I Knew I Was Black

by Violetta P. Joseph


Lord I knew I was black

When tossed from the big ships,
I landed in the middle of torment,
encrusted with the sweat and blood
of hundreds of thousands of lost souls
in the midst of salty seas,
separated from homeland and loved ones,
existence held no comfort,
No peace and no mercy.

Lord I knew I was black

As a free man, hiding in the woods
from those who would not recognize my human being,
hearing those dogs calling my name
feeling their breathe of capture upon my face,
begging me to give them a sign,
I give in, I give up, holding my breath.
Just lie down and pretend to die. 

Lord I knew I was black

Four hundred years have come and gone
but nothing has changed.
I work the fields of emptiness
to live in the house of fruitlessness.
At night, I sing and dance
in anger in the places that seem the same
but are enticingly not.
In my rages, I drink and drink to be drunk,
the weight of old memories.

Lord I knew I was black

Things were looking up until they knew it was I.
Armed with the passive tools of education
to fit into the story of life,
as they would see it.
I brought the essence of my learning
struggle rolled into knowledge
to defend me from the waterfall of pity
and misguided equal opportunity. 

Lord I knew I was black

But it's not like Iím asking for something for nothing.
In every grain of dirt is the sweat and blood
of those kin to me who came before
and laid the foundation of somebody elseís wealth.
There was no anger in me for the worldís shortcomings
and short-sightedness because you know Iíve always come up short.

Lord I knew I was black

The knot in my chest that is peaceful shrinks each day.
The bitter taste in my mouth is the phlegm of violence
waiting to spate itself upon the not so imaginary repressors.
Prayer does not leak from the flesh of lips,
swollen from the crying out for justice, equality,
and right to live unencumbered.

Lord I knew I was black

The winds have changed and the time is short.
The last days approach and still it is as though
the wilderness has overgrown the hearts of men and many.
The hatred and racism that was held captive
in the mind of the oppressors ebbs outward
frothing into fatal confrontations.
It is you, lord, who judges and fixes.
You I cannot hurry but lord I just canít imagine
continuing to ignore the inhumanities
and implore those who will not seek
the light of knowledge and fairness
to give me what is just. 

Lord I knew I was black, I know Iím tired. 
 
*****

Written by Violetta Joseph
after a day of arguing about reparations. 


I Knew I Was Black by Violetta P. Joseph

© Copyright 1995. 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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