South End Stew: Memoirs From the Surviving

by Nasra Ali and Namaka Auwae-Dekker

 

A conversation between brown brother and light skin sister

Don’t come home in a body bag

I tell him

A quiet promise I know he can’t always keep

Please come home with most of yourself

I tell him

I cant he says

For this country always finds a way

To butcher brown bodies on the

Sidewalk,

In grocery stores

And county jails

And on channel 7

And on and on and on and on

White people have swallowed us whole

Left no solace or mercy

You can still live in our whips, they say

And offer poison berries as reparations

Tell us to find comfort in the flower beds they have made

Some would call them mass graves

Or the bullet wounds

They gifted us when ship first hit sand

A premature eulogy from light skin sister to brown brother

This promise made gasoline of your body

And a white man’s discomfort waiting to lodge itself

Between your ribs

This country sewed a pen to my right hand

Your tombstone to the other

Said ​“be prepared for when we reap this melanin. Make flames of his body”

You have not died

But every police siren can almost

 

Carve your name in its steady rhythm

maybe if white men didn’t fuck the color out of our people

maybe if trauma didn’t make homes in our lungs

Maybe my mother wouldn’t be splintered

Beaten by men who learned from their fathers

And their fathers

And the pain that followed the pillage

But white always finds a way into rebirth

Our skin bleached like our streets

We are choking on ghosts

My mother and

Her mother and

Her mother are crawling up my throat

Begging for a home that isn’t rusted with brown blood

The hills have eyes where i’m from​, refuge is almost impossible to find

Except in the white swan wings of whitified norms

Its chains transcending the tests of time

+It wraps around me like a comforting blanket, whispering sweet nothings into my ear

Welcomed by the impressionable mind of a young girl unaware of the history of her pigment

She yearns for the milky skin, for the things awarded to her white peers

For the chains to turn to silk​ and fall from her form

She yearns for freedom

 

The hills have eyes where i’m from​, this city never sleeps

That is a euphemism for someone who will always be watching

 

Always there to see, never to help me breathe

They are slowly snubbing out my native tongue like a cigarette

And massaging my roots with chemicals

And chemically lightening my skin

And continuing to tell my people their skin will never win

But they love my melanin

The splash of color i bring to their blank canvas

I am covered in the dust of crushed pearls

Crafted from emeralds and the darkest type of light found

Their teeth ache with rage cause they know this.

They know they need the fruits we produce

They love to fall in love with our flowers without once glancing down at our roots.

 

Split open again and again and again

We learned to mend ourselves

We made a new kind of home

Where the taste of our ache reminded us of a strange fruit

One with a thick skin and impossibly sweet juice

We turned our noose into a ribbon

We got that homemade type of love

That cornbread that ain’t soft

Or sweet

Or white washed

We got that I hear god in her voice type gospel

That never miss a beat type soul

That family vibe you wish you could buy

We got it, you can’t have it

 

They took our people with their weapons

We took a knee

They tried to constrict our throats with their systems

That only taught us how to breathe

They wanna keep us under, thinkin they can drown us in the rain

You may have brought us here, but we still the best that ever came.


Nasra Ali and Namaka Auwae-Dekker are members of the Youth Leadership Council through Young Women Empowered. Based in the Beacon Hill neighborhood, Y-WE is a 501c3 non profit dedicated to providing young women and non binary youth ages 13-18 with an intergenerational community of support of mentors and teaching artists, and the opportunity to grow their own leadership.

Painting: Generations by Kevin “WAK” Williams

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