The author, Willie James Harvey, spent most of his childhood
growing up in a little country town in Georgia called Perry. He
currently lives in Belle Glade, Florida, where he is a dedicated
employee of Wal-Mart. His life as a black man has been filled with
disappointment and pain, yet he has allowed none of it to discourage
him. His life has led him on many journeys, and during these journeys,
he has attained an eye-opening viewpoint on life. This book is a collection
of poems that reflect his thoughts and views as a young black man. He
believes that nothing can stop the human spirit, except for the willingness
to settle for less. This book will connect his readers to his struggle as a
young black man while provoking social conversation among the masses.
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I am not a slave, so I write
Without a Chaser
I need a shot of southern comfort
Without a chaser
Because I sold my soul to the south
Without an appraiser.
Praying that I did not get ripped off
Believing that forgiveness is cheap
Trusting I know my value
What you sow you shall reap.
For her sins are old
And she paid the price.
Trust me bartender
Forgiveness is nice.
So on the rocks without a chaser
Damn the anger and the appraiser.
I wish that I could change the world by myself, but the
reality is that we all must work together. With effort and
love this can be accomplished, but just not over night.
Each step that you take in improving yourself is a step
toward improving the world.
A Powerful and Historical Poetry Book for Challenging Times
I Am Not a Slave, So I Write
A Collection of Thought-Provoking Poems
Willie James Harvey
When I read I Am Not a Slave, So I write, I felt a wide range of emotions. Yes, the poems are indeed thought-provoking, and some of them will make many readers uncomfortable. And they should! They also show the self-awareness of the author who expresses his faith, strength, determination, and pain through poetic words and verses that may or may not rhyme. Although I appreciated the meter and style, I found myself concentrating on what the author was saying about himself and his life. He is teaching, and readers of this book are his students.
First, I would like to address the title. In his introduction, Mr. Harvey discusses how he has been inspired by Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison and others who were given the opportunity to have their voices recorded on paper. Printed words will live on forever, giving these people a form of immortality on earth. Sadly, the author also mentions slaves whose voices were forever silenced because they were forbidden to learn to read or write. Because of this, there is valuable information that is lost to all mankind forever; this is a loss that we should all mourn. But, thank God, there has been progress and the voice of Willie James Harvey has a place in history through the words he writes. Whether 100, 1000, or 1,000,000 people read his book, it is a voice of power and freedom. This is why the title of the book is so important to him. It is also why it should be important to all of us.
The author addresses many topics in his poems that deal with his struggles as a black man. In many selections he seems to be reaching out to the white man, wanting him to understand the everyday injustices that the black man has endured.
On page 37, there is a poem that I found especially touching:
A Slave’s Song
Yesterday I cried all night
Not because I’m Black
Or the things I lack
Nor because a slave
Told me God was white,
But because I’m afraid
The slave might be right.
If God is white
Where do I belong?
There is such honesty in this small but powerful book. In the beginning of the book I found a few insignificant errors, but the last chapter is not to be looked at in terms of grammatical errors. He writes as a free spirit, conveying his intimate thoughts as he analyzes himself, not caring that we readers are there with him. The author doesn’t want editing, but rather understanding as to where he has been and where he is going. His life has been tough and complicated because he is black; however, rather than trying to hide his feelings and using his experiences as an excuse for failure, he has embraced them so that he can move forward. Mr. Harvey refers to his poetry as rain that he hopes will produce an abundance of tolerance. He makes a powerful statement when he says that the only way America is going to reach its full potential is through all races working together.
Willie James Harvey is a man who has a great capacity to love, as proven by the way he describes his feelings toward family members. Though, at times, I feel his frustration—even bitterness—I understand that only by addressing these issues and declaring his freedom to write could he move forward and make the world a better place for himself and future generations. He tells Black Americans that they must rise up and live the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King. On a personal note, I want to add that, as a white American, I am ashamed of the things that our ancestors did to our black brothers and sisters. It is beyond my comprehension that they (we) could have been so unfeeling, so ungodly. I realize that, although things are better, we have a distance to travel; I also believe that only the love of God will enable us to quickly span that distance so that all of us see color only as a beautiful difference in His creation of human beings. Only in Him can there be true repentance, an end to prejudice, and forgiveness.
This is an important book written by a black man who dares to share his innermost feelings on paper. Willie James Harvey is an excellent poet, and I hope he continues to write thought-provoking selections. Purchase I am Not a Slave, so I Write, and read it with an open mind! Though readers may not agree with all of his political viewpoints, they should be grateful that the voice of this author has not been silenced.
Bettie Corbin Tucker
For Independent Professional Reviewers
Free to Write
I AM NOT A SLAVE, SO I WRITE
A Collection of Thought-Provoking Poems
Written by Willie James Harvey
63 Pages ISBN: 1-4241-3541-9
Willie James Harvey creates this book of poetry as a portrayal of his life through the last ten years of hardship. It also appears to be a dedication to the black men and women, who were forced into a life of slavery; a life the author has felt himself.
Through the power of words, the author emulates the voices of those unfortunate individuals who were not able to live as their fellow American citizens. Willie James Harvey delves into Black History on a personal level through the eyes of a poet. The author reminds us of the arduous journey of an African American to the point of being free to write and create without fear of judgement and constraint.
Many of the poems depict his struggles of being culturally different and the longing for acceptance. Willie James Harvey describes what it means to be black, at the same time reminding us of our own tribulations.
As in the poem, And Then I Said Goodbye and Sad But True, poetry is a reflection of one’s personal style as well as an exposure of the author’s mind to the public. This pleasurable collection is not the ranting of a young, frustrated man but of a person who wants to reveal to the world his own presence and where he fits in the grand scheme of life. It is an opportunity to see life from someone else’s point of view, especially when we have all wondered about our existence and purpose in life.
These poems ignite thoughts of the past and how it still pertains to the present. In some cases, throughout I AM NOT A SLAVE, SO I WRITE, the poems reflect envy or revelation but in all cases, there is a poetic tale for every taste and culture to appreciate.
Freelance Writer / Book Reviewer
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