Arts·Poetic License

The Plight: Randell Adjei's powerful reflection on the challenge of being both African and Canadian

"Sometimes I feel like I'm an alien, like I don't belong in a world that's so violent."

'Sometimes I feel like I'm an alien, like I don't belong in a world that's so violent'

"To me, this poem is an expression of my challenge of being African and Canadian at the same time," says Randell Adjei — Toronto author, inspirational speaker, arts educator, community leader and founder — about his poem The Plight, which he performed as part of our series Poetic License.

"I think being African was something that when I was younger, I was taught to not embrace. There's a lot of things about my Blackness I was taught to not embrace and I was taught to leave behind. For me, this poem is my expression of feeling like...sometimes I feel like I'm an alien. I feel like I don't belong in a world that's so violent and so tyrannical. It was my expression to the world to just say: 'Life is a gift, and despite all we go through, it's seeing the beautiful in the struggle.'"

Watch Randell Adjei perform The Plight:

Randell Adjei performs The Plight, an expression of his the challenge of "being African and Canadian at the same time" and the gift of being alive. 4:26

As the world around us grows more and more uncertain, eight young poets speak their truth in the third season of the CBC Arts series Poetic License. Watch all 8 performances now and read Randell Adjei's poem below.

In this Western world
where war is waged,
we wear our wounds like warriors
heart on sleeves we wear our wounds
like tattoos written across our Iris
we see the world in a peaceful violence
yet speak of the world
in the ways in which we've been silenced
like how they erect women like queens
then mirandize a lady's liberties in a New York minute strip you bare of your culture and ethnicity
tell you, you are free
yet criminalize you before you're proven guilty
they treat innocence like business
breaking bonds then stock people in cells like products then trade you when they lose interest
the price we pay in exchange for freedom.

The American dream is a war between spirit and sin we've yet to wake up from this dream is a nightmare for us melanated beings who walk in the light
we are immigrants who left our rights at the borders we crossed
we came from broken land
to stolen land
this True North strong and free
this economic monopoly to commodify me
this land has clouded my vision
clouded my melanin and made me feel blue
they blackmailed me with white lies and I'm in search of truth


in search of change no purple rain
they are yellow bellied cowards green with envy
rednecks who would rather see me on grey concrete
Soulless and empty
as my red blood runs towards a pot of gold
a fleeting rainbow
that colours the canvas of a 2000 year old genocide
the paintbrush
a gun they use like exercise to run this country
the race is a fundraised marathon that's gotten the world off track
too many issues to get our reparations back for being black and excellent they kill black bodies and extract our melanin for medicine.

We are lab rats in a social experiment
they put fluoride in our water that makes us docile
chemicals in our food we cannot pronounce
That's the shit we need to keep out our mouths
they use our names as bonds of ownership
that's why they capitalize our names
so they can capitalize on our names
we are modern day slaves in search of freedom

growing up in the 6,
when I was 7
I knew brother's that never 8 (ate)
so they started carrying 9's
like my best friend who started selling rocks
then turned them to boulders
he started packing the heat because the wades were getting colder
now I don't condone selling poison to make a living
but we don't control the drugs that across these borders into this new world order.
Obama succeeded the snakes in the Bush only for America to pull the trump card when we didn't look
like a game of president its politricks
that's why I'm hesitant to vote Justin case they ain't Trudeau.
I fear the world my children will inherit
so I do my best before they come
before I perish to be the change I wish to see

So I wear my heart on my sleeves
tattooed across my skin are my wounds of this utopia I believe
in hopes of brighter tomorrows
Because every sunrise one black mother's nature is mourning the death of her son at his wake
mourning has become a ritual of survival
a coping mechanism
a means of honouring our reincarnated ancestors
because life and death coexist in the form of faith and breath
in the fleeting moment of an inhale

a reminder it is a gift to be alive
despite the pain tattooed behind my eyes here I stand
tattooed across my skin or my wounds
the plight of this African Canadian man.

Randell Adjei is the founder of one of Toronto's largest and longest-running youth led initiatives, R.I.S.E Edutainment (Reaching Intelligent Souls Everywhere). Follow Adjei here, and watch more Poetic License performances online now.

About the Author

Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.