Jan 31, 2009


This is for Sam Cooke,
who believed a change was
gon' come.

This is for James Brown,
who put it out there
so we could say it loud.

For King,
who warned
that we couldn’t wait.

This is for
the pickers,
the washers,
the scrubbers,
the grinders.

This is for
Grandmas and Granddaddies,
and for preachers who held up
the blood-stained banner
as a shield,
a promise.

This is for our
Ma and Daddy
and yours,
who made us love black
and showed us there was
no place we didn't belong.

This is for my Aunt Pauline,
who dependably called
all her nieces to alert us
whenever there was
“a colored girl on
Wheel of Fortune.”

This is for
Mr. Edgar A. Smith,
Mr. Ridgely Gray,
Miss Banks,
Miss Dessie,
My Aunts --
the Teachers.

And it’s for
Principal Beatrice Henson,
Miss Hallman,
Mr. Conway,
Miss Harris,
who every year went all out
for Negro History Week.

This is for my
U.S. History students,
who really needed a win.

This is for
all those lynched,
all those beaten,
all those spat on,
all those turned away.

This is for
Ray Charles: The Genius,
and Stevie Wonder-ful,
for wearing their soul
right on the outside.

This is for
Miss Gwendolyn Brooks,
O.B. Jr.,
and all of them who
gave us the words
to be bold.

This is for Africa,
for Africa, for Africa,
who cried out,
who held on,
who didn't let go.

This is for those who know.

And it's for those who don't --
and probably never will,
but might, maybe one day --

Avis Matthews ©2009
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