where home and history

great storyteller,

talk black to me:

comin’ from mother africa,
we was slaves long ago–

da necklaces we wore back den to show our pride, our wealth,
became nooses.

young student, talk white to me.

I am not an African slave.
I was born in Louisiana in 1989 and the hardest work I’ve ever done
was babysitting three small children,
cleaning up after nine relatives with no reprieve
and raising my mother and baby sister
when Mommy was too tired to do it herself.

[statistics:]

there was a Daddy in the picture once or twice,
but he rubbed himself out
and reappeared in someone else’s family portrait.

now talk black to me:

we was slaves long ago–
we was set “free”,
but not befo dem white men taught us our value
(we was only worth the work we could do).

years passed. they found otha ways t’beat us.

talk white to me now:

In high school they found other ways to beat us:
the freaks, the black kids who liked rock and didn’t contract every other word
(“isn’t” scraped the tongue too many times to bother with, and became “ain’t”.)
We weren’t black enough.

talk black to me.

we wasn’t white enough for dem–
dey wanted milk and cream,
and we was cocoa and honey.

talk white to me.

honeys, bitches n’ hos:

we traded gold-plated bracelets and great palaces
for gold teeth and fast rides,
slave songs for sex,
hymns for hoops,
strength for strip clubs and faith for free booze.

talk in multifaceted diamond spectrums (that don’t glisten on your ear):

once we were pride;
once we were bittersweet chocolate monuments
cradling civilization in sun-browned,
work-toned arms against hearts that beat with songs of love.

today we kneel as ghost children on either side of racial divides
that have nothing to do with white men or history.

tell me what it means to be black,
because I don’t know anymore.

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