Poetry

Blood Type

History Worth Reliving

(Black Student Alliance at Yale’s 50th Anniversary Celebration Gala)

Keep the Change (about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Audio

Video
Prism of Africa
It's in Our Blood (about African empowerment)
It's Revolting (at a former slave camp in Ghana)
Giants Who Hung From Trees
 
     for Bryan Stevenson 

 
Whether he is faced with
Death sentences
Or life sentences,
He does not believe in the end.
He wants to overturn
Manufactured periods
That limit humanity.
Since he stands on the
Shoulders
Of giants
Who hung from trees,
He understands the utmost gravity
Of fighting man-made conclusions
That reject God-given possibilities. 


License
 
My skin color
Is not a license
To kill
Your humanity.


Drowned Out
 
I see
A bald man. 
I don’t know
If he
Has cancer,
Just joined the army,
Or hates my skin.
Regardless of where he’s headed,
I’ll pray for him.
 
I see
A woman
With a stomach
Full of possibilities.
In twenty-two years,
I believe
That water will break
Away from her eyes.
I don’t know if it will be
Because of
A graduation
Or a funeral.
I just hope that it’s the former
So that she will be surprised.
 
I see
A cheerful girl
Asking her father
Why many grown-ups
Are really sad about a 10-year-old
Named Katrina
But a lot of other people act as if
She was never born.
I wish
That she could avoid
Having her naiveté
Drowned out
By the colorful soundtrack
Of silenced
Cries for help,
But, then again, she will have to sink or swim one day, right?


Past the North Star
 
     for Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Michael Brown, and
     Eric Garner

 
It is dangerous
In our homes,
On subway platforms,
On the roads,
And on the sidewalk.
Maybe we should become expatriates
And relocate to a more hospitable environment
Not just in a different country
But on a different planet.
There is no way
That we would be able to survive
This effort to get past the North Star,
But some of us may at least appreciate
The rare decency
Of dying         
Because a world
Treats all humans
The same way.


Split

   
for Freddie Gray

 
Many times
We are not even given the privilege
Of being suspects.
We are just guilty.
Entire trials
Take place
In a split second,
Just long enough
To split the back
Of a person
Who has a family legacy
Of bending
Over backwards
For centuries.


Same Hand

   
for Malcolm X


Like Malcolm X,
More than a few
Of us have gotten
Used to the feeling that we’re the ones dealing
When we’re really the ones addicted
To a wicked drug
That often makes us settle for less than we’re worth,
Causing us to do the impossible
In the worst sense of the word.
We enter the world as diamonds
And often turn ourselves into mere stones
Because of the pressure
To hold
Back the magnitude
Of one’s soul.

Like Malcolm X though,
We can all still realize that
The same hand
That we can use to pull a trigger
Is the same hand that we can use to point
Somebody in the right direction.
And the same hand
That we can use to deliver
Someone a slow death
Is the same hand that we can use to pull someone out of an early grave.
The point is
That your life
And your community
Are truly in your hands.


Seasons

   
for Ida B. Wells-Barnett


When she saw a black person
Hanging from a tree,
She saw
The country
Being lynched.

When she saw
A piece of
The fabric of America
Being engulfed in flames,
She saw
A burning flag
Being flown at half mast.

When she saw the strange fruit
Of which Billie Holiday sang,
She witnessed America
Fall
Far short of its supposed ideals
And she envisioned the colors
Red, white, and blue
Change to just red and orange.
She had to wonder
When there would finally
Be a season when
Equality
Would
Spring
Forth in America.


Reality

   
for Fannie Lou Hamer


She just wanted to make her mark
On a ballot,
But they came at her with malice.
They tried to knock out
Her sense of justice,
But those beatings
Were meaningless
Because she already saw the world
Through the lens
Of a black eye.
It was impossible for her to lose sight
Of the ugliness of racism.
They even tried
To shoot her
But that plan
Backfired
Because she was already
Made of steel.
This Superwoman’s will
Was so strong
That when she was put on TV
She did not waste one second
Being a stereotype;
She instead bravely revealed the details
Of a plot
To spoil
Her God-given rights.


No Room

   
for Charles Hamilton Houston


He was drafted
Into a war
Even before he was born.
After arming himself
With knowledge,
He tried to lay a new foundation
For a home of democracy
That would knock down
The doors to opportunity
And tap into the potential
Of every corner
Of society.
His work is not yet complete,
But it will be
Once every glass ceiling
Is removed
And every child
Can look outside her window
And see a world
That has room
For everything
Except shattered dreams.


Whiplash

   
for Frederick Douglass


He was a rebel
Who recognized
That it’s easy
To write somebody else’s life story
When the person cannot read.
So even though society
Wanted to keep him illiterate,
He spit
In the face of the norm
And transformed himself
Into a spitting image of a legend.
He most likely gave whips
Whiplash
With the way
He crashed
Headfirst
Into the way slaves were supposed to behave.

He constantly used his courageous words
To chisel
Away at the auction block
And the only thing that was left
Was a figure
Who broke through
The nation’s biggest writer’s block
And then put his life on the line
To ensure that all Americans
Could eventually master their own minds.


Defy

   
for Dr. Mae C. Jemison


As a child,
This astronaut
Aligned her goals
With the stars
So that when
She looked up in the sky,
She did not just see the Big Dipper;
She saw a picture
Of her future.
This Chicago scholar
Had dreams
Of astronomical proportions
So even though she loved to dance
She also knew
That she had a chance to
Make moves
That the Earth
Had never seen before.
She learned how to heal
As a doctor
And then she thought it was only proper
That she apply her skills
In the birthplace
Of mankind.
She then used
Her grace and mind
To become the first black woman
To go into space.
Through this Endeavor,
She claimed her place
In history
Because anybody can take up space,
But only a select few can go there.
Thankfully, she was always prepared
To treat stereotypes
Like gravity;
She defied them whenever they were around
And would never allow herself to be held down.


Feel the Movement

   
for Rosa Parks


She refused to budge
Because she was not paralyzed
By fear.
She could feel the movement
Starting in her legs.

When she made the bus stop,
That was a sign of progress.
She saw that America
Was well on the road to inequality,
But she pulled the country over
When she was arrested,
And she asked the nation
To identify itself.

Was it truly the land of the free
Or just a country full of it?
It
Not being
Fairness, justice, or compassion,
But hypocrisy, racism, and hatred.
Her mug shot
Thus reflected
The imperfections
Above
And under
The surface of America.
A place that needed an Underground Railroad
Not too long ago
And still has problems
With people moving as they please.


Composed

   
for Harriet Tubman


She traveled
When it was
Pitch black
Like the hearts
Of those
Who wanted to control
African souls,
But she stayed composed
Like a freedom song
Even when the heat was on.
The bounty hunters
Were on her back
Like the scars of slavery,
But Black Moses
Was still able to evade their grasp
Because the only tracks
She left
Are ones that cannot be seen on the ground
But show up whenever
You see a person
Stand up for her rights
And refuse to back down.


The Wisest Thing

In times of so much uncertainty,
We thank God
For revealing his powerful beauty
Through the love of Olawale and Olufunmilayo.
Even though God
Has given them
Enough brilliance
To change the world,
We all know that the wisest thing
They have ever done
Is find each other.

In Wale,
Funmi has found a man
Who will always heal her wounds.

In Funmi,
Wale has found a woman
Who puts God’s law above all else.

Together,
They will not only
Weather the storm,
But shower blessings on all the people they meet.
Their love will not only
Enlighten others,
It will be something
That even the stars
Look to for guidance.
And no matter how old they grow together,
They will not only
Honor the lessons of their parents,
But will also teach new generations
About what it means
To have love
In one’s heart,
One’s home,
And one’s world.