Skin Deep by Shakeema Edwards

 [winner 13 to 17 age category in the 2010 Wadadli Pen lit awards]

Shakeema Edwards at the 2010 awards ceremony

He rose his fist into the air but said nothing, yet a deaf-man’s ‘S’ echoed all around them, they heard screams of unity and peace ringing through the air; some were afraid. The[y] stood silent, they stood still, they felt oppression whipping at their bones, they felt the shackles on their feet and they knew they could not escape it. They cried, those who couldn’t help it; they saw children being beaten, there bodies weak from hunger, their empty mouths crying for death, they saw them bleed out in the distance, the red blood pouring from their wounds changed colour. It was now as black as its surroundings.  They felt the pain, deep in the pits of their stomach. They heard an old lady cry out for them. “Little Black boy,” She said, “whose face blends into the shadows of my dreams. Why have you forsaken me?” They felt ashamed. Standing where their Father’s had once stood, fighting for an independence they so quickly neglect. They thought about their fathers; starving away on slave ships, slaving away till death. They heard Bob Marley sing [‘Redemption Song’], they heard the bullet ringing in the air that shot Martin Luther down; they had pulled the trigger. They had disowned their heritage, bleached their skin and blended in; they debased their brothers and made their mother weep. He lowered his fist and finally he screamed, “Brothers, Africa weeps.”

 I understood, I thought about my own sins and pains to do everything I could to disown my heritage, I thought about the contents of my medicine cabinet; my bleaching cream, my hair relaxer and the bandages from my surgery. I, who would soon be called to educate my children; what could I possibly do or say or teach them. What, when they asked about Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey, would I say when I knew nothing of them.

He raised his fist into the air as he told us, “I think somewhere in the progress you misunderstood, Black is not the colour of our hearts but our complexions, it is the shadow on our past but the shade which our bright futures will cast.  My brothers, return unto your mother’s bosom and repent, let her know that the days when we fight among ourselves would soon be gone and that the heart of Africa will always remain strong. Repeat after me, he shouted, “Hadharani Ni Umbika,” we repeated, “louder, Hadharani Ni Umbika,” we shouted, “again, Hadharani Ni Umbika,” we believed it.



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