Advocacy of Social Equity for Blacks in Gwendolyn Brooks' Poems

Posted on: 14th May 2023


Regarding Gwendolyn Brooks,the poet, Your final assignment is an eight- to ten-page conference-style essay based on Formal Writing Assignment 2: Abstract and Formal Writing Assignment 3: Annotated Bibliography. You can use this to help you format your paper correctly: Format template.docx Download Format template.docx

The primary methodology for the final paper is CLOSE READING, just like you did for Formal Writing Assignment 1: Close Reading Essay, so make sure to review my comments on that assignment and the Formal Writing Assignments Instructions (1).pptx Download Formal Writing Assignments Instructions (1).pptx. For this essay, you will enhance close reading with deeper analysis and with THREE (updated from the original FIVE) external sources from your Formal Writing Assignment 3: Annotated Bibliography that will help you make your argument about the text or texts you plan to examine.

You can write about any texts that we have read this semester. You can analyze any formal aspects and connect those aspects to the larger themes or meanings. You might focus on just one text or several. You can write about the ways texts relate to and inform each other, examining the similarities and the points of departure between them as long as you are making an argument about the text or texts, closely reading passages from the text or texts, and using outside sources to help you communicate your reading of it.

Here are questions to ask yourself about the structural aspects of your paper:

Does the introduction present and describe the materials under analysis?

Does the introduction point to the specific elements or approach to that analysis?

Is there a clearly articulated thesis that states precisely what the essay's argument is?

Is the paper structured along the lines of that argument, taking the reader through each aspect of the thesis?

Does the paper introduce and contextualize outside sources that are appealed to in order to support the argument (and this can be by agreement or disagreement, by connection, expansion, or departure)?

Are complex concepts, ideas, arguments, and theories explained clearly and succinctly without oversimplifying or overcomplicating them?

Are textual passages introduced and contextualized?

Are textual passages analyzed forcefully and clearly with careful close readings that support some aspect of the thesis?

Is there a careful conclusion that brings us back through the essay's overall line of reasoning now that the case has been made?

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Advocacy of Social Equity for Blacks in Gwendolyn Brooks' Poems

Gwendolyn Brooks was born on 7th June 1917 in Topeka, Kansas but was raised in Chicago. She wrote more than 20 poet books, such as Blacks, Annie Allen, Children Coming Home, and A Street in Bronzivelle. She became a respected and exceptional poet whose works were loved by people of all ages. Much of Gwendolyn's works reflected the life of urban African-Americans. Nonetheless, the themes presented in her poems were applicable to the universal life. Her debut, A Street in Bronzeville, was published in 1945, reflecting life in a street in Chicago. She led to the growth of American literature through her collection of poems and books. Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950, she also won several accolades that make her one of the most successful female African American writers. Brooks also managed to master the use of functional techniques in her work, but most importantly, her works represented a critique of the American society during the time. In her book Blacks, Brooks uses her experience and background to discuss the socioeconomic status and value of being black in the US when racism was high. In this essay, the foucs is on three poems from the book Blacks by Gwendolyn Brooks which include I am Black, the Bean Eaters, and A Street in Bronzeville. In these three poems, Brooks is influenced to discuss and advocate for social equity for blacks living in the US because of her African origins and experience living in the country at a period when racism was high.

Some poets have often mentioned that any black poet who fails to air the black experience is not a true black poet. A black poet can only write themes pertaining to the black experience (Melhem 9). Since they are blacks, there is nothing else that ought to write about. Whatever such writers choose to write about, for instance delicious chocolate, trees, or weather, it still needs to reflect the lives of the black people. Even if they strive to avoid mentioning issues about blacks, something will always come out. According to Brooks, the black experience refers to any experience that a black person exhibits in life. In the book "Blacks," Brooks devoted most of the poems to the celebrated and small lives lived by the black urban poor population. More importantly, Brooks often stated that she hated using the term African American and preferred using blacks. She said that she loved to think of black people as one family with a member who dwells in different places. As such, black people in Haiti or Brazil will not appreciate being African Americans.

The racism experience among black people highly influenced Brooks to extensively write about social stigma, segregation, and slavery in her collection "Blacks." She wrote about these topics based on their lasting impacts on the black people. Therefore, her works illustrate the important concept of double consciousness. W.E.B Dubois coined the term stating that besides the Indians, Greeks, Romans, Teutons, Egyptians, and the Mongolians, the Negro is regarded as the seventh son born in veil and given the advantage of the second sight in the United States (Hudson 16). He further stated that America is a land that had failed to provide the Negro with self-consciousness but only let him see this through the revelations of the other world. Before the transatlantic slave trade, blacks never identified themselves through their skin color but tribal affiliations (Brooks 15). Therefore, they only formed color affiliations once they arrived in America from Africa when they interacted with a population dominated by white people. Hence black people were never recognized as normal people anymore. The double-consciousness described in the works of the early writers functions in three different ways. To begin with, black people ought to check themselves against pre-existing stereotypes and decide whether their behaviors represent the damaging portrayals. 

Another important aspect of Brook's works is the use of the coming of age genre. The genre is characterized by the poet portraying the transformation of a character and thereby suggesting that they can change their understanding and perception of life. Brooks has perfected the technique by portraying the effects of oppression and racial discrimination against black people (Melhem 9). She achieves an emotional sense of emotional appeal through her use of the technique. She portrays how racial segregation impacts the lives of people from different groups. Besides, she also portrays crucial rhetoric, poetic, and literary techniques that enhance her work's effectiveness. The conscious intent evident in her early poems enables Brook to achieve her main objective of showing oppression and discrimination against the blacks. Her concerns with regard to social problems became deeper with her book, Blacks.  Noteworthy, Brooks also grew up listening to powerful speakers in Illinois, which allowed her to write powerful poems. Most poem analysts state that it was quite difficult to figure out how Brooks could manage to be so good at articulating her point in the poems she wrote. However, it is believed that her ability to appreciate the complex phenomenon inside simple things was the main reason for her prowess.

Brooks always championed the poor black people she lived in the society in the poem The Bean Eaters. In this poem, she states, "They eat beans, mostly, this old yellow pair. Dinner is a casual affair" (Brooks 13). Brooks tells the audience about a poor old couple who eat beans in their ranted black house in this poem. She sketches the couple's lifestyle in a clear, vivid manner, which allows the audience to perceive their rich experience instead of the poverty that confronts them (Melhem 9). In continuing the discussion of social inequality in American society, Brooks in the poem The Bean Eaters focuses on the people who are elderly and poor. In most cases, people living in poverty in the US and low socioeconomic status experience discrimination (Brooks). They are limited in the access to facilities, good food, or even able to complete their education and have equal opportunities in life. The government is not also doing enough to take care of such people's welfare. The poem is based on this analysis to sarcastically describe how the elderly and those living in poverty experience discrimination in society. The main aim here is to get the audience to care for the elders and those with low social-economic status without this background influencing how they are treated. For instance, the people's meal regularly includes beans, which Brooks describes as a "casual affair." This is in reference to the exaggeration of the low social status of the elderly couple that she describes, who seem to live in a lonely environment. The description is contrasted sharply by indicating that those in the upper class of society eat a meal of "chipware." Brooks invents this term to make sense of how wealthy people in society are associated with technological advancements and high social status (Pittman). Contrasting the meals and couples indicates how American works as a class system at the time, which left people who were weak and poor in society discriminated against. This creates a sense of injustice that while some people are wealthy in society, some are poor and only can afford a cheap meal of beans that is eaten every day, which is dehumanizing. Therefore, Brooks uses the elderly couple as a symbolic picture to paint the picture of many Americans suffering in a capitalist society. When writing the poem, most of the people living in the low social status included minority groups and blacks and poor whites that had just moved out of slavery (Pittman). The loneliness of the couple could symbolize the segregation of these minority groups from the rest of the society to enhance the discrimination and social injustices against them.

In the book Blacks Brooks reiterates the need for black people worldwide to express their preferences. In her poem I am Black, Brooks writes that "According to my teachers, I am now an African-American, They call me out of my name. BLACK is an open umbrella, I am Black and A Black forever" (Brooks 13). The excerpt suggests how much the writer value being black and hence the motivation behind the black themes all over her poems. In terms of her interest in the socioeconomic issues affecting black people, her works can be compared to those of Richard Wright and others who also portrayed similar interests. Together, their works led to the expansion of the United States later on since it enhanced relations among people. Nonetheless, racism is still regarded as one of the main social issues in America today. However, Brooks and the other writers initiated the debate, which has since contributed to forming the ideal American society. Her works displayed what can be termed as a great awareness of issues of color and social justice through the experience of a new movement, energy, and power of statement, intensity, and richness, which changed her mind and consequently her style. 

Brooks calls for the blacks to appreciate their origins and value across the world in her poem I am Black. In this case, she reiterates that she is black and will always be black. The repetition of this line throughout the poems emphasizes the importance of appreciating being of black origin and being proud of skin color. From the title, it is already clear that the poem is celebrating being of the African culture (Hudson 16). No matter where an individual is, being black is an issue that will not change, and it is important that people are proud of their color without self-discrimination or feeling inferior to another because of their skin color. Therefore, this brings an affective dimension to the value of people of color by arguing that a rich cultural heritage is celebrated and appreciated globally. Considering the setting when the racism in America was high, the main theme, therefore, encourages the blacks in America at the time to stand up and stop feeling sorry for their color or origin because of the white supremacy and racism they were experiencing.

In the first line of the poem I am Black, Brooks indicates that the teachers have allocated her the identification of African Americans. Brooks argues that this is being called out of her name, in this case, Black. The opening with this strong statement shows how passionate she is about celebrating the cultural heritage of being black and African. However, there is an interesting view. In most cases, blacks are referred to as African Americans. However, the irony in the first line clearly shows that this is a social stereotype created by people in society. Brooks criticizes how Americans and professionals have coined the term African American and use it largely to describe people with dark skin (Hudson 16). However, this is not the true identity of most people. Like the author, she has been born in Africa and a village that she describes as largely black. Therefore, being in America does not change her status of being black, and neither should people in the society refer to her in the same way. In fact, towards the end of the poem, she reiterates that she does not need any person to call her out of her name.

In the middle of the poem I am Black, Brooks mentions the way blacks are spread out in many countries and continents across the world. This is especially important as it helps in arguing that being black is a value and rich heritage that should not be taken away from people. Further, blacks should not be referred to as African Americans because they are not limited to the American country only but spread globally. Brooks then emphasizes that blacks have roots in Africa and irrespective of where one is or born outside the continent, they should cherish and passionately care for their origins and celebrate their heritage without fear (Hudson 16). The choice of words and phrases in this stanza indicates a growing loud voice and the importance of respecting the blacks and promoting equality. She argues that being born in a village in Nigeria and being named by her parents, a name with a lot of cultural significance in the area, does not make her less of an individual than whites. Therefore, this is a way not only to celebrate her skin color but encourage the audience to enhance social equality among each other irrespective of their color and avoid giving blacks socially created identities such as African American and race, among other terms that enhance discrimination.

Brooks also argues the importance of social justice in the poem A Street in Bronzeville. The works are a collection of poems that majorly discuss the blacks in America and how they suffered and were oppressed by reflecting the Chicago town. In this case, the focus is on the lives of the blacks who were living in the suburban area around Chicago. Most of the poems reflect how these populations had low socioeconomic status and agreed to be segregated from the white communities. In most of these poems, Brooks uses irony and sarcasm to describe how the blacks suffer at the hand of the white privileged society. The segregation includes the schools and opportunities for education, poverty, and lack of decent jobs that made most people struggle with providing for their families. For this reason, Brooks became celebrated championing for the rights of blacks in the US and passionately used her poetry skills to reach a wider audience in the US. Most of her works were used during the period to discuss the issues of racism and discrimination against African Americans, who had just come out of a slavery institution that demeaned and dehumanized people of color. The contribution has had significance in the contemporary discussions of African Americans.

In conclusion, most of Brooks' works have notable similarities that suggest her interest in a particular socioeconomic issue. The similarities in most of her popular works can be noted in terms of rhetorical styles, themes, and authorial period. Most of her popular works were authored between 1945 and 1950, when the United States witnessed a unique social, economic, and political system that became the basis of her works. Oppression of African Americans and racial segregation, especially among urban dwellers, were central themes of her works. She used her works to reveal the vice of racial segregation and inequalities that formed part of America's political and social system during those days. As a result, her systematic works played a crucial role in transforming interracial relations in the country. The reason is that most of her works mirrored the struggles and personal celebrations of ordinary citizens. 


Works Cited

Brooks, Gwendolyn., "Blacks." Third World Class Publishers. Pp. 1-15

Hudson, Clenora F. "Racial Themes in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks." CLA Journal 17.1 (1973): 16-20.

Melhem, D. H. Gwendolyn Brooks: Poetry and the Heroic Voice. University Press of Kentucky, 1987.

Pittman, Bina T. Applying post traumatic slave syndrome to the characters in Gwendolyn Brooks's "A Street in Bronzeville" and "The Bean Eaters". Diss. Morgan State University, 2011.

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