The History of Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

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I am from Mother Africa
and roots that run as deep as the Nile is long.
I'm from slave ships
slowly killing the blacks below.
Disease-covered bodies chafing against one another
swapping one illness with another.
I am from families separated by oceans and freedom
to masters selling mistresses and mothers miles away.

I'm from “high yellahs” and “redbones” lucky enough to pass,
chestnuts
to mahoganies
and all shades in between.
From the oppression of shackles and lashes from cracked whips,
pricks of cotton and amputated limbs.
Weeping on wet pillows and bloody rags.

I'm from rebels, black sheep, and hushed escape plans.
From hard heads that learned to hold onto familiar African traditions
and nothing else.

Ignorance
scrubbed pools
contaminated by colored skin; phobias that the color was contagious.

Objections,
silent protests, sit-ins, and picket signs.
The burning of establishments:
riotous acts fueled by fire that makes blood boil.
Merciless water attacks,
Bullets of cold steel piercing warm flesh.

And from those who deserved their fate,
oblivious:
all the knowledge,
none of the action.

I'm from a family bound by love
divided
by muffled arguments downstairs that you regret in the morning.
From absent parents financially fighting for their families
and hours of solitude so dense that thoughts echo.

I'm from shuffling feet
that depict stories to the rhythm of drums
and family sing-
alongs in candlelit rooms
until you fall asleep.
Enticing moves to simple, heavy bases,
the movement of hips.
From harmonious bellows of church choirs
and funeral organs.
Pitchy vocals in the shower,
the dull flow of water singing back-up
for the lyrics on the radio.

I'm from clicks of the tongue
the difference between “Yes?” and “What?”
now often lost in translation.
From the Queen's English
to “she be's” and “TTYL.”

Women doubled over from babies strapped to their backs,
to those who refuse the Stepford image:
an apron, a vacuum, and a smile.
I'm from thick women with attitude; fingers snapping, heads rolling
and accepting of all their eccentricities.

I'm from sweet whispers and moonlit rooms.
I'm from big pouty lips,
the better to kiss with, so I've been told.
From kinky curls,
a mixture of naps and “good hair.”
Those with bad eyes who sat too close to the TV
and stared at the sun to pass the time on interstate road trips.
From rough, oily skin
causing pimples that fog up beautiful reflections.
Symbolism of sensuality: chocolate and caramel
to describe black skin.

I'm from kneeling and doing push-ups to show respect for elders who have crossed seas.
From naming ceremonies,
one name given to newborns by each guest in attendance.
United around the guest of honor and his proud mother in prayer
bowed heads and well wishes aimed toward the heavens.

I'm from food that sticks to the frame,
recipes that take all day
but are never the same twice.
Meaty stews tempting for the strictest of vegetarians
and an abundance of desserts
overwhelming for the sweetest teeth.

I'm from savages to citizens and thugs to businessmen.

I am from cigar smoke and dry liquor on the back porch,
grown-folks territory,
lying and addictions passed to some and not others.
Melodies of Motown,
the flows of rap freestyles
and the electrifying sounds of Jimi Hendrix.
From chlorine and barbecue smoke,
karaoke and mystery grime on bare feet.
Belly flops off the high dive and klutz attacks in sand.

I'm from times when black meant being inferior and filthy
to “Black Is Beautiful” and “I'm Black and I'm Proud.”

I'm from centuries of hope for changes to come.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the September 2010 Teen Ink Poetry Contest.






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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

Thesilentraven This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 11, 2010 at 3:30 pm
I am awed to silence... this was simply incredible. Your long account of how you came to be was written with extraordinary talent. You write with an eloquence like I have never seen. I feel unworthy to give you anymore praise than that. :)
 
mimirocks124 said...
Sept. 11, 2010 at 3:21 pm
that wuz gorgeous i loved it
 
Serendipity-Pen said...
Sept. 11, 2010 at 12:34 pm
Wow, that was beautiful! I loved it!
 
ElizabethW. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 25, 2009 at 11:15 pm
I loved how you so beautifully portray your heritage. Would you mind looking at my work? I'd really appreciate your opinion.
 
Po3ticSoul This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Sept. 28, 2009 at 5:03 pm
Thank you so much!
 
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