Growing up I was “Little Joan” and my mom was “Big Joan”
But as I grew taller, she became smaller.
And in my family, our names still stuck,
I felt that it was good luck.
Joan – a strong name, a hard act to follow,
And it was not popular, that was hard to swallow.
An old school name, not pretty like Patty or Sue,
Strength in character, I had to imbue.
To be named after women warriors like my mother,
Who led the troops of my two sisters and five brothers.
Joan of Arc was who I secretly celebrated,
And whose path of bravery I was fated.
To follow as I grew older
Imbued with her indomitable spirit, I got bolder,
And came to claim and embrace my name,
Of Joan of Arc fame, there was no shame.
I was a warrior like my mother before,
With society’s rage knocking at my door.
Donning Joan’s armor and fighting the fair fight,
I stood up for my family’s equal rights.
Championing racial and gender equality,
That became my everyday reality.
As I raised a biracial child
In the 1980s, I was in the wild.
It was a time for girls and women to speak up and rise
And claim their educational, vocational and financial prizes.
With the sword of knowledge by my side,
And a passion for equal rights that wouldn’t subside.
Standing for equality for ESL students and families,
I tirelessly advocate for students with disabilities.
With Joan of Arc’s banner, suddenly a place “at the table” is a viable possibility,
In a brave new world of equal opportunity.
With Joan of Arc’s courageous stride,
Into the 21st century, she gave me pride to thrive and survive.
To become the woman of a creative community of brave hearts
And be able to inspire them to charge into their lives, with a fresh start.
With a passion that does not burn me at the stake,
My name has given me the fortitude to create,
A life that has overcome so many cultural barriers
And to live a life beyond my wildest dreams, my open heart carries.
AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: “Joan of Brave Heart” taken in 1958 at my paternal grandparent’s house in Hollis, New York.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Indomitable Spirit” is about how the name Joan helped me overcome many challenges of growing up with five brothers and two sisters in a world where feminism and equal rights were “dirty words.” Being female was categorically viewed as “second class” in the mid-1950s and beyond, during my formative years. My name carried me through – gave me armor and courage to fight and stand up for my rights as well as my female friends and Special Education students, and against racism and other social inequities that I encountered in my life!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Becht Willette is a fledgling writer and a lifelong educator. Since the age of seven, Joan has been a voracious reader and a creative writer with a rich fantasy life. She graduated St. John’s University with a B.S. degree in Education and Queens College with a M.S. in Special Education. After teaching Special Education students for several decades, she took her dream of writing off the shelf. Her poetry has been recently published in the Newtown Literary Journal and in Siren e-zine. Joan has created “The Enchanted Goddess: Literary Creative Arts Community” with a monthly Writing Series Workshop and a monthly Reading Series Workshop in Astoria/L.I.C., New York. Women gather to create, collaborate, and transform in these workshops. Joan has been featured in Poetry Open Mics at The Boundless Tales, Inspired Word NYC, Waltz-Astoria, The International Women’s Salon, Risk of Discovery Reading Series, and Kea’s Spoken Word. Joan’s work will also be featured in N.Y.C. Poetry Festival in July 2015 and Queens Lit Fest in August of 2015. Writing is an adventure for her and has transformed Joan’s life!