The eminent scholar “took the bull by the horns,”
substituting urban black speech for the voice
of an illiterate cop in Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazusae.
And we sat there.
Dana’s purple eyes deepened, Becky
twitched to her hairtips
and Janice in her red shoes
scribbled he’s an arschlock; do you want
to leave? He’s a model product of his
education, I scribbled back; we can learn from this.
In blending Cassie’s childlike fantasy with altruism and justice, Ringgold highlights not only one child’s ability to use play to prepare for the stresses of the adult world, but also the power fantasy maintains even for adults when it comes to seeking justice and defining freedom. Flight may be a typical childhood dream, but it’s also a deep motif of resistance in African-American folklore. (In 1985, author Virginia Hamilton packaged that motif expressly for young readers in her gorgeous collection The People Could Fly.) While Cassie’s dress changes color above the George Washington Bridge, the page is bordered with pieces of Ringgold’s story quilt–in which Cassie’s story originally appeared–a testament to the idea that the dream/memory is not only Cassie’s, but that of an entire community.
“I think for me I don’t approach the page with some necessary truth that I’m aware of as I enter a poem. Often my poems start with a story or a fragment that I want to communicate or display for people and embedded in those things is a truth that reveals later.”
Here in the Great Lakes region of the Midwest, waterways were especially pivotal to Underground Railroad history, and movement to and across those waters highlights the remarkable bravery, determination, and resourcefulness of escaping slaves as well as their allies.