#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: Boycott the Dark Girl

Welcome to Week 3 of Black Poetry Writing Month, the most controversial. Why? Some people might not like what the Black Arts Movement stood for— militancy, radical activism, not going quietly into the night…

But what I love most about this era is that black writers didn’t seek approval or acceptance, but demanded what was rightfully theirs, the innate freedoms due to all Americans. Because we are ALL AMERICANS.

The poets of this generation were unapologetic in their message, they didn’t care who they offended, they didn’t care if their opinions were unpopular. They only cared for the liberation of their people.

In a similar fashion, Beyoncé’s 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance of her song “Formation” was unapologetic in it’s message, and boy did it make some people angry! This brings us to today’s BlaPoWriMo throwback…

Boycott the Dark Girl

Boycott the dark girl!

Don’t tell them about race; Middle America
doesn’t want to face your afros and wide nose,
your full lips and round hips.

Boycott the dark girl!

Rip open your blouse, measure the humpback
on which a nation’s edifices are housed,
count the scars from raw cowhide
whipped in formation of a chokecherry plantation.

Boycott the dark girl!

Mend your heartstrings across the violin bridge,
play an empowering song with the bow of your fist.
Splash shades of brown through the stadium field—
a prism of acceptance, their politics must yield.

Boycott the dark girl!

A call for peace, an end to violence
is an attack, they say.
You were beaten, raped,
your genitals dissected and put on display.

Dance on the boycott, dark girl;

Hatred can’t make them turn you away.
Your purple skin is imperial; reclaim your domain
as you slay on the stage in Black Panther berets.

—Nortina


Originally published February 10, 2016.

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Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Black Arts Movement

Welcome to Week 3 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.
This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy writing your Harlem Renaissance-inspired poems? Did you have an explosion of creativity? Did you use other genres like art or music to inspire your writing? Did you improvise your work, showing off the innate genius that has always resided within you?

Did you get sick in the middle of the week like I did and miss out on all the fun? Well, you’re in luck. Remember, these weekly themes are only optional, so if you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era of the Harlem Renaissance, or even go back another week to revisit the era of slavery, feel free to do so! Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!
Now, let’s journey on to the next era: The Black Arts Movement!

The Black Arts Movement begin in 1960 and lasted through about 1975. These years were troubling politically, especially for blacks in America. This was also the era of the Civil Rights Movement, when leaders and outspoken orators like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X rose to speak out for the freedoms of their marginalized black brothers and sisters. There were sit-ins and marches, boycotts, peaceful and violent protests. Black freedom seekers were often sprayed down with firehoses, attacked with police dogs, their churches and homes bombed by white supremacists.

As a result, blacks became angrier, more militant and radical in their activism. This decade also saw the birth of the Black Power Movement and the notorious Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. With all of this going on, it would be foolish to limit the Black Arts Movement to just that, an “arts” movement. No, it was just as much political and social as it was artistic.

The Black Arts Movement is radically opposed to any concept of the artist that alienates him from his community. Black Art is the aesthetic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept. As such, it envisions an art that speaks directly to the needs and aspirations of Black America . . . The Black Arts and the Black Power concept both relate broadly to the Afro-American’s desire for self-determination and nationhood. Both concepts are nationalistic.

—Larry Neal (quote pulled from the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, Second Edition, edited by Henry Louis Gate, Jr. and Nellie Y. McKay

The Black Arts Movement is without a doubt one of my favorite artistic and literary movements.

Not only because it was pioneered by black writers like myself, but because it was so unapologetically BLACK! These were people who were FED UP, and they didn’t give a flying fuck about political correctness. They were going to provide a voice to the revolution, a voice to the people who had been beaten and shut down by white supremacy. They were going to fight by any means necessary for the liberation of black people in America. Slavery might have ended 100 years prior, but they were by no means free…yet.

Likewise, the poetry produced in this era was revolutionary. Famous poets of the time include Amiri Baraka, Etheridge Knight, Sonia Sanchez, Nikki Giovanni, and many others. The poems of the Black Arts Movement were simple, their messages made plain as the words written on the page. These writings weren’t meant to prove to whites that blacks were competent, or could understand sophisticated literary tropes. Nah, writers of the Black Arts Movement were done kissing up to Uncle Sam! Their poems were a communication to their fellow African Americans… Rise up. Be proud of who you are, of what color you are. Stand. Fight. Poems were usually performative, almost like what spoken word or SLAM is today. Usually written in free verse, the poems were very conversational, often musical, and adapted the vernacular characteristics of “black mass speech,” like a preacher’s sermon, for example.
One of my favorite poets of this time period was Amiri Baraka, who recently passed away in 2014.

His poem, appropriately titled “Black Art” sums up what this literary, artistic, social, and political movement was all about. To fully understand the scope of this powerful poem, you really must hear it, which is why I’m switching things up and giving you an audio poem to inspire your week of writing Black Art. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Black Art” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

Decoding Poetry: #BlaPoWriMo, ‘The Young Ones'(Poem)

For BlaPoWriMo, my friend Ericajean shares her thoughts on Sterling A. Brown’s “The Young Ones.”

Looking specifically at the lines, “It’s as far as they’ll get / For many a year; / Cotton brought them / and will keep them here,” she raises two questions: What brought us, and what is keeping us here?

A question I would like to add is: What is “here”?

What are your thoughts? Please respond directly on Ericajean’s post, as comments here will be disabled.

–N

The Write Web

assorted colors of threads by Tim Savage

Welcome back fellow bloggers! It is BlaPoWriMo time again and this time we are traveling to the Harlem Renaissance era.

Today’s poem to decode is by Sterling A. Brown. He has deveoted his life to the development of authentic black folk literature. He was also a poet, critic, and teacher at Howard University for 40 years.

The Young Ones(July 1938)

With cotton to the doorstep

No place to play.

No time: What with chopping cotton

All the day.

In the broken down car

They jounce up and down

Pretend to be steering

On the way to town.

It’s as far as they’ll get

For many a year;

Cotton brought them

And will keep them here.

The spare-ribbed yard dog

Has gone away;

The kids just as hungry,

Have to stay.

In the two-roomed shack

Their mammy is lying,

With a little new brother

On her arm crying.

-Sterling A. Brown

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#BlaPoWriMo – Saturday night special sonnet

Check out another poem from my friend Ray, written for BlaPoWriMo. Show him your love!

#ThisIsMyPoetryBlog

Each universe with which we interact
demands of us a level of respect
and complicity, yes, complicity,
while we wonder if we are hypocrits,
or merely disbelievers. As if it
even matters. And what doesn’t kill us
endows us, becomes our strength and power,
our shelter in a storm. The paths we trod
we tread, the record of our deeds becomes
our judgment day, our immortality.
Be patient with me – I’m not finished yet.
Pay no attention to my southern charm,
that folksiness you underestimate
is just a steady cadence for my march.

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Slavery Museum

Dear Friends, here’s another exceptional poem by K. Morris written for BlaPoWriMo. Please show him your love.

newauthoronline

Walking around the Museum of Slavery, in Liverpool
I come face-to-face with the cruel
Past
Where ships crossed the ocean vast
With their human cargo.

Many a negro
Slave
Paid for beautiful properties to be built
By Liverpool merchants who gave
Generously to charity
To set themselves free
From guilt.

Its true
That slavery isn’t new.
It was practiced in Greek and Roman time,
Yet the crime
Of the transatlantic slave trade
Has made
More of a mark
Perhaps because those of lighter skin
Committed the sin
Of taking those of dark
Complexion
From their native land,
Which was a rejection
Of the truth that beneath the skin
We are one in nature
(Or god the creator),
Depending on your view
Of what is true.

Our love died long ago
And I know
Not what Happened to you.
But I remember walking through
That place
Just Two lovers of different…

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#BlaPoWriMo: I met this girl…

I met this girl–skin like polished mahogany, hair like lamb’s wool, lips like plush cushions–she ruined my philosophy of the mad black woman. It is not a frown on her face but a grimace as she holds the weight of every black man who has sat on her back like an ottoman pulled from under the table for guests to rest their feet, have a drink and discuss the politics of the world too sophisticated for a female’s mind, who should know her place in silence when company is around. My heart skips a beat when she finally stands–shows me how tall she really is.

—Nortina


Inspired by Marquessa’s Lyrical Fiction Friday prompt: …I met this girl…she ruined my philosophy…my heart skips a beat when she comes around…

Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: Harlem Renaissance

#BlaPoWriMo: Thoughts While Listening to X

Tonya wears jeans three days of the week
when only Fridays are reserved for casual
dress, but who’s checking when half the
office works remote; the rest leave before
five, and I stay behind stretched between
miscellaneous requests and thoughts that
I might have worn the same sweater twice
in one week or that my boots squeak when
I walk to the bathroom as the torn hem to
the only business pants I own that don’t
fit me like slacks drags across the carpet.
In front of the mirror, I stand against the
backdrop of four stalls and pick out my
afro that shrank three inches in the dank
atmosphere below the heating & air vent,
and return to my desk, earbuds plugged,
to fill the silence with the soundtracks of
Black Panther and hope the bald white
man in the corner office who frightens
me like a skinhead with a noose doesn’t
hear Kendrick encourage me too loudly,
Fuck the place up.

—Nortina


Poem inspired by the improvisational characteristics of jazz music and the Black Panther soundtrack that just came out today.

Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: Harlem Renaissance

#ThrowbackThursday Poetry: Too Close

We’re into Week 2 of Black Poetry Writing Month, and this week is all about the Harlem Renaissance!

For today’s Throwback Thursday poem, I’m taking you back to BlaPoWriMo’s inaugural year. This poem, originally published two years ago today, was inspired by Harlem Renaissance poet, Countee Cullen’s poem, “Incident,” and it described a similar incident in which I was made aware of my [intimidating…militant…criminal?] blackness…

Photo by @theoptimistdreamer from nappy.co

Too Close

December’s wind gusts
into winter. She clutches
Michael Kors handbag,

pale knuckles pressing
through white skin. She peeks over
her right shoulder, spins

around. You live here?
This your apartment?
she cries.
Yes. I point. Upstairs.

Purse held tightly to
her side, she lets me pass—
Maybe I followed

too close.

—Nortina

Black Poetry Writing Month: Traveling through Time…Harlem Renaissance

Welcome to Week 2 of BlaPoWriMo!

For the uninitiated, Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo) is a month-long writing challenge that combines the ambition of National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) with the history, education, and self-reflection of Black History Month.

This year, we are going on a journey through the eras of black history and poetry.

How did you enjoy your first week of writing slavery inspired poems? I’ll admit some days were harder to write than others. Having to open those wounds that run deeper than the generations can be troubling. The fact that human beings could commit such atrocities against other human beings, often using Christianity as a defense of their actions, is still baffling to me.

If you want to continue writing poetry inspired by the era slavery, feel free to do so! The themes I provide each week are only optional. Just remember to tag your posts BlaPoWriMo, so I can find them and give you a shoutout!

Now, let’s skip ahead to the next era: The Harlem Renaissance!

I know. I’m brushing over about 50 years worth of great literature from the post-Civil War / Reconstruction era, but I need to leave something to be desired for next February, right? 😉

If you want to do your own research on the poets of this era, one of the most well-known was Paul Laurence Dunbar. (His poem “Sympathy” inspired Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.) Another poet from this era was James Weldon Johnson, who wrote “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem.

The Harlem Renaissance took place during the 1920s and lasted until about 1940.

The Harlem Renaissance was like a great awakening of art and literature for Black Americans. During this period, Black America saw a cultural explosion of creativity. It’s center was in Harlem, a district in New York City, though it wasn’t limited to black writers and artists living in New York. In fact, it inspired a similar movement known as Négritude among French-speaking blacks across the African diaspora, including in France, the Caribbean, and the West Indies.

While the era of slavery can be described as a time when most whites questioned the intelligence of blacks (remember those authentication papers written for Phillis Wheatley), the Harlem Renaissance was the confirmation of black intelligence, black excellence, black achievement, black genius, and all the above. There was an outpouring of publications not only in poetry, but also in the genres of fiction, drama, personal essay, music, dance, and visual art.

The Harlem Renaissance laid the ground work for black expression.

The creativity of black writers and artists of this period was driven by a sense of purpose, the artists using their craft to express a response to social conditions and to proclaim their dignity and humanity in the face of poverty and racism.

The most famous poet of this time period is of course Langston Hughes. Others include Countee Cullen—whose Color (1925) was the first book of poetry written by an African American to be published by a major American publishing house (Harper & Brothers) since Paul Laurence Dunbar—Jamaica-born Claude McKay (though he wasn’t the first “African American,” his Harlem Shadows was published in 1922 by Harcourt, Brace), Anne Spencer, Jean Toomer, Sterling A. Brown, and many more.

To get you started with this week’s Harlem Renaissance-themed poems, I won’t share a poem by Langston Hughes. No, that would be too easy. Everyone knows Langston Hughes! Instead, I’m giving you this poem by the lesser-known Anne Spencer to inspire you for this next week of writing. Of course, if you need further inspiration, feel free to look up the other poets mentioned in this post.

White Things

Most things are colorful things—the sky, earth, and sea.
Black men are most men; but the white are free!
White things are rare things; so rare, so rare
They stole from out a silvered world—somewhere.
Finding earth-plains fair plains, save greenly grassed,
They strewed white feathers of cowardice, as they passed;
The golden stars with lances fine
The hills all red and darkened pine,
They blanced with their wand of power;
And turned the blood in a ruby rose
To a poor white poppy-flower.

There are many different versions of this poem online. The above version came from the Vintage Book of African American Poetry (2000), edited by Michael S. Harper & Anthony Walton

So, are you ready for BlaPoWriMo?

You don’t have to be black to participate. This is not a space for discrimination but education. As long as you write a poem every day this month and your poem aligns with the theme for the week or focuses on blackness/race in general, there’s no reason not to join!

Be sure to add your links to the prompt posts for the week (ex. link your “Harlem Renaissance” poems to this post) so others can read your poem. You can also tag your posts BlaPoWriMo so we can find you in the WordPress Reader.

By the way, I’m on Twitter! I previously created a separate account for BlaPoWriMo, but that became too much of a hassle, so follow me @Nortina_Mariela and tweet the hashtag #BlaPoWriMo. I’ll be retweeting your tweets all month long!

Will you join the challenge this month? I’m excited to see the poems you create!

Happy Black Poetry Writing Month!

At Night

When love knows no color or bounds…
Please check out this beautiful poem written by K. Morris for BlaPoWriMo!

–N

newauthoronline

At night
There is no black and white.
Just the delight
Of you and me,
Converging
Merging,
Completely free
Of race
And place.

(https://lovelycurses.com/february-black-poetry-writing-month/).

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