Poem dedicated to policeman fired for using Ebonics…

From TribLive News…The headline: “Man claims State Police fired him because he used ‘Ebonics’ in his reports“. The quote: “[William C. Peake of Pennsylvania] claims in a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the State Police fired him…because of his race and a false claim that he used “Ebonics” in his reports.”

A poem, written by Kimberly Wilder in 1998, revised in 2012, and now dedicated to William Peake…


Two Letters About Language
Educators, bureaucrats, and politicians,
who seek to regulate, dismiss, or judge
other people’s speech:
1. Standard English is a written code.
2. There is no such thing as Standard Spoken English.
3. If you are speaking in Standard English,
    you must be covered in ink and wallowing in a book…

The people who own Ebonics, Brooklynese, Appalachian,
African-American English, and other allegedly imperfect languages
given to them as gifts by their families, cultures, and subcultures:

Your language–
the words that really hum in your throat–
is wonderful and valid.

Just because the people at your local school speak differently,
just because you may want to learn new ways of speaking
in order to get a good job,
does not mean you have to abandon your primary code:
Hold onto the language of your family and neighborhood,
even if you choose, sometimes, to sound “proper.”

Language must be free, flexible, and organic in order to keep people free.

Language is for:

communicating among real, live human beings; expressing feelings; building bridges between ethnic neighborhoods in a city; doing commerce; working out the details of living; learning and processing the moral lessons of our mothers (however poor, uneducated, or differently colored they may be); making agreements in communities; singing praises in churches and temples; expressing grief; venting anger; singing lullabies; dreaming dreams.

4. Underneath your veneer, you proper people need your
humming language, too.
5. You need to feel unashamed to
think and
dream and
sit down at the family table with your common speech.
6. Be thankful to those who keep our language alive
with modifications, variations, and cultural merging.
7. A language with no dialect or slang is a dead language.

A neighbor

PDF of Kimberly Wilder’s poem “Two Letters About Language” can be found: here. Please share.

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