Black History

This Black History Month
I have seen too much sorrow. Been reminded
too many times of tragedy, seen too much
black blood spilt in old grainy videos. It’s seemed
like we’ve turned victims
into figureheads. Made mascots out of martyrs. Sent
sacrifices strolling down red carpets. I’m tired
of treating tears and tragedy like they’re all we have to remember.
This Black History Month
I dreamed beyond the struggle. But I think
you’d need an oracle to see that far
past all the work we have left to do.
So the best I could do was
cobble these memories into something resembling
a vision. But close your eyes.
It looked like my father and his sister dancing to
Parliament after Christmas dinner. Their father
has spent months in a hospital just a few miles away, but
their smile lines still deepen in the same places their
eyes spent the morning crying. It smelled like
stories. My great-grandmother’s cooking, a fable
retold so many times I can practically taste her fried chicken. If I did,
I think it would taste like the last hug my grandmother ever gave me. It was
hard for her to walk, but she still
squeezed me tight enough that I’ll never feel her
let me go. It smelled like my aunt
whose perfume always reminds me of
relatives I’ve never seen, family trees she’s learned to recite from memory.
It sounded like my
great-aunt’s laughter, crackling through her
vocal cords like sandpaper. It makes you question
how the harshest sounds on earth are also the most joyous.
Three generations of mothers, daughters, and sisters reminding me that
black love is both the unstoppable force and the immovable object.
It will reach you wherever you are, and it will never stop letting you know
you’re home. We have weathered
so much pain that we have learned to call it beautiful. From my 
great-uncle, forced to flee the south as a 12-year-old boy after accidentally            running into
a white man on his bicycle, we have learned
that home isn’t a place in space but just the
place where you can keep your family safe. From my grandmother
I have learned love. From my cousins
I have learned laughter. I have my uncle’s pen, my aunt’s soul, my uncle’s              heart, my aunt’s grin.
And I’m told I have my father’s voice. So understand
that it’s not just me speaking to you today, but
my whole family chanting through my lips
Ain’t we black? Ain’t we history? Ain’t we beautiful? Ain’t we excellence?
Ain’t we heritage, ancestry? Ain’t we the future, ain’t we tomorrow?
Ain’t we the product of everything
that’s tried to keep us down and failed?
Ain’t we the beauty in the struggle, the joy in the hardship, the
fire that burns through generations? Ain’t that black history?
Ain’t it beautiful?

From Poems from the 2023 National Student Poets © 2023 Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. Used with the permission of the publisher.