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Back to What Is True - a spoken word poem

This spoken word poem was inspired as a response to the Northside Church blog posts No More Opting Out and Two Unbearable Griefs, courageously and prophetically offered by two dear sisters in Christ in the wake of the Ahmaud Arbery shooting.

Below is the full text of the poem:

A.T. and S.K., my beloved Christian sisters,
I couldn’t press on without you.
I was stuck when I was reading your words
until they turned my heart back to what is true.
They set my mind back on the promises of God –
even though I’m feeling blue.
They reset my attitude
and put me in a better mood.

No opting out, no stepping back,
doing so never stops the constant threat of attack.
But trying to press on comes at a price,
It’s like I’m rolling the dice –
even as a woman, I’ve been harassed by the cops at least twice.
Being well educated and speaking the king’s English just doesn’t suffice.
All that matters, to some, is that my hair is too greasy and kinky to get lice.
So, they think it’s all right to treat me like being black is a vice.

Middle class, beautifully brown like brass,
but too dark for those with racial prejudice,
my educated, “articulate” sons
were born into a caste of injustice.
They gotta try to survive, and maybe even thrive,
with the burdensome stress of this hot mess.
I get nervous when my teen son rides his bike to the park.
Will he make it home all right, or will he end up being someone’s mark?

I’ve spent a lifetime trying to fight this through the proper channels and path.
I ain’t gettin' nowhere but on the fast track to a heart cath.
Sometimes my heart beats too fast, and my soul’s groaning sets in,
even when I can’t attribute this pain to any specific racist sin.
The tension I live in never lets up,
the state of things in our society is just too corrupt.
And folks wonder why Black folks are so susceptible
to obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and ailments of the heart.
I think the constant state of stress we live in might be a good start.

Hearing, again and again, that another black sister or brother is down
is messing with my head.
I thought I was emotionally done from all the sickness and death
we witness with COVID,
but this latest lynching makes it hard to get moving,
or even get outta bed.
It’s 2020 and supposedly “post-racial,” but I’m still afraid my own sons
might end up dead.
I have to consciously remind myself the resurrection is real,
just like HE said.
The Lord of the universe is on the scene with a plan,
if we’re willing to be led.

I gotta be real, and the truth is some days I have had more than enough
of White Folk (and their guns).
I’ve said that with a semi-smile too tired to reach my eyes, so you might think
it’s a bad joke (but nope, I’m outta puns).
Right in this moment, I want to submerge,
deep into a place where just shades of Blackness converge.
To lose myself in the feel,
the soothing harmonious sway,
that very unique way
that black people across the diaspora move
on one accord to an ancient beat,
however and whenever in worship we meet.

The stress of our societal ills leaves me with constant indigestion.
Stomach churning, mind a-blurring –
it’s hard to breathe from all the emotional congestion.
I feel so tired, tired of processing, tired of obsessing.
Lord, where is our blessing?!
My brain is exhausted, my neck strained and tight,
with headaches that make me too weak to fight.
What I feel in my soul is as broken as my ancestors’ bodies
after a lifetime of un-paid, back-breaking labor.
I am tired, I am weakened, but one thing I know:
My faith does not waver.
I can’t move right this second,
but I know that I will.
God has seen me in this place before,
and if I just stay still
and know that He and He alone is God,
He’ll pull me to my feet with his staff and his rod.

Stones of remembrance of God’s faithfulness, Ebenezers I call them,
are moving to the front of my memory, and I can’t stop ‘em.
I see my Grandma on her knees an hour before the sun,
praying into my future, that me and mine might even have one.
Her lack of literacy in the written word,
did not preclude her understanding of THE WORD.
The idea that I feel like giving up at points,
to her, might have seemed absurd.
A woman of great faith who bore the scars of deep oppression,
witnessing her love and trust in God has taught me a valuable lesson.

To praise God anyhow, through the madness and the sadness,
knowing that it won’t always be this way,
that there will someday be joy and gladness.

Even as I write these words,
my heart beat slows down,
my frown turns upside down,
and I can feel the love of my Christian brothers and sisters
coming from all up and down the Northside of town.

I’m whipped into submission by the Holy Ghost,
He knows what I need the most.
And against all odds, it satisfies
my broken heart, and Himself it magnifies.
It looks like when she smoothed away the pain of my headache
with her white fingers pressed deep in my nappy ‘fro,
when she made a meal (or two, or three) when I could have ordered out,
just to save me the effort when I was feeling low.
She kept my kids while I lay in a hospital with a wounded womb,
honored our lost babes for whom there is no tomb.
She shed tears for me when my heart had no room,
heard my tales of woe when I just couldn’t take it no ‘mo.

So my sisters, be they White European,
Superfly Korean, Chinese-Filipina, or Latina,
Black or Brown, we can all git down.
Covered in the blood,
all adopted and rescued from the flood.
It’s really true that blood is thicker than water,
no, not our own, but the blood of The Son of The Father,


have mercy on our land,
please don’t take away your hand.
Instead, take away my self-righteousness, hard-heartedness, unforgiveness.
Replace them with humility, some wisdom, and a softness –
a gentleness that belies
the pain when another one of us dies,
that keeps me from pushing people away
and getting all hard inside.
Make me whole, though I’m broken,
know my value even when I’m the token,
and stand firm because You’ve spoken.
Your glory revealed in my being healed,
Your work of salvation, my fate has sealed.

And someday,
“I’m gonna put on my robe,
tell the story how I made it ‘ova!
Soon as I get home.”

— Ms. Alice’s Grandbaby
(Singing by Ms. Alice's Great Grandbaby)


  1. I am truly touched and proud of you as I was of Ms Alice


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