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
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
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
how to love
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.