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you can say that again, billie

Billie Holiday’s haunting song “Strange Fruit” winds beneath the unsettling, satiric humor of Evie Shockley’s poem “you can say that again, billie.” Shockley, jazz singer Cassandra Wilson, historian Robin D.G. Kelley, actor LisaGay Hamilton, novelist Beverly Lowry, and radio host Nick Spitzer join Elisa New to discuss the history of racism, violence, and artistic tradition in the American south.

 

Special thanks to our humanities advisers: Dr. Joshua Bennett; & Raquel Kennon. 

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Read the Poem

you can say that again, billie

you can say that again, billie

 

southern women serve strife     keep lines of pride open

trees are not taller than these broad vessels    femmes who

bear fully armored knights   clinking from the womb     but

a night in whining ardor    means black woman compelled     how

strange     brown vassal on a bed of green needles     ingests the

fruit of georgia     let that gestate     but be-gets no child of the south

 

blood tells the story     do you salute old gory    were you born

on a white horse or a black ass    everything depends upon

the way your rusty lifeflow writes     sutpenmanship   if it

leaves blond scribbled across your scalp    hurray

and blue inscribed in your eyes      praise the cause    your literary

blood wins the gene pool     its a prize     hide your mama     baby

at worst you’re a breast-seller     compelling octorune     but

the best cellars are dark and earthy     humid places where fears take

root     and grow up to be cowboys    yee-haw

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you can say that again, billie

 

southern women serve strife     keep lines of pride open

trees are not taller than these broad vessels    femmes who

bear fully armored knights   clinking from the womb     but

a night in whining ardor    means black woman compelled     how

strange     brown vassal on a bed of green needles     ingests the

fruit of georgia     let that gestate     but be-gets no child of the south

 

blood tells the story     do you salute old gory    were you born

on a white horse or a black ass    everything depends upon

the way your rusty lifeflow writes     sutpenmanship   if it

leaves blond scribbled across your scalp    hurray

and blue inscribed in your eyes      praise the cause    your literary

blood wins the gene pool     its a prize     hide your mama     baby

at worst you’re a breast-seller     compelling octorune     but

the best cellars are dark and earthy     humid places where fears take

root     and grow up to be cowboys    yee-haw

- Show Less