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Esteemed poet and artist Dr. Margaret Taylor- Burroughs spent her Tuesday morning inspiring students at an all-girls school on the South Side to leave a legacy for the future generations to follow.

The Louisiana native and co-founder of the DuSable Museum of African-American History read poetry and showed her artwork to at least 50 of the 300 girls who attend the Young Women’s Leadership Charter School in Bronzeville. During the nearly two-hour visit, Burroughs made sure the students knew the kind of imprint she was leaving on the world and demanded they think about their own.

“The most important message for you today is for you to figure out what kind of legacy you will be leaving. What will your legacy be?” Burroughs asked the girls after each poem recited. She said so many have paved the way for her and for the girls, such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bessie Coleman, Paul Robeson, Sojourner Truth, Langston Hughes, Ida B. Wells, Frederick Douglas and Mary McLeod Bethune.

It’s time for the younger generation to do the same, the revered artist and poet said. “They made bridges for us to cross over. You should build bridges for future generations to cross,” Burroughs said. A few of the girls asked the South Side resident how she overcame obstacles in her life. Burroughs’ answer was short and to the point. “There are no obstacles. I do what I have to do,” she said quickly and loudly.

When asked what triggers her inspiration, she said inspiration comes in all forms and at any time. “I’ll wake up one morning and have ideas. I write them down and go from there. It can just come at any time,” she said.

One student asked whether she made a lot of money from her work. Burroughs, 89, made sure that all the girls heard her message loud and clear. Material things are not her sole satisfaction. “Money is not the most important thing in my life. Service and humanity is.

Helping people is what it’s about,” she said. An 8th-grade student got the opportunity to share her own poetry with Burroughs after the program. “I like to write all types of poems, and hearing her really inspired me to keep going,” 13-yearold Asia Grove said before treating Burroughs to a 15-minute private poetry reading.

Kathy Chaney can be reached via e-mail at kchaney@chicagodefender.com.

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