Community Healing Through Poetry

By Bernice Willis
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Express Yourself in the Spirit of Love
for Community Healing

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June Arts and Healing Focus


“Call Me”

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Let’s talk, not text, your voice is what I want to hear
It closes in the distance, as if you-are-near.
Call Me
Your voice is pleasing, gives me the same joy as to when
I heard it the first time. A text can’t recapture that moment, now or then.
That cry, that cry, the sound anticipated from a new born life.
There was something about it that made the moments prior, only a memory, how
Call Me
Hearing a voice can detect distress or excitement, the high tones or the lows.
Hurried speech of anger, if joyous and peaceful or with a flow.
A text can only transfer a message, can’t tell if it’s always you on the other end.
Just type in a few words or two, then, hit the arrow for “Send”.
Call Me
You can hear laughter, enjoy a song together or even say a prayer.
Anyone else around, I’d enjoy hearing their voice too.
We can chew the fat and reminisce for a moment, before we say, “I love you.”
So, call don’t text, I’ll get back if I’m not there.
Just leave a message, ‘cause the sound of a voice can be listened to, even when
we are no longer here. Call Me!
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“Black Gal”

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Black gal is what I was called, while growing up as a child, mainly by family
members as they gave me a hug and a big smile.

Little did I know, that wasn’t the color you wanted to be at any time, cream, high
yellow, tan, pecan, light brown and colors with less ebony hue were at the front
of the line.

And after all of that, we were still categorized as being the same, didn’t matter
the shade or color, all African descendants were called by one name—“Nigger.”

Color as a child, never appeared to be the reason why I had friends that didn’t
look like me: my multi-cultural surroundings, focused more on day to day living,
than what the eyes could see.

Kept my mind on the ammo that I needed to stand tall and confident as my
journey took flight, rather than focusing on the color of my skin and what I looked

Given love, embraced and lifted up by the ones closest to me, was more precious
than wealth. Those were the tools I needed to prevent me from feeling lesser
than anyone else—

Allowed me to look more on the inside, even if I’m still looked at and judged from
the out—side.

Light Gal, no Black Gal! Uniquely made, not to be duplicated or copied, one of a
kind. Dare to look beyond my blackness, you may be surprised at what you’ll find!
. . .

“Free to Be Me in Stanford Park”

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Free to be me is how it was at Stanford Park
For my older siblings and kids from surrounding areas.
This was the place to be—
We would go daily after the school year came to an end.
The fun was on and all of our time would be well-spent.
There was no after school or costly day-care fees—
‘Cause the Park was funded by the city of Chicago, and
Everything was free, free, free—
Learning how to swim in the outdoor 11ft. pool was an expected challenge.
The good swimmers would push you in and watch you scramble—
Until you managed to…
We put on water-shows at the closing of the year for family and friends to see.
What fun we had as we prepared for the event.
We had so many participants!
Playing softball was a big favorite for all.
There were ballet classes that taught the girls how to turn like ballerinas…
And learning to tap-dance was for everyone.
You should have seen us—
We always had to perform to show off our dance steps and moves.
Parents were happy and proud as they smiled to approve.
Gymnastic classes were what I liked the most—
Even though modeling the little outfits my sister made for me
Came in very close!
Now in the gym you were taught to tumble, do somersaults, splits, back-bends,
And cartwheels with close supervision—with close supervision.
Running, jumping, flipping, and stumbling—having much fun was the intention!
Can’t leave out the talent shows for the older kids or whoever wanted to attend—
For singing or playing an instrument. There was a first and second place prize.
Crying through the entire song brought me in second at age five.
“Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue,” as the tears
Came streaming down, not because I was blue.
This is what being frightened caused me to do…
We did so many positive things on any given day—
Kept a lot of kids on the Westside busy,
Off the corners, idle mind, devil’s prey.
This place provided us another tool to compete.
By keeping my older siblings and many others
Off the street—
Good old Stanford Park!
There I was free to be me.
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. . .
I am a retired Registered Nurse. I have also been a professional signer and performer. I was born in Chicago, Illinois and live on the West Side of the city, where I attended Farragut High School. One of my favorite subjects was literature and expressive writing. Poetry has always been my passion. In 2018, I self-published my first collection of poems titled A Little Book with Big Inspirations. I continue to write and enjoy singing spiritual/gospel songs.

Originally published in my second collection of poetry titled Poetic Expressions: My Love to the World, 2019, many of the poems that I include in it focus on my life experiences growing up as a young African American female in Chicago. The poems that I share here with you reflect my commitment to promoting communal inclusion across cultural differences.

Considering the potent power of creative writing dedicated to transforming the daily lives of human beings, I write poetically in the Spirit of love for the healing of all people globally—in mind, body, and soul. I know clearly that the content of my poems I have chosen to share purposefully represent my personal experiences aimed to call out the importance of creative conversations for inner community healing.

I grew up in a family with both parents, five brothers and two sisters. Having a father that wasn’t the best bread winner because of alcoholism placed a heavy burden on my mother and my brothers and my oldest sister. Trying to make ends meet wasn’t always successful and sometimes the ends didn’t meet. My mother had very strong inner strength. She did everything she could to be the best supportive and loving parent for her children…. She never gave up, never walked away. Because of her and my older siblings, I grew up never realizing we were poor.

My discussions with people who have read Poetic Expressions have often moved them to become very emotionally open and vulnerable to sharing their personal experiences of race, gender, and economic disparities. These moments I will cherish forever. During these moments, I realized that we are more alike as people than those experiences that act to separate us.

Through my inclusion of autobiography in the poems I write, many readers of them willingly talk with me about their personal connections to my life experiences. In light of these self-liberating encounters, I continue to challenge readers of my poetry to verbalize their experiences, opened their minds, and speak with their hearts with hope — as survivors in this world filled with blind-sightedness.

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“Colorful Telephones” by Mark Fischer is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

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