Life Insurance: Nannie Helen Burroughs

Nannie Helen Burroughs

Reproduction of Knowledge Trust, part of Dead Feminists series of broadsides. Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring.

Education and justice are democracy’s only life insurance — Nannie Helen Burroughs

Although we are eight days into the month of November, I came to my senses and decided not to post every day for NaBloPoMo 2022. It took me a few days, but I realized that I don’t want to post for the sake of posting, especially when I need to spend my “real writing energy” on the unfinished essays that are due by the end of the year [self-imposed deadline]. Beginning with this post, I will return to my regular blogging schedule of two to three posts per week. I am looking forward to participating next year and I already have a manageable idea for the month.

Tonight I am sharing a postcard that was waiting for me when I returned from my brief roadtrip. It is appropriate for this election night as the results are rolling in. 

The postcard was sent by my Wildflowers friend, Kathi G. One of her artist friends creates inspirational art for women through the Dead Feminists Series, of which this card is part. 

The card features Nannie Helen Burroughs, an educator, religious leader, social activist, orator, businesswoman, feminist, and more.

The tiny print at the bottom of the card reads: 

Nannie Helen Burroughs (c. 1879 – 1961) was born in Orange, Virginia and moved with her mother to Washington, DC after her father’s death. As a student at M Street High School, she met activists Mary Church Terrell and Anna J. Cooper. After graduating with honors, she moved to Kentucky to work for the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention (NBC). At NBC’s annual meeting in 1900, Burroughs’ speech “How the Sisters Are Hindered from Helping” gained national attention and inspired her to co-found the NBC auxiliary Woman’s Convention (WC), the largest Black women’s organization in the United States. Here Black women could exercise their labor and organizing power independent of male membership and white women suffragists. Burroughs served the WC for over 40 years, first as corresponding secretary, then as president.

In 1907, funded by donations from women and children, Burroughs opened the National Training School for Women and Girls in Washington, DC, adopting the motto “We specialize in the wholly impossible.” To develop “the fiber of a sturdy moral, industrious, and intellectual woman,” students learned vocational skills to become self-sufficient wage earners. Burroughs’ Africon-American history class was a graduation requirement. She served as school president until her death. The former Trades Hall, now a National Historic Landmark, today houses the Progressive National Baptist Convention.

Illustrated by Chandler O’Leary and printed by Jessica Spring, in gratitude to the Black women who have insured our democracy’s future beneficiaries. 190 copies were printed by hand at Springtide Press in Tacoma. March 2022

You can find out more about the Dead Feminists broadsides by clicking the link: Dead Feminists.

For a little more about Nannie Helen Burroughs click here: Nannie Helen Burroughs; click here for a few details on her relationship with the the Martin Luther King, Jr. family: Burroughs and the Kings; and click here for a list of her speeches with links: Burroughs’ Speeches.

Until next time…

The Storm

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I posted the poem above on my Musings Instagram page a few days ago. I marveled at how I sweetly captured my family’s intimate moment with a storm, and I was overcome with a flood of memories of stormy nights: the bunch of us (younger siblings) scared by loud claps of thunder piling into my parents bedroom; years later, my making a pallet on the floor in the hallway just outside their bedroom. 

I don’t mind rain, but I still hate stormy days and nights. 

The poem, written when I was 14, was tucked away in one of the folders in which I kept handwritten poem bits and drafts. Most of the poems were written between the ages of 12 and 15.

It’s funny that I knew long before becoming an English professor or even a writing student the importance of revision. I “preach” this to my students all the time—writing is revising is revising is revising. I’m not sure a work is ever in a final (that is, perfect) state. There are probably some New York Times bestselling authors who will pick up their books years later and see some things they wish they could change. 

I think I’ll have some fun with this poem and see where it takes me—not as a revision but as an adult take on the subject. Wait. Kate Chopin already did that! 😀 For a steamy “storm” story, see “The Storm” by Kate Chopin.

lightning by jplenio

Musings from My Younger Self | Three Country Heartbreak Poems

52Frames Week 10 Low Key

“Wilting Sunflower.” My submission for 52Frames Week 10: Low Key

Tonight I’m dropping in to make good on a promise I made last month—to share some of the “country heartbreak” poems of my youth.  I really have no idea what I was exposed to that made me write them. They might be based on songs I listened to, soap operas I watched, or even books I read. I repeat: I.have.no.idea.  By today’s standards, I lived a pretty sheltered life, so even though the subject matter of the poems is not comical, my knowing I had little to no first- (or even second-) hand experience makes these poems pretty funny to me. 

I wrote all three poems the same day, about a month after I turned 15. There was a note at the top of “Guilty” that “all grammatical errors were done on purpose.” 

Guilty! 
Chandra Lynn (Age: 15)

I turned my back
and you’re headed on another road.
Well, I’m glad you’re gone
‘cause I don’t want you no mo’.

Comin’ home late ev’ry night
wit’ whiskey on your breath;
I’m telling you now,
nothin’s happened, not jus’ yet.

‘Cause when I git started,
I’m gonna go rough,
‘cause it’s no-good punks like you
who make a woman’s life tough.

So when you’re found guilty,
don’t act like you’re surprised.
Your pathetic life
is gonna flash before your eyes.

Promises! Promises! Promises!
Chandra Lynn (Age: 15)

You promised you’d come back;
you said you’d be back quick.
You promised we’d get married;
you put me in a fix.

Well, now you are back,
only two years late;
now, you’re married,
and I’m not your mate.

You said you love me,
but how could you?
You’ve hurt my feelings
and double-crossed me too.

Now, here I am,
a heart as cold as ice;
I am so heartbroken
that I cry all night.

You made too many promises,
promises you didn’t keep.
You told me you love me,
but the love you had wasn’t deep.

Our Illegitimate Child
Chandra Lynn (Age: 15)

Life has no meaning now—
You have gone away.
I gaze out my window,
praying you’d come back some day.

Nothing seems to happen;
I guess, that’s how it’s meant to be—
I take two steps forward,
and you turn around and leave me.

Nothing or no one can replace you
or your smile,
only this one reminder—
our illegitimate child.

Yes. I know the poems are problematic and flawed, but as I told an Instagrammer who offered unsolicited tips on improving one of my “youthful poems,” adult me is going to let teenage me be who she was as a writer. If you’re not already following my Musings Instagram, click here to follow: Musings from My Younger Self.

Literary Wisdom: Sunflowers and Light

You Are One of the Lights

I am thinking about participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) this year. I participated from 2016-2019, but I missed the last couple of years because the thought of blogging daily during the height of the pandemic was overwhelming. Now, I feel like I might need the daily distraction of Pics and Posts to help me stay sane. I’ll spend the next couple of days figuring out a strategy (and topics), and we’ll see how life goes. I already missed Day 1, so if I decide to post every day, I will end on December 1 instead of November 30. 

For today, I’m sharing a postcard from my Wildflowers literary sister, Gina B. Her postcard carrying sunflowers and light arrived just when it should have. In this quote from Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Dr. Van Helsing enthuses over the work of Mina Murray who transcribes the diaries of Lucy Westenra, Dracula’s first victim. 

Here’s an interesting tidbit: I could not read Dracula. One of my graduate professors suggested the book for my master’s thesis, but I only read a little more than half the book before deciding against including it in my work. I was having very vivid nightmares associated with the characters and plot and simply could not allow myself to be tortured any longer. Despite the nightmares, there’s no denying the postcard Gina B sent presents a beautiful bit of literary wisdom!

There are darknesses in life and there are lights, and you are one of the lights, the light of all lights.