Black History

March 3, 2013 in Black History

I wrote a new piece for the Tacoma Community College Black Student Union. Let’s continue to question why black history is herded into a single month rather than looking deeply at what is true U. S. history. Here it is:

Black History


I have written these pages

once blank sheets, bleached

and recreated

 in ways that forget

Ghana, Mali, Songhay  and Sundiata,

the founder king of Mali or Askia Muhammad

who formulated modern government and

civil service,

I have swept two thousand years away

like sand and written only one word

on the beach of South Carolina’s Sullivan’s Island:


 as if Africans from a hundred tribes and scores

of empires only began when their chain

blistered ankles arrived on these shores.

This, my friends, is hardly black history.


I have singled out a few precious names,

Tubman, Douglas, Hughes and King

as if the arrow of time was a single shaft

with but four feathers, when in fact

if we were to learn you,

if we were to learn us,

 the sky would be thick with arrows

all pointed toward the truth

all threatening our tender hearts

ready to pierce the whitest and darkest

sternums among us

and we would no longer begin and end

our stories in Europe with conquering Popes

and Inquisitions, Conquistadors

marine provisions, just enough to keep a thousand alive

while hundreds threw themselves into the water

rather than face a life that wasn’t free. 

We call that little genocidal journey

the middle passage.


But it didn’t work.

You are the gem that survived

that ocean and it shone

in shades of blues

resonating in syncopating poly-rhythms

like the world has never known

and we could not name this perfected,  unfinished

 sound,  so we just called it jazz.





The President of Emory College in Atlanta

recently praised the 1787 Compromise

which counted each enslaved African

as three-fifths human,  an example, he said, of how

civilized people could find common ground.


Which people?  On whose ground must

he be standing

to fail such basic math?

No one on this earth

has ever been a fraction.

We are all whole numbers

there is only one history

and we inherit the outcome

regardless of the written pages,

we inherit the outcome, in real numbers.


We are again dealing with fractions


the historians give us

one twelfth of ourselves

as if history were beans

and our minds were the cup

and they could pour one quarter Tubman

one quarter Douglas

two ounces of Hughes

and a final serving of King

and expect each of us to be satisfied–

bean soup for February

a reduction for twenty eight days.

Did you eat your lunch?

 Because, it is free and reduced.


We think best

when we are fed,

when history comes in eight courses

when the hemispheres and continents are evenly


when Africa and Black America

are  served  year round

when my whiteness no longer means

rationing my investigations in the name of supremacy,

when Sundiata of Mali and

Touissant of Haiti are contrasted in the same chapter,

where the sculpted works of Edmonia Lewis

and Elizabeth Catlett decorate our essays and our tables,

when we improvise in structure, the way our elders taught us

and strike a series of open fifths.  Five.   To form a whole.



Can it be both?

 Black history. Our history.

Can it be all?

Black history. Your history. My history. Our history.

Can I own what my ancestors have done

what they still do, what I allow

 and also

 what I am becoming,

what  I could become

what is possible?

Can we stop accepting fractions of ourselves?

Can we take you out of this guest room?

The house is yours. The house is mine.

We share it.

The soup is cooking

tender beans with more names

than we can collect,

with time to eat

to get that recipe

to write the books

from many kingdoms

and stop, for once, bleaching the pages.

Black History

One Comment

    1. Radames Antonio Cruz says:

      I feel you.

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Black History

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