With the release of my debut chapbook, Birthing Pains, I’ve decided to pull some lines from each piece and explore the depths of the themes in my poems and essays. This is the first of many.
“Be a Black Person They Said” is the first poem of Birthing Pains. It is a fiery piece written from a newly discovered, formerly forgotten fountain of rage. This fountain, I discovered, had been washed clean. The pipes were all reset. The irrigation system completely redone. What I mean to say is this rage was born out of a divine love for all people. And the witnessing of those precious people continually sabotaging and desecrating their own existence. This piece ushers in a certain baptism by fire into the possibility of truly “doing something different”.
The Awakening of Mamma
This poem struggles with what it means to be “black” in a world that always has something to say about it. Regardless of what shade of brown skin you are in (and it’s ALL some shade of brown), from pale to dark, everyone has an opinion on what the meaning of “black” skin is supposed to carry. For most of my life there have been slight attempts to delegitimize who I am because my skin belongs to what is commonly called the “black racial variety”. I was rarely black enough, or just too black.
I didn’t realize I felt a certain type of way about this until I was in the throes of writing this poem. In the midst of its fire, I stumbled upon that fountain of rage I mentioned earlier and I discovered that this, too, had a place at that divine cosmic wedding feast of a table.
About the Line:
This one rolled out of me like a thunderous mother in the sky, letting her babies know what’s what. It feels a lot like how I feel God felt when he responded to Job. Like: Do you even know. Who you are talking to? The greatness of this divine mystery rattles and holds all within its firm tenderness and bass-like booming resonance.
A soulful mother. Like Africa, like the deep. One who wells, and swells, and cares with all of her being, for all of beingness. So she is not timid when setting the record straight. Not after having been quiet for so long. And watching it all go awry.
A Refrain in the Key of Cut-It-Out
Can I just sing at the top of my voice “RACE DOES NOT EXIST!” It is a construct created shortly before the birth of this nation. It denotes a value/meaning inherent in skin color which justifies a species/sub-species perception in the midst of humanity. This way one could justify slavery without feeling like a crappy person.
In his book “The Social Contract”, the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau paved the way for the audacity of this perception when he called the “Hottentots” (not their real name… but they were a tribe in Africa) the missing link between man and the orangutan. He stated that the natives of Africa (a land he never encountered, mind you) were a subspecies with superhuman capabilities of running, jumping and even flying. According to Rousseau, they were subhuman due to their “lack of intellect”. Y’all I cant make this nonsense up. This armchair philosopher was one of the founding fathers of the founding father’s of this nation. Which essentially means his asinine logic helped to structure the way this country has disparaged many humans.
I don’t support the whole “If others see race, we should see it too, because we would just be ignoring the issue” thing because… What do I care what others see? What does that have to do with me and who I am? If I continued to care what others assumed about me without getting to know me in spirit and Truth… I would literally get nowhere and be nothing. And I don’t have time for that! And neither do you!
You ever seen Dinner for Schmucks? There is a scene with Steve Carrell and Zach Galifianakis sitting in a tax office. Galifianakis’ character (Therman) claims to have mind control powers and Carrell’s character (Barry) is the type to believe him. Through roundabout logic and an intense stare, Thurman convinces Barry he has control over him and his actions. Staring into Thurman’s eyes, Barry is catatonically stock-still, Sitting beside them is Paul Rudd’s character (Tim), telling Barry to just move, because he doesn’t have control over him. In this situation: I’m Tim, Barry is everyone who believes they are oppressed and controlled by Thurman, who represents the system, broke joke that it is. Now let’s just hope that I don’t get audited.
About The Line:
Have you ever seen A Raisin in the Sun? I don’t like that play much. I’m tired of associating weakness, disparity and depravity with the identity of our darker skinned siblings. But there is this character from Africa (Mr. Asagai) who has this monologue about bringing Bennie, a young woman who represents the progressive ideologies of America at the time, to Africa where she will learn the old songs, and drink from the gourds and something about mountains. Lol. It had ME tearing up. I almost yelled take me, take me home!
To some, Heaven is an Ancient Song, a symphony struck at the beginning of time, a harmonic celestial opus. A note that rings in the midst of creation, a divine resonance that brings everything into being (Look up String Theory). That is the song I want to remember, the one that has room, a part, for everyone.
A Call To the Throne
Everyone claims that racism happens via white/black relations. But as someone who wasn’t accepted by “black” people in my youth, as someone who has mostly encountered criticism as it relates to my perceived race from “black” people…. I have to call bullshit on that. It’s usually a “black” person who calls me “white”, or tries to take away my black card, or whatever asinine rule is upheld in order for me to “pass as black”.
I earnestly do not care what I pass as. Because, news flash, to tell me what I’m supposed to be, or how I’m supposed to act based on the color of my skin IS racism. Stereotyping in the very least. In my life, those who would least desire it happen to them attempt to do it to me. It dawned on me one day, we don’t need enemies. We are our own enemies. Reinforcing ideologies and ways of being that are a reaction to oppression, is still oppression. (I hope you can hear that I’m talking to everyone here). And I refuse, I refuse to be oppressed. It’s not in my name, nor is it in my DNA. Not anymore.
About this Line:
Royalty, as we know it, reflects a certain lack, need, limitation and scarcity that doesn’t exist in true nobility. The way we know royalty or nobility is a mysterious ruler who hides behind gold and garb and rules over the people. The etymological root of the word noble is gnobilis, which means “knowable”, and Royal has to do with reg- (such as in regal) which means “move in a straight line.” To have awareness of the knowledge of what it means to be in alignment. To know thyself and thus others. Now that is invaluable, limitless, life-giving power. And this requires a certain transparency.
You shall know the tree by its fruit: If you are seeking to take power from someone, or discourage them. That reveals your own state. If you are effective in imbuing them with courage, inspiration or power, that, too reveals your state. What do you know of True Kings and Queens?
The Great Remembering
If you believe in race, wouldn’t racism be your belief system? Just like those who deeply believe in capital, and inculcate capital into their decision making process and world view… uphold the belief system of capitalism. You give your energy to it, and thus allow it to have power over you and in you. Whether that is a flippant judgement you make about someone based on their skin color, or an inherent distrust you have of someone based on their skin color. That’s all racism. Upholding the belief that race/ skin color holds some sort of value for a person’s identity that is generalized and commodified. Is racism. I am not pointing this toward anyone, unless you feel it in your heart. In which case this is calling you in, into reflection and removal of deception in your own mind.
If you want to talk about CULTURE that’s a whole other thing. Culture is a natural phenomenon distinguished by time and place. Our cells came together, like people. And some formed a heart, some formed lungs, some formed a large intestine… you get it. My organs are not divided and they work together to make up the beingness of my body. Like the world’s cultures, vast and profound, make up the beingness of this life. Through interacting with different cultures, we become more aware of who we are as humans. Through interacting with others, and understanding and learning of yourself.
About This Line
People chase money as if it will solve their problems. In the midst of this, they lose sight of its purpose as a tool. We need food, water, shelter, clothing. All in the name of safety, security, comfort, and even belonging. We don’t need money. Nature provides all of these things in abundance–for free! There is no shortage of resources on earth for those who live a life that is true. But a life of overextension, a life of greed, and lack? A life borne of necessity and longing? And seeking outside of what life provides for some extra, external meaning? Yeah. That’ll breed the self same thing before our very eyes. Hence. Climate change, starvation and poverty. So much need…. on a planet of abundance.
And those who have been delegitimized in this world?
False prophets/profits teach them this same gospel of mammon and excess, luxury and lasciviousness as the way to their freedom and salvation.
Let It Shine, Let It Shine, Let It Shine
Basically, I’m just tired of people trying to tell me what my skin color means. Especially when that necessitates me consuming poisonous ideologies that I do not support. Liberation is transcending the expectations and stories people attempt to place upon you. Whether it be due to your skin color, your gender, your sexual orientation… or anything else. Such small and limiting things cannot define the content of one’s spirit. And to assert that it must be defined, whether positively or negatively, places limitations on what a human can do or be. This is one of the greatest causes of breaching, and one that increases the birthing pains. My God is limitless. Carrying the DNA and thumbprint of my Father in Heaven means that I, too, have the capacity of limitless being. So. Do. You.
In this poem I mention how all life begins in the dark. In blackness. Seeds planted in dark, spring up into the light. Babies gestating in the wombs of their mother, birthed into light. Light its self was created from the “mouth” of One who knew Themself in totality. When They spoke, all that we know manifested. And They were without ignorance of a single speck. This is a great mystery one must steep in and allow to steep in them to uncover.
About This Line
The final line of this poem speaks of the Light of Life distinguished from the Light of the world (the false one). The light of the world which places stories on you based on past wrongs or mistakes. The Light of Life, having known you before conception, instead, is a peaceful entity that would not define you outside of itself…. despite your best efforts. The Light of Life that created us, this largely unrecognized being we are, is the only one who can accurately quantify your being… and wouldn’t deign to, for truly… it is limitless.