Saturday, January 22, 2005

Mourner’s Bench

© 18 January 2005, The Griot Poet

I hear the cries of my ancestors.

A beautiful sister on a microphone in long, flowing choir robes

Rears back and belts out a tone originating from the tragicomic pain of American blues.

I hear the cries of my ancestors.

A people of differing tribes, customs and hues, herded through Goree Island gates; stacked end-to-end between bile and crates on slave ships

Subjugated by the threat of noose and becoming “strange fruit,” burning crosses, night raids and the incessant crackle of whips across backs stripped of skin – but not dignity.

I hear the cries of my ancestors.

On the one day (with chagrin) massa gave us a measured freedom: a Constantine-ordained Sunday measured by massa’s presence, measuring each word of the “Word” from the pulpit for content;

Raised fingers to ask his permission to relieve themselves during services.

I hear the cries of my ancestors.

As Invictus from William Ernest Henley: “their heads were bloody, yet unbowed.”

Bowed only to a God and a hope for a people they could not (yet) see.

I hear the cries of my ancestors.

Laying on hands made sense, as we had no access to medicines other than folk remedies from Africa, forcing us into a deeper spirituality, speaking in unknown tongues in intimate communion with the ultimate reality.

As I am juxtaposed between here and then on the unbowed backs of women and men like: Phyllis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells, Shirley Chisholm “neither bossed or bought”; Barbara Jordan whose “FAITH in the constitution was complete and whole,” Zora Neal Hurston, Toni Morrison, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, W.E.B. Dubois, Carter G. Woodson, Medger Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

All this as I sit on the mourner’s bench, reciting the coded one-hundreds in unknown tongues giving the signal to Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, hands laid on my countenance imparting to me the freedom cries of my ancestors!

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