Search this website

driving while black RSS

driving while black

04 April, 2015: driving while black


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
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.
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.

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.


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.
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

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

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


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

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

Nothing remains
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,

as if never there;

solid black, no clouds

…this entire year.

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

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.