Shalonté Branham, winner of the 2019 Mary Mildred Sullivan Award at Sullivan Foundation partner school Bellarmine University, graduated this spring with a double major in Political Science and Sociology, but she has also a gift for powerful and evocative poetry. In the following video posted in February 2018 on the Bellarmine website, she reads from her poem, “Blackness.” The full text of the poem follows:
My blackness is the child of the sun and moon
when they made desperate love at dusk and dawn.
It can be found in grandmamma’s molasses and brown sugar cookies
Living in the dark rich earth.
sprouting black women strong and thick like oak trees.
It is the ancient power
passed down from Yemoja, Oshun, Shango, Obatala.
My blackness is the beauty and complexity of the galaxy.
My blackness was present at the crux of creation and continuation of humanity.
My essence is the universe.
I am life in motion
GOD in flesh
I am everything
My blackness is everything
Everything, BUT… a weapon.
I said my blackness is not a weapon!
it is not a threat!
it is not a possession!
I SAID MY BLACKNESS IS NOT A WEAPON!
And you cannot destroy it.
It can’t be killed,
no matter how many bullets you fire at it.
And it won’t be muzzled,
no matter how hard your fingers press to suppress her screams of injustice.
No matter how many times it is thrown on the ground, handcuffed, and beaten it will rise like Phoenix and explode into a Supernova!
It is persistent and mighty.
BUT your ignorance and intimidation does not create the invitation
to kill me
to silence me
to bind me
or deny me my human dignity because it was bestowed by the Most High.
My blackness– OUR blackness has the ability to shatter these spaces
chains with ferocity!
And maybe when you look at me,
you become deathly aware of your own mortality and try to conquer it with your savagery…
It will be here when this all comes to an end and it will still be here when this world begins once again because our power
OUR BLACKNESS was born from the sun and the mood between the sheets of the milky way
It is Infinite!
It is splendid!
It is divine!
And it will always stay!