Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Did You Make Me Black?

My prison-chaplain husband found a poem on his desk the other day. It was unsigned, and we presume it was written by an inmate. Inmate poetry is plentiful, as you might imagine. He brought it home for me to read, thinking it exceptional and knowing I love poetry. I, too, found the poem's imagery remarkable and beautiful. I decided to share it. If I ever learn who the poet is, I will give credit where it is due.


Lord, Lord,
Why did you make me Black?
Why make someone,
The world wants to hold back?

Black is the color of dirty clothes,
The color of grimy hands and feet,
Black is the color of darkness,
The color of tire-beaten streets.

Why did you give me thick lips?
A broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did you make me someone,
Who receives the hated stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye,
When someone you love gets hurt.
Black is the color of darkness,
Black is the color of dirt.

How come my bones are think,
And my hips and cheeks are high?
How come my eyes are brown.
Not the color of the daylight sky?

Why do people think I'm useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do some who see my skin,
Think I should be abused?

Lord, I just don't understand,
What is it about my skin?
Why do some folks want to hate me,
And not know the person within?

Black is what people are "listed,"
When other want to keep them away,
Black is the color of shadows cast,
Black is the end of the day.

Lord, you know my own mistreat me,
And I know this isn't right.
They don't like my hair or the way I look,
They say I'm too dark or too light.
Lord, don't you think it's time,
For you to make a change?
Why not redo creation,
And make us all the same?


Why did I make you Black?
Why did I make you Black?

Get off your knees and look around,
Tell Me, what do you see?
You aren't made in the image of darkness,
I made you in the likeness of me!

I made you the color of coal,
From which the diamond is formed,
I mad you the color of oil,
The black gold that keeps people warm.

I made you from the rich, dark earth,
That can grow the food you need,
Your color's the same as the Panther's,
Known for her beauty and speed.

Your color is like the Black Stallion,
A majestic animal, he,
You aren't made in the image of darkness,
I made you in likeness of me!

All the colors of a heavenly rainbow,
Can be found in every nation,
And when all of these colors were blended well,
You became my greatest creation!

Your hair is the texture of lamb's wool,
Such a humble creature is he,
I am the Shepherd who watches them,
I'm the One who will watch over thee.

You are the color of midnight sky,
I put the star's gleam in your eyes,
A smile hides behind your pain,
That's why your cheeks are high.

You are the color of dark clouds formed,
When I send my strongest weather,
Your lips are full so when you kiss,
The one that you love will remember.

Your stature is strong, your bones are thick,
To withstand the burden of time,
The reflection you see in the mirror?
The image looking back is Mine.

Inspired by Genesis 1:26 and 27
"And God said, 'Let us make man in Our image, after Our likeness...So God created man in
His own image...male and female created he them.


LoieJ said...

Just goes to show how the same thing can be interpreted in different ways.

It made me think of what happened when my son was in about 2nd or 3rd grade. His teacher called me and said that my son had been saying, "I'm not black" over and over. My son had read the biography of Jackie Robinson which told about all the racism he had faced. It made quite an impression on my son. He is often wondering about racism around him.

Ruth said...

Beautiful poem!! I hope you are able to discover the author to let him know how moving his poem is. I'm glad you shared it.

Jeni said...

That is a really beautiful and very moving poem. So glad you posted it as it does give so much insight.

Anonymous said...

This is really special. Thanks for sharing. A couple months ago we had a big go-round with Rebecca because she wanted to wear her hair up in braids and pony tails every single day, even though it was pulling out her natural curls. Come to find out, she was wanting to be more like her African American classmates who always had their hair arranged in fancy "do's." It took some serious thinking to explain to her that her hair is different and needs to be treated differently while still affirming that both kinds of hair are good and pretty.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

DP, that is so charming!

When Kris was in kindergarten we were stationed in Washington DC. It is nicknamed "Chocolate City" (with affection, not disdain) because African Americans are the majority population.

Anyway, we lived at an Air Force Base that had been turned into housing for all branches of the service. Military housing was always interesting, sometimes fun and sometimes difficult, because there sure aren't any segregated areas. Her best buds for two years was the little Black girl who lived across the street and the little Black/Asian girl who lived behind us. Those three were the most beautiful little trio, in my eyes! Additionally, the base was situated within the area of Anacostia (an almost totally minority, and very poor area of DC). She was in the minority in her classroom, and we often had the (very unusual but educational experience for white folks)of being the only non African Americans in a store, restaurant, etc.

Then we exited the USMC and moved to a tiny town in North Dakota to go to school. Now THAT was culture shock.

The first day of first grade, Kris came home and said with some astonishment, "Mommy, there is not one Black child in my whole class." I replied, "Honey, there is not one Black child in your whole school." Then we had to have a lesson on culture and demographics.

All of us enjoyed the quiet of the praries after the incessant noise of Anacostia, but we all missed the diversity of cultures and races and foods...and so on.

Iris Godfrey said...

Thank you for sharing this poem. I too pray you discover the author, although that may be a bit tough. I am told by those who know that the original Adam was probably very dark -- much closer to black than my pasty white. If that is the case, then those with that beautiful black skin are indeed the image and glory of the creator -- and I am a part of those more "washed out."
Matters not, He loves me and includes all who will call upon His matchless name!

Sally said...

wonderful poem- thank you...such beauty in the human race

Anonymous said...

The poem is by RuNett Nia Ebo it is my favorite poem since i was a small child. I love it and i am glad that others love it too. RuNett i believe has passed but thankfully her poem lives on and still inspires people today- jacqueline Love

RuNett Nia Ebo said...


My name is RuNett Nia Ebo and I am neither an inmate, deceased or male. You can find me on facebook or email me at runett.ebo101@gmail.com. If you are interested there is more information about me and my work on Author's Den. Let me know if you are interested in any other work I have but I do thank you for your remarks about this piece that God gave me.