“We speak your names”, a thunderclap of a poem by Pearl Cleage

Learning is an ongoing thing, it never stops. I look to many people for knowledge and wisdom.

Some I know personally, others I don’t. It goes without saying that Oprah Winfrey is one of the people in the latter category. Years ago she hosted her Legends Ball, to honour women who paved the way for her and others like her. I remember watching snippets off it and being humbled and inspired by the celebration of it all.

It’s a wonderful thing to host friends, it’s an even more wonderful thing to bring together people who you know will connect in a mutually beneficial relationship and get value from one another – even if it’s just by being in each others’ presence.

For the celebration, writer Pearl Cleage had put together a poem to honour the women in the room. The poem is called “We Speak Your Names”. It’s a powerful one. To me the poem is a reminder to stand in your power, whoever you are. But it is also a reminder to remember, acknowledge and thank all those who have helped you along the way, in any way.

Here is the poem “We Speak Your Names” (c) Pearl Cleage, 2005. Remember to keep being inspired:

Because we are free women,
born of free women,
who are born of free women,
back as far as time begins,
we celebrate your freedom.

Because we are wise women,
born of wise women,
who are born of wise women,
we celebrate your wisdom.

Because we are strong women,
born of strong women,
who are born of strong women,
we celebrate your strength.

Because we are magical women,
born of magical women,
who are born of magical women,
we celebrate your magic.

My sisters, we are gathered here to speak your
names.
We are here because we are your daughters
as surely as if you had conceived us, nurtured us,
carried us in your wombs, and then sent us out
into the world to make our mark
and see what we see, and be what we be, but better,
truer, deeper
because of the shining example of your own
incandescent lives.

We are here to speak your names
because we have enough sense to know
that we did not spring full blown from the
forehead of Zeus,
or arrive on the scene like Topsy, our sister once
removed, who somehow just growed.
We know that we are walking in footprints made
deep by the confident strides
of women who parted the air before them like the
forces of nature that you are.

We are here to speak your names
because you taught us that the search is always for
the truth
and that when people show us who they are, we
should believe them.

We are here because you taught us
that sisterspeak can continue to be our native
tongue,
no matter how many languages we learn as we
move about as citizens of the world
and of the ever-evolving universe.

We are here to speak your names
because of the way you made for us.
Because of the prayers you prayed for us.
We are the ones you conjured up, hoping we
would have strength enough,
and discipline enough, and talent enough, and
nerve enough
to step into the light when it turned in our
direction, and just smile awhile.

We are the ones you hoped would make you
proud
because all of our hard work
makes all of yours part of something better, truer,
deeper.
Something that lights the way ahead like a lamp
unto our feet,
as steady as the unforgettable beat of our collective
heart.

We speak your names.
We speak your names.

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