My People

Sharing another older poem this Thursday. Enjoy!
–The Vocal Poetess

My people are full of questions
never satisfied with first impressions,
or yes or no answers,
advancers of accountability
they see room for improvement,
movement, evolution, revolution
in any and every institution,
searching diligently for solutions
to life’s most complicated problems.

My people are imperfect
and a bit of a mess
sometimes letting the stress
of life get them far from their best
but never down for long.
My people are strong
even if they don’t always feel it, reveal it.
My people hurt and bleed
too full of compassion to be freed
from the pain that comes from
loving someone
or some thing so much
that just a soft touch
or word can bring on the water works.

My people feel
and they feel deeply
from the tips of their toes
deep breaths through their nose
the emotion flows
from their innermost parts
where it imparts wisdom
and direction.

My people are of the dirt.
Mud cakes their knuckles, fingernails,
trails from their boots
molds around their souls,
holds their bare toes.
My people don’t shy away
from what others may say
is too messy or raw or unrefined
they are defined by digging deep down
into the ground,
knowing that from the earth
all life is birthed.
My people put in work.

My people are ones who know the struggle,
exist in the struggle,
resist in the struggle,
whether it’s theirs to juggle
or in someone else’s bubble.
My people know that the fight
is never just ours or yours or theirs
to bear alone;
the struggle is our own.
It may look different for me
than it does for you
or those two
it doesn’t really matter who
because we’re all in this together
to weather the storms of this system
that we exist in
fully cognizant that simply having good intent
does not mean the outcome may not get bent
or cause harm,
that’s when we ring the alarm
of accountability and honesty.
And, honestly, it comes from a place of love,
knowing that the work goes above
and beyond what any one person may do.
It’s not just about me
and it’s not just about you.
It’s about coming together to form us.
So when I talk about my people
and all the things we may be capable
of doing and being
I look out among all of you
and it’s my people I’m seeing.

Privilege/Where You Began

It’s Monday which means I’m sharing one of my older poems. Last week I shared a poem about why I participated in the 2017 Women’s March. This poem is in response to a viral Facebook post last year from a woman who outlined why she didn’t march or support those who did.
–The Vocal Poetess

She said,
“I don’t need to march
or take to the streets
to meet my needs.
I can do it all on my own
with my own two hands
standing on my own two feet.
Look at these women,
they know nothing of poverty.
Have they ever heard of the Middle East
or Africa?” (she speaks of it like it’s a country)
“They have food to eat,
shoes on their feet,
who are they to take to the street?”

She said,
“This woman isn’t buying it,
trying it, or supplying it.
I’m not a second-class citizen,
I’ve risen above all that nonsense
and noise.
I can make my own choice,
I can work, vote, defend my family
and myself.
And I don’t blame anyone else
for my problems,
I choose to solve them.
These American women
have no idea what they’ve been given.”

And I say, that
is the problem.
I don’t think you realize
the prize your white skin supplies you,
the rise your social status provides you,
the sky’s the limit to you
because you were born in the clouds,
never able to see the ground
below and the crowds gathered there
trying to get their share
of this unequal American pie.
You never felt second class
because your opportunity glass
has always been half full
or more
while scores of other Americans
began their journey
having to make cups out of their hands.

Have you ever had to stand
in line for food stamps
or an affordable house?
Live paycheck to paycheck,
raise kids without a spouse?
You tell people like this
to rise up and get with it
but let me be explicit:
your starting block was near the finish,
you couldn’t see behind you
where the lines grew
but you see them now.
And it makes you angry
and indignant, you can’t
believe how ungrateful
and whiny our society is
while you’re the one who lives
off society’s back.
Yet you choose to attack
the marchers who are peaceful
and compare them to people
you’ve never even met
in lands you’ve never even stepped
foot on.

Yes, the world is suffering
and there is so much injustice
but when you can sit
and look at the world out your window
without seeing your neighbors below
then you are part of the problem.
When did we begin
comparing poverty to poverty,
hunger to hunger,
violence to violence?
Suffering is suffering is suffering
whether it brings despair
to the people over there
or right here.
Let me make the picture clear:
you may not feel like you need to march
or protest
but, at best, that is your experience
and yours alone,
yours.
Not hers, or theirs,
yours.

So before you turn your personal experience
into another platform to distance
yourself from other women and Americans,
take a second,
and remember just where you began.

Why I March

Good Morning friends! It’s Monday which means I’m sharing some of my older spoken word pieces. I wrote this one a year ago about why I participated in the Women’s March.
— The Vocal Poetess

* * *

Why I March

They asked me why I march,
what it meant to me,
to be a protester,
a tester of the waters,
a woman and a daughter.
And the first thing I’ll say
is that my choice to march on Saturday
was so much bigger
than my gender identity or female-ness,
than the fact that I have breasts and a clitoris,
(although this act of solidarity
should go much deeper than biology)
than the heartache
of coming so close to breaking
that last ceiling made of glass
only to have my hopes dashed
and shattered instead.

Yes those identities are important to me,
foundationally and otherwise,
and I realize my womanhood
is sacred, is holy.
It holds me
in connection with the tides and the moon,
the womb of Mother Earth
and all those who give birth to life.
Yes I am a woman, a daughter, a sister, a wife
and damn proud to be all the above and more
but those aren’t the only things I march for.

I march because white women like me
voted this man into the presidency
and I can’t let that be our legacy.
White women like me
have chosen our racial identity
over the sisterhood,
have stood on the necks and backs
of our black and brown sisters
dismissed her and them when
our privilege felt threatened.
When we felt called out or outcast,
we cast the dice in favor of the color of our flesh,
neglecting our common female-ness.
We white women claimed feminism
and took offense when women of color
pointed out another one of our blind spots:
our lack of intersectionality,
the fact that we acted as if our reality
was the same for all women,
that we spoke for all of them.
And when reminded of how skin tone
and economics, sexual identity,
and body politics came into play
we white women got up and walked away.

I march for clarity of vision
because the incision the election left
cut too deep, too close to the bone.
Because the backbone of Congress is weak
and broken and until the people have spoken-
not the electoral college,
not the white men who lack knowledge
and restraint, who paint
this nation as an island, a citadel,
in whose bowels dwell the beast
unleashed to expel all infidels
and come hell or high water,
slaughter the American dreams
of anyone who seems too dangerous,
too threatening,
be it the deafening cries of the refugee fleeing violence,
the undocumented worker forced to feast on silence
the black woman raising her fist in defiance,
the Muslim who prays five times a day that they
won’t be seen as a terrorist,
the trans person who has to continually insist
on their right to piss in their restroom
and the list
goes on.

I march for freedom and unity,
like this brave little state taught me,
because this, all of this,
is so much bigger than me.
It’s about human dignity,
solidarity,
you and me,
intersectionality,
the reality that we all share the same home
and we can’t progress
when we walk alone.

I march because I refuse to believe
that the fight is over and done with,
with all due respect,
that notion is bullshit.
I know who won the presidency
and he does not represent me
or the millions in the human family
around the world
who unfurled banners and sheets
and took to the streets to march too.

We march because we believe
in the ability of one, of two,
of a thousand or just a few
to shake things up and upend the system,
turn walls into bridges and ridges into cisterns,
to reverse the world order,
reach across human-made borders
to shift the axes of power
make the powerful cower
and build the kind of movement
not even the strongest hate can devour.

I march not because it is the best I can do
but because it’s what I can do
right now
and the rest is still coming,
this is just the first test,
just you wait and see what’s next.

 

Race Talks with White People

A close up of eight various flesh toned crayons that say "flesh" on them

One of the first poems I ever composed
was deeply racist.
It in, I insisted that my whiteness
lacked culture and vibrancy,
portraying black and brown folk
swaying and clapping and moving
in a way my people weren’t used to.
I lamented my lack of rhythm
and a connection to my history
but what I didn’t see was how my self-pity
and exotification of other races
further exacerbated racism.

I was in middle school
in a nearly all-white community
and it never occurred to me
that I had a unique culture.
So, like a vulture, I picked apart pieces
of other people’s traditions
in what I thought was admiration and awe
but was really stinking of raw bigotry.

I grew up thinking
that my pale skin was the default,
like the salt without the food
I viewed whiteness as the absence of race,
lacking taste,
so immersed in the drippings of privilege
I lived in a bubble that I found boring
but what I saw as boring
was actually the luxury that comes
from being in the dominant category,
race becomes something “out there”
and, once aware of it,
I pretended like I didn’t see it.

“I’m color blind, I don’t see race!”
It’s something some white people
are so fond of saying
but the reality of that statement
is that it reeks of igorance
because to say you don’t see color
means you don’t suffer
from oppression based on your skin
and to not see color
means you don’t see that other
people are suffering based on their skin
and to not see color
means you see whiteness as something other than
and to not see color
means you see us all as a dull gray,
and you white wash and wash away
the pain, the history, the beauty,
the vibrancy, the richness
of color.

And then comes the white guilt,
the shame of knowing the gains
your race has given you, the pains
your race has driven others to
but let me tell you what to do with that:
don’t take it to black and brown people
they already know the evils
that whiteness has created,
the atrocities whiteness has enabled.
Instead, take it to the table with other white people.

And don’t say, “How can we talk about race,
when there are only white people in this space?”
That is the perfect place to talk about race
because until you can face
the fact that you don’t need black people
to have this conversation,
until you can move from the station
of shame and guilt and apology
into vulnerability and solidarity
then this is right where you need to be.
Until you can grasp
that the task of dismantling racism
starts with you asking and tackling
the hard questions yourself
instead of putting them on someone else,
then this is right where you need to be.

And it’s hard work,
and you may never recover.
In fact, we’ll always be racists in recovery,
which means we’ll slip up sometimes
and find ourselves making mistakes
but we’ll walk in grace and humility
not worrying about saving face,
we’ll put defensiveness in its place,
and open space for other white people
to do the same.
Because once we can name
and root out racism from within,
begin to see whiteness
as part of the color wheel,
feel appreciation for other cultures
without exotification or appropriation,
have admiration for our own traditions
and realize the ways we’ve been conditioned
to think and believe and feel,
then we can finally begin
to heal.