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“Stretch Your Wings”: Famous Black Quotations for Teens

Author Jim Haskins
Air Date 11/10/1999

“Stretch Your Wings” Transcript

Today, to mark the anniversary of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jim Haskins, himself the author of two books about Dr. King, has this review of “Stretch Your Wings — famous Black Quotations for Teens.

Words of wisdom. That’s what we all need, whether we’re in our teens or our fifties. We need words of hope, consolation, advice; we need to know that we are not suffering alone, that others have been in the same place we’re in, and that they have found a way through their trials and tribulations and are here to tell us how they did it — with sympathy or humor, great oratory or gentle insight.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday we are remembering today, knew in his soul what words could do. And he was a master of crafting them in order to find the poetry in a simple expression of encouragement. Here’s what he said about not giving up or resting on accomplishments: “We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long, long way to go. If you can’t run, walk. If you can’t walk, crawl. But by all means, keep moving.”

This quotation, along with many more by Dr. King and other African American leaders, celebrities, artists, and intellectuals are packed into a small, new volume that’s titled: Spread Your Wings: Famous Black Quotations for Teens. Janet Cheatham Bell and Lucille Usher Freeman, who have compiled these quotations, are well aware of how vital it is for teens to have these nuggets available to them in a form they can easily use and afford (the book costs about half the price of the average C.D.). It’s a book for browsing, for the sake of surprise and serendipity. Open one page and you might read Frederick Douglas’ ringing words: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” Turn to another and the actor, Damon Wayans remembers: “I would draw a circle on a piece of paper and my mother made me feel like Van Gogh.”

Jesse Jackson exhorts the reader: “Always know there is unlimited power in a developed mind and a disciplined spirit. If your mind can conceive it and your heart can believe it, you can acheive it.” Or stop and listen to the joy in Gwendolyn Brooks’ remark: “When I was a child, it did not occur to me, even once, that the black in which I was encased would be considered, one day, beautiful . . . . I had always considered it beautiful. I would stick out my arm, examine it, and smile.”

Don’t wait for some special occasion to buy this book for a teenager in your family: let him come home and find it nonchalantly lying on his desk, or tucked into her bookbag, because, as the Akan proverb tells us: “Wisdom is not like money to be tied up and hidden.”

Posted in Holidays, Literature