She was a goodnight prayer, a moon that Shined down on me through her bedroom Window. She was the alphabet, a Sunday School verse, a third Sunday gospel song to Rehearse, a mostly misunderstood exchange Of power, responsibility & commands.
She was a black '73 Ford LTD, a Nottoway River crossing, a house filled with too many Other folks' children, an orphan that life & Death left behind to find some joy. She was A funeral going, everybody in Southampton County knowing, bad manner destroying Pillar of strength.
She was a Friday evening ride to town, a Saturday morning cleaning, a Sunday-go-to- Meeting kind of human being. She laughed Louder than Jim Crow's law & cried softer Than God's peace. She was the secret I never Told, sworn & born for the claiming, the Carrying of some other man & woman's burdens.
She was rare & uncut, unpolished & ripped from Some earthen mine, placed beneath a Sharecropper's vine to bear witness, to bear it all Deep down inside. She was a black hearse, a Deaf man walking, a raising & waving of both Hands. She was thunder; she was lightning, A heavy rain that fell in spring.
She was an informal education, small town Syndication. Her house a book & she the words Penned fervently, permanently on all its pages. She was a Ridley Road scholar, a kitchen where Cooking was always done & well. She was Ms. Shirley, the lunch lady, the bus driver, Daddy's wife, Giver of too much self.
Mama was a Negro spiritual, a hymn hummed from Inside a Baptist Hymnal in her old rocking chair, From a corner of our living room. She was a Wisdom no man could whistle, a fancy no woman Could fake, a journey nobody living in the now Could take. She was an old fashioned lyric Everybody could lift their voice & sing.
In my heart there lies no defeat
But in my bosom a triumphant and rhythmic beat.
And while my spirit dances with gladness,
I am quick to recall the sounds of blackness.
I hear the moaning and the wailing
Of native Africans held captive on ships sailing
As though it were my youth of yesterday
Whispering truths to ears in dark dismay,
That long, persistent motherland call
Of anxious hope and justice for all
As though it beckoned from higher heights,
I hear the songs of steal away nights.
That disdainful whip, the startling crack,
The sound of fifty lashes to my brother man's back.
We listened to hate's hypocrisy and religion.
We prayed for deliverance complete with wisdom.
I hear Harriet's footsteps and her hushing sacred sounds
As she walked without fear in search of freedom's grounds
To lead as many captives safely to northern light,
Her savvy spirit vowed to never give up the fight.
The sighs of relief at a kingdom finally come,
Freedom at last for us, the worst of sins to some.
But to the surprise and shock of a divided nation
Came the lyrics of a long overdue slave Emancipation.
The endless cheering must have been loud
While those who stood free made our ancestors proud.
And the old Africans' dream really did come true
In a nation where their people were brought to be subdued.
Dr. King shouted "Free at last, free at last!"
And his dream of a promised land did come to pass.
The sit-ins, the marches, the demands for equal rights
Were necessary for those freed in darkness and deprived of light.
So, in my daily living, I do not dare ignore the sounds
But am honored that my ancestors were strong and freedom bound.
When fellowmen can't remember the truth about this sadness,
Pause to share with them one of the many sounds of blackness.
It's a vision ever emblazoned in Heaven's truth of dismal days lived by men back then, times of stoop-side Sunday Schools in Southampton County. Brother Nat was preaching to a people caught up in a white man's deception he felt moved to rebel against. He was more than a preacher without a pulpit; he was a slave with a calling to call his brethren to everlasting arms. "The white man's evil, and we want to be free, the signs keep a comin' and they a pressin' me." It was the heart of the black, Virginia, Jerusalem, white way, till the blood of freedom appeared and painted God's skies, miraculously in black Moses’ eyes. Anointed, sanctified, soul on fire, the slave was called to congregate, not abdicate. He was chosen, and the time had come for us to walk through the fire. Not a quest, but a calling, to leave none living, none breathing. For the air God gave all, was stolen, stripped, taken and whipped out of us; they bled a dark people of life running through their veins, mocked them with husbands, wives, and mulatto baby cries until it was, to no surprise, justified rebellion, a righteous revolt, a song of silent amen's.