Youthful Muse: 78 year old Iona Lawhorn Speaks of Rivers

Ms. Iona Lawhorn lost her sight in her twenties, but she did not let that stop her from reading and experiencing life through poetry and words. 

Ms. Lawhorn visited her public library asking the librarian for recordings by black authors, and she became enthralled by the poet Langston Hughes, listening to his poems on cassette tape.  

"I was infatuated by Langston Hughes because he told the story of the struggle of African-Americans." Her interest in civil rights and the stories of the African-American struggle led Ms. Lawhorn to college where she received her bachelor's degree in history.  

Ms. Lawhorn recited the poems, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers", "Negro," "Jim Crow's Last Stand," "The Ballad of Sam Solomon," and the class favorite "Mother to Son."

"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 reachin’ 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 finds 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.

Ms. Lawhorn ended by reading from her Daily Prayer book in braille: "I have every answer and a mind with confidence, and others when I experience self-doubt.  I am a unique and perfect expression of the divine and I am human."  

These words of our unique identity created and loved by God help our students to continue climbing up step by step even in the midst of splinters and darkness.  Ms. Lawhorn's words and example show how even in blindness and tribulation, we move forward surrounded by God and others who encourage us along the way--climbin' and risin'.