May 16 – Happy Birthday, Cheryl Clarke!

Posted on May 16, 2020

Born on this date in 1947...

Born and raised in Washington, D.C. The capital city of the United States. The location of a lot of powerful institutions as well as protests about the misuse of power.

Born at the height of the U.S. civil rights movement!

Cheryl Clarke's ancestors were enslaved, and her parents (and maybe Cheryl herself?) experienced first-hand Jim Crow segregation. 

It stands to reason that Clarke grew up with an urge to speak out against racism. To speak up for rights and justice. She was just 16 years old when she attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - and ran into Martin Luther King, Jr.!

Clarke spent a lot of years in higher education. Not only did she receive a B.A., an M.A., an M.S.W. (Masters in Social Work), and a Ph.D. (!), she also became an administrator at Rutgers University. A lesbian, Clarke cared about the needs of LGBT students, and she worked to make the university better (more accessible, more relevant, more responsive) to students of color and to LGBT students. She started an office for social justice education and served as Dean of Students. Even though she retired from her administration career, she maintains a teaching affiliation with Rutgers.

But Clarke is better known for her writing. She is a poet and an essay writer. With her partner, she owns a used and rare bookstore, and with one of her sisters, she runs a Festival of Women Writers. She was part of an editor group for a literary magazine and is part of many community organizations. Awesome life, awesome contributions!