Poetry Can Help Build Wings to Fly Because Change is Beautiful
By Bessie, ACE Poetry Contest Mascot, Oakland International High School, assisted by Martha because Bessie has a hard time punching computer keys to make words
Hello from Oakland. I’m Bessie and I’ve been busy enjoying long flights up in the sky and looking down on the world below. Oakland International High School (OIHS) is my special world that I love to float around. I meet students in the main courtyard and stop on the edge of a bench to listen to them. Or I float to the soccer field, making sure I stay out of the way of both the ball sailing through the air and the students running to catch the ball to send it flying the other way.
I’m so proud to be this year’s poetry mascot for OIHS. I have long been a part of the school. There’s even a hoodie with my image drawn on it that says, “Migration is beautiful.” It speaks to the fact that students have traveled from many parts of the world to be a part of this great school.
But I like to think that the inspiration of butterflies like me isn’t just about migration but represents the great change that all OIHS students can experience. I’m a perfect example of change. I started out as a caterpillar, kinda slow and moving funny. Then something amazing happened. I started building a safe place around me, a cocoon that hugs and supports me as I learn about being a butterfly and how I want to fly. I stayed there until my wings formed and I felt comfortable to break free and spread those wings. Then I moved to my current beautiful stage where I fly up in the sky and do amazing things and people love looking at me.
There are many inspirations for changing into a butterfly. One is my namesake. Her name was Bessie Coleman and she was the first African-American woman and first Native American to hold an airplane pilot’s license. She learned the skills and earned the license in France and returned to the US to become a spectacular flyer in airshows that were popular in the 1920s. There’s a road at Oakland International Airport named after her and she will be honored on the US quarter in 2023. She came from sharecropper background but she always wanted to fly – literally.
Flying and changing into a butterfly is amazing inspiration for poetry too. Poetry can be flowery (my favorite type) but it often directly gets to the truth and spirit of how we feel, which can inspire feelings and hope to encourage all of us to fly. Earning wings is hard for humans but poetry can be an inspiration.
One of my favorite poets is a Maya Angelou and a favorite poem is “Still I Rise.” She strongly and a bit sassily tells the world that even if she is trodden on that “like dust, I’ll rise.”
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
And then she proclaims her flight path upward full of dreams and hope and we all know she makes it high into the air and inspires those of us still growing in our caterpillar cocoons to know that wings will help us rise.
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I’m sure that the OIHS students will write poetry that will inspire everyone to work to fly upward toward each personal success. Even if the poem you write doesn’t win the contest, it’s a path to understanding our truths and that helps build our wings so we can rise.
Happy National Poetry Month. Time for me to fly off as I hear those dogs coming. Love ya Dexter and Luna, but you do like to chase after me.