Sweet Blackberry, by Nikki Grimes

Introduction: Introduce the students to Danitra Brown by sharing the poem, "You Oughta Meet Danitra Brown," also by Nikki Grimes.  Once the students know who Danitra is, ask them if they have a friend like Danitra.  Discuss what it means to be a friend.  Continue reading other poems from the book, Meet Danitra Brown.  I chose the poem below because most of us remember what it was like to be teased and called names when we were younger.  And as teachers or parents we all have to stand in the gap and nurture those hurt feelings of our children when they are teased or called names.  Students of any age can relate to the poem too.

Sweet Blackberry

Danitra says 
my skin's like double chocolate fudge
'cause I'm so dark.

The kids at school say it another way.

"You so black, girl," they say,
"at night, people might think
you ain't nothin' but a piece of sky."

I never cry, 
but inside there's a hurting place.
I make sure no one sees it on my face.

Then mama tells me,
"Next time, honey, you just say,
The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice."

Now that's just what I do.
I sure wish I had told them that before.
Those kids don't bother teasin' me no more.

My favorite line from this poem is, "The blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice." Ask students to comment on their favorite part of the poem.  I also think this poem lends itself not only for discussion but also for illustrating the emotions throughout the poem.  Elementary students could fold a piece of paper into quarters and then illustrate 1) the way the child telling the poem feels when her friend, Danitra describes her as double chocolate fudge (makes me think of ice cream) 2) how she feels when the students tease her and compare her to a piece of sky 3) how she feels on the inside but doesn't cry and 4) how the child feels when her mama encourages her to say something clever like the berry and juice comment.

Personal Note:  I have used this poem in my classroom before when there was a name calling incident. The students opened up about how they felt when they were teased, and why they would not call others names or tease any more because they knew it hurt feelings. And most of the students didn't want to be the "bad guys at school" as they said were in the poem, "Sweet Blackberry."

Grimes, Nikki. 1994. Ill. Floyd Cooper. "Sweet Blackberry" from Meet   Danitra Brown. New York: William Morrow & Co.  ISBN 0-688-12073-3

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