A little over three months ago I had someone verbally attack me at a Walmart. The pain, and the shame, from the N-word being spewed in my face had me shaking and wanting to hide. There is a great amount trauma that rises to the surface after such an attack. And when you are rooted in the knowledge that you are a descendant of nigerians who were brought to this country as slaves, it adds an extra layer to an already painful experience. Its painful knowing that despite the college degree, you too can still be profiled. You too can still be attacked. It's terrifying.
And therefore, I have had much difficulty in expressing my emotions, or in writing, or in just living day to day. Year after year, day after day a new death, or abuse or atrocity is done every day to my people. The images of George Floyd, Freddie Gray and the nooses of all the unnamed flood my mind and mix with the scene of Unite the Right Rally at UVA in 2017.
It all culmates in the summer heat, bringing me time and time again, back to the terrifing reality, that I will in deed not wake, and suddenly be a different color. I will not wake into a world without color. And this has led me to several different discoveries, and different conversations, and most of all this has led me to poetry. Below are two poems. The first poem, titled Growth, is about my hopes for those who don't mean to harm, but do through their lack of understanding on their privilege and how I hope they no longer stay complacent, and silent. The second poem, is my award winning poem VISIBILITY, which is about no longer living in fear, despite the american nightmare.
I hope both poems find you well, and make you think. Please if you want to know how you can help, visit the "inspiration" tab above and check out some organizations to donate to. And please, more than anything, start listening to people of color, and speak out against injustices. We should no longer be silent. We should no longer fail to show up. We should no longer allow my nightmare and the nightmare of so many others, to continue. Please show up and speak out because MY LIFE MATTERS. BLACK LIVES MATTER.
(I do not own the photos above)
Don't expect to much from those close
Because despite their support of you
they may shy away in times most rough
They may remain in their car, when you need them to get out.
They may remain silent when you need them to shout.
Their reasons are not always meant to be hurtful,
they may fear the retaliation that may ensue.
Or they would rather not have the necessary confrontations
They may not call or reachout for conversation.
And I know they do not mean to affect my heart
But what they don't know is how their silence echoes in the chambers and how it triggers the truama in my brain that leads to defense mechanisms.
The reminder of years of prejudice, and microagressions that have caused me to shake in frustration.
I don't understand why I ever had such an expectation.
I know you have been complacent in the past.
I know you're parents are the ones who enforced an oppressive system.
Your parents always kept their distance from my visibility
Wanting to ensure the preservation of their american nation.
I don't know why I'm so hurt by your lack of action.
Because despite your degree, I know you can continue to live in safety
The lack of liberty not affecting you personally.
My life is luckily not your reality.
You are living in your #bestlife, in harmony.
I'm so tired. And of course I tried to explain
But when I read back the conversation in retrospect
I realize that you failed to provide me with validation.
I know you make mistakes, no ones perfect.
But I wish you would've said "I hear you"
I don't want to have to say this, but of course I will.
I need you to say to me, right now, "I hear you."
I need you to acknowledge your privilege.
I need you to commit to being an ally.
I need you to vote based on candidate priorities. Not on your party affiliation
I need you to say, "That comment is not appropriate".
I need you to walk and show up at demonstrations.
I need you to make efforts to help communicate and eliminate the overt and covert discrimination.
I need you.
If you only know MLK, and no other leader, then you are apart of the problem
Go read, learn and educate yourself on the hundreds of men and women, and their dedications to social justice.
If you only have one black friend, then you are contributing to the problem of tokenism that happens in education, and socialization because you haven't made efforts for diversification.
If you can't seem to bring yourself to say Black Lives Matter, then you need to truly think about if they are equal to you or if they aren't as important in your perception.
I ask myself again, why I even had such an expectation of those close.
I will move on, and remember that in the end, I will always have my own lived experiences.
I will no longer expect your validation, or expect you to truly listen to the uncomfortable truth that doesn't affect you.
But I will always have hope, because I know your intentions were not meant to hurt.
And I believe in the ability for one to change, and grow.
So I pray that'll come to fruition.
And that one day, you can learn how to be a true ally in dismantling oppression.
I hope you can see the truth, and become the definition of growth.
My brown skin
What can I do to hide the complexion?
How can I avoid my reflection?
I had hopes that my education would take center stage
I hoped that my observations would stand incorrect
I hoped that my accomplishments would move me farther
And yet here I stand,
Being told I am that smart brown girl; fear crept closer
The nearer the comment to the heart
The farther our nation drives apart
The nearer the comment to the brain
The tighter the chains
The narration of all I can accomplish despite this complexion
The interpretation always with darkened eyes
The standing ovation, a pity donation
This golden reflection, ashened, merely tolerated
A moment to highlight your acceptance
And hide your resistance as I make advancements
An hour in time in which you choose to forget how you echoed silence
My brown skin. The skin I want to hide, dye light,
My fear irrational but proven rational at times when I must fight to survive
I apologize for my sacrifice
Hiding is what I have been conditioned to do.
But its time to become new. Become true.
It is time to debut my skin.
Release my hair. The kinky curls shall live without care.
My golden derma, oiled in butter
It is time to breathe American air, toxic and pure.
My bronzed body shinning in the sunlight
I will lift ev’ry voice and sing
I will release from the chains tightened around me
Its time to stop the policing of my brown reflection.
My generation will make sure Incarceration is no more
Education my generations new norm
The cycle will be broken
We have spoken
Equality no longer a choice
Hostility no longer tolerated
complacency, and silence too.
My generation will no longer face oppression.
We will no longer succumb to suppression.
Change is now in motion.
No more fear.
We live in our brown skin
and we are here.
2020 winner of the Gorden Link Poetry Prize at Shenandoah University
Lift ev'ry voice and sing 'Til earth and heaven ring Ring with the harmonies of Liberty Let our rejoicing rise High as the list'ning skies Let it resound loud as the rolling sea Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on 'til victory is won
Song by J. Rosamond Johnson and James Weldon Johnson The Civil Right Anthem of