Create a free Diverse: Issues In Higher Education account to continue reading

Inaugural Week and Poetry Should Re-Kindle Our Sense of Diversity

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

As we celebrate the MLK holiday, the inaugural and the final days of the last four years, the assault on our norms should finally be coming to an end. The gaslight soon extinguished, let’s rekindle our sense of diversity to guide us over a more soothing, less bumpy political landscape.

Emil GuillermoEmil Guillermo

Liberty and justice? I will settle for caring and empathy. For all.

The insurrection of Jan. 6 was like an anti-diversity riot. In one day, the White mob showed us what the last four years hath wrought. Our cries of diversity incubated and  drew out our detractors, enabled by one man, who called them his base.

They needed Trump. Trump needed them. But the voters were louder than all the lies they kept repeating.

Jan. 6 sends Trump out with a bang. He will forever be about his double-impeachment. That’s no Ben and Jerry’s flavor. But it’s his ice-cold frozen legacy against Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color.

With a Senate trial and other legal exposure, Trump still has a few more sordid chapters to go. At least now, his selfish acts will only hurt himself.

But his exit leaves us with the closure of a national mall filled with troops rather than celebrants. Washington for this inaugural is different.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a reminder of the words that soared over all of us in difficult time.

“I have a dream,” he said.

From the new president, Joe Biden, I’d rather hear, “I have a cure” from the present virus, and the political virus of the last four years. It will take masks and answers. But I will gladly settle for hearing this from Biden: “I will be more truthful than the last White guy.”

After four years of lies, blunt truth feels like grace. Biden’s not perfect. He is a politician. But we’re getting a person with some respect for decency and humanity. Someone who can get kicked by a person in the campaign, then have the wisdom to name her his vice president.

The emergence of Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris is historic, and will be a difference maker. But we should also draw hope from the resignation of Betsy De Vos. That should already have everybody in the calling of education in a good mood. The patronage pick with the single issue of privatization of schools had no business as Education Secretary. De Vos’ Educational Theory was false from the start. Profit doesn’t end ignorance.

Supposedly, she was upset by Jan. 6. So were we all. Her resignation doesn’t give her a big enough fig leaf for what she has done as the nation’s leader in education.

After Trump, We Need Poetry!

In the past, some well placed verse, blank or rhymed,  has provided hope.

Let our iambs be our “I ams” and set us free!

In 1993, after years of Republican rule, Maya Angelou  gave us “On the Pulse of Morning.” I remember hearing it in person and saw it as an antidote to the freezing cold.

This year the poet is Amanda Gorman, 22, already accomplished for being a voice for her generation. Her poem is called, “The Hill We Climb,” which she reportedly said last week, will touch on the “the Confederate insurrection.”

She said she was asked not to declare “ding, dong, the witch is dead” and not denigrate anyone. Aside from that, she’s free.

I’m rooting for her, and know she will deliver. We’re both  BIPOCs from California who answered the Ivy call. Still, we’re from different generations. My hips aren’t artificial. But they aren’t hopping. Call me old school bold. On inaugural day,  I will be clutching the latest book of poetry by the celebrated author, writer, poet Ishmael Reed.

Reed, 83, retired as a lecturer at UC Berkeley after more than 30 years. I met him when I was a graduate student at Washington University at St. Louis. When one professor told me to take out my Filipino characters, Reed told me to put them back in.

A champion of diversity, Reed would have been my choice to bring a sense of diversity and hope to the inaugural.

In his “Why the Black Hole Sings the Blues, poems 2007-2020 (Baraka Books, Montreal), Reed spins poetry about life and jazz, mixed with the events of the day. It’s a more lyrical CNN, laced with humanity.

Consider that Trump in his last days was all about wall and fence. Not just the one he forced us all to have around the Capitol after Jan. 6, but the one he saw as his promised monument at the border. Trump’s  first live event after the insurrection was in Alamo, TX. Instead of healing, he wanted to remind us he was the anti-immigration guy. The “separate the moms from babies” guy. The “deportation as family destruction” guy.

It’s one of the major themes of the last four years. The attack on immigration and all for which  the Statue of Liberty stands.

In his new volume, Reed writes “Hope Is The Thing With Feathers,” a poem that is simple, direct, and reads like an anthemic prayer to remind us of our origins as a country. I’d consider it appropriate for Inaugural week.


“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul”

It flies against headwinds that

say No Entrance

to those who want a new start

They came to Ellis Island

To Angel Island as well

To flee from tyrants and death


who made their lives pure hell

“ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul”

It buffets the confidence of


No matter their former abode

They packed them in festering slave ships

And oceans infested with sharks

They packed them in the trucks of


but hope gave them the spark

to trek on, with blistered feet

until they reached a new home

“ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul”

It flies against headwinds that

Say No Entrance

To those who want a new start

Great Hunger sent the Irish

The Conscription sent the Jews

Armenians settled the Central Valley

The Blacks invented the Blues

The Haitians came to Miami

The Mexicans Las Cruces

“ ‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul”

It flies against the headwinds that

Say No Entrance

to those who want a new start

to those who want a new start

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. You can follow him on Twitter @emilamok







A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
American sport has always served as a platform for resistance and has been measured and critiqued by how it responds in critical moments of racial and social crises.
Read More
A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics