Belvie Rooks’ Poems Express Love of Oakland Activists

Book Review

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Left to right: Thelma Simmons, Belvie Rooks, Dr. Sandra Smith at a recent Oakland book signing. Photo by J Barry Washington.

“I Give You Springtime of My Blushing Heart” by Bay Area activists Belvie Rooks and the late Dedan Gills is a love story — a poetic love story. A story reaching from the heartbreak and despair of a West African slave dungeon in Ghana to the streets of Oakland.

Danny Glover describes the book as a “beautiful and engaging love story by two friends and lifelong human rights and social justice activists” that “models what love can be in these times!” He also said that, “ Dedan’s poetic vision, ranging from the personal to the cosmic, enriches us all.”

Dedan Gills (1945-2015) was a lifelong social justice and human rights activist who thought of himself as a “soulutionary.” A favorite mantra of his was: “Music is My Medicine! Kindness is My Song!”

Belvie Rooks is an essayist, educator, film and television producer. She was senior editor of “Paris Connections: African American Artists in Paris,” which won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation.

UC Berkeley Associate Dean of Students Dr. Sandra Bass observed that in the their book, Belvie Rooks and Dedan Gills “partners in love and in life; swayed to the rhythms of the cosmos. This luminous collection invites us to embrace the infinite and intimate possibilities of living with unguarded, and open hearts.”

Such a partnership comes across in poems like
“A Different Kind of Love.”

A Different Kind of Love
Distending my love around the wounds of those whose hearts are broken
Around the dreams of those whose names
remain unspoken
This is the dance that gyrates
within my soul
It is the rhythm that beats
Within my bones
It is my companion when
I am alone
It is the whisper that wails in
The silence of the night
illuminating the darkness of
My inner light
It is the music that flows through
The instrument of my life
That mends my blues, my misery, my strife.

Gills and Rooks have served as elder advisers for Oakland’s United Roots and its environmental tree-planting and sustainability project Trees 4Life as well as the Determenation Black Men’s project. They have also been mentors to, internationally celebrated Bay Area poet, Drew Dellinger PhD, author of the award-winning, “Love Letter to the Milky Way.”

In sharing his excitement and enthusiasm about the poetic range of “Springtime” he said Dedan “possessed a soul that holds galaxies, a sagacious, loving spirit that was profoundly moving, and a rare capacity to give words to wisdom. The poems are pulsars, seeds, blessings, love notes, and lessons, filled with Dedan’s magnanimous presence and cosmological insight.”

Completing the Bay Area chorus of literary praise and celebration is the award-winning writer Susan Griffin author of “Woman and Nature and A Chorus of Stones,” who said that, “The love between Belvie and Dedan was deep and moving to behold. It created an atmosphere that spread like wildflowers sprouting in spring.”

“I Give You the Springtime of my Blushing Heart” can be purchased at local book stores as well as Amazon and other online book retailers.

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