BE THE Only!


Feet swollen.
Standing in line. 11 hours.

I don’t mind.

My grandmomma, she couldn’t read.
Back curved forward.
Handwashing White Folk laundry.
Washboard pressed against the bottom of a tin tub filled with urine infested sudsy water.

Little Mr. Timmy wet the bed at night.

Grandmomma would take me to the market with her so I could read the prices for the flour and lard.

Store owner found out grandmamma couldn’t read.
White man.

He would see how much money she had. Charge the whole sum for a tin of lard.

We would walk back from the market and she would tell me about her grandmamma.

All the way from Africa.

She told me about how her grandmamma could pick bales and bales of cotton, from sun up to sun down, bent over.

Her fingers turning into claws to dig that stubborn soft cotton out of the tight prickly bud.

Her grandmomma couldn’t read– she worked her fingers raw so her granddaughter, great granddaughter, great great granddaughter someday, one day would be able to read.

Go to school.
Sit wherever she wanted.
Just like the White Folk do.

Grandmomma would grease my scalp and braid my hair as I read the Bible to her.

She said hearing me read those stories made her strong enough to wash another tub of White Folk laundry.

I didn’t realize until year’s later she was washing those clothes for me.

I wouldn’t understand why my grandmother told me about her grandmother picking so much cotton, on her feet all day, sun up to rundown, so her daughter didn’t have too.

My mother, she worked three jobs, all hard labor.
Pushing a broom.
A mop.

So her daughters would never have to.
My people are from Cairo.
Not that far from Suwanee.
A little over four-hour drive in the mean glare of the Deep South’s sun.

We wait in long lines.
4 hours. 6 hours. 12.

We waited in lines to de-board those ships.
Knee high in feces.
Rotting flesh.

We stood, scared and trembling.
On the auction block.
Watching our momma’s sold away.
That’s how I ended up being raised by my grandmomma.

We stood at the back of the bus.
Then we stood with our fist in the air.

In lines.
Long lines.
Like bloodstained spiritual veins.
Linking us to all the mommas.
Who stood for us.
To have the right to stand.

The lines are long.
We don’t mind the wait.

We’ve been standing for centuries. Standing is the legacy our maternal linage bequeath us as a super power.

So we stand.

Just like our mommas did.
And we will keep standing for little Black girls who have yet to be born.

So our great-great-granddaughters will know they are loved.
And they are free.


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