’s the truth. Yes, I care about their lives but not as much as my own. Does this mean I truly love them?
I love books. I have not read a book in the past month. I do not always have a book in my hand. I do not constantly think about books or consistently seek for good books to read. They are always there for me, easily accessible. But their existence is taken for granted I must admit.
I love God. But sin is my best friend and the majority of the time, the devil comes before God. I go to church every Sunday but I forget to pray most nights. My bible stays closed during the week as if I’m hiding my secrets in it. If only I would scan the pages at least, I could find peace and lay my sins to rest. But I don’t. I just say “someday, someday.”
I can say I love these things. I can say it until my teeth bleed, but love is not the right word. Until I can truly learn to love them, I must settle instead for “I conveniently care for them.”
How well do you pay attention to the words you choose?
“If you want to hide something from a man, put it in a book.” Powerful words from the grandmother of one of my close friends. He told me she was always telling him stories with underlying life lessons, but this, he believed most. She instilled in him the value of education and the world beyond this world, only found through searching the pages of a book.
Reading is at the foundation of our existence. How else would we communicate with the world around us. Every letter or mark on a page is a symbol, directing our thoughts and attention. ——> Look to the right. Or, : ) Smile. Yes, we have manipulated languages and drawings, and it’s all good. It is creativity, it is communication, it is art, and it shapes us.
Let me give you 3 reasons to physically read again:
1. Practice your Freedom
Through space and time, there exists this thing called oppression. Whenever a group wants to be superior to another, they take away their right to knowledge. They outlaw teaching them how to read and write. Without the ability to read or write, a person is incapable of forming their own thoughts and opinions. Therefore, they learn only to accept their inferiority. For example, a South Carolina slave law states “the having slaves taught to write, or suffering them to be employed in writing, may be attended with great inconveniences.”
Great inconveniences implies a loss of power among the superior group or white males.
Activists who spoke out during oppressive situations, including Frederick Douglas, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, understood the importance of reading in order to understand and fight for their rights.
“I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. I certainly wasn’t seeking any degree, the way a college confers a status symbol upon it’s students. My homemade education gave me, with every additional book that I read a little bit more sensitivity to the deafness, dumbness, and blindness that was afflicting the black race in America. Not long ago, an English writer telephoned me from London, asking Questions. One was, “What’s your alma mater?” I told him, “Books.”
~ Malcolm X
2. Create a Healthy Lifestyle
Smartphones and tablets are becoming the rulers of human life. We stare at them until we fall asleep and they are the first thing we touch when we wake up. Stop it people! Put the phone down, and pick up a book. You will sleep more, sleep better, and feel more refreshed the next day. See, there is this hormone called melatonin that helps you stay asleep, but your iPhone clashes with the production of that hormone.
Books, on the other hand, do not flash bright lights in your face. Instead, they lull you to sleep faster because your eyes get tired from scrolling the pages, without all the bright light chaos.
3. Make More Money
Steve Jobs, the Apple Genius, would not be who he is today if it weren’t for his ability to tell stories. You would not be holding that iphone if Steve Jobs did not know how to convince his board members that it would fit into an average person’s daily life. The way he describes his products is so sensible yet mind-blowing in one sentence. A MacBook became “The world’s thinnest notebook,” the iPod is known as “1000 songs in your pocket.” Who wouldn’t want these amazing products?
Reading will allow you to grasp concepts and learn how to articulate your own ideas into a language that people will crave. You will be able to better communicate with your colleagues, and more importantly, your boss. Steve Jobs is not the smartest man in the world, but he believed in an idea, and knew how to tell a story to make it work.
According to John Leland’s New York Times article, Ntozake Shange, author of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf, wrote one poem everyday until a neurological disease took over her hands and feet. She suffered two strokes before being diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, a disease that causes involuntary shaking and loss of reflexes.
Leland describes her struggle expressing her language due to her inability to write or type, without pain. Leland quotes Shange who said “It sort of feels empty, not like I’m swollen with words. I feel like there’s an astringent being applied to my body so that everything is getting very tight and I can’t release it right this minute.”
If you’ve seen “For Colored Girls,” you know Shange is well acquainted with hardship. In her works, she explores what it means to be a black woman, relationships among black women and men, racism, slavery and so on. She articulates her language in a way that forces the reader to pay attention and then linger a while after to delve in the true meaning of her words.
Although she is unable to write, she has played with voice recognition software. She complains that spell check takes away from her artistic slang and writing style. The software diminishes the essence of her art by destroying her black vernacular, which has a heavy influence on African American poetry still today.
“I found God in myself
and I loved her
I loved her fiercely.”
Shange is like any of us. She sees issues, in her own life and surrounding. She is receptive to her life as a black woman, racism, and now, her fight with her health. She is different from some of us, because she captures and controls these issues through her writing.
Her words are her way of understanding what life is supposed to mean, and although she may not be able to write, her mind is constantly working to arrange her hurt and express it in a way that can help others. And through her connection with people, she creates art.
There are words caged inside her. There are words caged in all of us. We all have our problems. What would you say is holding you back? Comment below.