BLACK VOICES
02/22/2016 11:42 am ET

9 Dynamic Poems You Need To Hear This Black History Month

These poems are bound to keep you "woke" well beyond Black History Month.
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With a little over a week left in Black History Month, there are some raw details about our history in America that everyone should hear. What better way to convey these necessary details than through poetry and spoken word?

These poets in the nine poems we've rounded up unabashedly retell our history, dispel stereotypes and celebrate our culture. They speak of our ancestors, our resiliency and our magic. Watch the videos below and get lost in what it means to be black in America. 

  • Khary Jackson - "Carolina"
    "We jumped the broom a week before they sold me," Khary Jackson said in a poem he recited at Camp Bar in Saint Paul, Minnesota. In "Carolina," Jackson tells the tale of a married couple in slavery who was forced to split after the husband was sold to another master. Nothing, not even death, can come in between the couple's deep, spiritual connection.
  • Porsha Olayiwola - "Water"
    At the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam in Phoenix, Porsha Olayiwola connects the stereotype that black people have a fear of water to systematic racism. From the slave trade across the Atlantic Ocean to the nation neglecting the countless black people displaced by Hurricane Katrina, the poet notes that its nearly impossible for black people to stay afloat. "Ever since crossing the Atlantic, been feeling lost at sea, been feeling like a fish outta water, like a body sinking in the deep end, like troubled waters and drowning," she said.
  • Dominique Christina - "Karma"
    Dominique Christina expressed her "rage unmuted" at the 2014 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in this vengeful piece. "Tell massa' I'm coming back carrying fire in my napsack," she said, summoning the the spirit of Fred Hampton, Fannie Lou Hamer, among others. She repeatedly promised that karma wasn't finished with the oppressor.
  • Steven Willis - "Ebonics 101"
    Steven Willis declared that he is bilingual when he performed at the National Poetry Slam in August, with his first language being what he called a "more southern-fried English." Willis schooled his audience on the mechanics of the language that connects so many black people, reminding them of the rich culture this form of communication holds. "The bended back of my speech comes from years of carrying the black experience... You cannot expect us to be slave to your phonetics forever."
  • Danez Smith - "Dear White America"
    "I've left Earth in search of darker planets," Danez Smith said in his message to white America at the Rustbelt 2014 in Detroit. In the poem, Smith says he is fed up with living in a world where black people are eternally doomed while white people consistently have a more positive fate. Smith says that he would rather leave this world for a planet with soil as dark as his skin, far away from those who have the possibility to corrupt it.
  • Christopher Michael - "16th Street Baptist Church Speaks"
    In Christopher Michael's poem, he takes on the role of the 16th Street Baptist Church which was bombed in 1963 and took the lives of four little girls. As the church, Michael yelled, trying to save the four girls. "I tried so hard, I yelled so hard with everything I had: Girls! Girls, you gotta get from 'round here," he shouted. "I am not safety! Evil has made me an wicked thing." In a heartbreakingly real ending, the poet apologized for not being able to save the girls.
  • Jasmine Mans - "Birmingham"
    This time, poet Jasmine Mans is one of the little girls in the church bombing of 1963 when she performed at Le Poisson Rouge in New York. "Mama said the bomb wasn't meant for me," Mans said. "Maybe those white men didn't know that little black girls, we be going to church, too." 
  • iCON - "Black Woman Steps Up to Mic"
    Sha’Condria Sibley challenged the many stereotypes black women face when she performed at Texas Grand Slam in October. Sibley asserted in the poem that black women weren't meant to be silenced, their voices should be heard. "Black woman is told never to hurt, that she don't feel a thing, that her melanin and estrogen cancel out the human in her DNA," she said. "Black woman is told that her sorrow is a false alarm that goes off way too often while white privilege gets to siren its struggles all over the stage."
  • Chucky Black - "Black Magic"
    Poet Chucky Black celebrates his "Black Magic" during the 2015 Southern Fried Poetry Festival. The poet boasts the resiliency and track record of black people's ability to turn nothing into something. "Watch us turn empty stomachs into gold," he said. "Broken record players, into hip-hop, into gold. A collective trauma, into fire, into a revolution, into gold. Black be gold, see."

 

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