How Do I Tell Them?

Talena Lachelle Queen

For every tear drop there are ten thousand stories: Historical, Important, Sad stories.

Some my children have not heard.

I haven’t told them.

I didn’t want to break them.

How do I tell them about Zimmerman?

About acquittal and a young black boy shot to death when all he wanted to do was taste the rainbow?

How do I tell them, Sterling Brown? About the gray days and dark nights when they came by tens? How would my children view their friends?

Nikki G, how do I tell them, my children, of not having when they’ve always had… what they needed? All of their food comes from grocery stores. They have no memories of rows of corn. No idea of removing ticks with fire after running in the fields.

How do I tell them?

What are the new blues, Angela Jackson? These children have miles of shoes. These children know love, and the pantry is full.

J.J (James Weldon Johnson) they know not of the stony road we trod. They have not weary feet. They are the bright stars we have casts. How do I tell them of our past?

Do I tell them, Randall, in bedtime stories: “Once upon a time there was a there was a bombing in Alabama…”

What about charred bodies and the party goers’ remains or the postcards that celebrated the black blood stains in the grass, Richard Wright, how do I tell them that?

How does one utter words when there is no sweetness in them?

How do I blemish my children’s hearts?

How do I tell them, Langston, about colors outside of the rainbow? Will they still re-bop boogie the way you learned to do when a dream was deferred for you?

These children are from instant gratification; from an “i” paradise world.

They don’t know of hunting dogs picking up on their scent.

They are not blue, Terrance Hayes.

They are not blue.

This question is for Gwendolyn Brooks: If my children never loiter while the bacon burns nor hear the stories of standing up on hard ground, will they still learn to sing?

How do I tell them?

Should I tell them, Countee, of the incident in Baltimore? Is it fair to their gentle loving hearts to speak of such atrocities? Should they know which walls racism built up?

What will they gain from true stories of men being drug behind pickup trucks?

Spitting boys at Cambridge?

Citizens hosed down and jailed, leaders assassinated?

Will they cry themselves to sleep?

What will they dream of, Dr. King?

Ms. Sanchez, will you help me to teach them the ancient warrior songs to sing if their brothers or sisters should ever fall?

“A ye A yo.”

Maybe some people will say that the world has changed and that bloody racism was a long time ago.

But it wasn’t a long time ago.

It was just a moment ago.

It is just that… NOW… …time moves faster.

Maybe Remica L. Bingham helped fry that chicken and pack those brown paper sacks for the marchers headed to Washington; Baltimore 1963 was arguably a long time ago.

But Rodney King was just a moment ago and there are other reasons to cook,

other reasons to cry,

other reasons to write poetry,

other moments have etched history since Remica packed those brown paper sacks, but… now… we forget faster.

My children, perhaps you know some too, skip along in their bliss unaware that colored children ever had a reason to fear

or that freedom was not accessible to everyone

or that voting wasn’t always “optional.”

How do I tell them about citizens dying to vote?

Nikki G, I thank you for every single word you have ever written, tell me what method do you suggest a mother tell these stories?

Should I sing them a love song about brothers who struggle to be free under the foot of uncle Sam who maybe didn’t trust brothers or don’t trust brothers still to be somebody for somebody even though everything the brothers does is done because he’s trying to be what was promised he could be, truly free?

How do I tell them?

Mr. Steptoe, my children don’t know about working from “can’t see to can’t see” and though you’ve picked up the pieces, can my children even begin to understand your ancestral song?

I want to tell them. But I don’t know how.

Perhaps the barbers will keep the stories alive.

Maybe the barbers will whisper the stories between hoopla and laughter,

but what about my daughters?

How will my daughters know?

Do I tell them whilst they learn the recipes of grandmother? “Honey get the big pot, did I ever tell you how mamas would liberate their children from slavery by way of death?” or “Just a pinch of that. Honey, did I ever tell you of Uncle Rodney near killt by those cops?”

If I tell these stories will the greens be bitter?

Perhaps a chronology of backs over Sunday dinner will be better: (clear throat)

“The backs were beaten with whips, the backs were beaten with Billie clubs, my mama lashed our backsides with switches, she didn’t know no better, pass the peas.”

Lucille Clifton, How do we get the children to listen or die; get them to know how it feels to see a mother’s face turn to water under white words, but not cry themselves?

How do I tell them and still see them smile brightly?

Still hold back their heads in laughter,

still marvel in their creations?

Still love themselves, their people and ALL people?

Ms. Dr. Maya Angelou ma’am, what is the responsibility of poets? Are we all historians? Teachers? Both? Other?

After we share with them our pain, so that they know, do we raise them up again?

If we paint their feathers will they still fly?


with my heart beating as if a warrior’s drum

still young (relatively),

still a dreamer,

still a realist too,

a lover kind of poet want the kind of knowing that allows all the babies to cry with the knowledge that soothing is coming.

I want my children to know the struggle but not live in it.

How do I accomplish this?

How do I tell them?

Brown Girl

Brown girl you don’t have to cry no more. No.
Today the eyes looking at you will judge you for the color of your heart
No matter the color of the eyes
Your grandmother and her grandmother knew nothing of the skin free joy of your life
Every single walking step for them tested their spirit
They prayed that the, “precious lord, would take their hand, lead them on, let them stand”
They were tired. Yes.
They were weak sometimes. True.
But they persevered, brown girl, for you
They prayed that someday their trial would end
Yes, you’re still a babe now Not far removed from the suckle of your mother, but light years
From the mulatto, nappy, colored and second class citizen labels of your foremothers
Now, you are a girl. Simply.
Free to play, to dream, to sing, to inspire and to be whomever you decide
Brown girl you don’t have to cry no more. No.
You leave your eyes clear to see your way through the fights of your generation.
We have left you much work to do
Leave your mind clear to find ways that we did not know needed changing
Leave your heart free to soar beyond the stratosphere and discover worlds that we dared not dream about
Leave your anger alone.
Replace it with the triumphs of a two century old war that your foremothers fought
for you to be free of tears
Brown girl, you don’t have to cry no more. No.
Celebrate your skin, your hair, your hips, your waist, your backside
Hold your head up high
Wear your smile wide and
Let your eyes glisten
Brown girl, you don’t have to cry no more. No.

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