Dedicated to Ruby Bridges. Sunday Poetry with Jenean C. Gilstrap: ruby

Dedicated to Ruby Bridges. Sunday Poetry with Jenean C. Gilstrap: ruby
Yareah Magazine

On November 14, 1960, the court-ordered first day of integrated schools in New Orleans, Louisiana USA, six year old Ruby Nell Bridges Hall became the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in the south – this is for you, Ruby…

Ruby Bridges Hall speaking at Algiers Point temporary branch library, New Orleans.

Ruby Bridges Hall speaking at Algiers Point temporary branch library, New Orleans.

little ruby ruby
in the patent leather shoes
shoes now made for walking the way of others gone before you
walkin’ down the path of freedom and equality 
the path of life or death
shoes walkin’ through empty hearts and desolate hallways
always one step behind and one step in front
of federal agents now your only playmates
walkin’ to a classroom filled only with ignorance and hate
ankles wrapped in wrinkle free pure white nylon
bound like the feet of your grandmother 
the grandmother kidnapped raped and abducted from home
home in the homeland of mankind of humanity
in the hands of your innocence
a matching book satchel and lunch box
packed with ancient wisdom and fodder
for the fools of this world
hair all dressed up with a big bow ribbon
like for sunday school on a carefree summer day
polished up and away reflecting the 
mercy and forgiveness of your angelic face
your big dark eyes seeing through
this dark tunnel into which you had been cast
seeing beyond the night and into the light
seeing the world as a better place
and your smile ruby
that smile of yours 
oh how it lit the skies 
brighter than any celestial body
and warmer than any human heart there
you, little girl child, carrying the weight
of bigotry and racism and hatred and violence
all upon those six year old shoulders
shoulders covered in the fabric of peace and love
on that first day of school in the building
that was not a place of higher learning
but sweet sweet child you did not walk alone
those dark days of threats and acts of violence
no you did not walk alone ruby
walking there with you hands and hearts
circling round you in love and protection
the spirits of all those who had walked that walk before
walked with you in those pretty patent leather shoes
as you walked the walk to freedom and equality 
for all little girls and all little boys 
for all children
thank you
ruby ruby…


View Comments (2)
  • thank you YAREAH MAGAZINE and MARTIN CID and ISABEL DEL RIO YAREAH for honoring my poetry here in this great magazine of the arts!

  • this piece is dedicated to RUBY… and to all others then and now – known and unknown – named and unnamed – who sat down stood up acted out – who talked the talk and walked the walk – who fought and who continue to fight the fight -for freedom and equality for all – it is dedicated to SOJOURNER – DOROTHY HEIGHT – OCTAVIA E BUTLER – ZORA NEALE HURSTON – JAMES WELDON JOHNSON – LORRAINE HANSBERRY – IDA B WELLS – FREDERICK DOUGLASS – RITA DOVE – PHILLIS WHEATLEY – AUGUST WILSON – MOTHER BETHEL – HARRIET JACOBS – ROSA PARKS – to LANGSTON – NINA – W.E.B. DUBOIS – ALICE WALKER – JAMES BALDWIN – RICHARD WRIGHT – to BOBBY S – MALCOLM X – to MAYA – to JAMES CHENEY and ANDREW GOODMAN and MICHAEL SCHWERNER – to NIKKI GIOVANNI – PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR – JESSIE FAUSET – to JFK – MARTIN LUTHER KING JR – for NELSON – and ALL THOSE OTHERS – in peace love and harmony – xx

    IT IS also dedicated to my friend DOROTHY from 1961 who, when we together got onto the same city bus in monroe louisiana, both paying the same 10 cents – and when she walked past empty seats in the front of the bus, to the back of the bus to sit, would not allow me to sit with her, for fear of reprisal by others against me – dorothy, i’ve always regretted that i allowed you to deter me – but i will always remember you for it – peace –

    AND to my own little six year old friend IRENE with whom i spent countless happy hours playing at my aunt mae’s house in winnfield louisiana – IRENE, remember those times we sneaked off [two houses down!] to the overpass and our own play area we made? xx

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