20 pages • 40 minutes readElizabeth Acevedo
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“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (1978)
Angelou’s first-person poem is a paean to the beauty and resilience of Black women, who have overcome slavery and racism with grace and style. While the imagined reader in “Afro-Latina” is Afro-Latino, “Still I Rise” is a direct address to an ignorant, possibly hostile reader who has failed to appreciate Black women. The difference between imagined readers reflects a greater focus on writing for Black audiences rather than non-Black ones in contemporary literature.
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“Middle Passage” by Robert Hayden (1985)
Using multiple voices, fragments of historical documents, and Black spirituals, Robert Hayden retells the story of the 1839 revolt of enslaved Mende aboard the Spanish human-trafficking ship Amistad. Like Acevedo, Hayden explores history and discovers powerful stories about the fortitude of Black ancestors.
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“Hair” by Elizabeth Acevedo (2016)
In this first-person poem, Acevedo addresses how beauty culture perpetuates anti-Black racism that teaches people of African descent to hate their hair. As she does in “Afro-Latina,” Acevedo explores the roots of internalized racism.
The Cultural Politics of Slam Poetry by Susan B. A. Somers-Willett (2009)
Somers-Willett explores the cultural context of slam poetry, with special focus on the relationship between the poet and the audience and the place of identity in the works of slam poets.
By Elizabeth Acevedo