She wears skin black like sin
Or heavy tar she must make light.
Scrub it clean,
Bleach it white like snow
That melts away into black soil.
Rusty springs stick to her scalp,
Thick as weeds among tough cane stalks.
The hot comb pulls them straight for a while,
Testing nature’s strength.
Creamy crack burns her scalp,
Mocking nature’s length.
Little Ebony licks ivory lies off sugary sticks
Until she swells with sooty venom
And begins to rot from her core.
Crack her vessel and thin her hair
Until it is brittle and weightless,
Until she feels brittle and worthless.
Let her crawl back into the night
And find comfort there;
And as she hugs her skin around her like armour,
She will not tame her roots; she will not curb her mind.
She will finally hear the voice
That either rises from the earth
Or that has always been surrounding her.
It whispers, “Let me grow.”
BIO: Jamila is third placed in the 18 to 35 age category of the 2013 Wadadli Pen Challenge. She is an aspiring writer and musician with a BA in English Literature. She has worked as an editorial assistant and fiction editor, and a Math, Reading, Writing and Music tutor. Jamila intends to shake up the literary world with her fearless writing by exploring matters of the heart, faith, but most importantly exploring constructions of race, identity and perceptions of Blacks in mass media. In crafting The Blackest Sin, she says, she wanted to strip away the superficiality and confront the ugly truths vis-à-vis identity which black women battle to confront. The poem, she said, “is emphasizing that our perception of self is branded by society’s perception of us; and that this self-image has been imbedded within our psyches as a result of being passed down through generations. It is about yearning for that cure to help us acknowledge and handle that tug-of-war between our two selves—our true self and the self that society perceives us to be.”
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