Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “celebrate

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.

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