How Is Sugar Born? A Meditation on Black Trans Life

Dennis Maurice Dumpson
2 min readJun 26, 2020

#UntilWeAreAllFree. There are so many names of BLACK Trans folk who’ve been murdered. I wrote this poem for my family and it lives inside a book I hope to one day have the courage to release. As we grieve the loss of BLACK trans minds, souls, beauty, and bodies I wonder who were they before hate killed them. This poem is called “How Is Sugar Born?”

One day I was thinking about sugar. How is sugar born? Like where does it come from? No, I wasn’t high… I was 6.

I asked my grandma and she told me beautiful memories of sugar she ate off the cane. I remember her saying “Oh, that cane be so sweet!” Her memories were reaching out to her smile and showing off on her face and I saw how much she loved sweet sugar cane. But my question was still unanswered, “How is sugar born?”

From roots grow sweet cane near bayous, rivers, and lakes under hot beams of southern sons and daughters. Oh that cane be so sweet.

Sweet cane grows 20 feet high, clearly one of the closest farm stalk to heaven. 20 feet tall. Sweet & supple. Wrapped in a hard bamboo armor to protect all its authentic syrup. Oh that cane be so sweet.

Its graceful leaves bend in the wind — just switchin’ — you can’t miss that sweet cane… it welcomes you in. And even when you cut it down it grows back stronger and taller again. Strong stalks.

And those sugar cane leaves move like good weaves. Bouncing. Behaving. Misbehaving. Doing whatever they please. Oh that cane be so sweet.

But the sad thing is that once that sweet cane is full grown, wild, and sturdy it gets chopped down. We remove all its sweetness and turn its diamond colored blood into crystals for our coffee. Crystals for our cakes. Crystals for the Kool-Aid. And Crystals in our Corn Flakes. Oh that cane be so sweet.

Sturdy stalks that once held sacred saccharine syrups are chopped into bamboo earrings, tables, and chairs. And we never ask how the hell it got there.

We chew on its body until there’s nothing left but straw. Then we spit it out after we’ve sucked the cane dry. I don’t know how sugar is born but this is definitely how sugar dies.

Oh that cane be so sweet.

Where is sugar born?

And why am I only clear on how sugar dies?

Peace to all my Black trans sisters and brothers.


“How Is Sugar Born?” is a meditative reflection and poem under copyright available in Dennis Maurice’s book, Black Washed, which is available at Very Black Books.

#BlackTransLivesMatter photo for public consumption via google images.



Dennis Maurice Dumpson

Dennis Maurice is a Pro-Black, Queer, Christian author, lecturer, PhD student, and founder; writing about society, race, queerness, and Black folk. #Philly.