by Ellen June Wright
More than sixty years have past since an assassin took your life on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, but I want you to know the struggle never ended. We’re still fighting the long fight and though there’s more of us than ever in Congress, the Senate and even the White House, the struggle cuts like barbed wire fencing around the perimeter of a prison where too many of our men and women squander years of their lives becoming chattel for the prison industrial complex.
The struggle is real even though we’ve got black billionaires, something we never thought we’d have, too many of us don’t have two dimes to rub together. We live paycheck to paycheck or unemployment to unemployment check. We’er still last hired and first fired. Too many of us live in the projects and drink water tainted by lead. Too many of our children go to school for years without learning from a black teacher. They learn to fear the police early. It’s not paranoia; it’s wisdom. They’ve seen too many people just like them cut down in the streets by gangs, by dealers, by those paid to protect them.
The struggle is real. If it’s not crack, it’s fentanyl. If it’s not fentanyl, it’s oxycodone over prescribed to make rich people rich as hell, and the church is trying, but its voice is drowned out by everything that’s flashy and loud. Jesus would have to rap the gospel with a hundred-thousand dollar chain around His neck to get their attention.
Dr. King, the struggle is real, but I don’t want to keep you too long. You’re resting in your grave. Your troubles are over. It’s up to us to keep fighting the long fight, to keep bending the arc towards justice.
I Watch Her Out of the Corner of My Eye
how each fork full of food is a particular task to complete, how she uses
her finger to guide the food onto the fork and slowly brings it to her
mouth, how even chewing is an activity that eats up time. She
perseveres through the yellow yam, Irish potato—through the pumpkin
we call squash, the boiled green banana, through the fish, the only flesh
she allows herself to eat. I’m taking notes on what it might be like to
live to be 100 years old, the pros and the cons, the black and white
notebook in my mind filling up leaf by leaf. I haven’t decided yet if it’s
something I want to do. I look at mother’s lap where a good quantity of
food has gathered—fallen from her lips as she tried to chew.
Wear Your Crown
I love this generation unabashedly unashamed of their beautiful black hair in cornrows or bantu knots or locks or wild and free. Ancient furrows of the pharaohs. Architecture of black scalp. Something happen in the 80s; the mod squad Afro went away, and we got hooked on the lie of lye. We swallowed a bill of goods that we would be more successful, more acceptable, more lovable if our hair was beautifully shiny and straight, if it moved when we tossed our heads back. Barbie straight, Peggy Lipton straight, Marsha Brady straight. The message was clear: our men would love us more if our hair was slick and shiny like the girls they so often adore. Yes, I said it. Some of us processed our hair for so long, we forgot what our naturals looked like. All praises go to the young sisters throwing off their mind fetters, sisters embracing their naturals, embracing what God gave them—finding beauty in their unprocessed, unburned, un-fried hair. Yes, Sister, wear your crown. Wear your natural hair.