Revolutionary By Ariel Atkins
I never wanted to be black.
I never wanted this history on my back, pitching me forward,
Heavy and swaying, knees aching
I didn’t want the eyes that watched my struggle wary in fear of the future they saw me growing into my
Body made to fit a mold I
Never asked for I
Was surely headed for
Carrying a weight too heavy to bare snapping
draining staining pavement to mirror the flaking outlines of
brothers mothers fathers and sisters
fallen and forgotten
tramped over daily by those unseeing unrelenting
I used to be a
Black child on her knees clenching fists until numb in prayer I whispered
Make me translucently pale and glowing with
Eyes like spring water in moonlight
Hair like silk down my spine a
Thinner frame and
Promise i’ll never ask for another favor if you could grant me this
One wish that I
wake up tomorrow and no longer be
Earth brown and thick a
nappy headed kink hiding
secrets in her chink
White girls don’t have to deal with
White girls don’t have to be like
GOD Make me anything other than
But I awoke awash in
These last few years I've spent
patching the seams
I’d bust in repulsion to self
I vowed to fall in love with me first
And found that a black woman in love with herself is revolutionary.
We have been the mats men wipe their shoes when coming home to drag the dirt across our faces
Then flipped over wildly, rammed with throbbing rage until we’re split down the middle and demanded we be two women at once
Our outcries of injustice hushed in moments of uproar and told to
sit down and wait our turn.
Jezebel, Mammy, baby mama nailed into our chests by mothers who lower their eyes when they raise the hammer so the memory of the moment they allowed themselves to be stunted isn’t so hard to swallow.
Expected to be hostile callous creatures and take the fists thrown at our jaws to splinter our smiles with cordial gratitude.
But the black woman is revolutionary.
We become the voices we spent years on our knees waiting to hear,
Voices that whisper stories of generations of women who found that there is no love greater than our own
That this love has died a thousand times and is resurrected within me.
Learn to define ourselves,
rip the labels from our skin and move forward in rebellion
the black woman is revolutionary
I am revolutionary
I have stumbled and fallen and found my feet again
My voice rings with the timbres of every woman unheard and I speak loudly
Tip of the tongue to teeth so that everyone will know
You cannot tame the love I have found in myself
You cannot stamp out the fire spreading from my feet to my hands to the top of my skull
Because I am more than a survivor
I am a black woman
And the black woman is revolutionary.
Ariel Atkins is an artist, poet, and activist based in Chicago, Illinois