Oct 28 2013

Poem of the Day: Praise for Black Women by Malcolm London

This poem by Malcolm brought me to tears when I read it. It’s not only that I find it poignant and beautiful. It’s also that I am so grateful to know that young men like Malcolm exist in the world. Whatever I was doing when I was 20 years old, it wasn’t writing like this. Malcolm’s writing is only one part of his heart and commitment to social justice. We are all so lucky to have him in Chicago and to have so many other amazing young people in this city too. Thank you Malcolm for thinking of Marissa and for writing this gorgeous poem in response. See and hear more of Malcolm’s work here

Praise for Black Women
by Malcolm London
(published as part of #31forMARISSA)

every black woman I know

is building a church behind her face

to hide

the razor bladed bible

in her mouth,

every black woman i know

whole smile a stained glass window

that shatter so almighty

it break into a constant redemption song

a congregation speaking in tongues

of resistance,

pews of teeth white

the ministry is not

religious, is refuge.

is not catholic priest adorned in jewels

is gem. is not hell, but woman scorned.

is not holy, is holy ghost

of 16th street baptist church,

of Recy Taylor, Joanne Little

Tyisha Miller, Eleanor Bumpurs,

Latanya Haggerty, Rekia Boyd

it is not easter, it is ressurrection of millions of voices



my Mama says “boy!”

like eternal damnation

like stones being thrown

to build me into the house

my father could never become


my Grandma say “nigga”

with inflections for each of her ex husbands,

three sons and all her grandchildren.

a sweet prayer we flee handcuffs and bullets

as Lots from Sodom and Gomorrah


Aunt Jackie laugh

heavy like a burden or anchor

in the face of jail, pimps and drugs

but she laugh.

she know trauma but she laugh

wide like full belly

cuz she ain’t never let her nieces and nephews go

hungry. one link card turn five loaves

and two fish into next month.


my Girlfriend say little

but speak hallelujah every time

the pulpit in her throat calls me to the altar

the dimples in her cheek

a westside vatican

i’ve kissed confessional into


Mariame Kaba say blackfeminist

oneword. preach systemic violence

creates interpersonal violence,

america having the largest prison system

is domestic violence, too.


Assata (my future daughters’ name) Shakur

preach “if you’re deaf, dumb, and blind

to what’s happening in the world,

you’re under no obligation to do anything.

But if you know what’s happening and do

nothing but sit on your ass, then you’re nothing but a punk”


marissa i can see the cathedral ‘

behind your eyes. staring a system down

that fails to protect your sanctity

while calling you jezebel.

from your crusade I am hearten

to fight, to pray with my feet.


every black woman i know

has baptized me in resistance

struggle and

how to love

while surviving.

it is from them i have learned black

power. learned a black power fist

is still a fist.

taught me samson strength comes from heart.


every black woman i know is building

a church behind her face

seen burning crosses, police and state violence,

can give sermons as thick as old and new testaments

on sexual assault and still

they speak, laugh, they gospel

they testament to courage

how they heaven to men who judas to them

they sunday school and manger to black boy

refusing to deny their names.


(p.s.) this is also to the men. who are ignoring the jehovah’s witnesses

knocking at our door. there is a seeping gospel we must listen to.

realize in our ignoring, we are silencing. we cannot be cowards

cannot hide behind rape jokes or pretend we don’t know men are crucifying

women who are our mothers, sisters, grandmothers, girlfriends, we must hold them

accountable. engage in dialogue and practice of love

refuse to see the church be bulldozed.


As a special treat, here’s Malcolm reading his poem at the opening reception of the “Picturing A World Without Prisons” exhibition on November 15.