Julia Dinsmore: Singing Freedom’s Song

Wilson Hartgrove, Jonathan and Dinsmore, JuliaI led a workshop in Minnesota last week for the good folks at Collegeville Institute. (If you don’t know them, check em out here. They’re doing great work to support faith-rooted writing in the world.)

A highlight of the week was getting to hang out with Julia Dinsmore, freedom singer, medicine story-teller, and great porch sitter of the North country. Grandma Julia, as she’s known to the Movement, reminds me of our Grandma Ann here in Durham–of Fannie Lou Hamer, Sojourner Truth, Julian of Norwich, Miriam of the Exodus and all the great women who’ve changed the world.

She sent me home with a wall hanging of her poem to put up at Rutba House. Since it’s pure truth, I wanted to share it here too.

My Name Is Not “Those People”

By Julia Dinsmore

My name is not “Those People.”
I am a loving woman, a mother in pain, giving birth to the future, where my babies have the same chance to thrive as anyone.

My name is not “Inadequate.”
I did not make my husband leave – he chose to,
and chooses not to pay child support.
Truth is thought, there isn’t a job base for all
fathers to support their families.
While society turns its head, my children pay the price.

My name is not “Problem and Case to Be Managed.”
I am a capable human being and citizen, not a client.
The social service system can never replace the compassion
and concern of loving Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Fathers,
Cousins, Community – all the bonded people who need to be
but are not present to bring children forward to their potential.

My name is not “Lazy, Dependent Welfare Mother.”
If the unwaged work of parenting, homemaking and community building was factored into the Gross National Product, my work would have untold value. And I wonder why my middle-class sisters whose husbands support them to raise their children are glorified – and they don’t get called lazy and dependent.

My name is not “Ignorant, Dumb or Uneducated.”
I live with an income of $621 with $169 in food stamps.
Rent is $585. that leaves $36 a month to live on. I am such a genius at surviving that I could balance the state budget in an hour.

Never mind that there is a lack of living-wage jobs.
Never mind that it is impossible to be the sole emotional, social and economic support to a family.
Never mind that parents are losing their children to the gangs, drugs, stealing, prostitution, social workers, kidnapping, the streets, the predator.
Forget about putting money into schools – just build more prisons.

My name is not “Lay Down and Die Quietly.”
My love is powerful and my urge to keep my children alive will never stop. All children need homes and people who love them. They need safety and the chance to be the people they were born to be.

The wind will stop before I let my children become a statistic.
Before you give in to the urge to blame me,
the blames that lets us go blind and unknowing into
the isolation that disconnects us, take another look.
Don’t go away.
For I am not the problem, but the solution.
And…My name is not “Those People.”

Ms. Dinsmore’s poem, My Name Is Not “Those People,” is included in her book, My Name Is Child of God … Not “Those People”: A First-Person Look at Poverty (Augsburg Fortress Publishers).


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