READING

Poetry series: ‘My roots grow in Africa̵...

Poetry series: ‘My roots grow in Africa’

Where do your roots stretch?

cammy-

My roots are ingrained underneath solid asphalt of Detroit
They stretch vastly, across seas and bridges, into the island of Barbados
These roots are eternally writhing,
Longing to reach their origin someday
This origin is Barbados
I grew up listening to Soca
Eating sweet plantain
Drinking rum hot-toddies when I caught a cold
When sick with nausea, I’d drink Vernors
Grooving to Detroit techno and ‘90s rap
Snacking on hot pickles from the ice cream truck…

My roots stretch from the island to the block
Encircled by other children who looked like me, laughed like me, danced like me
My Black roots continued to spread; I blossomed into a Black rose
That embodied the characteristics of a morning glory
The way I could express myself completely when I returned to my Black haven!
Attending a predominantly white high school meant I was suffocated by the evils of tokenism during the day
Oh how I could breathe again when I returned home to my neighborhood of Black people or attended dance rehearsal at my studio, a field full Black dancing roses like myself
If Black children are Black roses, then let white spaces be parasitic dodder vines.

At college, these vines released me

My university was practically a sea of whiteness, yet I felt more proud of my Blackness than I ever had before
Being here, at first, felt out of place
Now, I was finally speaking my truth
No longer associating m
And embrace every single thorn
Forever growing, feeling my roots spread far and beyond, intertwining with others
Withoutyself with the tokenism that was ruthlessly stamped upon me throughout my primary and secondary education
I would soon be unapologetic in my Blackness!
Mystical in my Blackness.

Aware of it
Bathing in it
Embracing it
Knowing what it means to be Black and magical
Finally learning about my history–

chiara-

My roots grow in Africa, in the bustling, dusty streets of Dakar.
I sip on piping hot mint tea and listen to my grandmother’s gossip.
My grandfathers and great-uncles nod off to sleep on the porch outside.

My feet tread the streets of a sleepless city;
this life is the only one I’ve ever known.
I hear my mother chatting in her native tongue,
laughing with her siblings on the phone.

My mother was born in Senegal
in a small town called Fatick in 1975.
We are the Serer people;
we eat in large bowls together as a family,
we search the shallow ocean floor for clams to cook,
we dance and swing our arms to pounding drums
under the speckled night sky,
the moon our only audience,
our cheers and claps the only noise.
We live alongside our ancestors,
their spirit within us as we
breathe and sleep and live
like they did many years ago.

It is their ink that writes our story.

My soul, it rests in Dakar,
breathing in the only air
on this Earth that feels like my own.
In the green pastures and the baobab trees,
whose curved branches reach out towards the beating sun.
It waits patiently for me to return
to plant my feet and wiggle my toes
in the soil that created me
but did not raise me.

My mother came to New York in 1999 a free woman,
her history untouched by the sins of the American past,
the cold and thrashing sea of whiteness.
But we would not be here without the revolution and uprising of our
fellow black kin
They turned their shackles into swords,
their tears into a flood,
their voices into a melody of freedom.

Their outrage and diligence overturned
the perverted ways of slavery.
The history of Black America is written in their blood.

My mother and I continue this fight,
because it is ours to share.
The shadows of prejudice and racism
follow us all, regardless of where
we came from.

Our skin, beautiful and rich,
is both a target and jewel.

But we as black people
will not live as a shell of ourselves,
drowning in our oppression.

We will smile, and laugh,
and dance to beating drums,
and scavenge for clams,

and keep marching for our lives,
screaming for equality.
We will bask in the sun,
and show off every shade of the diaspora.
Our hair will kink and curl,
our skin will glow in every color,
our voices will sing and rap and riff
every melody.
We will act, we will write, we will paint,
We will be doctors, and lawyers,
teachers, lovers, friends.
We will exist and share and connect
with our roots,
proudly show off our origins,
teaching black people
the beautiful different cultures
within our diaspora.

My mother and I,
we will one day return to Senegal,
to bask in our sun and lay with
our ancestors.
In the meantime,
we will discover and study
the rest of our continent,
the lands where our kin reside.
Because that is how we continue this fight:
understanding, appreciating and loving
our black siblings.


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