What does this quote mean? "We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond." - Gwendolyn Brooks

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jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the previous educator mentioned, the poem deals with what it means to belong to a community, but it is important to note that Brooks is looking specifically at the bond within the black community. Of course, everyone can read the poem and find different ways of relating to it.

Brooks's poem is an ode to Paul Robeson, a noted actor, singer of spirituals, and activist whom she and many others regarded as a hero. The importance of Robeson's leadership was his dedication to civil rights and to the advancement of black people—his people—a cause which Brooks thinks should be important to all people. However, beyond the struggle for social justice is the message of the importance of unity.

"We are each other's harvest" means that when we nurture one another, we all benefit, or reap the rewards of another's success.

"We are each other's business" could have dual meanings. This could mean business in the financial sense, encouraging a kind of economic self-sufficiency within black communities. "Business" here could also indicate the way in which someone else's life is connected to ours. If one member of the community is suffering, others will suffer or be negatively impacted. Therefore, we are individually accountable to and for one another in a community.

In addition to the previous educator's definition, "magnitude" is also "the great size or extent of something." The breadth of our potential lies in our "bond," or sense of togetherness. 

amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Some of Brooks' poems deal with a sense of family and community. That is the case in this quote from her poem, "Paul Robeson." This quote illustrates how those in a family and/or a community are interconnected and interdependent. Saying that we are each other's harvest implies that we are the fruits of each other's labor. In other words, what we do and the contributions we make to ourselves, our families, and our communities will either help or hinder those around us. Therefore, we are each other's business because, living in a community, and certainly a family, we are a part of each other's lives. So, each individual should recognize that his/her role in life affects other peoples' lives just as theirs affects us. 

Our potential, as a community and more locally as families, depends upon this idea of recognizing how we are all connected. Thus, if we contribute to the development of ourselves and others, society will be better off than had we simply focused on ourselves. "Magnitude" is defined as: 

The importance, quality, or caliber of something. A number representing the intrinsic or apparent brightness of a celestial body. 

Paraphrasing these definitions and the last line of the quote, we might say that we are that which connects us together; and in those bonds lies the opportunity to reach our greatest quality and our brightest potential. 

Read the study guide:
The Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks

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