Affirmative action
Man writes poems about the black experience in the workforce

The cover of Frank Lewis' book of poems depicts a black man and a white man wearing hardhats having what appears to be a heated conversation.

The 69-year-old West Indies native began writing poems in the late 1970s as reflections of his experiences working in human resources during a time when, he said, affirmative action allowed blacks to move into positions that had previously not been open to them. Eventually, those poems became a collection, now published in "The Argument."

"The book's been sitting around for a while," the Lawrenceville man said.

Lewis, who holds a master's degree in history, had previously tried to get his collection published but had met repeated rejections until the Supreme Court made a ruling in a case involving the University of Michigan and its admission practices.

"Suddenly, affirmative action came to the forefront again," Lewis said. "I found a publisher who agreed with me that ('The Argument') was timely."

The 36-page collection, containing poems titled "The First Black," "Supervisor's Lament" and "The Resistant Industry," was published by Dorrance Publishing Co. of Pennsylvania.

"I think it has historical value," Lewis said of the collection. "History is very important to me. I think that those who come along, blacks who come along, should appreciate what the pioneers did and whites who come along with no concept of discrimination need to know what others faced decades ago. I'm very much for keeping history alive."

The final poem in "The Argument" - "All By Themselves" - was written within the past two years and Lewis described it as a look at the perceptions of blacks who are successful in business and opposed to affirmative action, believing they hold their positions because of their own qualifications.

Two things inspired Lewis to pen the poems in "The Argument:" "One is my love of poetry. I really do get into poetry a lot," he said. "And the other thing is just observing things that were happening, not necessarily to me, but in organizations where I worked."

Lewis said he saw the reactions of both races, blacks and whites, as blacks moved into positions that had previously not been open to them.

"I just found that I had something to say and something to tell," Lewis said. "Being in a management position in major corporations in the '70s when it was still new at that time, there is another side to that. One is the experiences but the other is the argument for affirmative action."

Lewis said he still finds today that affirmative action is misunderstood.

"I wanted to make my argument for affirmative action," he said.

For information on purchasing "The Argument," visit www.dorrancepublishing.com.