Reading the Combahee River Statement pt. 1

This is a “Weekly Spotlight” feature piece


  1. The genesis of Contemporary Black Feminism

We would like to affirm that we find our origins in the historical reality of Afro-American women’s continuous life-and-death struggle for survival and liberation … There is undeniably a personal genesis for Black Feminism, that is, the political realization that comes from the seemingly personal experiences of individual Black women’s lives … However, we had no way of conceptualizing what was so apparent to us, what we knew was really happening … Black feminists often talk about their feelings of craziness before becoming conscious of the concepts of sexual politics, patriarchal rule, and most importantly, feminism, the political analysis and practice that we women use to struggle against our oppression.

The Combahee River Collective Statement, April 1977

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The color of me is mine

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


I wear black in a new way
That dips at the hips
And widens near the belly
Exploding near the chest
To make room for a reddened heart
It seems almost inseparable from my frame
Like leather around strong flesh
That when it so chooses
Sags off my limbs
So that I am a cloaked and
Shadowy vacuum of myself
Black looks good on my hands
Pricked by the ends of sewing needles
And even better between my legs
A rock pulled from the middle of a deep river
Wet like I get some time
Growing a mossy cover
To shield all this blackness when I need to turtle
Away and hide behind my shell
Of a Negro woman
I deserve the dark in between my cheeks
And the light on my palms and soles
Earned it when I popped out wailing from my mama’s center
And tore my way through my terrible twos
Then grew up into a little girl harassed between the stacks of
A public library, the mechanical doors of a Metro bus, and
The unfamiliar streets of her hometown
Assaulted on the train platform by a man
Who’d seemingly never heard no
I reaped the sorrow benefits of my slick skin
Every time the letters of my name took on a new shape
In the mouth of some white man or woman who never learned
The ins and outs of that section of the English language
When I became a vernacular dialect
A sub-culture
Coals and coffees took up my body like blood and air
I took the black from my mama and my daddy
Like a badge that bore my name before it was ever divined
I took and kept it

© Ama Akoto (2018)

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Reincarnate

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


I don’t wanna just die
I wanna walk through the forest during a rain storm
And take my clothes off one article at a time
Strewing them along the ground behind me, beneath me
I want to sink slowly into the roots
Of mishandled flowers and caving mountains
That’ll lead me through vinelands
Into shallow banks
Where my toes will fall into the graceful
Hands of blooded arms protruding from the river floor
They’ll hold me steady as I make my way into
The silence of still, deep waters
And bathe my body in the Atlantic
Beneath the light of a trans generational freedom gourd
There, in the palms of the ones that died
And fed the waters til its current changed,
I’ll re-cover myself in the womb of the slain
To die an honorable death among my ancestors

© Ama Akoto (2018)

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Through my mother’s eyes

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


All my dreams and hopes
U ripped from my chest and squished them between your fingers
When I told you no
Even dared to question your authority, which u didn’t like
So to keep me there
Folding under the pressure of race men and their forceful politics
U tied a short leash around my neck and spat in my face
Told me money was a thing reserved for white women
Not activists
Not light skinned black women who need to prove their loyalty
So I was poor
In hand and in spirit
All I had to my name
Was the ground u walked on, your money, and my stooped back
So it seemed like I was kissing at ur feet
And that’s the reverence u preferred
Not that love is even for us
When one of us so clearly abuses the other
I’m guessing that’s why told me it was a sham hallmark emotion
And walked past me on the anniversary of our wedding
Like the days blurred against one another and this was just another
In an endless stream of activism and
Anti consumerism
I was empty of gifts and giving
Any excuse for the way u forgot my birthday
My mama’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, and all the things she left me and u kept for urself

©️ Ama Akoto (2018)

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Yearning

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


The cacti budding beneath my skin
Never let me rest
Their prickly stems poke me everywhere
A hum so consistent it registers as a second heartbeat
I have built a sturdy home around the source of it
For the nerves to go and buzz
When they are bursting against the walls
Itching for release
Through my arms breaking under the pressure of defiance
Wishing/ waiting for an out
Somewhere to put this angst
Unsheathe my urgent body
From this cage-like harness
I’ve been craving the purge
Of tension and adrenaline
Driven my feet into the ground with anticipation
The muscles in my legs ache
I want to run out of my skin
Beat new paths into the earth
In desperation and relentless searches
For freedom and deliverance from
The shackles of a breathless panic
I am riddled with flesh touched by fire
And I am yearning for relief

© Ama Akoto (2018)

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Careless (tentatively)

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


Why are lovers so careless with me
So oblivious to my feelings
And sensitivities
Like my words lessen in power when falling
On their ears
And I’m wrong for hearing the full vibrato
Of what another’s got to say
I never was fond
Of being treated like a—
A afterthought and/or a tag-a-long
Idling there at the back of somebody’s mind
Wondering when you gon look my way—
See how I been holding the water at bay
With the fabric of my own memory

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Take Me Home

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


I got the Combahee
In my mouth
The thick spill of molasses between my cheeks
Let a single drop of honeysuckle
On my lips
So I can kiss you
Leave you with the lasting taste
Of a Georgia peach
Drizzling down ur sticky chin
A deep down southern belle wid
A lil bit a sunflower on my toes
And cotton grazing my fingertips
Fields open wide
To my gyrating dances
St. Louis under my feet
And Tallahassee tucked beneath my arm
I got light in my dark, shrouded places
Warmth to fight off the threat of the cold
And low hanging oranges to pick
When you’re fixing for a drink
And something fleshy to bite
I got Fisk roads on my body
Curving all up and down my backside and bosom
Durham on my throat like
Sweat pooling around my tender areas
I got Atlanta slithering through my veins
Moving my arms and legs like the
Shenandoah and Black Warrior rivers
I’m almost heaven
Sitting at the tops of redwoods
Crossing my legs with the branches
And letting autumn leaves fall from neath my skirt
I got home
Here waiting in the geography of my body
I got the Mississippi
In my mouth

© Ama Akoto (2018)

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Dreams

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece


Can’t I be found in the dew-soaked grass
Of my own open plains
Wildflowers and yellow roses
Stretched as far as the horizon
Sun gleaming on my black arms
And big, country house
Not a lynched body
Hung from the low branches of a poplar tree
Or blooded fields of cotton
Drying the soil of all its life

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