We are each other's harvest; we are each other's business; we are each other's magnitude and bond. ― Gwendolyn Brooks
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.
Black on Black on Black
By Shirley Jones Luke
An onyx sun rises in an overcast sky
over a Black Sea, waves flapping like Black tea
onto a shore of Black sand, sparkling
like jewels, scattered by Black feet
marching towards Black cities
of dark steel & stone, black spears
stabbing & dropping Black tears,
raising fears of a Black nation backlash,
rioting on shadowy streets, a blackout
in the hood, trees become torches,
light ‘em up, Black hands raised, Black fists
pumping, so much trauma, too much drama
in the hood, where chalk outlines symbolize
lost lives, from those bearing blue, beating
down Blackness like it’s a threat & not a blessing,
bless this Blackness, let it spread like oil across
a white sheet, becoming a Black body, raising
the black velvet of night, as fire light glows
against buildings, smoke caresses the stars,
illuminating our Black brilliance.
Listen as Shirley Jones Luke reads "Black on Black on Black."