view

by E. Alma Flagg

Image: Mary L. Martin, Ltd.

There! against the sky
Just at the hill-top
Is the end of the world!
Approach it slowly
On this smooth wide road—
Who knows what is on the other side?
Startling it is how the road
Leads to the hill-top
And ends so boldly, clear, against
        the sky.

Alma Flagg’s enduring belief in Newark and its citizens marked the course of her life as an educator, civic leader and poet. Dr. Flagg concluded her journey on March 10, 2018. She was 99.

“View” was published in her 1981 collection Twenty more with thought and feeling.

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of timothy still

by E. Alma Flagg

Image: Jordan Allen
Image: Jordan Allen

He touched our lives with gentleness and hope,
The hope that Newark would be a better place;
He gave a model of inclusiveness,
Of knowing black and white and high and low.

The strength he had is what we must employ
In treating poverty, disease, mistrust, and hate,
The love he had we’ll nurture everywhere
To make our living worthy of his gift.

The kindness of a man as big as he
(As big of soul as he was big of frame)
Is what we must extend to each and all
While joining hands to make our forward move.

We loved him as the brother that he was,
We’ll miss him from our gatherings about;
Our city and our hearts know he was here,
And will remember in the years to come.

Timothy Still, a former Golden Gloves boxing champion, turned his commanding physical and personal presence to grassroots organizing in Newark’s Central Ward. He co-founded and led the Hayes Homes Tenants Association, and was president of the United Community Corporation, the city’s official community action agency in the mid-1960s. Upon his sudden death of a heart attack at age 48, the city observed a weeklong period of mourning. In 1970 the Schoolmen’s Club dedicated a plaque to Still’s memory in the Central Ward’s Quitman Street School; the inscription hailed him as “a shining example to light the way to a better Newark.”

Alma Flagg’s tribute is taken from her 1979 collection Lines and Colors.

come, train, to newark in seventy-six

by E. Alma Flagg

Image: Donald Lokuta via Newark Public Library
Image: Donald Lokuta via Newark Public Library

Come, Freedom Train, to Newark and we shall be
Impressed by you and seeking to impress,
For in our city, aged three hundred ten,
There runs the thread of all our nation’s past;
Not only do we view the past with pride
In heroes, workers, folk of every hue;
We look our present squarely in the eye
And seeing flaws which mar the life we seek,
We purpose to remove from in our midst
The blight of hate, the scourge of poverty,
The evils of injustice, ignorance,
The miseries of disease and pestilence.
We would install in Newark and all around
The lights of hope and love and brotherhood,
The ways of peace and work and joint concern—
For then, indeed, the Revolution lives,
And Life and Liberty will be our own,
And Happiness find us in close pursuit.
Let’s make the ideals real—come, Freedom Train!

The American Freedom Train, part of the U.S. Bicentennial festivities, rolled into Newark on August 21, 1976. Alma Flagg’s invocation was included in a volume of conference papers entitled Newark 1967-1977, edited by Stanley Winters.

fountain moved

by E. Alma Flagg

Image: Library of Congress
Image: Library of Congress

Years of my youth,
Long walks to the library,
Short stops in the five-and-ten.
Massive gray building,
Busy street corner,
Greatest street ever.
There was the fountain,
Endless clear water
For all thirsty travelers…
Cool, soothing water,
Treating my being
With refreshment through and through…
New buildings there now,
Old ones demolished–
Feet, take this body
To the Museum garden.
There is our fountain!

In 1903 sculptor Samuel Thornton fashioned a limestone fountain to adorn the headquarters of the Prudential Insurance Company at Broad and Bank Streets. In keeping with the overall design of architect George B. Post, Thornton employed forms of French Gothic architecture. When Prudential demolished this building in the 1950s to make way for a modern office tower, the landmark fountain was donated to the Newark Museum. It may be seen today in a corner of the Museum’s garden.

Alma Flagg’s poem was published in Feelings, Lines and Colors (1980).

newark is home

by E. Alma Flagg

Image: Newark Public Library
Image: Newark Public Library

What is a city and what is a home?
What makes each more than a place?
Skyscrapers stretching to dizzying heights?
Vehicles bent on a race?
Elegant Hepplewhite gracing a room?
Curtains resplendent in lace?

Shall we consider what makes each a fact?
Can we reach that which is real?
There is no building that fulfills our quest,
No car that shows what we feel,
Furniture neither that answers our need,
Fabric nor colors that heal.

Cities are made by people who live
Working and playing in turn,
Those who together in programs unite,
Focused on common concern:
Beauty, good health, and a bountiful life,
Peace and goodwill here to learn.

Homes are created by people who love;
Caring pervades every space;
Helping or listening or just being there
Sharing the family place;
Summoning memories out of the past
Memories time can’t erase.

Newark is my city, and in it my home,
Here I developed through years,
Seeing dear loved ones move out of this life,
Saying farewell through my tears,
Seeing newcomers arrive on the scene,
Banishing weakness and fears.

City, O city, I call you my own–
Blood, sweat, and tears make it true!
Friendships and good times are part of the whole,
With troubles and struggles no few.
People and purposes always in flux
Here, Newark, I’m staying with you.

Trailblazing educator Alma Flagg included these verses in her second book of poetry, Feelings, Lines, Colors (1980).

old mulberry street

by E. Alma Flagg

mulberry194001
Image: newarkstreets.com

From Chestnut Street north went
        that road of our childhood,
Fascinating all the way
From the tavern owned by one
        classmate’s folks,
Past a couple of factories
Fish market, shoemaker’s shop,
        hardware, grocery stores, laundry,
And a drug store with several
        large, shining globes,
Filled with liquid—red, yellow,
        green, blue—
And the candy stores where a
        penny bought
Lafayettes, lollipops, licorice, or
        Mary Jane,
Or even a grab-bag of assorted
Sweet, crunchy, chewy morsels,
Or a nickel bar of brown or pink or white taffy;
And on through Chinatown
Where restaurants served strange foods,
To the markets which
We could only visit on Saturdays.
The Markets! outdoor extravaganzas
Of meats, eggs, produce, fish, bread,
And, wondrous bright,
A great revolving cylinder
        roasting peanuts—
What a smell! and what a taste!
Hot peanuts, m-m-m, delicious!
Oh! what an adventure a
        trip to the markets—
        of Mulberry Street was!
Through busy crowds of people all intent,
And maybe bumping us about,
But it did not bother us.
The joy of being in the
        middle of it all
Went home with us to
        be savored
Till we went that way again.

Alma Flagg’s trip up “old Mulberry Street” can be traced (in reverse order) through the listings in Price & Lee’s 1940 Newark city directory, of which a small section is shown here. The poem is found in Flagg’s collection Lines, colors, and more (1998).

snow

by E. Alma Flagg

Sh! it’s snowing!
Magic stuff that makes
The world a picture-book!
Soft and silent,
Fuzzy snow that hides
Each form and seeks each nook!

Look in wonder!
All the world that was
So dark is fair to see.
Breathe, but lightly,
Lest the sight that thrills
Us vanish suddenly.

Image: Matt Rainey/The Star-Ledger
Image: Matt Rainey/The Star-Ledger

E. Alma Flagg was poet laureate of East Side High School’s class of 1935. She taught Newark children for many years and was appointed the city’s first black principal of an integrated school, serving at Hawkins Street School in the Ironbound. In 1967 she became an assistant superintendent of the Newark schools. A North Ward elementary school is named for her.

“Snow” was included in a commemorative edition of Flagg’s poems, Lines, colors, and more, published in 1998.