“Been a train crash… An black man didn drive? No. Black man didn drive”.

James Berry (OBE, 1924-) From Jamaica to the UK!

Two Black Labourers on a London Building Site

Been a train crash.
.   Wha?
Yeh — tube crash.
.   Who the driver?
Not a black man.
.   Not a black man?
I check that firs.
.   Thank Almighty God.
Bout thirty people dead.
.   Thirty people dead?
Looks maybe more.
.   Maybe more?
Maybe more.
.   An black man didn drive?
No. Black man didn drive.


A Story I am in: Selected Poems by James Berry:
NEW and USED: http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=12538913206

From: London a History in Verse, ed by Mark Ford.
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From Wiki with thanks:

Selected publications

  • Bluefoot Traveller: An Anthology of Westindian Poets in Britain (editor), London: Limestone Publications, 1976; revised edition Bluefoot Traveller: Poetry by West Indians in Britain, London: Harrap, 1981
  • Fractured Circles (poetry), London: New Beacon Books, 1979
  • Lucy’s Letters and Loving, London: New Beacon Books, (1982)
  • News for Babylon: The Chatto Book of Westindian-British Poetry (editor), London: Chatto & Windus, 1984
  • Chain of DaysOxford University Press, 1985
  • A Thief in the Village and other stories (for children), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1987
  • The Girls and Yanga Marshall: four stories (for children), London: Longman, 1987
  • Anancy-Spiderman: 20 Caribbean Folk Tales (for children), illustrated by Joseph Olubo, London: Walker, 1988
  • When I Dance (for children), Hamish Hamilton, 1988
  • Isn’t My Name Magical? (for children), Longman/BBC, 1990
  • The Future-Telling Lady and other stories (for children), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1991
  • Ajeemah and his Son (for children), USA: HarperCollins, 1992
  • Celebration Song (for children), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1994
  • Classic Poems to Read Aloud (editor), London: Kingfisher, 1995
  • Hot Earth Cold EarthBloodaxe Books, 1995
  • Playing a Dazzler (for children), London: Hamish Hamilton, 1996
  • Don’t Leave an Elephant to Go and Chase a Bird (for children), USA: Simon & Schuster, 1996
  • Everywhere Faces Everywhere (for children), Simon and Schuster, 1997
  • First Palm Trees (for children), illustrated by Greg Couch, Simon & Schuster, 1997
  • Around the World in 80 Poems (editor – for children), London: Macmillan, 2001
  • A Nest full of Stars (for children), London: Macmillan, 2002
  • Only One of Me (selected poems – for children), London: Macmillan, 2004
  • James Berry Reading from his poems for children, CD, The Poetry Archive, 2005
  • Windrush SongsBloodaxe Books, 2007
  • A Story I Am In: Selected Poems, Bloodaxe Books, 2011



From: Citizen by Claudia Rankine

Image Credit: CSU Fullerton
CLAUDIA RANKINE co-edited the anthology American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language, and her work is included in several anthologies, including Great American Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present, Best American Poetry 2001, Giant Step: African American Writing at the Crossroads of the Century, and The Garden Thrives: Twentieth Century African-American Poetry. Her work has been published in numerous journals including Boston Review, TriQuarterly, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. She lives and teaches in California. She is the Holloway/Mixed Blood poet for the spring series.
You are in the dark, in the car, watching the black-tarred street being swallowed by speed; he tells you his dean is making him hire a person of color when there are so many great writers out there.
You think maybe this is an experiment and you are being tested or retroactively insulted or you have done something that communicates this is an okay conversation to be having.
Why do you feel okay saying this to me? You wish the light would turn red or a police siren would go off so you could slam on the brakes, slam into the car ahead of you, be propelled forward so quickly both your faces would suddenly be exposed to the wind.
As usual you drive straight through the moment with the expected backing off of what was previously said. It is not only that confrontation is headache producing; it is also that you have a destination that doesn’t include acting like this moment isn’t inhabitable, hasn’t happened before, and the before isn’t part of the now as the night darkens 
and the time shortens between where we are and where we are going.
When you arrive in your driveway and turn off the car, you remain behind the wheel another ten minutes. You fear the night is being locked in and coded on a cellular level and want time to function as a power wash. Sitting there staring at the closed garage door you are reminded that a friend once told you there exists a medical term — John Henryism — for people exposed to stresses stemming from racism. They achieve themselves to death trying to dodge the build up of erasure. Sherman James, the researcher who came up with the term, claimed the physiological costs were high. You hope by sitting in 
silence you are bucking the trend.
When the stranger asks, Why do you care? you just stand there staring at him. He has just referred to the boisterous teenagers in Starbucks as niggers. Hey, I am standing right here, you responded, not necessarily expecting him to turn to you.
He is holding the lidded paper cup in one hand and a small paper bag in the other. They are just being kids. Come on, no need to get all KKK on them, you say.
Now there you go, he responds.
The people around you have turned away from their screens. The teenagers are on pause. There I go? you ask, feeling irritation begin to rain down. Yes, and something about hearing yourself repeating this stranger’s accusation in a voice usually reserved for your partner makes you smile.
A man knocked over her son in the subway. You feel your own body wince. He’s okay, but the son of a bitch kept walking. She says she grabbed the stranger’s arm and told him to apologize: I told him to look at the boy and apologize. And yes, you want it to stop, you want the black child pushed to the ground to be seen, to be helped to his feet and be brushed off, not brushed off  by the person that did not see him, has never seen him, has perhaps never seen anyone who is not a reflection of himself.
The beautiful thing is that a group of men began to stand behind me like a fleet of  bodyguards, she says, like newly found uncles and brothers.
The new therapist specializes in trauma counseling. You have only ever spoken on the phone. Her house has a side gate that leads to a back entrance she uses for patients. You walk down a path bordered on both sides with deer grass and rosemary to the gate, which turns out to be locked.
At the front door the bell is a small round disc that you press firmly. When the door finally opens, the woman standing there yells, at the top of her lungs, Get away from my house. What are you doing in my yard?
It’s as if a wounded Doberman pinscher or a German shepherd has gained the power of speech. And though you back up a few steps, you manage to tell her you have an appointment. You have an appointment? she spits back. Then she pauses. Everything pauses. Oh, she says, followed by, oh, yes, that’s right. I am sorry.
I am so sorry, so, so sorry.

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America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath— America will be! Langston Hughes, Ferguson!

A writer dreams.
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home—
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”

The free?

Who said the free?  Not me?
Surely not me?  The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay—
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.

O, let America be America again—
The land that never has been yet—
And yet must be—the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME—
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose—
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

Anti-apartheid poet Antjie Krog. When Mandela was still behind bars.

Anti-apartheid poet Antjie Krog as high school student wrote a famous poem that caused great commotion at the time:

Loosely translated by myself.

Look, I will build me a land
Where skin doesn’t matter not at all…
Just your mind and mine
Where no goat face in the halls of parliament
can never not ever spook to keep things
where black and white, hand on hand
may bring peace and love
to my beautiful land.

Kyk, ek bou vir my ‘n land

Kyk, ek bou vir my ‘n land
Waar ‘n vel niks tel nie,
Net jou verstand.
Waar geen bokgesig in ’n parlement
kan spook om dinge permanent
verkramp te hou nie.
Waar ek jou kan liefhê
langs jou in die gras kan lê
sonder om in ’n kerk ‘ja’ te sê.
Waar ons snags met kitare sing
en vir mekaar wit jasmyne bring.
Waar ek jou nie gif hoef te voer
as ’n vreemde duif in my hare koer.
Waar geen skeihof
my kinders se oë sal verdof.
Waar swart en wit hand aan hand
vrede en liefde kan bring
in my mooi land.