“i paid my 30 cents and rode by the bus window all the way down…” Nikki Giovanni #BlackHistoryMonth #ValentinesDay

nikki-giovanni
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by Nikki Giovanni

i paid my 30 cents and rode by the bus
window all the way down

i felt a little funny with no hair
on my head
but my knees were shiny ’cause
aunty mai belle cleaned me up
and i got off on time and walked
past the lions and the guard straight
up to the desk and said
“dr. doo little steroscope please”
and this really old woman said
“Do You Have A Library Card?”
and i said
“i live here up the street”
and she said
“Do You Have A LIBRARY Card?”
and i said
“this is the only place i can use
the steroscope for
dr. doo little miss washington
brought us here this spring
to see it.”
and another lady said
“GIVE THAT BOY WHAT HE WANT. HE WANT TO LEAD THE RACE”
and i said
“no ma’am i want to see dr. dooolittle”
and she said “same thang son same thang”

.

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From: My Black Me: A Beginning Book of Black Poetry (A Puffin Poetry Book)
NEW and USED: Abebooks.com My Black Me: A Beginning Book of Black Poetry 
NEW at independent bookstores NEAR you: My Black Me

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Helene Johnson- Bottled

woman-with-book-jpg

Bottled

Upstairs on the third floor
Of the 135th Street Library
In Harlem, I saw a little
Bottle of sand, brown sand,
Just like the kids make pies
Out of down on the beach.
But the label said: “This
Sand was taken from the Sahara desert.”
Imagine that! The Sahara desert!
Some bozo’s been all the way to Africa to get some sand.
And yesterday on Seventh Avenue
I saw a darky dressed to kill
In yellow gloves and swallowtail coat
And swirling at him. Me too,
At first, till I saw his face
When he stopped to hear a
Organ grinder grind out some jazz.
Boy! You should a seen that darky’s face!
It just shone. Gee, he was happy!
And he began to dance. No
Charleston or Black Bottom for him.
No sir. He danced just as dignified
And slow. No, not slow either.
Dignified and proud! You couldn’t
Call it slow, not with all the
Cuttin’ up he did. You would a died to see him.
The crowd kept yellin’ but he didn’t hear,
Just kept on dancin’ and twirlin’ that cane
And yellin’ out loud every once in a while.
I know the crowd thought he was coo-coo.
But say, I was where I could see his face,

And somehow, I could see him dancin’ in a jungle,
A real honest-to cripe jungle, and he wouldn’t leave on them
Trick clothes-those yaller shoes and yaller gloves
And swallowtail coat. He wouldn’t have on nothing.
And he wouldn’t be carrying no cane.
He’d be carrying a spear with a sharp fine point
Like the bayonets we had “over there.”
And the end of it would be dipped in some kind of
Hoo-doo poison. And he’d be dancin’ black and naked and      Gleaming.
And He’d have rings in his ears and on his nose
And bracelets and necklaces of elephants teeth.
Gee, I bet he’d be beautiful then all right.
No one would laugh at him then, I bet.
Say! That man that took that sand from the Sahara desert
And put it in a little bottle on a shelf in the library,
That’s what they done to this shine, ain’t it? Bottled him.
Trick shoes, trick coat, trick cane, trick everything-all glass-
But inside-
Gee, that poor shine!

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/artistpages/johnsonHelene.php That page was researched and submitted by Crystal EsparzaCaroline Klohs, and Camille Cyprian on 12/16/05.

“The man is described as similar to the bottle because both were stolen, labeled, and put on display.

… she takes the bold risk of writing in a negative tone embracing danger, impurity and shame.

She simply states the truths of oppression and racism and brings light to the negative labels and stereotypes perpetuated by mainstream culture.

Johnson’s decision to rejoice in the beauty of darkness was an extraordinary risk due to the racial and gender discrimination that was taking place at the time.”

 

Poem

Little brown boy,
Slim, dark, big-eyed,
Crooning love songs to your banjo
Down at the Lafayette–
Gee, boy, I love the way you hold your head,
High sort of and a bit to one side,
Like a prince, a jazz prince.   And I love
Your eyes flashing, and your hands,
And your patent-leathered feet,
And your shoulders jerking the jig-wa.
And I love your teeth flashing,
And the way your hair shines in the spotlight
Like it was the real stuff.
Gee, brown boy, I loves you all over.
I’m glad I’m a jig. I’m glad I can
Understand your dancin’ and your
Singin’, and feel all the happiness
And joy and don’t care in you.
Gee, boy, when you sing, I can close my ears
And hear tom-toms just as plain.
Listen to me, will you, what do I know
About tom-toms? But I like the word, sort of,
Don’t you? It belongs to us.
Gee, boy, I love the way you hold your head,
And the way you sing, and dance,
And everything.
Say, I think you’re wonderful.    You’re
Allright with me,
You are.