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From the beginning, I've stressed that home is something internal, invisible, portable, especially for those of us with roots in many physical places; we have to root ourselves in our passions, our values, and our deepest friends. - Pico Iyer 

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Revolutionary By Ariel Atkins

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

Blood vessels

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

god please

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.

And we

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

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