Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The importance of Naming...

I often write/perform spoken word/poetry in order to let off some steam. I find that it is one of my more effective tools through which to express my anger and frustration. The poem I am including in this post came after a conversation in an undregrad class I TAed. As we discussed the founding fathers, particularly Jefferson, no one was willing, or able, to name the slave he had children with. This made me furious! When so few people of color, so few slaves, have been humanized and given a name we cannot continue to forget or overlook the few who have been.

For All the Black Women (and men) who have remained Nameless in our history books, our mythologies, and lives, it is time. Time to use their names. 

Have you considered what compromise means in American history
An accommodation in which both sides make concessions
And still, people remain possessions
The Declaration of Independence
Where only land owning White men were in attendance
Was signed to free a people from unjust rule
Now seriously, who's the fool?
You want to uphold what these men stood for
And completely ignore how they lived their lives
The Declaration, A compromise
Put in place, managing to dehumanize
As I sit in this room and witness your violence
Are you really going to be silent?
Is slave all you can say?
Can we say her name??
Sally Hemings
The Black woman, owned by Jefferson
I don’t care what stories have been spun
To protect the author of Independence
Because I will call out his ascendance
Does it, as a white person, make your skin crawl
To name the Black woman
The founding father raped at 14
Say her name
Sally Hemings
In a history where so many
Were left nameless
Animals in cages
I demand that you say her NAME!
How can we talk of his actions with such favor
And I don’t even think you’re going to waiver
Maybe if you call out his bullshit
You’ll feel the guilt, just a little bit
Her Name was Sally Hemings
She was the half sister of Martha, his wife
Think about it, how’d she come to life?
Yes, it was not a scene of wine and grapes
When her own father gave her, To his real daughter 
This earth doesn’t contain enough holy water
To absolve this nation
From the sins of it’s creation
But you will say her Name
And not continue with the inhumane
Because faceless, and nameless
Are less likely to depress
And give you no room to assess
Or question the oppression
Our country has woven so deep
Sustained and kept so cheap
Because without a face, a name
You have no claim
To the freedom and rights
Of the men who were rich, protestant, land owning Whites

But you will say her name
Sally Hemings