Wednesday, August 11, 2004

An Attempt at Redeeming One Lost Post

Here goes:

There's a poem that has been eating at me lately. A whole work, really, that I long to hold in my hands and pour over time and again. It signifies a life, or rather many lives, that I have been fortunate enough to never know. And yet, I feel like there are still many lessons to learn from these lives, these tales, these heroes and heroines in their own right, in their own world, even if not in their own sight.

I don't remember if it was assigned to me in high school or junior high, but I do know it has stayed with me ever since. Though I could not fathom the significance then, these poems were embossed on my heart, on my very soul. I was privileged enough to hear the poet, herself, read them out loud. I can still hear her strong, sober voice telling tales of children who do not always come home to milk and cookies. She didn't just tell us of their tales, she wrote each one from their own innocent, yet jaded, young-but-learned perspective. Gwendolyn Brooks wrote Children Coming Home in the 1990s. It is raw, emotional and heartbreaking. It currently only exists as a section in her compilation, In Montgomery and Other Poems, which I have on hold at the library and can't wait to get in my hands; to caress the spine as though it were the hardened face of each abused or ignored child in hopes of comforting just one for at least one moment.

One of the poems that has stuck with me most superficially seems to have nothing to do with me at all. Delving deeper, however, I realize that it has everything to do with me. It can teach me pride and respect and love. It can teach me mercy and grace and patience. It can teach me how to live. See what it might teach you.


According to my Teachers
I am now an African-American.
They call me out of my name.

BLACK is an open umbrella.
I am Black and A Black forever.

I am one of the Blacks.

We are Here, we are There.
We occur in Brazil, in Nigeria, Ghana,
in Botswana, Tanzania, in Kenya,
in Russia, Australia, in Haiti, Soweto, in
Grenada, in Cuba, in Panama, Libya, in
England and Italy, France.

We are graces in any places.
I am Black and A Black forever.

I am other than Hyphenation.

I say, proudly, MY PEOPLE!
I say, proudly, OUR PEOPLE!

Our People do not disdain to eat yams or
melons or grits or to put peanut butter in stew.

I am Kojo. In West Africa Kojo
means "Unconquerable." My parents
named me the seventh day from my birth
in Black spirit, Black faith, Black communion.
And I Capitalize my name.

Do not call me out of my name.

Reprinted from In Montgomery and Other Poems, published by Third World Press (2003).