I grew up in a village on the Erie Canal east of Rochester. Everyone was white. The first Black person I met was Terry, who joined my third grade class when his family worked on a local farm during harvest season. We became friends but he didn’t stay long. Migrant workers must follow the crops. A decade later, I met a second Black person. Priscilla was my freshman roommate at SUNY Albany. We became friends, too, but grew apart after that first year. Now that I am much older, and challenged by the work of anti-racism, I wonder about them. How did they navigate the mostly white spaces where I met them? Did I fail them? How do I confront white supremacy, in all its blatant and subtle forms, today?

Anne Klaeysen

Anne Klaeysen is Leader Emerita of the New York Society for Ethical Culture, Ethical Humanist Religious Life Adviser at Columbia University, and Humanist Spiritual Life Adviser at New York University (NYU). She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in pastoral counseling from Hebrew Union College and a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from NYU and German from SUNY at Albany. Anne is board chair of The Encampment for Citizenship founded by Ethical Culture Leader Algernon Black in 1946. She is also a member of the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture where she married her husband, Glenn Newman, in 1982 and where they raised their children Andrew and Emily.

OPENING poem: “Make Me Rain”

Make Me Rain 
make me rain
turn me into a snowflake 

let me rest
on your tongue 

make me a piece of ice
so I can cool you 

let me be the cloud
that embraces you 

or the quilt
that gets you dry 

snuggle close
listen to me sing 

on the windowsill 

make me rain
on you 

CLOSING poems: “A Short Bio of Nikki Giovanni” and “Our Own Path”

“A Short Bio of Nikki Giovanni”: “A long time ago a little girl sat in the window of the bedroom she shared with her older sister and read by finger flashlight. She looked at the stars when the battery gave way and when she got older she snuggled under her grandmother’s quilts to listen all night to jazz on the radio; or at least until she fell asleep. She first fell in love with words, then they somehow seemed to fall in love with her. She got to learn history, meet people, travel everywhere; and since this is a good fairy tale, she lives happily ever after. There may be other things along the way but the words and the stars and the music are all that matter.”

Nikki Giovanni

Our Own Path 

Sometimes we need
to try on
another person 

We try on
shoes and socks
blouses and pants
and when we think
it might matter
better looking

We need to try
on patience
and Love
things of that nature 

We need to remember
We are good looking
Smart Wonderful 

And mostly we need 
to pick and choose
Who we listen 
so we follow
our own path 

Yeah we need
to follow
our own path

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