This piece is in recognition of Black History Month and intended to be watched and heard, as a performance. As it is not intended to be read to oneself, the full meaning of each word or phrase, each with its intended tone, volume, and accompanying body language or pause, cannot be realized in the format of this blog post. Nonetheless, I trust the heart of Brothers & Friends will come through. Thank you for reading. I do hope to perform this soon!
Brothers & Friends
I am not yet torn asunder.
But the rolls of thunder in my clouded spirit don’t subside.
No, I do not cry. I am a grown black woman.
I believe that I am done crying.
Have I become the angry black woman? I don’t think so, yet.
But if I am approaching the anger of the mad black woman, I see that the madness is but several sadnesses stacked on eachother, tumbled over one another down a hill, curled into a packed ball
Raised in a heart indignant at the violent assaults on her mind.
The times have changed a lot for a woman of dark brown skin
But there’s a hearty mass of grime on the dishes.
You can’t eat off that plate.
The lightening in the storm wrought in my troubled places cracks
like a whip.
With the flip of my tongue, I can fry a thought off my lips.
discloses the irritated wounds of my heart. I will not let you near for I have had too many near enough to place those wounds in the beginning–How can I be free of this?!
I do not cry not because I do not want to cry. I do not cry because I do not know how I will come back up the stairs once I descend to the basement, turn on the light and gaze at this mess I never requested. The garbage thrown down my staircase when the door opened to my house and more and more of the world came in!
What of the days when I loved my hair, when I loved my skin, when I loved to think and to read and to add, and to discover, and to laugh, and the goodness of these things was never questioned, condemned?
–When I didn’t know what it was like to be pigeonholed into a box of low expectations and low valuations?
I mean, if I processed how would I stand back up?
Give me a reason to open the drawers I’ve closed, to fell the tears I hold.
I do not have the strength to drudge up the crud of harsh realities this world has handed me and to hold myself together with two hands if none hold me!
When I was a child, I thought like a child. I played like a child, I fought like a child.
When I was a child, I loved like a child,
and I cried like one too.
But to know what comes with ‘Blackness’?
To know of this unspoken hierarchy of the “races”
and the lies of its ladder?
That, I did not know.
I learned it:
Who I was and who I wasn’t.
What I could or couldn’t be.
How I will or won’t be seen.
Here or there, alone or in another’s company–
Was I lost? Perhaps mistaken?
Rendering myself in this or that vicinity?!
Did I pay for that commodity?
As early as the days I’d just begun to read,
I learned it.
From my family, strangers, teachers, friends and enemies alike,
brown, and black and olive, white–
who learned it just like me:
distinguishing you from me and us from them–
O how diversity can make quick enemies.
But by some Mercy
I’ve also learned, this way,
to which not only I am conditioned,
where I am one of many who feel the–
are burned and scarred by the flames of its friction–
is not the way things have to be.
So here, do I present
an invitation to relief:
loves at all times.
And a brother?
Well, a brother is born for adversity.
in our shared humanity,
let us renounce these convenient tendencies–
our complacency, our apathy toward broken normalcy–
and taste the sweetness and riches
of the fruit of our complexity.
Break bread together–
Weave rich fabric of community that holds,
despite our insecurities.
Let us weather decades and generations to Eternity
To find ourselves, and History, redeemed.
Joined families, where your child is precious as mine
and mine as yours.
And like our children,
in this day and hour,
year and era,
let us play and cry and fight and love,
forgive and trust,
to find, after the battles and scuffles of this War already won*,
we are still friends or
*”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33
“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” -Romans 8:37
Copyright © 2018 Audrey McElrath
In recognition of Black History Month, a quotation and a link!
“We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” – John Hope Franklin, author of “From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African Americans“
The HistoryMarkers – An African American Oral History Video Archive documenting the lives of thousands of African Americans.