Jane Hulstrunk and Amy Botula

Jane Hulstrunk
Response

Amy Botula
Inspiration piece

Originally written in response to the shooting of Michael Brown and shared as part of a blog created for a high school English class in St Louis, Missouri.

Dear Students,

Since I first heard the news of Mike Brown’s murder and of the police’s horrific militarized response to the protests, you’ve been on my mind.

You and Missouri-born Langston Hughes and Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again.” Right now, it’s hard to remember that it was written in 1935– during the Great Depression, as the Dust Bowl spread, cities struggled, and most of Europe moved toward a second World War. It reads like a checklist of all the ways America is– and continues to be, especially as you are witnessing now– a serial lie, a cruel joke.

And yet. Hughes ends the poem with these lines:
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

He reminds us that “America” is a construct, a massive social experiment that will be defined and revised again and again. And, he leaves us with hope, hope that he keeps side-by-side with his anger, his frustration, and his bitterness.

Right now, with the rest of our nation and all the world watching, “America” can be defined again. But this time, it is you who determines that definition. It will be one to hold us accountable and to always remember.

You will give the words that power, and we will stand ready to listen.
With much love,
Amy Botula
Portland OR

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One Comment

  1. John Lewis
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 10:02 am | #

    Jqne and Amy: this is quite nuts…beautiful, insightful and tragic piece from Amy with the inspiration piece, but Jane: the lovely photograph you created as the response? I will email you a picture that I took about 4 winters ago here in Finland, and you’ll be pleasantly gobsmacked (UK idiom meaning amazed and flabbergasted…)

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