In Jamaica, we celebrate National Heroes Day. We commemorate Nanny of the Maroons, Samuel Sharpe, George William Gordon, Paul Bogle, Alexander Bustamante, Norman Washington Manley and, of course, Marcus Mosiah Garvey.
These Jamaican heroes were blacks, mulattos, enslaved, free, preachers, politicians, business persons, parents, spouses. They were ordinary folks who lived during periods of rampant human rights abuses and physical and/or psychological enslavement.
They led revolts or initiated revolutions to help obtain freedom, human rights, labour rights and political rights at times in our history when our captors/colonial rulers were quick to imprison or kill and had little to no respect for persons of African descent.
Some would say, a couple of these brave Jamaican souls were a little crazy (like coo-coo, fell out the nest and bump dem head–hard). But, if you think about it, bravery does require a little crazy. It requires an inner resolve to keep moving in the face of naysayers, violent opposition or when the outcome you wish to achieve seems impossible.
Today’s poetic offering, Chocolate Empress, picks up on a subject many of African descent still struggle with: our physical features. I grew up in an era in Jamaica when not having enough “milk in your coffee” or having dreadlocks excluded you from certain social circles, jobs and/or schools.
I raise my hat to our cultural icons like Olive Lewin, Louise Bennett, Rex Nettleford, L-Antoinette Stines and you know seh mi have to mention Bob Marley & the Wailers, including the I-Threes, for driving our folk songs, African and folk dances, our Jamaican language (patois) and songs of pride, freedom and courage into our psyche.
During childhood, I remember the days of sitting at Olive Lewin’s feet (literally) as she sat at the piano and taught us the history and words of our folk songs, and I remember sitting before L’Antoinette Stines and listening to her passionate presentation on our ancestral dances.
Although we’ve made great strides, our people still have a way to go as the atrocities of our past enslavement, almost 180 years ago, continue to stubbornly haunt us. It’s still evident in the way our men relate to our women, our women to our men and our parents to our children. It’s a very deep scar, that we must keep tackling until it no longer registers in our DNA.
He says I’m beautiful:
the dimply thighs, thick calves,
the dark-chocolate skin,
the large, black eyes,
the slightly protruding tummy,
the very modest cleavage.
He says, I’m perfect.
He probably didn’t notice
that my second toe is longer than my big toe,
or that without the fandangles
and generous amounts of gel,
my hair is one big, kinky afro puff.
He probably didn’t see the scar over my left brow
– a reminder of my tomboyish days.
Perhaps my fashionable attire has distracted Him
from the hairiness of my forearms
and the sparseness of my eyelashes.
But He says, I’m wonderfully made.
And He must have seen the flaws when He put me together.
Empress, Isis, Queen.
That’s what they call me when I walk by.
It took me a while to realize
but, yes, now I see that
I am a queen, skillfully and perfectly wrought,
a craftsman’s fine work
in need of no revision,
a perfect depiction of me.
©Dionne Brown 2015
Image of “Africa” courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image of “Percussion Instruments” courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image of “African Mother” courtesy of africa at FreeDigitalPhotos.net