Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “Barack Obama

History Unstuck

on November 4, 2008,
the evening of election day
CNN projected that Barack Obama
was the candidate
who had won.

surrounded by cheers, i couldn’t celebrate,
sayin, “these suckas done stole the election once”
so i’ll scream and shed tears when this whole thing is done–
afraid to get my hopes up
because hope takes audacity
and when i look at history,
we were dismissed.

defined as inferior,
spent days familiar
with crops, working fields,
rarely seeing interiors,
unless it was the interior
of slave shacks, you know,
nights with master on slave woman’s back,
birthing babies that lacked
a sense of family
because brokenness was the system,
spreading confusion so that to be black
almost equated with being victim;
pulled from homelands and sold on blocks
was the way to do things,
auctioning off humans like art or antique rings.
we were beaten,
scars forming shapes of trees on backs
with branches not long enough for us to climb
but deep enough for them to find
their way into souls that birthed generations of babies
still feeling the sting of whips.

we were whipped into shape
on the day emancipation came
so slaves became men,
no longer four fifths
just always dismissed,
debt staying constant
no money in pockets,
still poor but at least there was a trap door
that could be closed and opened at night
to see crosses burning at night
who knew shadows could be white?
“Mama, they look like ghosts…”
threatened hearts beat with fright
and sometimes they even cry
but you can’t hear them as well
when vocal cords are constricted by ropes
as unprotesting eyes look forward.

but we had to look back,
thirsty, but certain water fountains would lack
the fluid to match our skin color;
so we had to look back,
to learn what happens to dreams deferred and wonder if they fester;
so we had to look back
to brave souls like soldiers who sat at segregated lunch counters;
so we had to look back,
to hear the voices of prophets like Dr. King,
turning our ears to the past
so that we could hear freedom ring
and echo in our dreams and perhaps become fact.
look back to Malcolm X and his place in history,
even if you don’t agree,
he inspired our reality.

we were beautiful,
growing stronger with each casualty,
pulling strength from the act of burying,
being replenished by hoses with water pressuring
us to stop
but the clock ticked on.
we were beautiful and so was black
and we were vocal, using platforms to speak so many truths
that lies got scared and shook in their boots
and found a way to crack us–
crack broke some backs of us,
money ruled some of the best of us,
and soon our scariest enemies were…us.

but us wasn’t all bad and never was,
because all that there ever was
to identify us was our skin
and that one drop of blood,
like light rain on a window pane
romantic to some, but to others
it’s just rain,
without which the earth couldn’t survive.
showers on our heads keep dreams alive,
but sometimes i stay dry,
feeling that it’s better to suffocate hope
than try to keep her alive
but on that night,
November 4, 2008
tears filled my eyes and the weather changed
and the course of history finally turned the page.
no longer did i have to look back,
thinking of the way we were
but i had to look forward.

i had to look forward
with binoculars on my eyes,
seeing the prospect of a black president
the spirit of yes we can, yes we did
and we’ll do it again;
fueled by inspiration,
truth defying times are in my eyes,
joy fills my heart
and my soul cries out with gratitude
oh the magnitude
of what we used to be
and what we have become.

Walking on Clouds

i’m walking on clouds
and negative people on the ground
try to pull me down.
but my soles are of a different kind
so i step past cumulonimbus grass
that feels soft when i lay on my back
and walk back and forth on the tree stumps
of heads of those who are trying so hard
to rain on my parade.
i suppose that they
are not aware that i live
in the uppermost part of the sky,
so precipitation is only a serenade
that leads me to dance a dance of pride
that seeps out of my pores, spilling outside
on my dark skin as affirmation
that something deeper will begin.
a height of happiness
that i thought i’d need an airplane to see
is now the route right in front of me
and i am climbing,
excelling past those who want to stay down low
and make accusations that have no clout
and sit there and pout
as the smiling world changes around them.
be careful because the earth is spinning
and if you don’t move your feet,
you will fall off, never to be seen.
look in the mirror then look around you.
see that times are changing and so should you.
remove the crazy glue from off the bottom of your shoes
and step toward something new.

This Moment in History

i used to think the phrase,
“you can do anything you set your mind to”
was a cliche
until today.
on more days than i could count,
i politely asked God to take me out,
to remove misery from my life
and leave me to die.
today i rejoice because
i am not history,
but here to witness a moment
that is so much bigger than me.
my heart beats out of my chest,
not for the prospect of the future,
but the reality of today.
i thank God for waking me up once more
to see history before me,
for proving cliches right
and for giving me this night
where it was proved to me
that it might be the truth
that whatever it is i set to accomplish,
i can do.


The Race

my friend said
that if things don’t go right with this election,
he’ll be the one
to start the revolution.
he’s tired of runnin.
being born with non-caucasian skin
in this country
is like putting a number on your front and back
and running a triathlon for a gold medal
you’ll never get.
the cops shoot the gun
to tell us when to lift our feet and focus our attention.
some runners get shot while others get spat on
without the option of joining in the competition.
and some get murked while they
sit on the side tying their shoes and stretching to prepare.
they were doing so well,
but now they’re not here.
what would the revolution consist of?
i don’t know but if it happens,
at least i’ll be moving, running,
no longer stuck in a cardboard box
that will really be too hot
if things don’t go right.
tonight i will prepare myself for the possibility of
having to move my feet,
staying hopeful but contemplating carefully
the revolution that could be sparked
in a moment of defeat.


45 years later, who would’ve thought
that the dream that was once described
could be seen right before our eyes?
i am in a state of amazement,
filled with hope and on the verge of tears,
knowing that even though we have a long way to go,
we are making steps toward being there,
walking a route of change
that bonds the white man and the black man,
the Christian and the atheist,
the man and the woman,
uniting the black family and showing previews of what could be
and should be happening in this nation.
with dedication i pray for a brighter day,
one where character outweighs skin and
one where i will be proud to be an American
until then
i will be filled with pride deeper than i can understand
which leaks out every time i lift my voice and shout
“Yes We Can!”