Poetry Corner: Drinking Gourd

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To much pride to beg for change,

But tired of walking outside into a police gun range.

Instead of being stuck on a plantation we use to look up and follow stars,

Walked thousands of miles not ride around in foreign cars.

Instead of sob and mourn with a broken heart,

I’m ten toes down feet on the ground today I march.

These size 10.5 are my forever chariot,

Not comparable but I’ll lead like the modern day Harriet.

History of the Drinking Gourd

The American folksong Follow the Drinking Gourd was first published in 1928. The Drinking Gourd song was supposedly used by an Underground Railroad operative to encode escape instructions and a map. These directions then enabled fleeing slaves to make their way north from Mobile, Alabama to the Ohio River and freedom. Taken at face value, the “drinking gourd” refers to the hollowed-out gourd used by slaves (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper. But here it is used as a code name for the Big Dipper star formation, which points to Polaris, the Pole Star, and North. 

In the ensuing 80 years, the Drinking Gourd played an important role in the Civil Rights and folk revival movements of the 1950s and 1960s, and in contemporary elementary school education. Much of the Drinking Gourd’s enduring appeal derives from its perceived status as a unique, historical remnant harkening back to the pre-Civil War South – no other such map songs survive. But re-examining the Drinking Gourd song as history rather than folklore raises many questions. And the Drinking Gourd as it appears in roughly 200 recordings, dozens of songbooks, several award-winning children’s books and many other places is surely not “traditional.” The signature line in the chorus, “for the old man is awaitin’ for to carry you to freedom,” could not possibly have been sung by escaping slaves, because it was written by Lee Hays eighty years after the end of the Civil War

Listen to the song below

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Evan Wheeler hails from Camden, NJ. Most know him as Huey X, which is his selected born again name. It was selected by his love of Huey P Newton and Malcolm X who he follows for their beliefs and looks up to as his mentors. Huey is a well educated brother by the standards of college, as well as being a self taught activist and revolutionary through his experiences in life. He also thinks of himself as an entrepreneur being involved in so many different fields that include: poetry, writing, youth advocacy, business development, investing, and production. He is, “Always looking to advance the culture & legacy ".

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