Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You're not Black, You're Puerto Rican

I wrote this one a while back and never edited it. I don't have time to do so now so I will just give it to you as is, your poem of the week:

“You’re not Black, you’re Puerto Rican”

The words of school children both black and white.

I’m Puerto Rican:
Rice and Beans Conga rhythms and Plantains

What if I declared myself to be Native American,
Maybe the kids would have said:
“Yes you are,
You are the descendants of Arawak people colonized by imperialists-“
and then again,
They probably would have said:
“You’re not Native American, you’re Puerto Rican”

Children’s words move in sharp contrast to the words of my white mother,

“You will always be Black”, Malcolm X said so.
But school children didn’t know Malcolm X in the eighties.

But they did know the word nappy and bestowed that designation on me
Hey “Nappy” they would say in the hall.
I wore my name on my head like a round dunce cap
Afro’s weren’t cool in the eighties
But I could remember the seventies
My father sported a black beret with an Afro hangin’ out the side and his skin was Black

One day he picked me up at my friend’s house,
Their father stared at mine,
They were white, my father was Black,
And so I was told that I couldn’t hang out with them kids anymore,
Their daddy didn’t want them hangin’ out with no nigger kids.
I guess he hadn’t noticed that my high yellow complexion and “Nappy” hair
Might be a sign of a dark skinned ancestry.
But then again
We weren’t Black, we were Puerto Rican.

Children’s words brought me to the barber shop
“Cut off my locks, I don’t wanna be called Nappy.”
My head was sheared like a lambs wool coat
And my spirit was domesticated like
A grooomed poodle
The truth is you can’t love being black
If you’re not black…

…I stared into the casket at my my father’s dead black face
My spirit traveled generations back in time and I saw
I met my great, great, great, great grandparents
In a dream,
They were shackled and dragged aboard boats
Extracted from their home and transplanted
To the island of Borikken,
AKA Puerto Rico,
They fled their so-called masters
And built a maroon called Loiza-
This was where my grandfather was born
And he spoke Spanish,
And he was blacker than most Black people.
I saw him board an airplane with
The same fear that his ancestors felt
In the middle passage-
He would come to know a new middle passage
On an airplane between San Juan and JFK
And live in a maroon called the South Bronx

History and Truth almost became clear to me
As I begun to understand myself and my history

I forgot that Confusion
Is always sitting around the corner,
Lurking in memories
A crafty theoretician,
Always armed with doubt
The ammunition of oppression,
Realizing that words can do more damage
Than fist or shackle or whip

My dream was interrupted –

As I slowly began to come to consciousness
I stared into the face of an African,
I believe he was my grandfather,
And he said to me…

“You’re not black, you’re Puerto Rican”

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