Category: Black Writers Program

Two Women Waiting

by Melva C. Lewis

Jean, I’m so tired of standing here pushing these strollers waiting for this bus, my feet hurt something awful. I’m tired of getting up so early that I can’t even make my kids breakfast in the morning. I have to go and take care of somebody else’s children and get them ready for school. You and me are out here walking and pushing these babies in strollers no matter how tired we are. These women don’t even work, they home all day. They’re young and they’re healthy. So why we gotta do it?

Girl, if I only had half of the money that these women have the truth is I would take care of my own children. I’d get them ready for school, fix some food, clean my house, wash my clothes, and still have time to relax. When Grady came home I would be all dolled up with my red rose lipstick, my hair all done and after three hours of resting at home, I would be ready for him. Oh yeah, I would be ready for him!

Jean, I don’t understand these skinny rich women. What do they have to be tired about? Why can’t they take care of their children? I’m glad for the money and all because we need it. I mean, we gotta pay the rent, we got to buy food, put clothes on our back, but really if I had 1/3 of their money girl, I could do so much. I wouldn’t hire anybody to take care of my children. I’d take care of them myself.

Don’t shake your head, Jean, you know you feel the same way. I’m sorry your man lost his job and keeps losing his temper. It’s not your fault the union can’t find him a job, and it’s not your fault that he has to do backbreaking work. Believe me, it’s not your fault.

Men sometimes, well a lot of times, act like it’s our fault. They come home all in a funk, looking for any excuse to shout and complain. Thank God Grady doesn’t put his hand on me. Boy, if he ever puts his hand on me he will lose that hand. Jean, I know you’re glad your George doesn’t hit you either.

Humm, all I say is let them carry on if it makes them feel better. You know they feel kind of lost not going to work every day. They need some way to feel strong and have some control. If shouting and stomping helps my Grady feel better, let him shout and stomp all he wants. I know he tries. He hugs the kids at bedtime and tells them stories about going fishing with his granddaddy when he was young. He told them life was hard down south, but the air was clean and smelled of peaches. He used to grow tomatoes right next to his momma’s green beans. He helped his brothers dig out potatoes in a small field right in the back of their old house. Life was good then. Yep, those were different times. But we got to have faith.

Faith and prayer Jean, faith and prayer. I know I complain about these women not taking care of their own kids, but Lord knows I’m grateful to have a way to earn some extra money. Especially with Grady hurt and unable to work after falling off the ladder.

But Lord if I ever got a hold of just a little bit of the money these rich women have, I would stay home taking care of my own children. Yep, cook Grady’s favorite food and bake him a delicious peach cobbler. When he got home all tired, a delicious meal and me, would be waiting for him.

Playing Catch Up (A Poetic Letter To My Deceased Father)

by Steven Fox

Mom often said that I looked like you.
That my fingernails were like yours.
And my anger.

She never really started saying things like this to me until after your death. I have asked her why.

I suppose that I never really cared or was taught to care about you like so many other black boys care about their fathers.

Maybe that’s why I call you pop.

Because, every now and again, you would pop up on my caller ID as some mysterious California phone number.

I like talking on the phone so I always answer random numbers.

Mom often said that I sounded like you.

Funny thing is, she’s only heard my true voice twice. One time at the National Civil Rights Museum and the other at the Historic Clayborn Temple on my birthday in 2017.

And as I sit here engaging in this 2nd person non-fiction writing prompt with tears in my eyes, I am kind of sad about that. But not too much.

I guess she showed up at just the right time like mothers usually do.

Mom says that she always knew that I would be ok.

That her sons would always come back to her.

Maybe because of the love you gave her and the love he learned to give herself.

I suppose that I am just writing to tell you all the crazy stories that I never got to share with you before you died. First off, I’ve only seen one picture of you and the house that you and mom lived in smack dab in the middle of Orange Mound. I have no clue where that picture is but I know exactly where the house is.

I only heard good stories about you pop.
How you were a good provider, a loving man and the photographer all of the ladies gravitated towards.

Of course mom used the word ‘womanizer’. She is a trip, you know?
A big ol’ Leo of a woman trip.

These stories about you kind of helped save my life; that and her leaving me in the Lauderdale Courts Housing Projects with two of her lesbian friends due to crack-cocaine trapping her mind.

Pop, the ladies she left me with were great but they didn’t have any sheets on the damn bed. T
hat sh** still triggers me to this day. I
hate a plain a** mattress without sheets on it.

You know us though.

It wasn’t long before I got up and left. I

went across the courtyard and asked the neighbor for some shoes and walked those oversized Ellesses 3.5 miles and somehow located mom.
I even had some change to get a pack of cherry Kool-Aid to tide me over.

To my surprise, I didn’t know that it was bitter. Anyways.

I found mom.

She told me to call grandma and chose to go back into the darkness of her substance. As I turned into the night air, I realized that I didn’t have on any underwear. I noticed some superman briefs on a nearby clothing line and put them on. Of course they were too tight.

It was crazy, Pop.

I was just 8 years old. I’m not sure if I want to tell you what happened after this or before it but at least now I can start catching you up.

Just Pedal

by Pazamour

A ’90s summer day.
Cool breeze. Summer sun.
Just left the warehouse
Aka the 9-5
Arriving just in time
Fulfill your favorite role / responsibilities
Preparing your youngest daughter for a two-wheeler lifestyle

___________________________________You said,
___________________________________“Okay I’m going to hold the handlebars. Put your feet on the pedals and pedal forward.
___________________________________I’m going to help you keep balance.
___________________________________Just pedal.
___________________________________Just keep going.
___________________________________You won’t fall. I got you.”

Remember the real me

by Queen María

She wants to be remembered just as she really was,
quite simple, but so complicated for many to grasp,
just as Mathematics are for many.
Above average in body, soul, and mind
Intense emotions, and
more controversial than most.

Not scared of speaking her truth.
A proud Afro Caribbean Queen,
Not willing to compromise her values ever.
A thick accent she refused to lose,
for it meant losing part of who she was

Some found her sexy,
others simply detested the amount of space she took in the world.
Someone who dressed well, with a great eye for color, and
loved to learn and to experience new things
Somehow flexible in her analysis, logical but too often set in her ways
A kick-ass woman who stood her ground,
refusing to settle, while quietly crying at home wishing for a connection

A brave resilient exterior, with a sweeter than chocolate soul, easily hurt
A fighter in nature, for she is a warrior in disguise
Detesting injustices and abuses
Questioning her own strength too often
A kid at heart in an amazon body.

She does not want to be remembered for what she did,
but instead by the hearts she touched
with that gentleness only a giant body and an even bigger mind can give.
She, one of her dad’s daughter, defying stereotypes everywhere she went
Someone who bowed to no one, not even herself.

Do not remember her struggles with an Eating Disorder that almost took her life
Not her fight with depression either
Do not remember her matches with her own body
when it was about to give up on her.

Remember how she kept fighting, day after day,
even if that meant doing nothing sometimes
Just remember she was a wonderful human, just like you, just like any of us.
She was larger than life and loved to bring happiness to others
She is not hiding anymore from anyone not even from herself
Don’t you dare to hide who she really was when she is gone



The sun shines bright most of the year, while enjoying kissing your skin every chance it gets
Seeing the snow is a dream most will never realize
Being freezing cold means temperatures of 15 degrees
Beaches go forever with transparent aqua water making love to you as if it was the last day
White delicate warm sand burns your feet touching every curve in your body

Music plays loudly and proudly everywhere one goes.
Kids learn to dance even before they can walk.
Women walk sensually, while wearing bright tight clothes accentuating each curve.
Music is almost God.
Dancing is a given.
Most are proud, educated, poor, but happy

Having many friends matters more than having money.
Strangers talk to each other easily.
A friend is a brother or a sister
Family’s friends are uncles or aunts.
Neighbours are part of the family.

Most live in the now and mañana ya veremos que pasa [ We will see tomorrow what happens].
One works just enough, to enjoy life and party later.
Joy is not a luxury, but a necessity.
People enjoy life the fullest, feeling proud of having eaten a lot.
There is not much to be happy about, but most smile from the heart
One jokes often to forget the poverty one lives surrounded by.
Everyone is welcomed and greeted with a smile, a kiss on the cheek, or a warm hug.

People are emotional, speak loudly, with their hands claiming to be the best lovers in the world
Men sit on corners playing dominoes and piropeando [Complimenting] every female that passes by.
Most do not plan to visit or call ahead,
Just showing up is widely accepted.
Time is not taken seriously
Five minutes can mean an hour or more.
One brings anyone along to a party without needing to ask for permission.

A white man and a black man call each other brothers, until the black man’s son fells in love with the white man’s daughter.
Racism still exists everywhere, but most will negate it.
Everyone has a bit of Congo or Carabalí [Two main African tribes from where slaves were brought to Cuba], even if they do not acknowledge it.
Many follow both the Catholic and the Yoruba religions, just because it is better to have more protection.
Democracy has been a luxury for generations.
Foreigners are treated like royalty and welcomed with open arms.

My physical body may be far away from this magical island, but my heart is always there,
in Cuba, with my happy beautiful people,
the bright sun and the sensual music that warms my heart and erases all my pain.
I am a proud Cuban Queen and I have never ever wanted to be from anywhere else.


To the many who never made it

Leaving at any cost that island where he grew up became his obsession.
So many before him has made it.
They all came back, with so much to show for, after years abroad
In the cold North.

He wanted to make his momma happy.
She deserved to live well and not worry about where their next meal was coming from.
He was determined to make it.
Having his mothers blessing was vital.

Yemayá, the Afro Cuban Yoruba goddess of the ocean, watching over him as she has done since his birth
Him, young, strong, black and valiente as no one else.
Embarked in this dangerous journey across el estrecho de la Florida
Determined to make it, with his three other friends, all together as one
Different shades of black, all descendants of former slaves looking for their freedom in another land.

All of them grew up in the forgotten parts of the Havana city,
The ones who do not appear in any tourist books.
Mostly inhabited by the ones like him,
with too much melanin in their body to be considered or listened to.

He had no future in this island.
He wanted a different life for his family.
He was the chosen one, his Madrina said often.
“Your future is not here mijo, but in far away lands. You do not belong in this filfth.
You will bring prosperidad to your own.”

They made a little rustic raft, too scary, and weak to even look at.
What were they thinking?
How were they going to make it, 90 miles in that excuse of a raft?
He did not know how, but his Santos were making sure he will make it.
Orula, Changó, Oyá, Oshún, and Yemayá never lie.

They lost track of time,
________________their food finished, their fresh water was almost gone.
By their calculations,
________________they should have been in América already
Their so called boat,
________________took on too much water
They had no other choice.
________________Swimming was the only way out, while hoping they will make it.

Their spirits were high
They shared equally the small amount of water they have left.
Everything now depended on their strength and luck.
They saw a bright light far away,
While battling the rough sea which was trying to end their dream

They, the chosen ones,
determined to make it to dry land at any cost.
saw him flying high as if taken by a divine line.
the dolphins around them, guiding their future.
never seen them up so close.
hold on tight.

The dolphins did the rest
leading them to safety and freedom.

After all, they are some of the balseros,
The lucky ones who started a new life in a foreign land,
after being willing to lose everything they had
So many others did not were so lucky
They never made it
Mothers, fathers, sisters, wifes, cousing, madrinas, padrinos, all praying for them
So many young lives lost at sea forever.

A Moment of Softness

by Alysha Wedderburn

A moment of softness
Tender ecstasy and happy tears
Happy tears because we’re together
We’re all together now
No space between the present and the past
The past is the future
The present is a bay where we washed ashore
No more yearning or seeking
Every gourd is filled
We had a feast with no harvest
A love without flesh


But we Shared a Home

I walk forward, just on the edge of her dream
My heart hollow, my body empty, my spirit full
I see the other side. The sisters, the family I never met
We never shared memories. A bond of flesh and blood
But we shared a home
The place where two hearts beat as one
They are so alive, and me, a distant memory
A birth gone wrong, but my mother held me still
I was born silent, without a veil of protection
There are three of us, and I was the last
The last to be born drowning in the blood of the lamb
A wombmate that never was, a ghost and a memory
A cell then a seed
A seed that exploded and returned to earth
I was buried as a seed
Then I grew into the mountains, and the sea
I was everywhere and anywhere
Dreaming with the ancestors they couldn’t see..


A Fisherman’s Tale

He arrived home smelling raw each night
Stinky and sweaty, smelling of the sea
A fisherman who wouldn’t eat catfish
Wouldn’t eat anything lurking at the bottom of the sea
No shrimps or tilapia
It had to be fresh caught
Eyes bright and glistening
Bright red scales that sometimes turn to blue
Red Snapper for dinner please
Escovich too…


by Raquel Vazquez

I created a microphone with my hands.
It wasn’t the kind of microphone
made of curved metal mesh
that you plug into the wall
and connect to a stereo system.

It was made of paper and string.

I was once told to make something
with my hands

Something that would be
pivotal to me as I moved through life
and leaned on this thing
that would anchor me.

It was a microphone.

Hearing my voice amplified
allowed me to carefully learn
the texture of my voice,
the smoothness of it,
the strength and boldness of it,
the calm wisdom of it,

the sweet tenor sounds I bellow in song,
the vibrations of my hums,
the depths of heartbreak,
the pitches of elation,

the rough edges of it,
the New York in it,
the trill when I say my name in Spanish.

To speak my truth,
I use my voice
through this microphone,
as a vehicle
to my own

Doubts On Writing Poetry

by Melva C. Lewis

I had doubts
Never thought I could write poetry
2020 comes
I join a poetry workshop, on zoom
Turn old writings, essays
Into wanna-be poems
It’s difficult, unsatisfying.

One day
I make a clean break
Begin a poem as a poem
From beginning to end
Fresh, clean, original
I like it
Feels right
My soul knows.

I keep writing
Workshop members, friends, family
Encourage and applaud
The biggest surprise
No more doubts
Like it or not
Published or not
Writing fuels me.

When I write
I discover
New treasures
New joys
New wonders.

I’m in love.


Escribiendo Poesía Y Dudas

Tenia dudas
No pensé que podria escribir poesía
Llega el 2020
En un taller de poesía, en zoom
Convierto viejos escritos, ensayos
En poemas
Es dificil, insatisfactorio.

Un día
Empiezo de limpio
Creo un poema
Del principio al final
Fresco, original
Me encanta
Se siente bien
Mi alma lo sabe.

Sigo escribiendo
Miembros del taller, amigos y familia
Me animan y aplauden
La mayor sorpresa
No tengo dudas
Guste o no
Publiquese o no
Escribir me trae alegría
Alimenta mi alma.

Cuando escribo
Descubro tesoros
Me enamoro.



Doubt it’s insidious
It gets into you
Wraps around you
Keeps you from doing
What you want to do
What you have to do
That you need to do

Doubt is fear
Fear of not performing
Of not doing well
Of the unknown
Doubt about not knowing
Slows you down
Stops you
Kills your creativity
Sucks your strength

Doubt gets in your way
You must fight it
Overcome it
Lock it in a box
Crush it
Doubt can make you angry
Use the anger
To give you impetus
The get up and go
To do what you have to

Doubt, doubt, doubt
Everybody has doubt
Its always around
It’s how you handle doubt
That makes a difference
Say no to doubt
And yes to you.

At The Root, There It Was

by S. Augustin

 I remember when the term “God” no longer suited us
and what we had created.
Invoked in despair, desperation or pleasure
all no longer big enough to hold you.
I even made an atheist say it once
“Ohh, my God” he’d rasped
in between shallow, bare breaths
“Oh my…Who?” I inquired
as my teeth glistened in the moonlight

I could almost hear You
laughing at my irreverence.
I’ve never been able to hide from You
so I’ve simply accepted
that You’d be there
anyway, anyhow.

Even in that tiny Brooklyn bedroom.
Even in the frustrating silences
when I’ve most wanted You
to speak the whole fuck up.

Forgive me, friends
for what is most loved about me
is that I am the one who dares.
Most don’t like that,
but You do.

If they ask of roots
should we tell them of trees?
Majestic beings that
the spirits rustle through
Still. Moving. Yet, unmovable
at the same damn time.

If they ask of roots
should we tell them of water?
Rushing by like a past life.
Giver and Destroyer.
All that we are,
all that makes us whole.
To fill up, then wash it away
like the very air we breathe.

When they ask of roots
should we tell them of stars?
for when we see them
above, untouched
we do not realize that they are comprised of
what we have put below.

Long gone, yet still there
gaseous, bright, hot, alive.
No more use of counting them
than we would strands of hair
too much, too long, too short
whatever it is that stops us from putting a number
on that which we do not understand.

And yet we ask something dead to grow,
just like we hurry forward so quickly
so that which grows, dies
and it makes no sense
and neither do we.

Rooted, grounded, here one minute
gone for or from the rest
never really gone at all.
The things that make us
never die,
no matter how far from them
we claim to be.

So the next time they ask you about roots,
remind them.
I Am the end, I Am the beginning,
I Am what you take in,
and what you release.
For you cannot see Me
and yet, I Am. Everywhere.

If you dig up the tree, whatever you find
beneath those gnarled, twisting sinews that made you?

Do not be ashamed of it.
Do not be ashamed of Them.
Do not be ashamed.

You must dig to know
You must know to find
You must find to Love
You must love to be
You must be to see
and you must see to ever know
what makes you more.
More than what you think you are,
like a million tiny pieces
of the Unseen.

And that is what
We are made of.


by Samuel

Growing up in the weary Midwest
the streets wore enough salt to preserve the flavor of hopeless.
Where winter curled up in the basement of your throat
and made home there.
Only to leave space for the afterlife
an aftertaste that holds curious mouths forever captive.
The skies here reject the ascension of hope
only allowing the evaporation of exuberance
from cooling prayers, of fainting souls.
Lips painted blue with capitalism
chestnut chocolate bodies stretched across pavement
skin be they coffin.
No one bothered to outline in white
cause ain’t no new angels majoring in black salvation.
You can’t tell me all these hearts are wound to victim.
Time too is seated at the table of my enemies?
No one is more patient than man awaiting a savior.
Perhaps the weighing of his faith
led to the cracking asphalt he now calls home.
Making way for death’s desiccated roots to awake,
stretch, and lick away mother’s tears.
Nothing more patient than bullets begging to taste black backs
the ones that thrive on the extinction of the strength we call mama.
Bringing sons as first fruits to concrete
forcing mama’s body to bloom chrysanthemum
while watching the joy of her son seep into asphalt.
A hand-me-down tombstone, begotten of a benevolent earth
hungry for the nameless.
In the weary Midwest
justice is patience
patience is inaction
inaction is another man’s peace
and peace is sleeping on prayers the guilty is never caught.

In the Midwest
You don’t grow up.
You wither

Does Ms. Jordan Know Love

by KJ Champion

How many loves have I met

Gentle loves, frenzied loves, fling loves, puppy loves, whirlwind loves

And those were

Living loves

But I’ve met dying loves that decay quick

Refrigerate after opening quick

And I’ve known slow, sickly loves

Not losing faith loves

Hanging on for dear life loves

Narrow my eyes when you breathe wrong loves

Or better

Familiar loves

Like familia love


“It’ll never happen again” love


One month shy of a seventh anniversary love


High school sweetheart love


These were all the same love

And maybe I never wrote a poem for that love

But my my my

there are “stars that guide your love”?

….Well Ms. June, you’ve got me beat

I don’t think I’ve met that love


Cake Almost Wrote This Song About Me

She is a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket

She is tall and lean and sharp as a tack

She is learning calligraphy and she only types

She is riding into battle and she hates war

She is top of her league and down to earth

She is the main character and the villain

She is the last one standing and the first to surrender

She is singing her praises and watching her mouth

She is right on time and fashionably late

She is no make up and false lashes

She is a tall glass of gatorade

She is previously #TeamEdward, born again #TeamJacob

She is a middle name over a first

She is a bouquet of Venus fly traps

She is a packed suitcase

She is a sonnet

She is sounding the alarm and clear as a bell

She is heeding the warnings and making an entrance

She is head over heels, over the moon and out of this world

She keeps her friends close and her enemies away

She says “surprise me” and means “surprise me”

She parties like there is very much a tomorrow

She wears a short skirt and a long jacket


every day of my life is monumental

Monuments tall and proud

They have this resilience

And grow erect with every rising sun

And somehow I never fall in the shadow of my last monument

I’ve danced to the next sacred ground

To celebrate my arms that cradle me

My hands that palm together

and the shard of crystal pressed in their hollows

My little witness

My little party guest

Always there to celebrate my victories

Even when they look like a bucket of tears