The Long Haul

Deborah Bell

Winner, Adults poetry category

My hair upsets you

My music upsets you

My dark melaninated skin upsets you

My stylish style upsets you

My civilisations predating yours upsets you My questioning challenges upsets you

My cut eye and kissing of teeth upsets you My confidence upsets you

My articulateness upsets you

My love for my own upsets you

My pride in my enslaved heritage upsets you What do you do?

You scream, “nigger, go home!

You will never be British

You’ve taken our jobs, homes and buses”

You spit on Stephen’s memorial You ignore our cries of “foul play” You deny your past in our present You scorn all of our s/heroes

You denounce You deny

You dismiss You deny

You laugh You deny You rejoice You deny You sigh You deny

What more do you do?

You assail, assault, beat, belittle, blind, chase, cheat, claim, cuss, cut, drive to madness, drown, drug, embarrass, experiment, frame, hound, humiliate, infer, ignore, inject, isolate, invade, kidnap, jail, jeer, kill, lie, loot, lynch, mock, overlook, plot, prosecute, push, scar, shoot, shove, shout, slap, stab, steal, rape, maim, murder, poison, scalp, separate, shoot, slander, spread rumour and rebellion, strangle, starve, tar and feather, threaten, torture and whip.

You revel, loll and roll around in your denials… But

you are less free than me

For your ropes of denial blinds and ties you down to everlasting orbs of violence

Failing to acknowledge

Fates and relationships long entwined and a humanity denied.

Through history,

Through bondage,

Through colonialism,

Through neo-colonialism

Through so called Fair Trade and World Trade, Through so called developmental theories, Through so called equality laws,

Through deliberately ingrained, historically systematic, institutional racism and discrimination, micro-aggressions, Jim Crown and Windrush scandal.

We are exhausted… but not defeated. Not even by the Sewell Report.

Only momentarily stunned and stupified at the sheer audacity of testimony, video and stats ignored,

Because of our right to exist, soar, swoop and dive

As free as the air we breath

As the water we drink

At the justice we will get

When common sense and truth comes to light – bursting through slush with beauty, warmth, comfort and benediction.

We may be weary but we are equally as furious As steadfast as our blood pressures…

Driven to remain unapologetic about our African ness Of the curls in our hair

Of our wrinkle free visage

Of our ability to keep stepping

Of our ability to remain creative

Of our ability to stand firm and to remain standing

The Universe will make you bow to the inevitable –

We will make you submit to the inevitable

When Race is recognised as a European contrived concept When world history is taught properly

When British history is contextualized

When Eurocentricity reveals global events for what they are When acknowledgement Trumps denial

When you say “I get it” and act right and accordingly – economically and politically.

When My Life and those of my children, Matters.

Then and only then, can we all breath and live the life Lucy should always have led

And the whole world can be less tense

And the whole of humanity can be allowed to be

Until then,

My hair will continue to upset you

(even though you burn to touch it)

My music will continue to upset you

(even though you try to copy it)

My seasoned food upsets you

(even though you love Curry, Jerk & KFC)

Seeing my dark melinated skin will continue to upset you (even though you compete to tan)

There is no more that I can do but to do what I can do As

My defiance upsets you

My call for diaspora independence upsets you

My protective respect for the ancestors upsets you Our collective memories upset you

at what you did, say and continue to do.

The onus is once again, on you…