“Alexa, play Boys II Men “Goodbye”

Is it me or does the last week of Black History Month feel somewhat gloomy? But let’s be honest – in Memphis where 60 some percent of Memphians are Black – every month can be Black History Month. Every month, we should dedicate some time to uplift our history, our stories, our culture, and everything that makes us the “coolest motherfunkers on the planet” according to Andre 3000. This past weekend at TEDx Memphis, multidisciplinary artist Nubia Yasin did just that. Here’s her piece “For My People.”

For My People 

after Margaret Walker 

For my people

For baby girls in beaded braids and bird chested, pot bellied baby boys 

Singin’ bout they pinkies and they thumbs, and takin’ after their grandmas or uncles or daddies and Lord knows where he is or they know where he is and it’s here or there, 

And so is mama

And they be fallin’ asleep in service 

And stickin’ their tongues through the gaps in their teeth

With kool aid red mouths and hot cheeto fingers and places to go and best friends to make and new words to learn and so they ain’t got no time for dying 

This be for the sometimes when they do just that too

For my people, the fan wavin’ always hot aunties

Always hollerin’ aunties

Who make hard pews soft from wear

And knees worn from prayer

Who be prayin’ and prayin’ and askin’ and beggin’ and hopin’ and hoping

For big boy cousins, protectin’ cousins, always outside up to no good, wish-a-ni**a-would cousins

Who put money in the mailbox or the cereal box or a shoe box or a box spring for their mothers to find 

For the groceries

For rent 

For bail

For dreamy eyes dreamin’ their dreams and makin’ their art and movin’ in and movin’ out and fallin’ in love and bein’ young and bein’ broke and hungry but ready and restless 

For the tired eyes, too-young-to-be-this-tired eyes in Fedex hubs and Nike Factories

Who still be dreamin’ but only when they sleep

For the bruise black, and the blush black

And the high yella black, and the black that’s too ashamed to say it’s black 

And the black unashamed and loud 

All my ni**as is loud

And hush mouthed

And a hum in a choir of bug mouths

And immortal

And impossibly angry

And a stretched skin bursting black jubilee

And earth bound and sky prone

And sharp darkness

And brilliant light

And baby girls in beaded braids and bird chested, pot bellied baby boys

Who deserve, and deserve, and deserve

For my people

Let my skin folk breathe better air

And sleep better at night

And live better in waking

Let the earth cradle us for once

And cushion our steps

As we walk towards this new world

Where the sun shines black 

Nubia Yasin is a multidisciplinary artist and co-founder of NuJas, a production house that aims to focus on the stories of Black women and queer folks of color. Check out Nubia’s live performance of For My People here. For more on Nubia, follow her on Instagram or Facebook.

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