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driving while black

04 April, 2015: driving while black

READ A POEM

by Mwatabu S. Okantah
driving while black
    It is not what you call me,
    it is what I answer to …

                   – African proverb

driving in my car
black wisdom from the ages is turned on its head:

in my car
what i think of my Self is of no significance
(save in my own mind …)
because i am always black while driving
and i know they are there     waiting     lurking
looking
              out
for some one black
like me.

i am a black man driving.
i have my own and countless other blackmenintheircars
                 stories to tell —
it is the same story; new chapters from works in progress
out of America’s deep black story well.

i am blessed.
i have driven through my youth
and into my elder years —
i am still driving.            they          are
            still                there    watching.
sadly,
their fears are always near.

“driving while black” by Mwatabu S. Okantah, from Reconnecting Memories: Dreams No Longer Deferred. Africa World Press, 2004. Used with permission of the author.

ABOUT TODAY’S POET
Mwatabu S. Okantah, an Associate Professor and Poet in Residence in the Department of Pan-African Studies at Kent State University, is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Muntu Kuntu Energy: New and Selected Poetry (2013), in addition to works in many anthologies. As a performer, Okantah has worked in a variety of musical situations, including time as Griot for the Iroko African Drum & Dance Society and in an ongoing collaboration with the Cavani String Quartet. He is the leader of Muntu Kuntu Energy aka Baba Okantah and MKE. A spoken word and original music CD, Guerrilla Dread: Griot Stylee, was released in 2014. Baba Okantah lives in Akron with his wife, Aminah, and their five children.

WRITE A POEM

Think beyond your immediate surroundings.

Tonight is a total lunar eclipse that will last three hours and 29 minutes (with the total eclipse of the moon lasting five minutes). Write a poem about the eclipse or about your favorite constellation or star.
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Comments
Mary Turzillo
Beautiful, and timely, though very sad. I hope we evolve into a better world, perhaps through the power of poetry.
4/7/2015 12:57:30 PM

Laurie
Tovli - Bring this poem to the Open Mic at Parma-Snow Branch on April 30 at 7 p.m. and read it!
4/6/2015 8:13:44 AM

Tovli
I hope I am doing this correctly...here is a humble poem contribution for April Poetry Month. If I am doing this incorrectly, please do not hesitate to tell me so!

Eclipse

The night turns black, from
inside.
Night.
Black, caving inward;
a week, next month, then beyond.

Night
bent into its crescent shadow,
rages flat,
within the great dwarfing circle.

Nothing remains
completely
white,
only yellow ebbing backwards

with its spine consumed in fire:

first my ribs,
now yours.

The year passes over.
Once, a little kiss convinced the sky to burn
the same way a tiny flower withers
when summer eats its soul
to the root,

disappearing,
as if never there;

solid black, no clouds

…this entire year.

© 2015 Tovli Simirayn
4/5/2015 11:35:43 AM

Tovli
loved this poem, so strong and gentle at the same time.
4/5/2015 11:31:29 AM



READ + WRITE: 30 Days of Poetry is a collaboration between Cuyahoga County Public Library and poet Diane Kendig. Our thanks go to Diane and the poets of Northeast Ohio who allowed us to share their poetry.