Poetry by Farah Lawal Harris

Posts tagged “racism

My Five Stages of Grief in 2015 © Farah Lawal Harris


in psychology,

the Kübler-Ross model describes the five stages of grief

as a series of emotional stages one experiences

when faced with their own impending death

or the death of someone else.

the five stages are:

denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

here are mine:

 

1.

my mom and dad are immigrants

who came to the U.S. on their own volition,

got student visas to go to college

because it was a smart life decision.

i was born in this country, but Nigeria is in my veins.

now, more than ever, i cling to my ancestors’ names:

my great great grandfather, Herbert Macaulay’s face

is on Nigerian currency;

his grandfather, Bishop Samuel Ajayi Crowther’s life

has been covered in documentaries.

and then there’s me–

akata-loving girl with an African-American studies degree,

stranger to my parents’ homeland

and i am hated in this country.

 

2.

i am hated in this country.

not too long ago, some whites

used to lynch niggas at night,

leave mutilated statues of souls that used to be

full vessels of hope

emptied

for the hot sun and maggots to eat

until their families cut them down from trees,

trying to revive them

with saltwater tears.

but tears have never been rain.

today, some whites

kill niggas in daylight,

leave mutilated statues of souls that used to be

full vessels of hope

emptied

until the community calls out overzealous police,

trying to revive them

with justice.

but justice has never been rain,

so we get devoured

every 28 hours.

 

3.

every 28 hours,

i or someone i love could die,

but fear overtakes you

when i pass you at night?

i wish you knew how afraid i was of you–

we are marionettes whose strings are pulled

by unpredictable Geppetos

who with one false accusation,

one New Year’s Eve at Fruitvale Station,

one wallet mistaken for a gun,

one day at the playground trying to have fun,

one bachelor party before my wedding day,

one hoodie to protect my head from the rain,

one jaywalk in the middle of the street,

one individual cigarette sold cuz Newports ain’t cheap,

one nap on the couch as the SWAT Team busts in,

one hip-hop song played loud as i hang with my friends,

one knock on the wrong door for help,

one afternoon at Walmart holding merchandise they sell,

could turn my family’s life

into a living hell.

Gepetto, when you wore a white hood instead of blue,

i recognized you.

Gepetto, i wouldn’t be so scared

if you saw me too.

Gepetto, why don’t i matter to you?

 

4.

why don’t i matter to you?

black lives matter

when we rob, rap and rape.

the only time you see me is when

i make you money or take food off your plate.

i can’t breathe–

i’m in an illegal chokehold.

i can’t breathe–

blackness is incongruous with hope.

i can’t breathe

cuz he was handcuffed when you shot him in the back.

i can’t breathe

cuz our justice system is out of whack.

i can’t breathe

because so many no longer do,

i can’t breathe

because no Declaration holds me in its truths.

wake me when i matter to you.

 

5.

but then again,

who cares if I matter to you?

i’m a proud black woman and i won’t go away,

Nigeria and America simultaneously

run through my veins,

i am black–

i matter.

they were black–

they mattered,

we are matter,

protons, electrons and neutrons

by the name of Trayvon,

Amadou, Renisha, Sean;

Oscar, Jordan, Michael, John;

Tamir, Ezell, Kajeime, Yvette;

Eric, Aiyana, the list ain’t done yet…

their names live on because

we are immortal,

we are black;

we are priceless,

we are black;

we are resilient,

we are black;

we are beautiful,

we are black.

we are black.

we are black.

we are black.

and we matter!

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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.


White Noise


on a sunny spring afternoon
during my freshman year of college,
i found my voice.
not the voice of assertion or anger,
but the true revolutionary in me.
it was as if
someone dropped a piece of burning coal
inside my arteries
which steamed my soul,
sizzled in my mind
and simmered on the tip of my tongue.
the flame was sparked
by racism.
and i spoke!
little old me who was used to letting things slide
opened up her mouth with eloquence
and spoke with pride as i openly identified
the ignorant sin committed against me and others.

i was so excited that i told my lover,
sharing every detail about the incident.
i reenacted my response and waited for him
to affirm what i had expressed
but instead, he said
“Baby, the world ain’t that serious. Who cares about all that?”

my strong black coffee self
turned into decaf,
i was diet store-brand cola with melted ice,
a deflated balloon.
he turned and kissed me
and said, “Forget about all this silliness and focus on now.”
and when he pulled my pants down,
my whole psyche dwindled to the ground.
my victory now felt like personal defeat
and i realized that i had made a fool of me
by attempting to connect with one
whose consciousness flowed
on a different frequency.
our love was static and instead of changing the station,
i got used to the white noise,
kept quiet each time i was ignored,
beat down the fighter i wanted to be
all for the sake of him loving me.

thank God i’m free.