With No Immediate Cause (notes to Ntozake)

In appreciation of the poem by the same name
with no immediate cause
Ntozake Shange

I used dashes (—) to mark line breaks when quoting Ntozake Shange’s poem, so as not to be confused with her artistic use of slash marks. 

The most useful piece of information I took from my intro to women’s and gender studies course was the reality that my lived experiences with harassment and gender-based violence are in no way happenstance. Nor are they the result of my choices in company, attire, whereabouts, or recreation. I am a single body inside a reality that has warped and misshaped itself into a place where “every3 minutes a woman is beaten— every five minutes a— woman is raped/every ten minutes— a lil girl is molested[1].”

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educate the masses

This is a “Poem of the Day” feature piece

To teach tolerance
Requires a level of tolerance I simply do not possess
And compassion for the ignorant
Who deem themselves not so violent
Because they only pay the company that makes the guns
And guns don’t kill people/
People—men with pent up emotions from childhood
Women who believe themselves exempt
Cowards hiding from the truth of themselves—
Kill people

© Ama Akoto (2018

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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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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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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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