Ode To Black Women

A little black girl

With bright eyes

In a little red dress,

Fixes her gaze upon

The digital image of a woman,

With ebony skin like hers

Deep dark eyes like hers

With a nose and 4C hair,

Just like hers.

Who sings soprano symphonies

At the BBC Proms,

Like it was with within

Her own very lungs

That nightingales first learnt the

Sweet sound of song.

A little black girl

In a little red dress,

Watches as she sees herself

Reflected in the image of her inspiration.

 

And so, this is an ode to black women.

Black women who like water

Wade over cracked ground,

Softening the earth

With a resilience unbound.

Pouring water onto the seeds of tomorrow,

Way before tomorrow came around

Thinking it could bury us.

 

A Windrush Empire of people

Dressed in their Sunday best.

An image of church hats,

Ironed skirts,

Sensible shoes,

Handkerchiefs pressed tightly into palms.

 

Forward looking foremothers,

Who in their self-sacrifice

Were the bricklayers,

Building brick by precious brick

On foreign land,

To make houses that we could call

Our homes.

They were the pilots who

Manufactured wings

And on being told would never

Touch the skies,

Dared to dream,

And then taught themselves to fly.

 

This is an ode to Olive Morris.

A Brixton Black Panther

Who at age 17,

Stepped into the face of injustice

As bold as the A-Team.

Resting now on the Brixton pound note

It was noted that she was a

Wonder of a woman.

But like low-hanging fruit

From the heavens,

She was plucked

Too early from this life,

At age 27.

 

This is an ode to black women who

Walked in legacies

Too weighty to bear,

Who strove to beat the odds because

Growing up they had to beat

Every rod of injustice,

And every knee scraped

Was another hurdle overcome.

 

This an ode to William Brown.

First black woman sailor

To set to sea as part of

The British Royal Navy.

An ode to Mary Seacole.

A nurse now famous we find

Delivering first aid to soldiers

On the frontlines,

And a healing touch to those

Whom the Crimean war

Left behind.

 

This is an ode to Adelaide Hall.

Who in 1941 became

The highest paid entertainer.

And to Lady Lawrence

Who lived her life

As a justice campaigner.

To Claudia Jones.

Who with music filling her bones

Became the mother

Of Nottinghill Carnival.

 

This is an ode to all the mothers

Of our Black British history,

Who on finding no one to reflect themselves

Became their own magic mirrors,

So future generations

Could more easily see

Their own light reflected

In you so clearly.

 

You who wear resilience on your tongue,

Who take governments to court like

A skilled tennis player

Knocking sixes out of Brexit.

You who come from the arms of immigrants,

The hearts of working class parents

Who like cogs in a wheel

Took their places as bus conductors and cleaners,

Night nurses and practical dreamers

Helping run the machine,

But still finding time to transfer money home

Till yellow Western Union shops

Became the telephones

Connecting our bloodline.

 

You who went from running

To charge up the gas meter,

To Olympic champions

Gassing over the 400-metre line.

Black women bringing changes

To the all-white faces

Presented to us in the media.

You who carry a list of firsts,

From fashion icons

To orthopedic surgeons,

You who work behind the scenes of Vogue.

Campaigners for justice,

Black women MPs,

You with OBE and MBE

Holding titles beyond the dreams

Proud parents could ever conceive.

 

When they told us

That there was not enough space

In the room,

We had to learn to carve out

A room of our own.

Like oxygen

Still we rose

Till each of our successes

Were just an inhaled breath,

Reminding the world

Of our necessity.

 

We who come from a lineage of pride,

Where being told to work

Twice as hard was

Pumped like oxygen through our veins,

So now the drive to succeed comes

As easy as breathing.

 

We master life with each breath that we take.

 

From lands of ackee and saltfish

To rivers running low

Between mountain peaks,

Hot plane air and

Dusty public transport seats.

Different places we still call home,

Different tongues we are still learning

To call our own.

But still,

There is something that unites us,

The celebration to be found

In our existence,

The disruption that comes

With our excellence.

 

As women we are often told,

Our worth is solely defined by

The weight that is bearing children.

But we are not to be scaled down

To factors that lie external to us,

For we are already the bearers

Of our own success.

 

We who are like

Brown sugar,

Which on finding itself

Placed in hot water,

In its dissolving

Still makes sweet

The troubled waters

Which surround it.

 

In a world that is often

Too quick

To teach black women

How to slowly

Slip

Silence

In-between the plump space

Of our lips,

To speak in more      hushed       tones –

We are defiant.

Bolder and unapologetic

With a promise to be greater

Than our mothers

Who came before us.

 

So, digging our roots deeper

Into paths you paved,

Like wallflowers we have learnt

To grow in difficult spaces.

We are the black women

Making waves

In our industries.

The Slumflowers

That learned to bloom

Out of concrete.

 

Looking back…

I still remember how growing up

As a little black girl

In a little red dress,

I would often sit back

And wonder,

Where were all the black superwomen?

 

And now,

I marvel at all

Of the wonder women,

I can look around

And now see

Surround me.

 

– Princess Peace

 

Written as a commissioned piece for Powerful Media and performed at the annual launch dinner of the 2017/2018 Powerlist Magazine – highly recognised for its documentation and celebration of the achievements of the top 100 African-Caribbean influencers in the U.K.

 

(Artist for featured image unknown, if you recognise the artwork, please email me as I would love to give them their recognition)

7 thoughts on “Ode To Black Women

  1. The stanza in reference to Brown Sugar is eerie, historically sugar plantations were the bedrock of evil, however your line resonates a flip side. Beautiful.

    Like

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