Mother to Son

Well, son, I'll tell you:
Life for me ain't been no crystal stair,
It's had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor-
But all the time
I'se been a climbin' on,
And reacnin' landin's.
And turnin' corners,
And sometimes goin' in the dark
Where there ain't been no light.
So, boy, don't you turn back.
Don't you set down on the steps
'Cause you find it's kinder hard.
Don't you fall now-
For I'se still goin honey,
I'se still climbin'
And life for me ain't been no crystal stair.

We now had an idea and a design. The picture began to form, yet still it seemed to be just a group of historic and contemporary students standing in front of the school and its classic entrance, but nothing more. Then the Wildcats added poetry to the picture: first Whitman's idea "Just as you I felt" Whitman's poem, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" conveys the belief that nothing separates spirits, neither time nor space. Just as these students felt, so the poet, and others walking the halls of Central felt. Almost chemically, almost tangibly the feeling in the room changed. Whitman's spirit was still alive, and the made the idea for our painting come to life.

Then someone thought of Langston Hughes' lines "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair..." Someone envisioned stairs in the painting, balanced on either side. Langston Hughes actually walked the halls and climbed the stairs in Lawrence schools, and his poem "Mother to Son" gave just the spirit and advice most of us need: "Don't you turn back/ Don't you set down on the steps/ 'Cause you find it's kinder hard./ Don't you fall now/ I'se still climbin'/ And life for me ain't been no crystal stair." Together we had added the poetic spirit to the painting, its breath of life, its metaphyscial landscape. The poem will be beside the painting, where there are also real stairs the students climb every day.

It was decided. In this painting, historic characters would stand among contemporary students, teachers and principals, conveying the sense that despite time, we all share the same struggles and triumphs. The school has seen and known us all. Each has walked in Central time.

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