I am afraid that one of those “missed opportunities” occurred today when the Freep ran an article on 88-year old Naomi Long Madgett who was honored last month by the Kresge Foundation with this year’s Eminent Artist Award, making her the first woman to receive metro Detroit’s most prestigious and lucrative award for an individual artist. It comes with a $50,000 prize.
While never being a great fan of poetry, I am now a big fan of Ms. Madgett and plan to get out there and look for her in my library. I might even go against my nature of sticking with libraries and make a bookstore purchase.
It was her poem, Midway, that I wanted to put out there for you.
I’ve come this far to freedom and I won’t turn back
I’m climbing to the highway from my old dirt track
I’m coming and I’m going
And I’m stretching and I’m growing
And I’ll reap what I’ve been sowing
or my skin’s not black
I’ve prayed and slaved and waited
and I’ve sung my song
You’ve bled me and you’ve starved me
but I’ve still grown strong
You’ve lashed me and you’ve treed me
And you’ve everything but freed me
But in time you’ll know you need me and it won’t be long.
I’ve seen the daylight breaking high above the bough
I’ve found my destination and I’ve made my vow;
so whether you abhor me
Or deride me or ignore me
Mighty mountains loom before me
and I won’t stop now.
While an extremely personal reflection, this is a message that truly resonates with me and that I plan to read over and over. Though I was born a white male in a middle class household and have had all the opportunities that status conferred on me, I have tried to live my life with an understanding of the plight of those not so fortunate. As we all work to lift up Detroit and those on the margins throughout our city, region and state, let us all take what we can from this amazing woman’s message.