Black Women in Poetic Form

The legacy of slavery certainly is something that a lot of white Americans are uneasy with, blacks were supposedly less human than white, they were not legally able to marry, but within their communities, they developed cultural practices that allowed them to recognize their marriage but they weren’t recognized as citizens, and their family ties were disrupted because were sold as commodities.  In addition, color people had to deal with discrimination of their skin’s color, making them less worthy and creating characters in tv shows for entertainment. An individual would think that you were not worth anything, that you are not human, and this just crushed the human spirit, liberty and life. African American people, women, men and children were strong and capable of looking forward to their wellbeing and better future of their family in this country. Liberty and stability were the main components of their mutual motivation to continue fighting for their rights. On April 6, I attended a program called “My Sister’s Country – Alexis V. Jackson, MFA.” This program expands our understanding of African American history through the poems of the book called “My sisters’ country ” where the culture of black women’s church, identity, appearance, representation and life is reflected.

Wheatley Phillips was born free person in West African, according the book “Freedom on My Mind-chapter 4” states “Wheatley, who was seven or eight years old when she was sold into slavery in the Senegal/Gambia region”(3). In 1761, she arrived in Boston, and she was purchased by the Wheatly’s family. They encouraged her to learn general education , but at that time white people said that people of African descent could not learn. Among the colonies, she had mastered the English, Greek and Latin language, but in which most people couldn’t read or write. She began to write poems, her wonderful ability and facility with the English language helped her to be free, according to the book “Freedom on my Mind ” states “she published her first book of poems in London when she was twenty years old. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral won her a following among British antislavery activists and also helped her win her own freedom”(3). The accomplishment that she made as a result of her work was her recognition that she was the first American slave, African descent and  African-American author of a published book of poetry. 

Nowadays, we have a representative of this legacy, Alexis V. Jackson is a Philadelphia-born, San Diego-based writer and teacher whose work has appeared in Poetry Magazine, Jubilat, among others. Jackson earned her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Messiah University. 

My Sister’s Country by Alexis V. Jackson came from a place of frustration and love, love and wonderings about the images of herself in relation to country and God that did not match up all of the time. She wrote his book as a conversation with herself and all the women in her, as well as an intercessory prayer to God, invested in her understanding of love and country and helped her healing from her thoughts. She also wrote this when Black Lives Matter started, she wrote about little black girls- daughters of those  who were murdered at the hands of police and also what they have left them with their understanding of country and looks like. 

My Sisters’ Country states, “Black mothers, grandmothers and the woman on the bus who cared for her life. The poet urges all these voices across generations to rise and take up space singing their hearts, their stories of persistent cervical in loud and clear rhythms from earth to god, and so together they ask why do bad things still happen to good people at this time, in this life?. Through sheer courage and outrageous joy to live, what is not mended beneath this cause finds a way to affirm that these live, these beautiful black women know the way home and how to build the country even in one’s kitchen” (2). It helped her recognize the significance of being a woman, some voices were part of her discovering and deciding who she was going to be in also calling her ancestor that cowrite this text with her. 

The Black Church has been one of the most important places in U.S. history for African American, according to “Freedom on My Mind-Chapter 17“ states “the centrality of black religious congregations in African American life. Traditionally, the church served as an educational, social, and civil rights center as well as a place of worship”(3). Religion in most African societies also supports moral order. It creates a sense of security and order in the community. Followers believe in the guidance of their ancestors’ spirits. Changed the attitude of individuals, began to transform the structures and outlook on the churches. It had a huge impact on their lives. It helped them gain knowledge on their selves through the black communities they built and got to know and share their west African culture. It had a huge impact on their life to find themself, black people, in the present, and in particular Black women, continue to find themselves, visibility, and pride through God and the church.

 In My Sisters’ country states,  “I was a blessing a blessing mommy a blessing little girl you’re  blessing my blessing”(2). I want to emphasize this powerful quote about her mother saying “my blessing” because it generated in me that self-worth is very important for all of us. Society can sometimes hurt people but the importance to know who we are and our purpose in this life goes beyond everything.  Her mother was the first person who introduced God to her, a creator as she is a reference for her, the idea of a divine, her love could look like anger and so she wanted to begin with that but also absolutely announcing finding God in herself. She started writing this but she knew that there were a lot of questions she had about whether God loves her and what God looks like because she really felt something wrong with being a woman and being a darker skin black woman. Church played a big role in her life because it changed her attitude.

My Sisters’ country states in a poem that she was at such a young age knowing that she still has to correct people about her appearance and identity, for example “the blue that looks like someone’s favorite color she told me that your favorite color she  asked me for mine I told her black”(2). Many people will agree that external beauty is what defines a person, but it is absolutely the opposite since intelligence, capacity, honesty, achievements goes beyond physical descriptions. 

After the Civil War ,“Black face” became popular in the U.S, as white performers played “Black“ characters. For example, in 1969, a cartoon of the “Sambo” was mainstream in American life, they are portrayed differently from the black people. The “sambo” became one of the classic representations of black Americans in the late 1820s into the American theater a white comedian who played as a black race. Dancing an exaggerated Jim Crow which was seen in the theater as an entertainment for white people. It was a devastating image for many black people because they were represented through this image that did not characterize them. The sambo represented the moral and political, allowing slavery in America without equality. The “ mammy” was represented as an obedient and docile, loyal and protective to her white master’s household. She became the threat at the entire time, disruption while in the plantations where many black people were suffering. American society saw the Mammy” as strong, sexual, control of the males in the society but women should be free, educated, fragile, and independent.

 People think that painting their face black and becoming a character is fun but the skin color people come with much hate, some much racism back in history. Racism is a mass of issues, skin color is not entertainment because it is something that you have to live with and you have to embrace everyday, people of color have to deal with so much anxiety and aggression everyday. 

The future starts with each one of us of black history and other communities as well because we have to have a society with equality, respect, and liberty. Black people should be very proud of their ancestors and where they came from because people stand up from the button to the top in order to have their civil rights, a better place to live and what they have left as their legacy. I really liked this program because it helped me a lot to learn more about black history. It gave me another perspective on how powerful words are in reaching meaning in life, because Black people in the past used writing to be heard and have their equal rights for all. 

CITATIONS:

  1. “About: Alexis v Jackson.” Alexis V Jackson, https://www.alexisvjackson.com/about.

 

  1. Jackson, Alexis V. My Sisters’ Country. Kore Press, 2022. 

 

  1. White, Deborah G, Mia Bay, and Waldo E. Martin. Freedom on My Mind: A History of African Americans, with Documents. , 2021. Print.

 

  1. Riggs, Marlon T, and Esther Rolle. Ethnic Notions. Berkeley, CA: California Newsreel, 1987.

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