For those whose families never healed
Broken by water, whips, laws and cultural norms
For those whose breasts unfed upon
Mixed tears with milk at the memories of their babies sold.
For those whose stripes were inflicted and celebrated
By good Christians in white sheets
For every boll gathered, every shoe cobbled or shined
Every masters’ child wet-nursed, every thread woven
By labor coerced by threat and pain.
For every back of the bus, dog and hose, guilt by skin color,
Illegal to read or write, but studied by candlelight anyway.
For every Tuskegee “patient,” every inmate labor product,
Every Trayvon, Sandra, Emmitt, tree-strung fruit,
Sage Smith, Islan Nettles, Rita Hester,
Every Demarkis Stansberry, “Bear” Goodrum, Blake Brockington,
Tried, judged, executed for their inherent wrongness
Or their unwillingness to live wronged in a world too narrow.
For every appropriated slang, song, style, walk, fist bump, high-five, slam dunk,
Every yaaasssss, every slay, every sashay, every stolen vogue.
For the holy on Sunday, on their knees,
behind the barn, bookstore,
In the back door, on the qt/dl,
love you enough to buy you hair,
but not enough to take you out in public.
For every tool of the master that you’ve brought to bear
On the lives of us, your children and grand-children.
Holding up the blood-stained banner,
But it’s our blood.
For every meeting that we’ve led, organized,
Fixed your car, your hair, your music, your food, your words for
But couldn’t be truthful in.
We offer witness—to the half-truths that are our family journeys.
We have the courage to remember and see—your yearning to belong, even when you abandoned us.
We ask forgiveness—for turning your ignorance and hatred in on ourselves.
We have the will to right what has remained wrong—we shall overcome.
We seek new mercies and wisdoms—in the light of day we remain.
Truest to our blackness, our love, our lives, our bodies, our God—
More fearless, more fierce and more free!
Photo by Elvert Barnes