Poetry to Mark African American History Month

February commemorates African American History Month. In recognition and honor of the extraordinary efforts of our African American brothers and sisters who struggled and continue to struggle for equal rights and freedom in the face of adverse conditions; we feature the poetry of a few local artists. We hope these poems will inspire you to keep the fight for social justice alive.

A part of African-American folklore suggests that sometimes the will and constitution of slaves was so strong that they could exercise the power to “will” themselves out of the servitude of slavery. This poem is based on that supposition.

The People Could Fly

I’m watching this TV program
About my people
And they show this Black boy
Who said he was tired of his master beating him
So he took off running
And he kept running and running
And wishing and hoping
And don’t nobody know what happened to him
And he ran into the woods
But the next thing they saw
Was a beautiful black bird
With what looked like an injured wing
Flying away to freedom
You can say what you wanna
But I believe it

This woman was telling this story
About one of her ancestors
Who had hid in the underbelly of a barn
For seven years
For seven years
She only heard the voices of her children
She only saw the crack of sunlight
And then one day
When they brought her something to eat
saw a black bird strutting around
Like it had some new legs or something
And that bird took a long look at all of them
Stretched its wings
And flew away to freedom
You can say what you wanna
But I believe it

Then there was this family of nothing but womenfolk
The mother knew she couldn’t protect her daughter
From the master’s loins much longer
She felt hopeless
She had to do something
And after the master defiled her baby girl
She knew what she had to do
And when they found his body
She had stolen her own children into the night
She could hear the mob approaching
She held them close
And she whispered to them to be perfectly still
And as the dogs and voices got closer
She prayed a prayer like she’d never prayed before
And as the pursuers looked into the sky
They saw a flock of black birds
Looking like a mama bird with the baby birds in tow
Flying away to freedom
You can say what you wanna
But I believe it

-Omanii Abdullah