“Let Them Testify”

I wrote a poem this morning that tells a particular story: the global narrative of Black trauma in the world and the various ways it is felt, expressed, and demonstrated through black poetry and songs. The poem is called “Let Them Testify.” It is a poem about black voices in blood and in pain.

“Let Them Testify”

Black trauma is recognized in all the places of the world:
Black trauma is visible in the streets of Ferguson;
In the slums of The Capital of the World;
in the way toward The Big Smoke;
in the road leading to The City of Light;
in the ghettoes of The Magic City.
It is acknowledged in the streets of Mini-Apple.
where George Floyd is put to rest.
Black trauma flows with the ancient rivers,
in the deep transatlantic sea;
spinning around the oldest star.

Black trauma is recognized in all the places of the world.
In language and in sound:
by reading the words of the Black flag, “A man was lynched yesterday”
by hearing the black cry, “I Can’t Breathe”
when White folks say, “I fear for my life.”
When the media (mis-) characterize black lives as:
“brutes”
“thugs”
“suspects”
“persons of interest…”
Black trauma is not just an action or a feeling
that kills men in black;
It is the language in white ink that destroys dark-skinned women.
It is the law of the land that shuts off black breath.

Black trauma is recognized in all the places of the world.
In the black pages of a black poem:
When Leon Damas writes, “A taste of blood comes to me
a taste of blood fills
my nose
my throat
my eyes.”
In the lamenting words of Aime Cesaire:
“What is mine
a lonely man imprisoned
in whiteness
a lonely man defying the white
screams of white death
(TOUSSAINT, TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE)”
When Leopold Senghor thunders:
“A factory of revolts
Raised up by long centuries of patience.
I need shocks and shouts of blood
And death!”
Black trauma is a tragic song for all to hear.

Black trauma is recognized in all the places of the world.
It is the engine that fuels black whooping, shouting, noise-making…
the voice of black folk in black rhythm and lyrics,
chronicled in the Spirituals and in The Blues:
“Don’t leave me,
Lord Don’t leave me behin…’
I’ll be buried in my grave,
and go home to my Lord and be free.”
When death rages black soul and threatens black lives,
Black trauma shouts:
“Same train, same train,
Same train, carry my mother,
Same train, carry my sister
Same train be back tomorrow;
Same train, same train.”
When The Blues singer rages:
“Oh, Ahm tired a dis mess,
Oh, yes Ahm tried a dis mess…
I’m awful lonesome, all alone and blue,
I’m awful lonesome, all alone and blue,
Ain’t got no body to tell my troubles to.”
Black trauma fills up the empty pages of the black diary.

Black trauma is recognized in all the places of the world.
I sing your suffering and pain in Kreyol,
with rage in my voice,
in the black
streets
of Port-au-Prince
of Cap-Haitien
of Jacmel
You lament my worries and anguish in the Colonizer’s language,
in the sound of the African Blues,
in a South African night,
covering their dark faces in the Black Mask,
Miriam Makeba leads the crowd,
and they sing the Freedom Song:
“Soweto blues — abu yethu a mama
Soweto blues — they are killing all the children
Soweto blues — without any publicity
Soweto blues — oh, they are finishing the nation
Soweto blues — while calling it black on black
Soweto blues — but everybody knows they are behind it
Soweto blues — without any publicity
Soweto blues — god, somebody, help!
Soweto blues — (abu yethu a mama)”
I protest your death and incarceration in Yoruba,
calling upon the Dark Continent
for a little light
to continue the fight
to end the bloodshed
and win the REVOLUTION.
You know my misery,
you riot in the streets of Senegal for my liberation,
contending white silence
white fear
white bar
white blood
white death
Black girls’ tears, I heard
in the white
streets
of Minneapolis
of New York City
of Miami
Black trauma means many Voices of Blood!

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