Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Wreath for Emmett Till Marilyn Nelson Philippe Leary

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson, illustrated by Philippe Leary. Originally released in 2005, this award winning book is now available in paperback. I am still moved by Nelson's words and Leary's illustrations. Though this is the first time I noticed the artist notes in the back. Leary takes the time to explain his color choice, his symbols and other techniques used. I found myself flipping back and forth between Leary's work and words.
Time to share

Your only child, a body thrown to bloat
mother of sorrows, of justice denied
Surely you must have though of suicide
seeing his gray flesh, chains around his throat
Surely you didn't know you would devote
the rest of your changed life to dignified
public remembrance of how Emmett died
innocence slaughtered by the hands of hate
If sudden loving light proclaimed you blest
would you bow your head in humility
your healed heart overflow with gratitude?
Would you say yes, like the mother of Christ
Or would you say no to your destiny
mother of a boy martyr, if you could?

When Emmett Till's body was returned to his mother, Mamie Till Mobley in Chicago, she decided to have an open casket so the world could see how savagely he had been murdered . Mamie Till Mobley became a civil rights activist, and died in 2003 at the age of 81. Learned all of that from the Nelson's Sonnet Notes in the back of the book.

Its hard for me not to think about how long Emmett Till could have lived knowing his mom lived to be 81. To remember Emmett Till is to remember all the nameless many who had their lives and futures stolen.

When I did a quick search on this book I came across some ides for class discussion of A Wreath for Emmett Till provided its publishers Houghton Mifflin Company .

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