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selections from A Taste of Power

Anne Dalke's picture

below are my selections; more than requested, i know. but--the image, well, it just breaks my heart: that youth.
p. 310 is about gender; so are pp. 103-4, though it’s more intersectional there, as it is on pp. 427-8.
and p. 325 is about language use.
can’t wait to see what y’all pick!

the first picture on p. 213:
Second birthday celebration. My mother tried to make me “the most beautiful girl in the world.”

…a white man…and also a college professor…pays…his last visit to the only woman he has ever loved….a young black woman. She chain-smokes, plays the piano, and sings original songs, mostly written for him, in throaty renditions….she has changed—does not want to see him, no longer loves him. She has become a Black Power militant….It is an irony he can barely deal with. In loving her so, for so long, he has taught her everything he knows about the world, the struggles of people, their social and political movements. He has…created the very schism that is now between them….In loving him so, she listened too well. She learned too well. Now she must leave him, and his white and powerful world that oppresses her (pp. 103-104).

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be white…I came to believe that if I could be white…I could be elevated from the degradation of being a ‘nigger.’ I trained myself to talk like white people, to act like white people, to walk and dress and eat like white people. I made every effort possible to belong to white people….

By the time I realized there was no place in America for a black girl, I discovered another trick…there were no paths out of the powerlessness. The keys to the kingdom were gripped in the hands of few white men—and only men. I could work for those men, if I ‘behaved,’ but I could never be them, have what they had, be master of my own ship….I saw that my oppression and my freedom were umbilically tied to the oppression and freedom of all my people. So I became  Black Panther….

I also knew that I could never walk over the bodies of black girls like me. For that’s one of the entrance frees….even if I had found…some way to get out of poverty and ease past racism—I could not do to anyone what had been done to me….I want a new arrangement…I want to change the situation—equalize it (pp. 427-428).

…all my songs…had been written to men and for men…what exactly… in my life…had made me come to rely so on the power of men… was that why I was really in the Black Panther Party, with its men and its guns. People were oppressed, and I was one of them. The party held some solution to that…the core of my fear…was loneliness. This was the deepest truth of why I was in the Black Panther Party (p. 310).

I felt it was important for us to promote the use of standard English, as this language had been a tool of our oppression. Through denial of access to the skills of reading and writing English over so many years, we had been kept ignorant of the machinations of those who dominated us. I believed we had to know the oppressor in order to overcome him. Bobby liked playing the fool, however. His verbal clowning had always elicited foot-stomping responses from black people…Bobby would announce each day that we had “shooken” the hands of so many potential votes and “tooken” so many press photographs. He liked the rhyme of “shooken” with “tooken…There was also Bobby’s insistence that the large “cooperations” in Oakland would, if we were elected, have to pay a capital-gains tax…For one whole year, I would have to stand by Bobby’s side listening to him say over and over that when he became mayor, the big “cooperations” were in for “boo-coo” trouble (p. 325).



jccohen's picture

more selections from a taste of power

1. The photo of Elaine’s four friends, with the caption:  some of my best friends forever, particularly during summertime… and Darlese Reid.


2. Now I was flying away, abandoning what I had sworn to die for, leaving comrades and friends and so much work undone.  Yet…I could not be so mad as to sacrifice myself to a dream that was dying.  The pain was intertwined in the complexity, for I loved the Black Panther Party. 


My child was sleeping.  I looked at her brown face, so inordinately innocent.  I was abandoning something, but I was saving something.  It was the hope that had been my hope, and my mother’s hope, and her mother’s hope, and the hope of each of my people—mothers, aunts, brothers, fathers, children.  If my life had any meaning left, this hope in one black child would live.

(p. 450)


3. Gwen always came beautifully dressed for dinner…  Her face showed no worry or weariness, despite the hardships of her life with Huey.  I thought about the stone floors she washed by hand…  She had learned to pluck the feathers from chickens to make their dinner…


Watching Huey appraising both of us as I spoke, I began to feel dizzy.  If she was his woman, I was thinking, she was not mine.  Whatever the relationship between him and her, or him and me, there was another deep relationship among us I had never acknowledged.  It was between her and me.  Gwen was my Sister.

(pp. 390-391)