Warning: There is a Demand for Change
The sixties, was a period of growth and development for many Black writers and artist. It was a period that allowed them to come together, and by doing so they formed what is known as the “Black Arts Movement “. This movement allowed the artist to free their minds, and to focus their attention on the struggles of their time. The Black Arts Movement’s focus was on Black people, the art had to have a purpose and its purpose had to be for the Black people*http://www.yahoo.com*. Poet, Haki R. Madhubuti, was one of the many artist involved in the Black Arts Movement. Like; Larry Neal, who felt that the artist is responsible to his people, to his community, and must give up the sense of Americanized (white) idea of the individual experience (Neal, Visions of a Liberated Future p.32). Madhubuti also felt that blacks must move away from this “ white “ way of thinking. His poem entitled, “ a poem to compliment other poems”, is a perfect example of how he felt that Blacks must change and
move away from the negative influences of Whites. In fact, the theme of the poem is all about changing your way of thinking. Throughout the poem the theme “ change “ is broken down into stages. The first stage is about changing for the better, the second stage is about the wrong changes that Blacks make, and the final stage is about changing Black America’s mentality.
The first stage that is addressed is about changing for the better. The focus is on telling Blacks to change the course that their life is taking. He says, “ life if u were a match I wd light u into something beautiful. change. change. for the better into a realreal together thing. change, from a make believe nothing on cornmeal and water.change”(stanza 1-6). The first line is about making something of your life, and in order to this some changes must be made. The speaker addresses two changes that will better Blacks. The first is to really get their lives together, in other words, for them to gain some form of stability in their lives. The second change is they must remove the false ideas that have been placed in their heads. He addresses one of the ideas as the “ make believe nothing”, in other words, the false idea that Blacks are nothing.
The next stage in the poem is about the wrong changes that Blacks make. These changes are brought on by the negative ideas of white America. In Madhubuti’s work he is particularly acute about charting the growth of Blackness within the individual consciousness, and charting a way out of whiteness that allows for strength and self-determination for Black Americans. He wanted to eliminate the lingering white influence on his people ( Mosher 13). During the sixties many groups with different political views were formed by White America, and these groups had influence on the mindset of many Blacks during this time. The speaker touches on these negative influences by these groups when he says, “ Saw a nigger hippy, him wanted to be different. Changed. Saw a nigger liberal, him wanted to be different. Changed. Saw a nigger conservative, him wanted to be different. Changed (lines 8-10). The speaker then turns around and says,” niggers don’t u know u are different. Change (line 11). He is letting those Blacks that feel the need to be different know they don’t have to confine themselves to these white groups in order to be different because by being black they already are. The next, negative change that the speaker addresses he calls “ a double change “. He states, “ a double change. nigger
wanted a double zero in front of his name; a license to kill, niggers are licensed to be killed. Change. a negro: something that pigs eat “( lines 12-13). The false idea here, is wanting to emulate these “James Bond” type figures, for example, detectives and police officers. When in reality they need to realize that these men that are suppose to protect and serve the people, are actually out there targeting Blacks.
To reiterate Madhubuti’s focus on wanting the individual consciousness to grow towards its Blackness, the speaker changes his focus away from the negative changes and presents positive ones. In the last few stanzas of the poem, the speaker touches on what I believe to be the most important and really the focus of the entire poem, changing Black America’s mentality. In lines 14 and 17-19 the speaker presents his positive changes and the need to grow towards blackness, he suggest, “ I say change into a realblack righteous aim…change, stop being an instant yes machine. Change. niggers don’t change they grow. that’s a change; bigger &better nigger. Change, into a necessary blackself. In addition, to pointing out the positive changes that Blacks must make, the speaker also addresses the negative stereotypes that are placed on Blacks, and how
Blacks must not succumb to these stereotypes. When the speaker says, ”change nigger. standing on the corner, thought him was cool. him still standing there. it’s winter time, him cool”(lines 26). This is a good use of imagery because it allows the reader to picture a young boy standing around the street corner. Thinking it’s cool to hang on the street corners, rather, than doing something with his life. In the long run his being cool brought him an “extended stay” on the streets, and that’s not cool. Blacks must also not fall into the classification entitled “criminals”; White America has placed this on Blacks. The speaker does a good job of addressing this when he says, “change: him wanted to be a tv star. him is. ten o’clock news. wanted, wanted. nigger stole some lemon & lime popsicles, thought them were diamonds” (lines 21-22). Throughout the last lines of the poem the speaker continuously mentions the “realenemy”, and how blacks must become aware of the realenemy. It is not until the reader gets to the last lines of the poem that the identity of the realenemy is revealed. Madhubuti uses the method of repetition in the last stanzas. The speaker is repeatedly saying “ know the realenemy. change. know the
realenemy. change. . .know your enemy. change your change your change your enemy change”, and finally he reveals what
all the changes boil down to. In the last line he says, “change change your change change change your mind nigger.”
It was not until the last line of the poem that the principle meaning of change really made sense. Each change was set in stages. The first stage focused on changing for the better. The second stage was focused on the wrong changes that blacks make, and the finally stage was the need to change Black America’s mentality. Each stage was leaning towards one main purpose, and that was realizing that the only true enemy that the black community faces is their own minds. Move away from this white way of thinking, and develop a sense of Blackness and self.
Word Count: 1201