The Conversation

by Carmen

The old man sat alone on a bench by a tree
bewildered, confused as to what his fate was to be  
Not sure how he got here and somewhat curious he asked why
He thought it was arranged as to his place when he died
And while he pondered the particulars of this place
A book was opened and presented to him his case.

From out of the pages stepped a somber young man
He was strong, he stood firm and held a chain in his hand
His body was bronze and covered with scars
And as he walked toward the man his eyes twinkled like stars
Recognition became evident, the man's blue eyes showed fear
He became hostile, stubborn and asked why are you here?

The young man responded on behalf of my soul,
my children, my mother, my race that you stole.

In an arrogant voice, he said, I stole nothing from you
You had nothing to wager, nothing, I gave you your due
I made you work hard, kept you from running away
and assured you your woman and children could stay.

You took away my manhood, stole me away from my land
Separated a people by putting gold in some hands
You used trickery, thievery, cunning and greed
Whatever it took to accomplish your cowardly deed
You captured the tribesman alone out keeping a flock
planting, tending, or harvesting his crop
You used methods peaceful people never knew did exist
and you hearded them like animals into your waiting ships
I stand before you now demanding an answer of why
Think carefully, be honest, deceit is not wise.

The man trembled so slightly but his arrogance took hold
and he spoke with conviction, speaking loud, speaking bold.

From the time when I was merely a lad
there were always the boats and the cargo they had
And the creatures they brought back so different from us
burly, black and covered with dust.
Everyone knew from this place where they came
They were wild, unruly and had to be tamed.
Like animals they could breed and produce their own kind
and through ownership one of theirs became mine.
Through the law of the colonies this product was ours
and over them we deemed that we had the power,
to show them the right way, to teach them respect
and the laws of forefathers had to be kept.
So slavery was born, the purpose was clear
to cultivate God's land that to him was so dear
He meant for the darkies to cultivate this ground
so to him we were faithful and to him duty bound
But the darkies were rebellious, didn't want to be taught
they were stubborn and strong and always they fought
against our traditions, against our ways
we suffered our losses for many, many days.
It was revealed to us though the way to get through
demand loyalty by breeding, by siring a few
That offspring brung forth a much tamer darkie brood
thus from human nature our industry grew.
Darkies were great in producing their own
but we had the ownership and we sat the tone.

The young man in his chains looked deep in his eyes.

So you raped our women and to me you tell lies.
Do you not have a conscience, do you not have a soul
Do you not have a choice where you finally will go?
Who gave you the right to strip flesh from my bones,
Who gave you the right to make young women moan,
Who gave you the right to hold up a whip,
to beat me, scar me, hold me down with your bricks,
Who gave you the right to deny me to stand
to look you in the eye like any other man,
Who gave you the right to bare my nakedness to others,
So you could collect a fair price, while I could do nothing but shudder.
Who gave you the right to sell my children from me
Tell me I have no rights because I am not free.

Again the old man, although fearful, didn't relent.

I'm not your enemy for us this was meant.

Some were meant to be masters, some were meant to be slaves
It's not something we can help, it's just part of God's ways.
So for you to judge me for the way that things be
is wrong, blasphemous, and not reflected by me.
Besides, you got your freedoom, you have your way cleared
You can go where you want to, you don't have to stay here.
You forget that we have both passed on from this life,
We're destined, we're bound to collect for our price.

What price could you pay for all the lives torn apart
For the mothers giving birth left with broken hearts
From the broken bodies of slaves used up and torn down
While you reaped the benefits, for them no peace was found.

I had no choice, it was the law, there were rules,
Slaves were our industry, slaves were our tools.
When slavery ended the South went down fast
and the war that preceeded it began the end to our past.

But even after slavery you didn't want change
Look at your history the terror of your reign
Bombing of churches with little children inside,
burning crosses on lawns, while under sheets you did hide.
We knew who you were, many were afraid to speak out,
That fear became evident as you thundered through the south.
What were you afraid of, why was black skin such a threat,
When did we become a sport for you to track down and catch?

You ask difficult questions, you make it seem we had a choice,
It wasn't a matter to ignore, we didn't have a voice
It's just the way things were in that day and time
Our destinies were pre-set, one for yours and one for mine.

You use excuses to justify your cause
You validate your reasons by hiding behind laws.
When do you take responsibility for the grief you inflicted,
When do you acknowledge the wrong in which you assisted,
Why do you harden your hearts and not see our pain,
Our misery, our grief, or how at our expense you gained.

It wasn't left up to me, I'm only one man
I didn't set fate in motion, I didn't deal the hand
Why do you confront me, why not those who knew,
Why make this a showdown between me and you?

Because you weren't in charge, you didn't set rules,
you had free will, you had the right to choose.
You didn't have money, position or wealth,
but you did have a conscience, you knew what you felt.
You made the choice to humiliate, to shame
in an effort to control, in an effort to tame.
What made you think you were better than me,
because it was written, set forth by decree?

Everyone knew that darkies were not able to learn
So their food and their coverings, they had to earn,
They had to be driven or else they were of no worth.

You say there was no other god given reason for us to be placed on this earth?

What of our achievements we've obtained through the years?
We did not perish, become extinct, but triumphed through our tears,
We showed we had ability, we're intelligent, we succeed,
and we did it through hard work, we have conviction, we lead.

Yes, you learned and you prospered but you were taught by our methods,
and you were thankless, without gratitude for what you owe us,
We deeded you property, we shared with you our land
Now you stand there, look at me and tell me I can't be a fair man.

You still don't understand, what does it take to get through?
It's not just about slavery or the pain we went through.
It's about equality, responsibility, honor and trust,
it's about integrity, perseverance, believing in what's just.
Why did those things not matter to you or your race,
Why is it so hard to recognize a Black man has a place?
In your churches, your temples, your synagogues, your creed
What do you teach about love and good deeds?
Do the god you worship condone what you do,
or do you look deep within and see it's a choice made by you?
You say you're fair, what about the land that you claim,
What about the people who lived here, are not their rights the same?
Your people came from a place where they say they were oppressed
They came to a new world where they wouldn't be under duress.
A place to be free, to start a new life
but for others not like you, you inflicted strife.
You labeled them to be different, therefore not good enough,
and you shackled them in chains, tied their hands with metal cuffs.

I'm old and I'm weary no longer a part of this place
Let me go and reap the rewards of my fate
I've been a faithful servant to my God and his ways
So leave me in peace, I have no more to say.

Yes, you have been faithful to the god that you know
but is he the one who determines where you finally will go?
Remember you have descendants who learned from your example
You taught them and guided them, for them that was ample.
Your methods they used in cruelty, in greed
but their's was more potent, a more cunningly seed
Not for building up land nor for wealth did they seek,
It was merely for control and a hatered that peeked
Why their hearts were so vicious and their hands were so cruel,
Because they learned it was proper in their homes and their schools.

I go my way now, from you I take leave
Your words do not interest me, to my God I'll be received.

I'm only a messenger, to you I was sent
Did you ever say you were sorry for the horrors you spent?
There are others like me, asking others like you
Now it's your day of reckoning, your answer is due.
The road is now cleared, the path lies open for you
It's the road you have chosen, your destiny, your rule.

For a very brief moment the man's fear set aside,
When he walked down that road, he felt strong, revived.
No longer an old man he felt resurrected, renewed,
He dismissed the young man....

My life, I choose.

The next step he took, he cried out in pain,
He looked at his feet, they were bound, they were chained.
There were others like him on the path that they walked......

This is not the reward that I chose, not the destiny I sought.

He turned and looked back, the young man was still there,
But his chains were all gone, he held his hands in the air.

400 years we suffered, 400 years we prayed
They did not go unheeded, he did not let them fade.
You had the chance to be forgiven, you had the chance to give a race,
Your stubborness and your hatred put you in this place.
You hated for no reason, your hatred had no cause,
You wouldn't see the injustice and you wouldn't break down those walls,
So now you see the irony of what you're left to be,
Give up the hate, get off that path,
and walk this road with me.

The Conversation by Carmen

© Copyright 2001. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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