Poetry Friday–RETHINKING THE 4th


-1-freedom has no color-michelle-kogan-7-02-2020

Freedom Has No Color, Michelle Kogan, © 2018, watercolor, watercolor pencil and pen and ink.

Happy Poetry Friday!

I was in a quandary about this post as we approach the 4th of July weekend and its celebrations. My views on July 4th as independence day have changed. If we are as a country, as one nation going to embrace and celebrate Freedom, I think it needs to be a celebration and holiday for all people, of all colors, and our 4th doesn’t do that. Perhaps we need to change the date, and begin to reconsider what a celebration of FREEDOM means.

As I was pondering these ideas, this last week I read two poems that both spoke to me and moved me. They were both in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review section. The first was WEATHER by Claudia Rankine–read her poem and listen to it here. The second was SAY THANK YOU SAY I’M SORRY by Jericho Brown. From Jericho Brown’s poem I took a line and built a golden shovel from all these thoughts of not wanting to remain silent.


I’m thinking about July 4th… I’d
like to rethink why we Like
celebrating freedom, on this day. What Us,
on this day, has been denied their inalienable right To
breathe and live without fear?  I’d like to Rethink
what true emancipation for people of color would look like. What
they’ve been denied socially, politically, and legally, and how It,
their freedoms, need change Now. Now, today Is
hundreds of years over due To
rectify their lost lives, lost respect, lost dignity. Be
a beacon, look inward, use your words, your actions–begin to make A
change for people of color in our, one Nation.

© 2020 Michelle Kogan


Striking line from Jericho Brown’s poem, SAY THANK YOU SAY I’M SORRY



by Jericho Brown

I don’t know whose side you’re on,

But I am here for the people

Who work in grocery stores that glow in the morning

And close down for deep cleaning at night

Right up the street and in cities I mispronounce,

In towns too tiny for my big black

Car to quit, and in every wide corner

Of Kansas where going to school means

At least one field trip

To a slaughterhouse. I want so little: another leather bound

Book, a gimlet with a lavender gin, bread

So good when I taste it I can tell you

How it’s made. I’d like us to rethink

What it is to be a nation. I’m in a mood about America

Today. I have PTSD

About the Lord. God save the people who work

In grocery stores. They know a bit of glamour

Read the rest of the poem here.


Listen to A Conversation With Poet Jericho Brown by Tess Terrible and Lucy Nalpathanchil, June 30, 2020.

Linda Mitchell at her blog A Word Edgewise is hosting this weeks Poetry Friday roundup, thanks Linda! Linda wrote a powerful poem on rescuing “Liberty” and our US crimes that we need to own and change. 

Be safe, be well, and think about others.

Visit Renée LaTulippe’s site No Water River to find out more about what Poetry Friday is.


About Michelle Kogan Art, Illustration, & Writing

Michelle Kogan is an artist, illustrator, instructor, and writer, creating colorful allegorical figure, flora and fauna paintings and children's illustrations, which have a sensitivity to endangered species, and the environment. She is an art instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Evanston Art Center and offers Plein Air Painting Workshops at nature venues in the Chicago area including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Visit her online Etsy Shop at: http://www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com and her website: http://www.michellekogan.com
This entry was posted in Holidays, Home, Painting, Pencil Drawing, Poem, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Poetry Friday–RETHINKING THE 4th

  1. Linda Mitchell says:

    Michelle, what a rich, rich post. Thank you for the poems by Rankine and Brown. I’ve so enjoyed getting to know Jericho Brown’s poems just this year. Your striking line is significant. We all have some thinking to go with our actions these days. These lines really resonate with me, “What Us,
    on this day, has been denied their inalienable right To
    breathe and live without fear? “

  2. Tabatha says:

    It’s too bad Constitution Day (Sept 17) is such an underrated day…we could use more celebration of the rule of law, separation of church and state, freedom of assembly, etc. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and poetry with us.♥️

  3. janicescully says:

    Great poem, Michelle and thanks for sharing those by Rankine and Brown. They really name the problem we have so beautiful and so does your poem. July fourth has always been for white Americans, has always felt that way, and how sad, tragic and boring.

  4. maryleehahn says:

    Amen to your poem and a bigger AMEN to Tabatha’s suggestion. If you didn’t realize there was such a thing as Constitution Day, then you probably don’t know that we are REQUIRED to teach a Constitution Day lesson! Well, that’s going to change for me this year. I’m working on a Constitution UNIT to begin the year with. What it says (and for whom), what it doesn’t say (and for whom), who wrote it (and what are their back stories), what does it mean for today. Deep stuff for 5th grade, but if not now, when? Because it’s also an election year…

    • I’m glad to hear of all this, sorry I don’t remember learning about Constitution day or week (in some states) in school, I changed schools in 4th grade and moved in 6th grade. Perhaps we can do a Poetry Friday focus of poems on Constitution Day. I’d love if you’d pass on any pertinent sources Mary Lee, thanks for bringing this to my attention.

  5. Holy wow, Michelle, your Golden Shovel poem, the poems of Rankine and Brown…so much to unpack, so much to contemplate. *sigh* Being abroad has jolted my sense of who I am as an American, as a white middle age woman, as a global citizen. This 4th of July and all going forward will be a tainted, which is not necessarily a bad thing because we cannot go back to ignorance. To echo others, maybe Constitution Day needs to take center stage. Thanks for giving a lot more to think about and reflect upon, Michelle. I appreciate it.

  6. This is so powerful, Michelle. I, too, have been thinking about freedom a lot. I am patriotic in that I like the *ideals* of freedom our country is founded upon. But I don’t like our country’s failure to make that freedom real and true for all our people. It’s so complicated and hard to express simply…

  7. Karen Edmisten says:

    Michelle, such powerful poems from Rankine and Brown, and kudos for your golden shovel. Tabatha and Mary Lee, yes to Constitution Day being elevated. Love that you have plans for an entire unit, Mary Lee!

  8. ldk says:

    I love everything about this post: your painting, your poem, and the two poems you shared. I believe many of us are rethinking the meaning of freedom.

  9. So much weight of thought here, Michelle. Appreciations. I hope the storm Claudia Rankine (new poet to me, thank you) refers to is our great storm of voting Nov. 3, 2020 to return a semblance of humanitiy to the Nation. And yes, about Poetry Friday focusing on Constitution Day Sept. 17 in the fall. Brava! for so many reasons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s