Literature, Reflect

Reflections: Keeping Black History Alive

February 26 / 16 

Hello! February is winding down and it’s time to reflect. I’ve decided to this with poems. Poems always reflect what the poet is saying. They are writing from a place of experience, a place of pure emotions and letting the reader know their story. I think I’ve said this before, this generation and the next generation need to know what our ancestors went through for us. How we are able to vote, to speak, to get the best education, the jobs…..we have our ancestors to thank for that and I want future generations to see that as well. Here a few poems to reflect on Black History….enjoy your Friday and be blessed.


 

On Liberty and Slavery

BY GEORGE MOSES HORTON

Alas! and am I born for this,
   To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
   Through hardship, toil and pain!
How long have I in bondage lain,
   And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain—
   Deprived of liberty.
Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
   This side the silent grave—
To soothe the pain—to quell the grief
   And anguish of a slave?
Come Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
   Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
   And drive away my fears.
Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
   Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
   Now bid the vassal soar.
Soar on the pinions of that dove
   Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,
   The sound of Liberty.
Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
   So often sought by blood—
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
   The gift of nature’s God!
Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
   And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
   In which enslaved I lie.
Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
   I languish to respire;
And like the Swan unto her nest,
   I’d like to thy smiles retire.
Oh, blest asylum—heavenly balm!
   Unto thy boughs I flee—
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
   With songs of Liberty!

For My People

BY MARGARET WALKER

For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
     repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
     and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
     unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
     unseen power;
For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
    gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
    washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
    hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
    dragging along never gaining never reaping never
    knowing and never understanding;
For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
    backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
    and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
    and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
    Miss Choomby and company;
For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
    to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
    people who and the places where and the days when, in
    memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
    were black and poor and small and different and nobody
    cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;
For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
    be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
    play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
    marry their playmates and bear children and then die
    of consumption and anemia and lynching;
For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
    Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
    Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
    people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
    people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
    land and money and something—something all our own;
For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
     being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
     burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
     and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
     who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;
For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
     the dark of churches and schools and clubs
     and societies, associations and councils and committees and
     conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
     devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
     preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
     false prophet and holy believer;
For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
    from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
    trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
    all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
    bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
    generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
    loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
    healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
    in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
    be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
    rise and take control.

In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr.

BY JUNE JORDAN

I
honey people murder mercy U.S.A.
the milkland turn to monsters teach
to kill to violate pull down destroy
the weakly freedom growing fruit
from being born
America
tomorrow yesterday rip rape
exacerbate despoil disfigure
crazy running threat the
deadly thrall
appall belief dispel
the wildlife burn the breast
the onward tongue
the outward hand
deform the normal rainy
riot sunshine shelter wreck
of darkness derogate
delimit blank
explode deprive
assassinate and batten up
like bullets fatten up
the raving greed
reactivate a springtime
terrorizing
death by men by more
than you or I can
STOP
       II
They sleep who know a regulated place
or pulse or tide or changing sky
according to some universal
stage direction obvious
like shorewashed shells
we share an afternoon of mourning
in between no next predictable
except for wild reversal hearse rehearsal
bleach the blacklong lunging
ritual of fright insanity and more
deplorable abortion
more and
more

American History

BY MICHAEL S. HARPER

Those four black girls blown up
in that Alabama church
remind me of five hundred
middle passage blacks,
in a net, under water
in Charleston harbor
so redcoats wouldn’t find them.
Can’t find what you can’t see
can you?

The African Burial Ground

BY YUSEF KOMUNYAKAA

They came as Congo, Guinea, & Angola,
   feet tuned to rhythms of a thumb piano.
      They came to work fields of barley & flax,
livestock, stone & slab, brick & mortar,
   to make wooden barrels, some going
      from slave to servant & half-freeman.
They built tongue & groove— wedged
   into their place in New Amsterdam.
      Decades of seasons changed the city
from Dutch to York, & dream-footed
   hard work rattled their bones.
      They danced Ashanti. They lived
& died. Shrouded in cloth, in cedar
   & pine coffins, Trinity Church
      owned them in six & a half acres
of sloping soil. Before speculators
   arrived grass & weeds overtook
      what was most easily forgotten,
& tannery shops drained there.
   Did descendants & newcomers
      shoulder rock & heave loose gravel
into the landfill before building crews
   came, their guitars & harmonicas
      chasing away ghosts at lunch break?
Soon, footsteps of lower Manhattan
   strutted overhead, back & forth
      between old denials & new arrivals,
going from major to minor pieties,
   always on the go. The click of heels
      the tap of a drum awaking the dead.
Sometimes I think about Great-Uncle Paul who left Tuskegee,
Alabama to become a forester in Oregon and in so doing
became fundamentally white for the rest of his life, except
when he traveled without his white wife to visit his siblings—
now in New York, now in Harlem, USA—just as pale-skinned,
as straight-haired, as blue-eyed as Paul, and black. Paul never told anyone
he was white, he just didn’t say that he was black, and who could imagine,
The siblings in Harlem each morning ensured
no one confused them for anything other than what they were, black.
They were black! Brown-skinned spouses reduced confusion.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
When Paul came East alone he was as they were, their brother.
The poet invents heroic moments where the pale black ancestor stands up
on behalf of the race. The poet imagines Great-Uncle Paul
in cool, sagey groves counting rings in redwood trunks,
imagines pencil markings in a ledger book, classifications,
imagines a sidelong look from an ivory spouse who is learning
her husband’s caesuras. She can see silent spaces
but not what they signify, graphite markings in a forester’s code.
Many others have told, and not told, this tale.
The one time Great-Uncle Paul brought his wife to New York
he asked his siblings not to bring their spouses,
and that is where the story ends: ivory siblings who would not
see their brother without their telltale spouses.
Here a poem tells a story, a story about race.

The Slave Auction

BY FRANCES ELLEN WATKINS HARPER

The sale began—young girls were there,
   Defenseless in their wretchedness,
Whose stifled sobs of deep despair
   Revealed their anguish and distress.
And mothers stood, with streaming eyes,
   And saw their dearest children sold;
Unheeded rose their bitter cries,
   While tyrants bartered them for gold.
And woman, with her love and truth—
   For these in sable forms may dwell—
Gazed on the husband of her youth,
   With anguish none may paint or tell.
And men, whose sole crime was their hue,
   The impress of their Maker’s hand,
And frail and shrinking children too,
   Were gathered in that mournful band.
Ye who have laid your loved to rest,
   And wept above their lifeless clay,
Know not the anguish of that breast,
   Whose loved are rudely torn away.
Ye may not know how desolate
   Are bosoms rudely forced to part,
And how a dull and heavy weight
   Will press the life-drops from the heart.

Miz Rosa Rides the Bus

BY ANGELA JACKSON

That day in December I sat down
by Miss Muffet of Montgomery.
I was myriad-weary. Feets swole
from sewing seams on a filthy fabric;
tired-sore a pedalin’ the rusty Singer;
 
dingy cotton thread jammed in the eye.
All lifelong I’d slide through century-reams
loathsome with tears. Dreaming my own
silk-self.
 
It was not like they all say. Miss Liberty Muffet
she didn’t
jump at the sight of me.
Not exactly.
They hauled me
away—a thousand kicking legs pinned down.
 
The rest of me I tell you—a cloud.
Beautiful trouble on the dead December
horizon. Come to sit in judgment.
 
How many miles as the Jim Crow flies?
Over oceans and some. I rumbled.
They couldn’t hold me down. Long.
No.
 
My feets were tired. My eyes were
sore. My heart was raw from hemming
dirty edges of Miss L. Muffet’s garment.
I rode again.
 
A thousand bloody miles after the Crow flies
that day in December long remembered when I sat down
beside Miss Muffet of Montgomery.
I said—like the joke say—What’s in the bowl, Thief?
I said—That’s your curse.
I said—This my way.
She slipped her frock, disembarked,
settled in the suburbs, deaf, mute, lewd, and blind.
The bowl she left behind. The empty bowl mine.
The spoiled dress.
 
Jim Crow dies and ravens come with crumbs.
They say—Eat and be satisfied.
I fast and pray and ride.

__________ my loved blacknesses & some blacknesses I knew

BY KHADIJAH QUEEN

especially the rarest kind / or the kind named Priscilla G & not drowning
in bleach cream / creamy spin / but spinning blades on a black Nina
gunship in the gargantuan ghetto / not killing & maiming my brothers & potential
husbands / when the working mothers give up & when they do not
& when boys in their mad survivalist tactics
want a movie sex parade / silk-edging their sweaty fists in 30 watt lit basements
just because / death switch of a future /
none of that has to do with any kind of blackness or a crazed horizon
in the plumed summers of Los Angeles wherein television reenactments of real
fathers didn’t occur enough for news sidebars / but more than generally believed /
they showed up to dailiness / cash in hand but as the school year revved up
the rest of the madness had nowhere to hide / ballooned horizon /
chemical concerns / fire up the blue turbines / fire up
unconscious intention plus the acne of ignorance / on the city’s glittery filth façade
but not because of blackness / not for me /
when I would get home sometimes there might be food
sometimes just blackness I could live on / which I love
If you love poetry, you can go to this website: www.poetryfoundation.org.
photo cred: hdwallpapersfit.com

3 Comments

  1. Tabernacle ✊🏼👏🏼👏🏼. Check out the cellar when you have time. I did something for this month called “still I rise”
    Great post and Much love from the cellar ✊🏼

    • L. Richelle Murry says

      My apologies for the late reply….been pretty busy, but I did stop by your blog and read ‘Still I Rise’ and a few other poems. I liked them alot! Keep up the creativity!

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