I would like to give a special shout-out to the Academy of American poets for choosing April as National Poetry Month. April in Virginia is stunning and it makes sense that it should commemorate something beautiful and life giving and inspiring. Poetry is a perfect choice. It just makes sense. I am not a poet, but I know poetry when I see it and I can see it everywhere in April. It can be words on a page. A celebration. A coincidence. Virginia conspires with nature and sends us in search of the perfect words to name the poem that is April.
I had jury duty on Friday. When the case was settled I decided to take the long way home. I lingered among the azaleas, tulips, and dogwoods at Capitol Square. I walked by the Civil Rights monument and the statue of Barbara Johns. Barbara Johns was a sixteen-year old African American student who led a student walk-out on April 23, 1951 that played a powerful role in ending segregation. There is a quote by Thurgood Marshall at the Civil Rights monument.
“The legal system can force open doors and sometimes even knock down walls, but it cannot build bridges. That job belongs to you and me.”
That was fifty-nine years ago. In April.
I walked home on Main Street where on an April day in 1865, Abraham Lincoln walked with his son Tad. On that day the city was still smoldering from the final days of war. The president walked the talk from a speech he’d delivered month earlier…
“With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds.”
It was Tad’s twelfth birthday. He and his father greeted the newly emancipated African Americans who lined the streets to see their president. That was one hundred and fifty five years ago. In April.
Now April has been proclaimed as Confederate History Month. We won’t be celebrating Confederate History Month in Room 204. We are celebrating poetry.
And besides… we are busy building bridges.