In the early seventies when Jewel Allison was a student at P.S. 253, her poetic gifts popped up like crocuses in spring. “Love, soft, peaceful/kind and understanding/holding hands,” she wrote.
Since then many years and experiences have shaped and formed her sensibilities, and Jewel has managed to retain that charming innocence, but now garnished with a woman’s awareness, a woman’s way with love.
“In love with you/peels away the years I wear/and we begin again,” she writes in the last stanza of Again, one of the first poems in her new book, Stealing Peace—Let’s Talk About Racism (Xlibris, 2009).
Nary a poem in the relatively brief collection is without some mention of love, God (Allah, Jehovah, Jah) and peace. But it’s her politics that resonate most poignantly, particularly in her paean, her shout out to Barack Obama and to her young brothers on the streets. “You want to drop something?/Drop this. Let it not be your pants down to your knees/with our underwear hanging out. Drop racism,” she commands.
Her advice continues as she insists that our young men not pull their fashion from out of prisons “that fertilize your oppression, but from your royal African past.”
Then comes her “spectacular…vernacular” on Africa, and it’s hard not to think of Langston Hughes. You can almost feel the sway of her hips, the sweet movement of her lips, and she recites: “Then let me dance, my Africa to the heavenly heart beat of my ancestors, my Africa!”
“We Need Bullets in the Classroom Now,” brought to mind the revolutionary poems of the sixties, especially those composed by Haki Madhubuti and Amiri Baraka. And at the end of the poem her bullets become less metaphoric, recalling the brutal murders of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell.
This ability to fuse compassion, love and peace with a searing political perspective is Jewel’s real forte, one that with each poem in the book gains fresh intensity, all with the purpose of elevating us all to another plateau of love and humanity.
“And because you know how to love so carefully/I give you my soul,” she sighs toward the book’s close. “I give my soul/please carry it to God/When I can no longer touch your face.”
If her passion is not conveyed here, come out this Sunday, April 4, from 3pm to 4pm, to Ms. Dahlia’s Café, 449 Nostrand Avenue in Brooklyn (between Halsey and Hancock Streets).