Posted: December 2nd, 2022
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This short poem is related to the death of Tamir Rice who was shot and killed by police. Please read the poem on pages 93-95 titled TO BLESS THE MEMORY OF TAMIR RICE. Answer 2 of the following questions about the poem.
1) Notice that Jaji’s poem unfolds in two parts, the first on pp. 93–94 and the second on pp. 94–95, separated by an easy-to-miss asterisk (*). How do the two parts differ? Why do you think they do?
2) In the first half of the poem, beginning on p. 93, the speaker calls on us to “Plant,” “Build,” “Dig.” All three acts, of course, are related to the land. Look at the third stanza on p. 93, which opens, “Know that whether it leaches into the soil or not, this ground / was watered with his blood.” In the fifth stanza, then, what do you think Jaji means by the line, “This land is not our land”? Who is the “we” implied by the “our” in “our land”? How might planting, building, and digging remake “This land” into “our land”?
3) Turn to the second half of the poem, beginning on p. 94. How does Jaji redefine the music of lyric? Reread the third stanza after the asterisk on p. 94, which begins, “dey people dat sing de same song with de same words. Come to / find out dem words is not jes playplay words, dem words for weeping. So dema sit down together, an weep together, dey South Carolina an Sierra Leone family.” What is song associated with here? How does it bind Tamir Rice and U.S. Black history to Black histories in Sierra Leone and elsewhere in Africa? Why do you think p. 94 ends with the line, “you never forget the language you cry in”?
4) How does Jaji redefine the speaker of modern Western lyric, often assumed to be a first-person “I”? Is there an “I” here at all? What’s important about the first-person singular (“I”) becoming the first-person plural (“we,” “us”), especially in the second half of the poem? Look especially at the final stanzas of the poem, on p. 95. Who is the “us” here?
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