Thursday, July 23, 2020

Poems of Persistence, Solidarity, and Refuge – Olatunde Osinaike

We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond.  ― Gwendolyn Brooks  

Split This Rock Virtual Open Mic announcement includes a black background with red Split This Rock logo, text that reads "Virtual Open Mic," and an illustration of a hanging lamp sending out rays of light over a laptop.
As we journey through political, economic, and global health crises, we turn to poetry to share truths that unearth underlying causes, illuminate impacts, and insist on transformative change. For many of us, today’s challenges are not new. The struggle of isolation, economic insecurity, inadequate medical care, deadly institutionalized negligence, governmental decisions that put Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian, disabled, sick, and other structurally precarious people at greater risk are not new. Today, many more people are experiencing the vulnerability of these unrelenting issues. We recognize this opportunity for a heightened awareness of how our very survival depends on one another.

Poetry can help keep the flame of resilience, solidarity, and resistance alive in us. It can help us process and move through grief, anger, loneliness. Poetry can be a comfort when the most necessary actions are to rest and recover. It can remind us of what’s at stake, that our lives and legacy are worth the fight. As cultural workers, we know that culture shapes our political and social imagination at a foundational level. As poets, we can use poetry to map what is, what has been, and possibly, the way forward, including the reasons not to return to what does not honor and protect our lives, our communities, and our planet.

From late April to mid-May, Split This Rock asked poets to send the words they chant to get out of bed, to raise their fists, to encourage their kin, to remind us, as this crisis does, that “we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond.” To read all of these poems, visit Split This Rock’s website.


By Olatunde Osinaike

"When I walk into church, I only see pictures of white angels. Why?"―Eartha Kitt

I want to take this time to focus on the timeless, as certain ones take
up arms to remove the lifetimes of those like me. My favorite word
above: a dove that sounds like I forgive myself, like a red redacted,
like a gospel according to the camaraderie I can make cousins out of.

There is no new ecclesiastical under the sun. No shortage of my people
sporting basketball shorts beneath true religion jeans. We reincarnate
every morning in these precincts with the good news delivered more
than once already. The protests of messengers sent down, the blaze

after the crossfire, a chosen people who are either a jaywalk away
from the love of our lives or our lives left to love. I have found that
the self can be its own exodus, be a black sitcom or an intercessor
for the one who waits but never goes. When I say my favorite word,

I think of how often our joy can become a win-win, how the pores of
a mother can cup holy water. Some say the world is still becoming,
but no, our angels are arrived. They are in the streets where peace
is sold separately and critique is still, policed. They stay in the cut

and on exhibit, like a glass-stained window meant to color the light.
Know we have everything in common. Nobody move. I want to
capture this moment where we are one with the unease that stomachs
us like a morning rush. How we might fill in the blank with our story,

our chalices kept next to our paper plates, our fried and our black-eyed,
our dressing, our Lawry’s, our fridge tetris, and most of all, our seconds. 

Listen as Olatunde Osinaike reads "Nevertheless."

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