My friend, poet Miesha Brundridge, organized and hosted an incredibly moving and powerful Black History Month showcase on February 27. Miesha has been organizing seasonal showcases for over two years now, and I am one of the returning poets in her themed shows. I am so grateful for the community of poets I met at the Studio 620 and how they read poems as though they are opening the pages of their skin. It is that kind of honesty.
At the Black History Month Showcase, each performer read a tribute poem where they honored a Black poet and then they read an original piece. My middle school poetry students from John Hopkins performed too and it was amazing to see them read their work! They write with incredible depth and emotion and I got chills listening to them.
If you missed the show, don’t feel bad! Limited seats were available due to COVID. The show was also livestreamed on Facebook so you can check it out at your convenience by going to the Studio 620’s Facebook page and clicking on the video from February 27!
Here is a poem that I put together using lines from the original poems performed at the Black History Month showcase by the John Hopkins Middle School Students from Poetry Club:
Community Poem, John Hopkins Middle School Students:
Kasim, Markel, Nashon, Emily, Kerry, Joesiah, Kirel
As a young king rises and a bird sings
he says Today is the day
and the people sing for freedom.
If I don’t use my voice
that’s like starving
but not eating my food
I’m still here.
I’ve been trying to get better
grinding on the daily
and to all my fallen brothers
it won’t be the same
I will love myself once again
I will not be afraid to love me anymore
I will not be afraid
What code do you follow?
How do you ride?
Instead of violence
let’s talk about knowledge
Like getting good grades
and going to college
How are we to be told apart?
If not by our mistakes let it be by our hearts
Basing what you think of me
off the chapter of my life you walked in on
Instead of reading my book cover to cover
Because you can’t write your thoughts in me
without talking to me
Colors they choose to separate us people
ripped us down took our freedom like we were evil
Why don’t they call us their sisters and brothers?
It’s because of the past
or even something deeper
We breathe the same air
We live in the same place
You would think it’s only fair if we get treated equally
But when we get caught
there always seems to be shots
The positive electricity it will shoot out, it will go, it will flow
cause I too Dream a World of nothing less than greatness and peace
where a person of a race other than Caucasian
from Africans all the way to Asians
where we all can feel not just great but safe
At the end of the day
all we can say
is keep walking.
And here is the tribute poem that I read for the show, “Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes:
And my original piece, “Black is Beautiful”:
Black is Beautiful
Oh, how my grandmother soaked up
constant compliments, wore bikinis
until her seventies, daisy dukes and crop tops,
blonde curls bouncing as she raised one shoulder,
then the other like Marilyn Monroe
in that famous white dress.
My friend Danielle and I were teenagers
when we sat at the kitchen table
flipping through her makeup artist book:
glossy pages of white faces.
Except for one.
Grandma saw and said She’s pretty
for a Black girl.
Later, in my bedroom,
Danielle said, Gorgeous
for a human being!
and pointed to the model
with shimmering cheeks, a spirit
that leapt off the page.
Two decades later,
I look up at the sky. Finally,
I say to Grandma, Black is beautiful.
I say to my seven-month-old son
who still doesn’t need to unlearn anything:
Black is beautiful.
And when I see dark skin
in a magazine or on TV, I want
More. On covers,
with lead roles,
in positions of power.
rivers of Blackness.
Black person, Black pen, Black chair,
Black sand, Black stairs, Black sky, Black cat,
Black butterfly, Black person,
person, person: universe.
Thank you for reading.
Peace, love, and hope for a more equal and just world,