Second Place – 2021 Beverly Hopkins Contest for High School Students
African in America
by GRACE RUO
Hazelwood West High School
1. Identity Crisis
After Pages Matam
And when the police decide / To kill the boy with two mouths / When
my brother is made a martyr / On land so foreign / It does not
even belong to itself / Will his motherland remember him? /
There are no Kikuyu / hymns / Of death by crooked cop / And all
the English ones / Will mispronounce his name / So which side of
the ocean / Will take the boy / Who was too Black for Africans /
Too African for Blacks / But all meaningless / In America?
2. Strange fruit
My father said / We should know / We are / Better / As if our family
tree / Didn’t share / The same roots / African in America is not African /
American / Until the night / Red and blue bled / Over / His windshield /
He learned his skin spoke / Louder than his accent / Learned it doesn’t
matter / What side of the ocean / He was born on / When red and
blue / Wish to make strange fruit of him / All the same
3. On Realizing I Am Black
After Gabriel Ramirez
I was born a shithole country away.
Brought to the home of the brave &
told to behave like I had some culture in me.
African in America is not African American.
Said Black be a burden
But never mine to bear.
So I learned to bare my teeth at mirrors.
Girls with skin the same shade
Of don’t belong
As they made a mockery of my mother tongue.
We made enemies of each other as if our family trees didn’t share the same roots.
As if America didn’t wish to make strange fruits of us,
We were lied to.
Deceived by sleight of hand,
Your master magic trick, America.
Took my sister from our motherland,
Fed her fables of herself
And called it truth.
Took my motherland from me,
Left me looking for my better half
And called yourself savior,
You lied to me.
Made me think Black be a burden
Like it ain’t cross the ocean to find its better half.
African In America,
Everything you dare disregard.
And how dare you disregard me?
Like I won’t come back louder every time I’m silenced?
Like I can be silenced?
I’ve learned of the lengths you traveled to hide me from me,
How these states unite to shatter my image of me.
Unlearned everything deception taught me
And been made a mirror.
No longer will I be a reflection of my loved ones’ miseducation.
These words be proof that truth be louder than the lies I grew up hearing.
That blood be thicker than the water used to separate us,
And no longer will my truth be diluted.
I’m so much more than I thought I could be,
And ain’t that the blessing of this body?
The beauty of this skin?
The Blackest shit ever?