Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Black in America


is blackness a curse?
they’re trying to kill us.
the darker brother and sister are put on display
like slaves
in an open market.
they’re trying to kill us,
letting us choose our own death
whether it’s how we ingest, protect, or have sex,
it all results in the same effect.
Uncle Sam is the overseer,
lashing us with the whip of the economy,
sugar cane is liquor and weed,
cotton and tobacco is money,
our diet is poison
and we are our biggest enemies.
we are trying to kill us.
is blackness a curse?
a voodoo magic trick
to be put on display for the world?
as much as and as often as i
would like to deny
connection to what is plaguing us,
i can’t.
i am part of the family put up for sale today
and there’s no possibility of hiding,
my dark skin gives me away
and there’s no way to move past
calls from bill collectors every day
so i too am a slave,
moving between the field and the house,
moving between my dreams and security,
between reality and fantasy,
fighting the notion
that blackness is a disease.
but perhaps we are airborne
because parts of us spread into society…
we all breathe
in the blackness,
breathe out the oppression,
breathe
in the beauty,
breathe out the lessons,
breathe
in the answers,
breathe out the question:
is blackness a curse?

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10 responses

  1. are these musings or real emotions

    July 24, 2008 at 12:03 am

  2. pearlsfrompain

    Good question–I would say a combination of the two. I use poetry as a means of expressing my own emotions as well as a contemplation of various ideas and subjects.

    July 24, 2008 at 12:14 am

  3. Sabine

    Wow, I think EVERY black person in American can relate to these emotions. Well, the ones that actually understand what it really means to be Black in America…

    July 24, 2008 at 1:07 am

  4. Last summer I backpacked through America with my brother on under $1000. We hitch-hiked, did greyhound, and had to budget/not sleep/make friends/not eat the whole month.

    I’m from Canada, and I spent some time living in Rexdale, which is one of Toronto’s most violent neighborhoods. The experience lead me to believe that I’d seen racism. I hadn’t, not like I did when I was in America. Soon as I crossed the border – I mean immediately, not 20 miles across Niagra into upstate NY – the bus loaded with troubled black faces, women with black eyes and bruised jaws, young men with limps and one of two looks in their eyes: hunting or defeated.

    I’ve neglected to mention that I’m white thus far in. Even just observing interactions (or lack thereof) I saw that my skin colour gave me an obvious advantage in a way that I wasn’t familiar seeing in Canada – or at least not to the same level. I spent an evening in Cincinnati drinking out of paper bags with a middle aged black man in the bus terminal parking lot. After several hours he became quite emotional, he told Jason and I that this was the first honest, unbiased interaction that he’d had with white guys in his life. Drunks exaggerate, but the sentiment was true regardless. He went on to tell us about how hopeless he felt in America, and how he wanted nothing more than to get out of it, but didn’t feel it was possible; he’d waited too late into his life to do anything. A lot happened in America, but that’s what stuck with me most.

    I can understand the questioning, even if I can’t really know the prejudice that causes it. It’s a good poem. I can imagine it being done as a spoken word piece. Do you do spoken word?

    July 24, 2008 at 1:18 am

  5. pearlsfrompain

    Thanks for sharing that. Race is definitely complicated in a lot of places, especially America.

    I am a beginner at spoken word–I have performed a poem here and there, but am looking to perform my pieces soon.

    July 24, 2008 at 1:42 am

  6. It’s hard me being of a Caribbean descent living in America. It’s like 2 different worlds. Back there, color does not able or inable anyone, personality, family values either give pure vision or distort it. Back there Family values are not completely broken, but yet slavery uccured there too and so men take a more passive role than the dominating women, which in itself is not Biblical, nor what I see amongst my African friends families. So as i become successful here in America, it’s hard for me to think that to have money is one success. But to lessen my village values for my lineage to come, what does that profit me. More to comment on my blog.

    July 24, 2008 at 11:25 am

  7. randi

    i literally stumbled upon your pearls of wisdom while working on a research assignment for a client. i am glad that i found these beautiful words of inspiration…. continue to inspire us all.

    July 25, 2008 at 4:43 am

  8. telmcg

    This is a very great, obviously emotional piece. I was always taught that racism exists, but I never really, really saw it until I hooked up with my current partner, who is black. We are treated in different ways by different people, and it’s been an eye opening experience over the past 10 years. As a Jamaican, he says he never experienced racism or knew about racial prejudice until he came to America.

    Anyway, this is a great piece. Like the Canadian, I believe this would be beautiful as spoken word, too. It already has a strong, flowing and thrusting rhythm all its own, even when read silently.

    July 26, 2008 at 11:49 pm

  9. pearlsfrompain

    Thank you. I do plan on performing this poem as a spoken word. I appreciate your story–it’s so interesting to me how America has a sort of unique racism.

    July 27, 2008 at 2:03 am

  10. C.adence

    loved it.

    July 28, 2008 at 2:35 pm

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