We toil too often in relative obscurity. All of us. But especially those of us conscious of who we are in this conundrum of a country we find ourselves birthed in. None of us asks to be borne here. Born here. Birthed amidst toil and trouble. But here we are.
To be aware of who we are. How we got here. And what we can and should do about our arrival here. Our birth rites. The gift of life. The paradox of consciousness. The curse (and the great gift) of being Black in a whirl of contradictions. Confusions.
My friend Brenda Marie. Brenda Marie Osbey. Is. A poet. A historian of words. Often publicly somber but not without her humor. Our humor. If you know her. The many, many hours she has spent tracking down and finding precisely the right words to capture the history of us. Who we have been. What we did. Where we came from. In getting to who and what and where we now are.
She knows–and shares–the New Orleans she knows. The French of it. The English of it. The Black. And the other. The all of New Orleans in her poems that celebrate life and death in a sunken city that rises like mist out of a swamp on a summer morning, only too often to sink beneath the weight and reality of a moon that is unsentimental about the enslaved it shines its light upon. Offering enough illumination to escape if one chooses to run. Is courageous enough to dart and stealthy go about the business of making freedom on the bayou.
She speaks the voice of the enslaved who will not stay dead. The enslaved who will always, always, always sing of freedom. The ones who refuse to let circumstance define us. The ones who are our lodestones. Our hope. Our dreams. Our rocks flung into the face of the future. Announcing we were here but we we were also so much more than most of us know.
We were humans. Enslaved but not slaves. Call us what you will. Our words. Our songs. Our actions. The poems that are our lives. Define us for all times.