From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
February is Black History Month
I, Too, Sing America
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,"
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
…he, black warrior prince proud, sage of the darkened night, spoke, spoke curse and celebration just to keep the record, the historical record straight. He spoke of ancient Spanish conquistador enslavement down in Saint Augustine prison houses. Of ancient Dutchman and Anglo-Saxon slave markets down in fetid Jamestown. Of Middle Passage ocean dumps of human flesh, sold, sold cheap, sold as the overhead price from sweated labors. Of great bustling Atlantic world ports and hectic triangular trade, sugar, rum, slaves, or was it slaves, sugar, and rum, he was not sure of the exact combination but those were the three elements.
He spoke of Cripsus Attucks and Valley Forge fights, black soldierly fights for white freedom all parchment etched, all false, all third-fifths of a man false embedded deep in that founding document. Of compromises, great and small, Missouri 1820, that damn Mex bracero land- eating war against the ghost of those long ago conquistadores, of 1850 compromises, of fugitive slave laws, enforced, enforced and incited. Of Kansas, Kansas for chrissakes, out on the plains all bleeding, and bloody, and no end in sight.
He spoke of righteous push back, of the brothers (and maybe sisters too but they got short shrift in the account books) who made old Mister scream, made him swear in his concubine bed night. Of brave hard-scrabble Nat Turner, come and gone, old Captain Brown and his brave integrated band (one kin to a future poet) at Harpers Ferry fight, and above all of heroic stand-up Massachusetts 54th before Fort Wagner fight. Of Father Abraham and those coming 200, 000 strong what were they, contraband, or men. Of fighting back against the old rascal Mister down in Mississippi goddam, Alabama goddam and the other goddams.
He spoke of rascally push back against the democratic night. Of Mister James Crow and nigra sit here, not there, of get on the back of the bus, or better walk, it’s good for you, eat here, not there, drink here, not there, jesus, breath here, not there. Of race riots and other tumults in northern ghetto cities teeming with those who tired of eat heres, drink theres, stand over theres, and charted breathes.
He spoke of that good night, that push back against black stolen dignity. Of struggle, hard struggle against the 1930s Great Depression Mister night. Of no more backing down the minute Mister said, no, thought to say, get back. Of riding with the king, of the simple act of saying no, no more. Of great heroic figures risen from the squatter farms, the share-cropped farms, the janitor and maid cities, the prisons, above all the prisons. Of Malcolm and the “new negro” and the bust up of that old fogey “talented tenth” white man fetch. Of brothers (again sisters short-shrifted from the account book) from North Carolina, from Louisiana, from Oakland who said defend yourselves-by any means necessary -if you want to hold your head up high.
He spoke of ebb and flow, of hope, and of no hope in the benighted black America land …