A little black girl swimming in milk,
With fuzzy little flyaways instead of straight silk,
Always the first to put her hand up to identify
With a big smile, but then she’d get the side eye.
She tried to let it go and never let them see her cry,
But every night she’d go to bed always thinking why?
I love who I am and I’m proud of who I am,
So why do they hate me so much? God damn.
Well that much hate, it begins to warp the mind
So she began to hate her face and her very design.
Love for herself was hanging by a thread,
Some days were so grey that she wished she was dead…
Yes you heard what I said, let that wrap around your head,
A little girl really wished that she was dead.
It may be hard to hear and you want me to disappear,
But I’m not here for your guilt or your tears.
Why am I here? I’m here to tell my truth,
To show you my tears, the pain of black youth.
I’m not asking for a handout or for you to be my friend,
All I want is for you to just try and comprehend,
That I worry every night that my oppressors will win,
That my people will die out over a war of the skin.
This world, this landscape that by birth right is mine,
Has been violated and strangled by a white creeping vine.
It is wrapped around my neck and I’m gasping for air,
For I am one with this land and it is more than I can bare.
You may look upon the plains and think of how many houses could be built,
But what I see and what I feel is my ancestors’ blood being spilt.
But that wailing on the wind, the screaming in the night,
Doesn’t frighten me as much as our current and pressing plight.
You see a people can survive through just about anything,
Through rape and genocide, we’re still an intact string.
But denial of our history, of our culture and our blackness,
Gives permission and ammunition for others to forget us!
To forget, to pass over, to treat us with disregard,
Is to bury our bodies under the flowers in your backyard.
We will scream and we will fight because we refuse to drown,
In our hardships that you’ve created, the ones that are always passed down.
I have a fire in my belly and an ache in my heart,
From all the times I couldn’t be angry, no I had to be smart.
I couldn’t show my feelings because then I’d be labelled crazy,
Or if I retreated and disengaged then I was called lazy.
On this island I walk I just want to be me,
But nearly two hundred and fifty years of ignorance goes as far as the eye can see.
I’ll keep my shield up although sometimes it cracks,
Because those feelings keep building like unstable book stacks.
I look out at the button grass and see sheep instead of roos,
I look upon our waterways and see cruise ships, not canoes.
It’s no longer our footprints that mark our sacred sites,
But those of four wheel drives, this is why we need land rights.
To stop the destruction of place, the past and our future,
Our wounds are still open without needle or suture.
The water is rising, everything around us is dying,
So tell me what’s your excuse, why aren’t you trying?
And with all of this, this constant attack
I am called a liar, ‘but you’re not REALLY black’.
Tell that to my Great-Grandmother who was a stolen child,
Or to my family who were forced from the islands for being too ‘wild’.
Assimilate or die and believe me many of us have died,
Yet I was told to get over it every time that I cried.
But I am a loved girl with a fierce community behind her,
That told me to stand strong through any hateful slur.
I have chains that bind me, ones you can’t see,
They were placed there by people much older than me.
They weigh me down but I still try hard,
Although my spirit is so tired and scarred.
I am drained but never ashamed, no not anymore,
I’m a strong black woman who won’t listen to you like before.
It’s funny that my life has been shaped by people I’ll never meet;
Some good, some bad and some who came on that first fleet.
My landscape is beautiful, it has been for thousands of years,
It changes, it breathes, and it sings lullabies in your ears.
I am in love with this land, it has nurtured me all my life,
Just by being there by my side through all of this strife.
I have opportunity unlike my mother’s before me,
They fought so hard so girls like me could be free.
But as is always the case there are still battles to be fought,
But I know that my soul will not be bought.
A place is not just a place, it is its people and its ways,
Let’s do the work and listen so we can have better days.
Listen to your first people, if we disappear then the land will go too,
And when you have nothing left to destroy what will become of you?
First published in Island Magazine: 160 (2020)