Sask. youth poet laureate inspires Black people to look at themselves in a different light
'The sun loved me too much so it gave me a hug,' writes Peace Akintade about Black skin
This piece was originally published on Aug. 2, 2020.
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.
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,
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
I am the color of life
Particles soon are forgotten
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.
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
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
Are you still speculating our worth
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.