Saskatchewan·POETRY

Sask. youth poet laureate inspires Black people to look at themselves in a different light

Saskatoon poet Peace Akintade presents her work "Rainbow" and "Sunflower Grave" as invitations for Black children and adults to look at their culture, their skin and their identity in a different light.

'The sun loved me too much so it gave me a hug,' writes Peace Akintade about Black skin

Peace Akintade is the Saskatchewan Writers' Guild's Youth Poet Laurate for 2020-21. (Don Somers/CBC)

Whether struggling with issues of systemic racism or microaggressions, this year, Black people have found themselves contained in boxes of identity crises and injustice.

Every Black child has faced challenges that have hurt them emotionally. We carry those struggles on our shoulders and, slowly, it may weigh us down or it helps us become stronger, more radiant and more sure about the reality of the harsh world.

I wrote "Rainbow" and "Sunflower Grave" as invitations for Black children and adults to look at their culture, their skin and their identity in a different light.

"Rainbow" compares our skin to the ground. We are ancient; we are nature. When you read or hear the poems, remember the sun on your skin and how welcoming it feels.

"Sunflower Grave" starts with an image of being buried with sunflowers and under dead bushes. Sunflowers are the symbol of growth. Our story as Black people is being cut short just like the sunflower's eventually is, but in the end, we become fertilizers. Our stories help inspire the next storyteller, artist, social worker or doctor. One day, every Black child will wake up praising their skin. 

Rainbow

Peace Akintade performs her poem "Rainbow". 2:46

If you didn't know 
I'm a woman of color.
My snowy white skin is splattered with dirt, 
The sun loved me too much so it gave me a hug. 
I took so many chocolates, it reflects on my skin.
I am the pancake that was left on too long, but 
I am the gingerbread cookie that came out just right,
Golden brown. 

I am the color of the beginning of the earth 
Before humans stepped foot on the ground, 
I was the ground. 
I am the color of ash wood that you cut down to make books. 
I am the color of the roots beneath a blooming rose. 
I have no place in the sky with the primary colors, 
Down here on Earth, I'm alive  

I am the color of the darkest night 
Where dreams visit me before the dawn of light. 
I am the golden speck in the eye of brown girl
Who never thought they were special
Until the sun hit them just right.

I'm the color of hot cocoa after a hard day of work 
Making friends with sweet marshmallows 
And the occasional crisp donut.
I'm the color of an eagle feather 
An owl's freshly shaved wood. 
My color is the scent of musky muscularity 
Of a story or myth that has not yet crossed our ears, 
But lives inside our hearts. 

Just like how my ancestors fell in love with the sun 
And painted their skin with the natural pigment of mother earth, 
Just like the tree gives ways to the leaves, 
Never forgetting the kindness of the air, 
Yet wallowing in its glory,
So will I. 

I am not part of the color of a rainbow 

But both ends of the rainbow will always touch me 

'Let my body become fertilizer / And one day, you'll see an army of strong BIPOC women marching in flower': from 'Sunflower Grave' by Peace Akintade. (Titilayo Akintade)

I am the color of life 
Soul
Particles soon are forgotten 
Stories, cultures. 
I was kissed by the sun before I was born, 
And will return to the earth to blend with nature. 
My body will help begin a new cycle 
My color will always continue to be seen 

So before you ask where I'm really from? Ask yourself where I haven't been. 
What other colors would correspond with every shade 
Only to be forgotten and mistrusted 
Only making love with the sky and cloud over the horizon.

I like to think that my skin was sculpted from rocks.
Beautiful.
A word I never thought to associate myself with.
But thank God I realized that earth was not born in two days,
So my skin will always be outdoing itself.

Now you know 
I am a woman of color 
That does not mean I'm perfect 
But I am part of the rainbow 

Sunflower Grave

Peace Akintade performs her poem "Sunflower Grave". 2:31

If I die at the age of 21 
Bury me in a casket full of sunflowers
To remind the world,
My mother never got the chance to watch me grow. 
If I die before the age of 30 
Bury me underneath dead bushes 
I've spent too long on the earth 
Let me be fertilizer 

The color of my skin means something to the earth 
Like the ground 
I am a chameleon ready to go back home
Just like a tree, my roots shall be strong
I look forward to the sun on my skin.
Like a mother's touch 
Known and explored. 
The sun caresses me like it knows every tired pore

I am known as the Earth goddess 
But people call me Black girl 

Black girl strong 
Black girl beautiful 
Black girl wanting someone to hold her by the fingers and call her enchanting
A candy mix of spirituality and sunflowers
A fragrance of opportunity 
We are adaptation's creation 
Because we create culture.

Black girl making family out of trash cans 
A home smell like casserole and spices and cookie dough 
Black girl finding beauty in our edges and afros

'So before you ask where I'm really from? Ask yourself where I haven't been. / What other colors would correspond with every shade / Only to be forgotten and mistrusted': from 'Rainbow' by Peace Akintade.  (Jessy Tyson)

Are you still speculating our worth 
Don't. 
When have we ever needed your help
Call us the border between nightmare and sweet dreams 
Call us a daydream 

How do I know the wonders of God's first draft 

She is me 
And I am her 
She is you and you are her.
You are her allies, her friend, her lover 
You walk past her every morning and admire her flow 
You stare because she radiates royalty 
And once she knows her worth, the ground will sing its praise 
Say your grace on the table for every Black girl 
So when I die, bury me with a million different lilies and sunflowers 
For every Black girl who felt the pain of rejection and microaggression. 
Let my body become fertilizer 
And one day, you'll see an army of strong BIPOC women marching in flower


This story is part of a CBC project entitled Being Black in Canada, which highlights the stories and experiences of Black Canadians, from anti-Black racism to success stories Black communities can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC)

About the Author

Peace Akintade is an African-Canadian poet, public speaker, thespian and Saskatchewan's Youth Poet Laureate for 2020-21, residing in Saskatoon. She is the co-ordinator of Write Out Loud, a Saskatoon-based youth poetry community and a board member of the Tonight It's Poetry community. She was Saskatoon’s Youth Slam Champion in 2017-19. Her poems touch on growing up in Kuwait, Nigeria and Canada, the impact of slavery in the village in which she lived in Africa, colourism, and relearning her culture in the face of colonization.

now