Thursday, 8 November 2012

October gone... and that Black History Poem. 2012 stylee


General Update...

So we're 8 days into November already. Last month passed pretty quickly for me and I kept busy for most of it. 

The Spoken Word Educator project is going well and I'm learning about teaching theory while practising it, learning about the education system while trying to break some of its restrictions and learning about poetry while still wanting to break some of its rules. I'm also learning that I have to manage my time more effectively if I'm going to cope over the next few months. Writing is much more than the physical act of putting words down on paper or on screen and to think creatively, I have to allow myself the space to do so. 

I generally write poetry as a reaction to stimulus - be it adverts, in the case of M&S, workshops in the case of my last poem posted here, or conversations in the case of most of poems. I need to have those conversations, go to those workshops or watch those adverts. And then I need to allow them to implant somewhere in the back of my brain so when I come to my writing time, something will spark up. 

So far, I've been lucky - there's always enough going on in the world to react to and it's great to flick through my notebook and see my different thought processes over time.

I'm also going back to a couple of short stories I drafted a year ago - it's weird coming back to it as my style seems to have changed without me being conscious of the process. I guess much of life involves these gradual changes and it's not till you look back you get the full picture.

As promised, I'm posting one of two Black History Month poems I completed last month for local libraries. It's had some unexpected reactions and, like most of the things I write, I wrote it for the questions and not the answers...

BHM 2012
When they tell you this is Black history
What do they mean?
Do they mean this is history without the whitewash?
Without the grey areas or red herrings – just one big old black hole
For school kids to sink their kissing teeth into?

When they tell you it’s a black history they gwine teach
Of what do they speak? And what do you seek?
Another Windrush square for brown rears to park
On its grey benches?
Another bronze Mandela statue for tourist cameras to capture
And tag on Facebook and Instagram?
Or maybe this history is not a man
But a Seacole, a Parks or a disputed Nefertiti
Unearthed from out of the long lines of long-necked African Queens
and tall pyramids
And crossings-out on buried textbooks
And complex theories put out of context
Until the history is no longer black but simply murky and unclear...

When they tell you a Black History dis
What is it you want to hear?
Is it carnival steel pan music?
Or the sound of slave ships treading Atlantic waters?
Or the slash of backra’s whip on the backs of his own daughters?
Or freshly-slaughtered flying fish
Dropped into fry pan?
Or plantain or ackee or yam
Or the thread that connects them with fufu
And jollof and egusi soup?

Is it the languages silenced
Or the violence from which they survived?
Is it the clans, the classes, the tribes that thrive?
Is it the many-hued skins that decorate walls come October?
Or the sobering lessons they teach...
Like King’s I have a dream speech?

When they tell you this is black history what should this inspire?
Beyond the several rounds of kum-by-yahs fired from the mouths
Of cross-legged children in damp halls?
Beyond the applause from parents proud to dress in newly dusted-off dashikis?
Or that dreadlock wrapped around that bald-patch?
Or that catch-all catechism
We roll out once a year so black is seen to be respected?

Tell me again, what do they mean when they say black history?
And what do you expect to learn?
Your name... in the Ghanaian way?
Kofi for Friday
Or Kwame for Saturday
And someday you might get to grips
With the way Nigerian vowels 
Hang on your lips 
And with the way it sounds

But for now, they have pronounced that this is black history
For now, what do they mean with this mystery of this name for this month?
Because black is infinite
And history is never over!
And this is something we must muse over come October
And while libraries are open and minds are too
I want to know what this month means to you...
I want to know what this month means to you.

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